Picking a Card-Counting System
If you play blackjack long enough, odds are you'll reach a stage where you'll want to learn how to count cards. Most people do. They get frustrated when they see players put big money on hands that basic strategy suggests aren't worth it, and walk away with big wads of cash when they do. Do these players know something the others don't know? Yes, and they've counted the cards to gain that understanding.
The Down Side
For many people, however, card counting is a phase they go through. They'll learn how to do it, and maybe use it for a while, but they won't stick with it, simply because it can be so distracting. Think about it. Playing properly by using basic strategy comes first. This can be hard enough to learn, so why lessen your chances of doing well by adding another thing to think about? Other players give up on card counting because it takes an activity they enjoy and turns it into a job. It requires work to stay focused at a table and continually run numbers in your head.
My uncle just paid a bunch of money for a count system that he swears will make him rich. Should I learn this system?
If it's a simple system, you could consider it. If it's not, it's probably not worth your time. The difference in what you could possibly win when using a complex system versus a simple system usually isn't worth the headaches and aggravation that come with learning the system. When it comes to counting systems, simpler is better for most players.
Most players don't succeed at card counting. They don't possess the math and logic abilities that they need to really get good at it. This doesn't mean you have to be a genius to be a card counter. But the more complex programs do take some analytical skills as they employ more complicated formulas. If math and logic aren't your strong suit, it's tough to learn advanced card-counting systems. Many people don't succeed at card counting because they're scared of it. They've heard stories of players getting escorted out of casinos when they've been discovered counting. And they've heard stories of worse happening. It's no secret that casinos don't like card counters. And it's true that some casinos have made things pretty rough for individuals who use these skills when at their tables. Because big bet swings can quickly unmask a card counter, many counters get a little gun shy about taking advantage of favorable counts when they arise and betting big on them. This is understandable, but it pretty much negates the reason for learning how to count cards.
Lots of card counters simply have a hard time remembering the count. Now, the count doesn't have to be perfect. If you're close, it's better than nothing. However, if you're way off it won't do you any good at all.
Card counting doesn't work for playing blackjack at online casinos. Most of these establishments use gaming software that shuffles the cards after every hand. If you plan to play a lot online, don't even bother learning how to count cards. Learn basic strategy very well instead, and be sure to use the basic strategy rules that apply the game you're playing.
Finally, players often ditch card counting after they learn it because it's not as sure-fire a method as it once was. Back in the old days, blackjack was a single-deck game. Card counting was the method that blew these games away. When that happened, the casinos had to come up with ways to make the game more difficult so they could regain their edge over players. They did so in a variety of ways, including:
Using multiple decks. It's tough to keep track of cards when there are 416 (the number of cards in an eight-deck shoe) to do it with.
Using continuous shuffling machines. These machines immediately shuffle discards back into the shoe, making it virtually impossible for counters to come up with a true count.
Allowing dealers to shuffle up whenever they want. Dealers no longer have to wait until the cut card to reshuffle the shoe. Instead, they can — and do — shuffle up at various points during a game. Sometimes they're not even halfway through the shoe when they do.
Again, none of this means that card counting has no value. Some systems do. Others are so tough to learn that it's hard to use them, which makes them fairly worthless. Sink big money into purchasing any of these systems, and you're doubly behind. The bottom line: it's best not to rely on card counting as a sure-fire way to make big money playing blackjack.
We can't even tell you how many card-counting systems there are; it seems as if new systems and variations on old systems crop up with great frequency. With so many different card-counting systems available, how do you choose the one or ones you want to use? They all have their relative advantages and disadvantages, but there is a proven method for sorting through them all and selecting the ones you want to learn and use:
Consider the kinds of games you play most often, or that you anticipate playing most often. If you're like most blackjack players, you'll be playing with multiple decks, so you'll want to pick a game that works well in these situations. If you're going to hunt down single-deck games, choose a system that takes this factor into consideration.
Consider the amount of time you spend or plan to spend playing blackjack. If you're going to make a habit of it, a complex system that gives you more of an edge might be to your advantage. If you don't play very often, a simpler system will be easier to remember and less likely to distract you.
Choose a count system that gives you the information you need in order to make three important playing decisions: when to bet more, when to deviate from basic strategy, and when to take insurance. If you plan on playing multiple-deck games, systems that indicate favorable betting situations should carry more weight in your decision process.
Consider playing efficiency and betting efficiency factors. These figures, expressed as percentages, show the relative strengths or weaknesses of the various systems. Playing efficiency measures favorable playing conditions. Betting efficiency measures favorable betting conditions. The best system would have about a .98 percent betting efficiency and a .70 percent playing efficiency. As betting efficiency goes up, playing efficiency goes down, which is why both figures are important. As previously mentioned, multiple-deck games typically call for high betting efficiency. In single-deck games, betting efficiency isn't as important.