MATH AND STATISTICS
Unlike other casino games, blackjack is not entirely a game of luck. There is a lot of math and statistical knowledge involved in blackjack. If you want to become a winning player, you can icrease your chances of winning if you study blackjack mathematics. Good blackjack players know that they must consider probability, statistics, and game theory when they sit down at the table to play. Entire books have been written detailing blackjack strategies and listing methods for calculating blackjack probabilities and blackjack odds.
The book Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorp, published in the 1960s, became a bestseller with its “ten-count system” for keeping track of the cards in the deck. Card-counting became a widely accepted practice among blackjack aficionados to the extent that casinos changed blackjack rules in order to keep the house’s advantage intact.
Advantage play in blackjack is defined as an attempt by players to win at the game honestly by employing memory, computations, and observation. These players, doing something actually very legal, are oen undesirable in casinos because they end up winning more than the casino would like.
Card counting is the practice of keeping track of the cards dealt in previous blackjack hands in order to calculate the possibility of specific cards being dealt in the current hand. Players good at this method can gain an advantage over the house. Card counting is much easier in one-deck games of blackjack, but can become quite difficult in multi-deck games, and in games with frequent reshuffles. While card counting mentally is completely legal, using external devices to enable this tracking is illegal. Players visibly seen as counting the cards at the blackjack tables are unwelcome guests in casinos and are frequently asked to leave the premises.
Card counters typically assign a point score to each rank of card that is dealt at the table, keeping a running score in their heads. As each card is exposed, the player adds the score of that card to the running total, which is considered the “count”. Aer each reshuffle of the deck, the count starts again at 0.
Films like “Rain Man” and “21” included scenes of players counting cards, giving them an advantage over the casinos where they played blackjack but they also made it look far easier then it actually is. Like anything it takes time, practice and skill to be able to count cards and even when you have mastered the basic skill and math behind it, you also have to realize that the count only gives you an “idea” of what the remaining deck has left, there is no way to know what order those cards will come out in or whether they will be in your favor or the dealers.
Hi-Lo strategy is a card counting system, and it is actually the easiest one to learn. Using the Hi-Lo card counting calculation system, all cards are assigned values of +1, 0 and -1 depending on their value in the game itself. Cards numbered 2–6 are called low cards and assigned a value of +1. Aces, tens, jacks, queens, and kings, the high cards, are assigned a value of -1. The remaining cards (7, 8, 9) are assigned a value of 0. As each card is dealt at the blackjack table it is easy to add up the point values in your head. The greater that number is, the more high cards remaining in the deck to be dealt. This is a simple method of card counting that will make it easier to decide whether to hit, stand, split or double down on the cards you are dealt.
Shuffle tracking is an advanced form of card counting. Instead of tracking the count of individual cards, the player keeps track of one or more subsections of cards as they are played. These sections are referred to as tracking zones. Aer the cards are played, and then shuled, there are zones of cards in the upcoming deals which contain most of the cards in the original tracking zones. This method requires keen eye observation and memory skills.
PROBABILITY IN BLACKJACK
Card counters and all avid blackjack players who rely on skill in order to achieve an advantage at the table employ some element of probability in their calculations as to what card will next be dealt. Players know the number of two-card combinations, the possibility of getting a blackjack, and the total number of possible outcomes in each hand. All of these skills are applied blackjack math. When you employ a card counting technique, you can calculate the probability of specific cards being dealt to you, and, what the dealer’s face down card may be. Keeping track of the score will allow you to calculate the blackjack odds of being dealt a 3, or alternatively a face card.
The more you keep track, the more you will be able to apply blackjack mathematics and know how to play for the best result. I encourage everyone to test themselves at home and realize that card counting is not a skill learned overnight and by no means guarantees success. Casinos have gone to great lengths to ensure that the odds are always in their favor and by having machines doing the shuling and more and more video and electronic blackjack options becoming available there is no sign of the odds shiing more to the players favor any time soon……if ever.
APPLYING BLACKJACK MATHEMATICS
Although card counting and the calculations it requires sound quite complicated, it is one of the methods players use to get an advantage at the table. Obviously blackjack math will not be applicable when playing video/electronic blackjack online. The number of decks used in live play will also influence whether card counting is even a possibility and if you see one of the shule-master machines where the dealer never actually even shules the cards and just simply feeds them into the top of the machine aer every 3-4 hands then don’t even attempt to keep track it would be pointless. Whatever blackjack strategy you employ, you must remember that more than anything else, blackjack is a game to be enjoyed, so make sure to have fun, set your limit, and stay within it.