Blackjack Basic Card Counting is Easy to Grasp.
The simple Hi-Low method involves keeping track of the high and low cards in the shoe, and thus how many of each are still to be dealt. This does not mean keeping track of individual cards; it merely means keeping a running total by assigning a 1, -1 or zero value to the cards that fall, depending on their denomination. The higher the total, the more likely it is that high cards are coming next. You then raise your bet amount in expectation of this, as higher cards increase your chances of hitting a blackjack.
However, there are deeper levels of card counting. The more complex the card counting strategy, the more accurate and profitable it should be. At the same time, the more complex, the more difficult it is to keep track, and thus the more likely you are to make a mistake. Mistakes can be costly, because you will often have played a lot of hands at a low betting rate, and if you make a mistake when the high cards come, you can end up sacrificing the reward you would otherwise have gained. Therefore the best card counters employ strategies that target a balance between complexity and reward.
The true count
One way of increasing the accuracy of your card counting is to use the number of decks that the shoe contains to convert your basic card count into what is known as a “true count”. This implies that you need to keep an eye on the total number of cards that have been dealt as well. From there, converting to a true count is easy. You simply divide the total that you have arrived at by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. For example, if you have reached a count of 8 and the dealer is using an 8-deck shoe, of which roughly half the cards have been dealt, there are 4 decks remaining. Dividing your count by the number of remaining decks leaves you with a true count of 2 (8/2). You can immediately see that now you aren’t as assured of getting high cards as you thought you were with your original card count – and perhaps you shouldn’t raise your bet too high yet, as there is still a fair proportion of low cards to come. You can see from this example how obtaining a true count gives you a more accurate picture of the remaining cards in the shoe.
Counting level strategies
When applied to card counting, the level means the highest value that you give to individual cards as they fall. The Hi-Lo strategy is thus a level one strategy, as the highest value given to any card is 1 (any card from 2 to 6 is counted as 1.) A level 2 strategy would mean dividing the cards into more categories, and assigning values of -2, -1, 0 1 and 2. You can see straight away that the higher your level, the more granularity you will achieve, and therefore your card count will be more accurate. However, it should also be evident that a level 2 strategy will require more concentration and have a higher margin of error, as you now have to keep track of more categories of cards. The more levels you use, the more you need to think – while at the same time disguising the fact that you are card counting.
Another strategy is to keep a side count of certain cards, in addition to the main count. This side count allows you to keep track of specific individual cards, usually Aces, as they are very important cards in blackjack. Once again, this gives you yet another thing to concentrate on, and you need to decide on the degree of error-risk that you are prepared to accept.
Of course, with all these different strategies, it is vital that you practice them so that they become second nature before you try to implement them in live casino games. The best way to practice is to simulate real conditions. Ask a friend to act as the dealer, and other friends to take the roles of other players. Get them to talk to you to distract you while you practice, and use loud music and other noises to heighten the distraction level.