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Card Counting Fundamentals of Blackjack Strategy

In the game of blackjack, there are two main factors that come into play when it comes to card values and your payout rate in the game. The more high cards and aces that there are left in the deck, the better your payout rate becomes. Whenever the deck has a lot of small cards in it, the lower your payout rate becomes. Higher cards are more valuable to you as a player because of the boosted payouts for being dealt blackjacks and because of the increased chances of the dealer going bust. Card counting is a basic blackjack strategy skill that allows you to estimate the composition of the remaining cards in the deck in terms of how favorable they will be to you.

The Characteristics of Card Counting Systems

There are two main characteristics of systems that are used for counting cards that have to be considered before you decide to use them. The first thing to look for is how easy it is to use. Complicated systems with multiple card values and ace tracking are exceptionally difficult to perfect and use at the tables. The second item to look for is how good of a job the system does when it comes to giving you an idea of your advantage (or disadvantage) in the game. We recommend that all players start off with the Hi-Lo Card Counting System because it’s easy to use and does a great job at telling you when you have the advantage.

The Hi-Lo Counting System

Here’s how the Hi-Lo system works. Whenever a new deck or shoe is started in a blackjack game, you’ll start with a count of zero in your head. Each time that a two, three, four, five or six is dealt, you’ll add one to the count. Whenever an ace or a card that counts as ten (ten, jack, queen or king) is dealt, then you subtract one from the count. The higher the count, the better your advantage is in the game relative to normal. However, this is only relative to how many decks are left in the shoe.

To achieve an accurate reading, you’ll need to know about how many decks are left, and this can be estimated by taking a glance at the shoe. Divide the count by the number of decks left to get what’s known as the true count. Whenever the true count is higher than three, you have an advantage against the house. The idea is to bet larger amounts when the true count is high to try to get an overall advantage against the house. While you’ll be betting small amounts a majority of the time, your much larger bets a minority of the time will more than make up for the difference whenever you have an advantage over the house. This method of changing your bet size is a key component of blackjack strategy, and it’s the reason that card counting is so effective.

How Hi-Lo Card Counting Works

Each time a low card is dealt, you have to remember that it’s actually being removed from the shoe. Taking low cards out of the shoe increases our payout rate, and taking high cards out of the shoe decreasing our payout rate. This is why being dealt a blackjack actually hurts our count and why being dealt small cards actually increases it. The count is based on gaining information about which cards are left to come in the future instead of which cards have already been dealt on the table. Though it’s somewhat anti-intuitive at first, it makes a lot of sense once you practice it a while.