Going for Blood at the Blackjack Tables

Hello fellow gamblers. Like many players that walk into a casino, I go to make money. I enjoy myself too, but that is not the main reason for me to go. I used to hope to get lucky and get a nice win on many of the different games, but the fact is there are only a few games that you can play and almost always come away on top of things financially speaking with some study and practice.

It sure is a lot of fun to take a stack of chips and put them on a close to 50/50 bet and pull off a win. That is what most Baccarat players are doing play after play. Roulette players do this too on the outside bets Red or Black, Odd or Even, 1-18, or 19 – 36. When you learn to play Blackjack and count cards, you learn when to put that stack of chips out when you have better than a 50/50 chance of winning. Over time, you win more of these bets than you lose, and end up making tax free money. My tax rate is about 35%, so each $100 I win is like $135. On top of this, there are many other perks that go along with becoming a Blackjack Pro. Let’s take a look at how we can tap into the lifeblood ($$$$$) of every casino that has a Blackjack table.

Each hand has to be played perfectly. Computers have been used to calculate what to do for each hand, and this is called Basic Strategy. Here it is for you to learn.

Basic Strategy

If dealer shows 2 or 3 take cards until you have 13 or more.

If dealer shows 4 5 or 6 take cards until you have 12 or more.

If dealer shows 7 8 9 10 or Ace take cards until you have 17 or more.

If you have an Ace in your hand, take cards until you have 19 against the dealers 9 10 or Ace, 18 for anything else. When your Ace can only count as a 1, go back to the above rules.

Double your 2 card total of 11 against anything less.

Double your 2 card total of 10 against anything less.

Double your 2 card total of 9 against 3 4 5 or 6.

Double Ace 7, Ace 6 against 3 4 5 or 6.

Double Ace 5 Ace 4 against 4 5 or 6.

Double Ace 3 Ace 2 against 5 or 6.

Always split Ace’s and 8’s.

Never split 10’s 5’s or 4’s.

Split 9’s against 2 3 4 5 6 8 or 9 only.

Split 7’s against 2 3 4 5 6 and 7.

Split 6’s against 3 4 5 and 6.

Split 2’s and 3’s against 4 5 6 and 7.

Never take Insurance.

These rules can be slightly different if the rules differ in the Casino you play in. For example, when the dealer takes no hole card, you do not split Aces against the dealers Ace. You also do not double your 11 against a dealers 10 card.

Learning Basic Strategy is made easy with a little help from flash cards, a tool most of us remember from grade school. Feel free to download a set of these cards from this page. I have prepared them for your use and wish you all the best with this very valuable knowledge. They are zipped and in WordPerfect format.

Basic Strategy Flash Cards

Counting Cards

Counting cards as they are dealt from the decks allows the Blackjack player to have knowledge of when the odds of the game have changed in their favour. The importance of knowing when this has happened is in the fact that larger bets should be placed to offset the house odds during normal play. I will give an example.

During normal play, it is wise to bet the table minimum. If we place 100 – $5 bets we have bet a total of $500. If we can expect to lose 1% of our money based on the odds of the game we can expect to have lost $5. Not much. If we count cards and know we have an advantage of 1% and begin to bet $50 per hand we are betting 10 times our usual bet and can expect to win money 10 times faster than when we expect to lose at 1%. The end result is winning more than we lose and producing a profit, if not for each session, for the number of sessions we will play over the year.

To return to the value of the decks as each card is removed, all counting systems stem from the following information.

% Change in Deck Value as Cards are Removed from Deck

5 Card   +.64
4 Card   +.52
6 Card   +.45
3 Card   +.44
2 Card   +.37
7 Card   +.30
8 Card   .00
10 Card  -.53
A Card   -.49
9 Card   -.13

All counting systems recognize the value of the 10 card and are centred around it. The simplest count uses the 10s and the highest valued non -10 cards to offset each other to tell if the deck is 10 rich or 10 poor. These cards are the 3 4 5 and 6 cards. Each deck has 16 – 10s and 16 – 3 to 6 cards. Every time the player sees a 10 come out of the decks they count “minus 1” and for each 3 to 6 card they count “plus 1” and add the results to a running count they keep in their mind. It is actually very easy. Knowing you are going to make money doing this simple mathematics makes it all the more easy.

