Easy Card Counting in Blackjack

By Palmer

Card counting is the practice of dealing with the probability that one has the advantage, primarily in blackjack and its derivatives. This can be achieved in several different ways, all based around the principle of tracking the ratio of low to high cards at any given point in the game. The basic idea is that high cards are more valuable for the player, while low cards, namely 4s, 5s, and 6s, are preferable for the dealer. This is because high cards, particularly aces and tens, offer a higher probability of a blackjack, and lower value cards decrease the chance that the dealer will bust (as he is required to hit stiff hands, whereas the player may hit or stand as she sees fit).

The practice is not illegal, although casinos reserve the right to disallow players that are known or suspected card counters. Card counting does not involve affecting the deck in any way, but rather, the player’s own interpretation of the deck. Each card the player sees is assigned a score which estimates the value of that card in relation to the game, and the sum of those values is tracked. There are a variety of different ranking systems, but all involve designating a positive, negative, or null value to each card. When a new card is dealt, its value affects the sum of the running count. Low cards will increase the count, as their presence means that the percentage of high cards remaining is increased. High cards, likewise, decrease the count.

The High-Low system, a popular and rather simple method, adds one for each card valued 2-6, and subtracts one for any ten through ace, while the 7, 8, and 9 receive no value. It is considered an easy system to learn and maintain because of its single-level count; the count is never increased or decreased by any more than one. This makes it easier for the player to keep track of and still keep his head in the game itself.

The Zen Count, on the other hand, is a bit more complex and allows for more pinpointed accuracy in surmising probability. The more valuable cards, 4-6, are assigned a +2 value, while the 10, Jack, Queen, and King are all given a value of -2. The 2, 3, and 7 are assigned values of +1, the ace is a -1, and the 8 and 9 are null. This method is a multilevel count, and while it is considered more accurate, it requires more thought and time, and may therefore prevent one from playing as accurately, defeating the purpose of the system one is using.

If a player is able to play more quickly and thus earn more money using a simpler system, there is a little point in using a more detailed and accurate system, but this is entirely up to personal experience and preference. Many more card counting systems exist to enhance one’s us casino players experience. It is merely an issue of trial and error to find which system is best for the individual player.

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