Blackjack card counting is a relatively simple process. Since each of the cards in the deck has a point value assigned to it, all the card counter has to do is add or subtract the combined values of the exposed cards in order to determine if the deck is populated with high or low value cards. There are actually a few different Blackjack card counting systems in use today. Some of them can be quite complicated but all of them are used primarily to keep count of the high and low cards that are left in the deck.
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The particular values assigned to each of the cards are used to determine if a Blackjack card counting system is balanced or unbalanced. Balanced card counting systems like Hi/Lo assigns a value of zero to the entire 52 card deck. In balanced card counting systems, a running count of the cards is kept as they are played. The Blackjack player then divides the count by the number of cards that have not been played yet in order to arrive at the actual count.
In unbalanced Blackjack card counting methods like Speed Count or Knock Out, the total of the 52 card deck is assigned a predetermined number that tells the player whether the deck is positive or negative. This is a simpler method of card counting since the player does not have to estimate the remaining cards in the deck and convert the number to the actual count.
Gaining An Edge
The primary purpose of all Blackjack card counting methods is to determine whether the deck is positive or filled with high value cards. This gives the player an advantage over the house by allowing him or her to determine when it would be beneficial to bet more or less as the situation dictates. The difference between the size of the player’s wager when the deck is negative and the amount it increases as the deck becomes positive is called the "spread". The player’s advantage increases in proportion to the positive state of the deck.
Beyond Card Counting
It actually takes more than keeping track of the cards in the deck in order to be an effective and successful Blackjack card counter. While it is easy for the majority of Blackjack players to count a deck in their own home, the noise and the crowds of the typical casino is an entirely different story. To make things even more difficult, Blackjack card counters have to keep their activities undetected by the pit bosses in the casino. One thing that pit bosses are always on the look out for are Blackjack players that make unusually big jumps in their bets from one hand to another.
Keeping It Real
The reality of Blackjack card counting is that it will only result in a 1% to 2% advantage over the house at most. The results that you can expect in a single Blackjack session can vary a lot, so you should look at it in the long term. Also keep in mind that a positive deck gives the dealer as much chance of getting the high cards as you.