Play Blackjack like an Expert

In this tips article, we’ll talk about various ways blackjack experts view the game.  Blackjack is a game that requires close attention to detail and constant decisions.  So, it should help you improve your game if you learn the perspectives experts bring to it.   One of the things that make Springbok the leading online casino for South Africa is that we do as much as we can to make gaming fun.  One way to make playing blackjack fun is to learn as much about it as possible.

Card Counting

We have spoken about card counting in the past.  Card counting requires that you play at a game that uses only one deck and that does not reshuffle the deck after every hand.  Given those two elements, card counting can take two basic forms.  You can learn to remember every card dealt and you can count cards using the plus and minus system.

The plus and minus system is a lot easier to learn and it takes a very long time to get really good at.  So, we feel that players can develop a “feel” for the number of high cards left in the deck.  Mike Aponte is a card counting expert.  He gives perspective to blackjack by calling it a game “based on dependent events”.

This means that everything that came before influences everything that comes after.

Card Depletion

One of the hardest things for players to get a strong grasp on is why the high cards which are the ace and the 10-point cards are counted as minus 1 and the five lowest cards are counted as plus one.

Here Mike Aponte uses the concept of card depletion.  When high cards come up, the deck is being depleted of them and since they help players more than they help the dealer, they are counted as minus one for one “depletion” per card.   When low cards come out, the deck is depleted of cards that help the dealer more than the player. 

Imagine the dealer has 16 and has to hit.  She is helped by a 2, 3, 4, or 5 and if the dealer has 12-15 points, the six brings her to a common winning position.  So these cards are rated as plus one since by removing them from the deck, the players are helped.

Mike Aponte and all other card counting experts say that the 7, 8, and 9 are neutral cards because they don’t help the dealer so they give then a score of nil. 

Keep it Simple

Henry Tamburin is another card counting expert.  He states that card counting is “nothing more than keeping track of the cards after the shuffle”.  It makes a difficult skill sound easy.  In fact, by adding he idea that you are keeping track of the cards after the shuffle, you realize that even if you lose track in one deck, you’ll soon have a reshuffled deck and can begin keeping track of the cards from that point on.

When Does the Player Have the Edge?

Henry Tamburin makes the very important point that you as the player may have the edge on the next hand even before the dealer deals the first two cards.  We usually think of card counting as helping us determine whether to stand or hit based on the card count but if you have a decided advantage entering a single hand, you can increase you bet accordingly.

How Smart Do You Have to Be?

Every blackjack player has heard of the boys from MIT who broke the bank in Las Vegas by counting cards.  We all know that students at MIT are all pretty close to genius level in math and science.  Henry Tamburin makes the very important point that it isn’t intelligence that makes a card counter good at it; it’s perseverance, ability to pay attention, and a calm attitude far more than intelligence.

Is There a Basic Strategy That Does Not Use a Strategy Card?

Michael Shackleford is also known as the Wizard of Odds.  He has a set of very simple rules that are good in more than 99% of hands.  By presenting his extra-basic strategy Shackleford is saying that blackjack is a decision-based game in which almost all decisions are very straightforward.

He gives one simple example: if you have hard eight you hit no matter what the dealer has.  But if you have a hard nine, you might decide to double down.  Doubling down makes the decision more complicated because you only get one card when you double down.

If you are using a card counting strategy, and if the count says that there are many more low cards than high cards, you wouldn’t double down because you have a better than half chance of not getting the high card you want.

The Zen of Blackjack

We often reference the great book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  In his book, Robert Pirsig talks about how we know the best way to proceed in a repair, a regular maintenance regimen, or in anything else we do.  He talks about “feel”.  We need to sense the “quality” of our next action.

We can extrapolate from the talk about motorcycle maintenance to anything we do.  We might be making a stew.  Instead of following a recipe closely, many cooks put in “a little of this and a little of that” by which they mean that they cook by “feel”.

The same is true in blackjack.  We can play blackjack by feel and win almost as often as we lose.  It’s also important to keep in mind that even the best blackjack players with advanced card counting techniques and excellent situational strategy don’t win every time they play.  In fact, they probably lose as often as they win in a session.  But when they win, they win bigger than they lose so in the long run, they come out ahead.

Let the game come to you; don’t let the game intimidate you; pay close attention to all the cards played; use common sense when raising your bet, when doubling down, and when splitting; and always remember that it’s just a game.