The Ace is the next most valuable card in the deck and is kept track of with either a side count, or is counted along with the 10s. When it is counted along with the 10s, the 2 card is also counted along with the 3 to 6 cards to balance the count. Side counting Aces is more difficult since the player has to determine if more or less Aces than normal have been dealt per 13 cards, since there is 1 Ace for every 13 cards. The Ace is most valuable for telling us how much to bet rather than how to play since it has a value that can be both 1 or 11 and really only shines when it is beside a 10, in our hands of course!

The 9 and the 7 card both have value, and there is a count that adds the 9 to the 10 and Aces, with the 7 going with the 2 to 6 cards to balance the count. Here the player is counting almost all the cards and it has been proven the extra work doesn’t really pay off with greater profits than the above systems.

Each card excluding the 7 8 and 9 card is worth about 1/2% in favour of the dealer or the player, but there is some difference between the true values of the cards. Advanced counting systems give each of the cards values above plus or minus one, and give a more accurate account of the value of the remaining decks. They are also more difficult for the player to use, and any gain that can be expected in fact can destroy the players advantage as they lose track of what they are doing. The only advanced counting system I recommend counts the 4 and 5 cards as “plus 2” and the 10s as “minus 2”, and all the other cards except the 8 9 and Ace as “plus 1” to balance. Any more difficult systems do not produce much more of a profit and add more risk to accuracy.

Practicing Counting Cards

For simplicity, we will use what us called a Simple High/Low count. Take a deck of cards and shuffle them. Place the deck face down and flip one up off the top of the deck. If it is a 2 3 4 5 or 6, count +1 in your mind. If it is a 10 or Ace count -1 in your mind. As you go through the deck, your count will be positive, negative, or zero. When you get to the end your count should be zero or you have made a mistake. Do this until you can go through the deck without making mistakes.

Next, begin flipping up 2 cards at a time. Often these 2 cards cancel each other out, or equal +2 or -2. Instead of counting the deck down in 52 steps, you will be doing it in 26. As you get good at this, begin flipping 3 cards up at a time.

In time you will be able to count a deck down very quickly and then you will be ready to count at the Blackjack table as you play Basic Strategy. To make money you will have to be betting more when your count is positive.

Betting Based on the Count

You will probably not be playing against a 1 deck game, so you have to realize that your count is effected by how many decks are being used. In a multideck game, if your count is +6 when there are 3 decks left to be played, your count is really only +2. You have to look at the number of decks played to tell you how many are left. In this example, +6 is your Running Count and +2 is your True Count. When your True Count is +2 you can bet 2 chips. Match the size of your bet to the True Count. From +1 down you will not be risking your money when you have a disadvantage. From +2 up you will be betting money when you have the advantage. This is called count matching your bets.

Advanced Plays

Beyond Basic Strategy there are a number of hands you can play differently once you know how to count cards. By learning 10 of these hands we can take advantage of 90% of these advanced plays, simply by focusing on the most frequent hands, and the most profitable ones. The Blackjack player falls into one of four levels of skill.

Level 1 is the Average Player that knows some of the rules and guesses what to do with each hand.
Level 2 is the Basic Strategy Player who plays each hand perfectly.
Level 3 is a Counting Player that changes bet size according to the count.
Level 4 is the Advanced Player that changes the play of hands and bet size according to the count.

Play #1

Taking Insurance
Basic Strategy tells us not to take Insurance when the dealer shows an Ace upcard. The reason for this is simply that the player losses more times than they win and ends up losing more money. Once a player learns to count, they will know when there are enough 10 cards left in the decks to make it worthwhile taking Insurance bets. Take Insurance when the count is +3 or more

Play #2

Standing with 16
Basic Strategy tells us to hit a total of 16 against the dealer’s 7 to Ace upcard. This is almost an even choice as calculated by computer with the player winning 501 hands out of 1000 by hitting the 16. When there is even 1 more 10 card left in the decks than normal, you can stand on 16 against a dealers 10 upcard and know you will win more often than lose.
Stand on 16 vs 10 when the count is greater than 0

