postheadericon Blackjack: Principles of card counting

It was blackjack expert Edward O Thorpe that devised modern card counting as we know it today. Thorp was in fact first and foremast a mathematical genius, but he applied his theory of probability and variable change to blackjack and came up with the system that could, in the words of his 1962 bestseller, beat the dealer. One of the hallmarks of Thorp’s system was that it was accessible to almost any committed blackjack player. You didn’t need a doctorate from MIT or a mathematical pre-disposition to understand the nuts and bolts of the Thorp method.

Without any aces, it’s fairly obvious to most players that a blackjack or natural is impossible. A blackjack, remember, is a two-card 21 and no other card has the potential to count as an 11-value item. Card counting keeps a running count of how “hot” the deck is by tracking the kinds of cards that have passed through the shoe at any given point in the game. The hotter the pack (which is to say, the higher the chance that high-value cards are still to be dealt), the higher the advised wager. Twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes are assigned a value of +1; all 10-value (including face cards) are assigned a value of -1; and sevens, eights and nines have a neutral value. The player keeps a tally of the deck’s value. When the number is high and positive, it’s a sign for the player to make larger bets and stake higher chip. When the number is high and negative, it’s an imperative for the player to make smaller bets and bide his time until the shoe changes feet so to speak.

Most large-scale casinos have come to terms with the card-counting demon since Thorp introduced it to the world in the early 1960s. It’s a perfectly legal exercise, but casinos have devised some quite adept ways of dealing with it. For one, they’ll randomly shuffle the entire deck at random points of play. This renders your running count useless.

What’s more is that if a pit boss has even the slightest suspicion you’re a card counter they are well within their rights to shuffle all the decks after each and every round. Add to that the fact that major casinos use advanced facial recognition software with cameras in every corner and you’ll find it’s become difficult to beat the house’s odds in this day and age.

A crucial reminder: card counting on the scale of Thrope, Uston, Taft and the MIT blackjack syndicates may have run its course, but that doesn’t negate the value of good, sound and proper strategy in blackjack play: knowing when to hit and when to stand, when to double down and when to surrender (should the table give you that option), when to take insurance and when to split. Blackjack is well worth its monetary returns in careful study before play.

Blackjack card counting principles, learn from the experts.

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