• August 3, 2021

Counting Cards, The Basics

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The first “secret” is that we don’t memorize the cards in a deck. Instead, each card is assigned a point-value and all we are really doing is adding those point values together and then converting that information into a usable form. Just what those point values are depends upon which counting system a player decides to use. In this school, I’ll be teaching the “High / Low” or “Plus / Minus” system but if you choose to learn another one, everything I’m going to teach still applies.
The other big “secret” about card counting is how we do it at the Blackjack table. I think most people who have flirted with counting can get a good grasp of it at home but once they hit all the distractions of a casino their ability to keep track of the cards, play their hand properly and get a bet into the circle on time breaks down. Remember when I told you that it was a MUST for you to know basic strategy as well as you know your own name? Now you’ll begin to see why that’s necessary; you don’t need more things to think about when you’re “on the green”.
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Pick a System
There are a lot of different card-counting systems available and — like most things in life — each has its advantages and its disadvantages. I’ll try to sort through the most popular and help you choose one which is right for you. Probably the most important factor in choosing a system is the type of game you’ll be playing most of the time.
Another important factor in selecting a system is the amount of time you spend playing Blackjack. This is going to surprise you, but a player who intends to spend a lot of time at the tables should learn a very simple system. I say that because, while this really is pretty easy, it does require some concentration and the simpler the system, the easier it is to concentrate for long periods of time. On the other hand, if you’re only going to play for 3 or 4 hours a week, a more difficult system may work well for you since a difficult system is usually more powerful and it will optimize the time you spend at the tables. Now, some of you “Type A’s” out there are thinking that you’ll spend a lot of time at the tables and use a very powerful (and complicated) system to get the most $$$ out of your play. The problem here is that under those circumstances, mistakes begin to creep in and that can cause you to lose your edge. The KISS principle applies: “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. If you really want to get the most out of the game, do what I did, learn two counting systems. I use one for multi-deck games and another one for single-decks. It’s not that hard and as we go through the lessons on learning how to count, you’ll see how the exercises I’ll teach you can implement such a strategy.
Card-counting systems are rated by two primary factors: Betting Efficiency (BE) and Playing Efficiency (PE). The anomaly of counting systems is that if you increase the BE you are, for the most part, decreasing the PE at the same time. This happens because of the unusual role an Ace plays in the game. For betting purposes, the Ace is a very powerful card; it’s the primary component of a “natural” which pays 3 to 2. But for playing a hand, the Ace is of somewhat limited value. How many times have you doubled an 11 and got an Ace? Now you have a total of 12…exciting, huh? Hit a 14, get an Ace and you’ve got 15; nothing to shout about, is it? Sure, it’s great to double a 10 and get an Ace, but that’s one of the very few times when the Ace helps in the play of a hand.
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Steve Carr

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