Advanced Blackjack Strategies

So you’ve mastered Basic Strategy. You know roughly when to hit, and when to stand. You understand probabilities, and have a sense of what you’re trying to achieve. You may even have started to explore card counting. So where do you go next? Well, we’ll give you a few glimpses here, and we’ll be elaborating on these and other strategies in the coming weeks. If you want a lift to the next level of blackjack play, we’ll be happy to supply you with the tools.

Advanced Card Counting Systems

Most books designed to get you winning at blackjack will focus a lot of their fire on card counting systems. There’s a very good reason for that – they work damn well. Indeed, use them carefully, and you can turn that typical 0.5% edge for the casino into a 2-3% edge for you!

Card counting involves assigning numerical values to different cards. As each card is turned up, you may add or subtract that card’s value from the running count. The more frequently cards with low values are being turned up, the higher the running count will get. Conversely, the running count will go down as cards with higher values come up with greater regularity. When the running count is at a particularly high or low point, this tells you a great deal about whether cards in the near future are more likely to be high or low themselves. Armed with that information, you can then adjust your bets accordingly. If you know a lot of high cards are due, for example, you should be raising your bets, as the likelihood of scoring blackjacks (and consequently the player-friendly bonuses dished out such hands) are much increased, thus giving the player a temporary edge over the house.

Many card counters start with the ubiquitous Hi-Lo System. Popularised by Edward O Thorp in Beat The Dealer, this simplistic method offers a nice introduction. However, it is rather limited, and doesn’t give you more than basic information. Lance Humble’s Hi-Opt I builds on Hi-Lo, and makes for a more effective (if also more complex) approach. We’ll be looking at this and a range of other card counting systems. These will include REKO, KISS, the Zen Count, the various strands of the Uston systems, and others. We’ll show you which ones are simple, and which ones demand more studying time. And is the extra effort worth it?

Variations from Basic Strategy when Counting

Card counting isn’t just about knowing when lots of high cards are imminent. Basic Strategy tells you what to play in each situation in order to achieve optimum success. However, Basic Strategy assumes that the information available to you is rather shallow. If you have the benefit of knowing whether the running count is high or low, this allows you to modify your strategy in order to increase your chances of success. Given that you typically start off at a disadvantage of just 0.5%, the improved strategy is another reason why card counting can turn everything in your favour. We’ll be looking at modified rules, such as the Illustrious 18, and explaining how to raise your game further still, even with relatively basic card counting skills.

Deck Penetration

Many players will spend long hours practising card counting again and again. However, unless you understand the importance of deck penetration, and know how to assess it, you’ll probably waste a lot of time counting cards in games where even the best techniques are of little to no use. Dealers tend to deal out a certain number of cards before reshuffling the pack. The deeper the penetration, the better it will be for card counting. But the reverse situation can eradicate any advantage that the player may have had. We’ll show you how to calculate deck penetration, and when the odds are very much in your favour, and when they render the game essentially unplayable from the point of view of a counter.

Stealth Card Counting

Casinos like losing players. They don’t, though, have the same affection for card counters and other players who may eat into the juicy house edge. If you are a card counter, then, how to avoid detection should be at the forefront of your mind. It’s no good working out how to beat the house, if the house can simply sling you out on your ear as soon as you’re ready to suck in profits. We’ll look at the ways you should be dressing, the reactions you should be practising, and giving you general hints on how to seem like an amateur rather than a player with purpose. We’ll also show you how not to overdo it. Blending in and not being noticed is the key to staying around long enough to claim your prize.

Don’t Get Cheated

Even with that glorious house edge, there’s still a temptation for casinos to cheat. We’ll uncover a few of the more obvious methods (dealer peeks, short shoes etc.) the house can use to ensure that they really do always win, and will show you how to spot them when they occur.

Single and Double Deck Play

Increasing numbers of casinos are trying to suck players into one-deck and two-deck variations of blackjack. Sometimes these games bestow considerable advantages upon players. At other times, they’ll work against them. We’ll tell you how to spot the low-deck variations that you should be chasing after. We’ll also let you in on the many subtle differences in play that can increase your success rate when playing with only one or two decks.

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