Play #3

Standing with 15
Basic Strategy tells us to hit a total of 15 against the dealer’s 7 to Ace upcard. As with standing on 16, computers have proven the player wins more often by hitting than standing. When there is at least 4 more 10 cards left in the decks than normal, you can stand on 15 against a dealers 10 upcard and know you will win more often.  Stand on 15 vs 10 when the count is +4 or more

Play #4

Splitting 10s Against 6
Basic Strategy says splitting 10s is a BIG no-no, but there is a time to make this aggressive move. When the dealer has a 6 upcard s/he is already in hot water. When there are many more 10 cards in the deck than normal, the hole card is more likely to be a 10, and so is the card they will draw from the shoe. The player is much more likely to draw a 10 as well, returning themselves back to a hand of 20. The player can stand with 12 against the 6 upcard, so it is not as important that the player gets another 10 as it is the dealer gets the 10s and busts.
Split 10s vs 6 when the count is +6 or more

Play #5

Splitting 10s Against 5
As is the case above, you can split 10s against the 5 upcard when the count is high enough. You want as much money on the table as possible when the dealer is most likely to bust.
Split 10s vs 5 when the count is +6 or more

Play #6

Double with 10 Against 10
The dealer has already checked the hole card and does not have a Blackjack. The most s/he can have is 20, and with enough 10s in the deck probably has 20. You are more likely to tie that 20 with extra 10s available, but you also have the possibility of drawing an Ace.
Double 10 vs 10 when the count is +4 or more
*!* Do NOT make this play in games where the dealer takes no hole card*!*

Play #7

Standing with 12 vs 3
Basic Strategy tells us to hit our hand until we have a total of at least 13 against the dealer’s 3 upcard. This rule changes when there are more 10 cards in the decks than normal. This is a more passive play since it is not a double or a split, but keeps the counting player from losing when they are more likely to win.
Stand on 12 vs 3 when the count is +2 or more

Play #8

Standing with 12 vs 2
As is the case above, we can stand with this hand when there are more 10 cards in the decks than normal.
Stand on 12 vs 2 when the count is +4 or more

Play #9

Double with 11 Against Ace
The dealer has already checked the hole card and does not have a Blackjack. The most s/he can have is 20, and you still have the draw. It is just as if you are doubling 11 vs a 10 as called for in Basic Strategy. Your chance of getting a 10 card is very good, and with just one more 10 in the deck than normal you have an advantage to act on.
Double 11 vs Ace when the count is +1 or more
*!*Do NOT make this play in games where the dealer takes no hole card*!*

Play #10

Double with 9 Against 7
When the dealer has between 3 and 6 Basic Strategy calls for doubling with a two card hand total of 9. When the dealer has a 7 showing and there are enough 10s left to be dealt, doubling against 7 is the right play. The dealer will have 17 more often than normal, and the player will have a better chance of getting 19.
Double 9 vs 7 when the count is +4 or more

Learning these plays is made easy with a little help from flash cards, a tool most of us remember from grade school. Feel free to download a set of these cards from this page. I have prepared them for your use and wish you all the best with this very valuable knowledge. These flash cards are for counts that give a maximum value of plus or minus 1 to the cards only. For other counts please contact me.

Advanced Play Flash Cards

The above information once perfected will make you a Blackjack Pro. I use 2 decks of cards shuffled together, one blue, one red, the Basic Strategy Flash Cards and the Advanced Play Flash Cards to practice Counting. The Count I use is called Hi Opt II and gives the 4 5 cards a value of +2 and the 10s -2. I recommend this Count to anyone that has perfected the above first. The Aces can be counted on the side for betting purposes as -2, or included in the Count as -1. If they are included in the Count as -1, this system is called the Unbalanced Zen Count. You will be able to expect to win money on a continual basis as you play Blackjack and be treated to what the hotel casino you play in has to offer you. Establish a credit account with them so you will be able to play with their money and keep yours in the bank gaining interest. Use every angle to increase the size of your bank. When you have $10,000 set aside you can expect to be matching the Count with $25 green chips. Start off small and as you realize how powerful what you are doing is increase the size of your bets, but never bet more than 1% of your entire Blackjack Bank.

Happy Counting!

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