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Showing results for tags 'blackjack'.

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  1. Systems and strategies. Some gamblers use these two words interchangeably, making punters feel that there is a way to beat the house. In reality, gambling remains a risk, and the house edge is not a myth. Some strategies have advantages and may put gamblers in a better position for a win or minimise losses at best. Casino games have rules, betting structures, and that dreaded house edge. Successful punters know these by heart. We unveil gambling strategies that claim to work and delve into game-specific approaches. It's a Gamble: Wing It or Strategise? Whether you enjoy an occasional flutter or gamble on a more regular basis, the goal should remain the same - having fun! The chances are that you, like most gamblers, want to win some money while having fun. The first step would be to choose your game. Some strategies are better suited to specific casino games, while others could work across the board. The second step for successful gambling is having a budget and sticking to it. Don't stake what you can't lose, and don't fall into the trap of trying to make up for losses. With your game of choice ready and a level-headed bankroll budget, the following strategies add to your gameplay, and some claim to work. Take note: The following strategies and systems may CLAIM to work, but winning is always up to the luck of the draw. Use the following strategies at your own risk. General Gambling Systems ✓ Bankroll Strength Apart from setting a session, daily, and monthly budget, your aim must be to strengthen your bankroll, even if it is at a steady and slow pace. A part of achieving this goal is to set a loss limit for yourself and decide what percentage of your winnings to wager before walking away. Wise bankroll management allows for stress-free gambling and keeps you focused even when you are down during a session. Walk away while you are winning. While this may sound counter-intuitive, the chances of losing all your gains in the long run are big, so walking away as a winner is the best call. ✓ Fixed Wagers vs Fractional Wagers The most straightforward strategy is to pick a fixed stake amount and stick to it. This strategy is a safe choice with certain games, but it could hold you back with games like blackjack and poker. With slot games and any non-advantage gamble, it is a wise strategy to follow and makes it easy to keep track of your spending. Fractional wagers are the best way to minimise your risks. The system suggests stakes of no less than 1% and no more than 3% of your current bankroll. Naturally, the lower you choose to go, the better. This way, punters bet less while losing and increase stakes as they win. ✓ Positive and Negative Progression Strategies Most mathematical betting systems relate to either a positive bet progression or a negative progression. Simply put, this means players either increase their bets after losing or increase their bets after winning. An example of a negative progression system is the original Martingale system. This system is an excellent way to break the bank, and we advise against this type of gambling. If managed according to your budget and only if you have a big bankroll, positive progression systems work well for balanced odds. When only playing a few hands and staking on red/black at the roulette table (or the banker in Baccarat), this strategy claims to help players win. ✓ Take Note of House Edge The danger of using a strategy is falling into the trap of thinking you can beat the house. As mentioned, the house always wins. Putting yourself ahead by understanding the game rules has its advantages. You lose less if you choose games and bets with a lower house edge. With online casino games, this relates directly to RTP. The higher the Return to Player percentage, the lower the house edge. Games with the lowest house edge are traditionally table games, with blackjack at the top of the list and baccarat in second place. It's a good idea to always stake your money on the bets with the lowest house edge. Game-Specific Strategies These are brief versions of strategies suited to specific games. Take a look at our guides section for more in-depth tips to improve your gameplay. ✓ Top Slot Strategies Playing slots is a lot of fun, and it is by far the most popular casino game. Oddly enough, it is the game with the highest house edge, but punters enjoy the instant wins, simple rules, and entertaining themes of the spinning reels. So how do you win in slots? Is there a winning strategy? The short answer here is no. However, there are ways to make your slot experience more fun and increase the chances of better prizes. With slots, punters should consider more than just the RTP. Bonus features, volatility, and betting limits come into the equation when finding the best slot to play. The best slot offers a combination of these along with an acceptable RTP. Wise players match the volatility with their budget. Slots remain a game of luck, and punters can maximise their gameplay with solid bankroll management. Lower your bets when you are not winning and set limits to track your session spend because slots are games of chance; one of the smartest moves is knowing when to walk away. ✓ Video Poker Strategies Playing varieties of 5-card poker online is extremely popular, and video poker is second only to slot games in the igaming industry. Most video poker players use hunches or play streaks, but some strategies claim to increase winning odds. Depending on which 5-card draw you choose, following tips from strategy charts, universal strategies, and game-specific card choices could increase your chances of winning. A fact to keep in mind is that only mathematically derived strategies bring the best returns. A top tip for winning in video poker is choosing the game with the highest return. In other words, full-pay games. You can recognise these games by a 9/6 description. If possible, place the max bet and have strategy charts within reach, as these help players decide to hold or fold. ✓ Best Blackjack Strategies Undoubtedly, the top strategy to win at blackjack is card counting. This practice dates back decades and has a stigma attached to it, but this strategy doesn't work with online blackjack, as Random Number Generators drive online games. Essentially, each hand comes from a reshuffled deck. Fear not, as the game of 21 has many other strategies, and most are not as involved as counting cards. The most basic of these is to know when to make which betting call. By making a strategic decision on when to hit, stand, split, and double down, it is possible to reduce the house edge. When the dealer has face-up cards showing 2 to 6, and you have 12 to 16, rather stand as the dealer may go bust. In the same instance, if the dealer's cards are 7 to Ace, take a hit. Experts advise splitting Aces and 8s for the best chance of winning and to double down on 11 when the dealer has 2 to 10. ✓ Roulette Strategies Although roulette outcomes are random and betting on the exact number the ball will land on is pure luck, there are mathematical strategies that offer punters better chances of winning. Between American and European roulette, the latter is the strategic choice because the house edge is much lower. Outside bets offer players a higher probability of winning. These include column bets, dozen bets, colour bets, odd or even bets, and low or high bets. Most of these options are even bets, meaning you will only double your bet if you win. However, you can enjoy prolonged play with general wagering strategies in place. ✓ Strategies for Online Craps If you are keen to shoot some dice, the exciting and much-loved game of craps is a must. In line with games like roulette, craps outcomes are luck-based, so punters must play the odds instead. With a game of craps, you must choose the bet that makes the house edge as low as possible, and sometimes, it can drop below 1. Bets to avoid while shooting dice are single-roll bets, considering the house edge with these can exceed 10%. Using pass and come bets in a craps game is the best strategy as the house edge is 1.41% when doing so. An infrequent occurrence is the opportunity to take and lay odds. Experts advise that when craps players get the chance to do this, they should. House edge drops to a negligible 0.02% if you do. With a come or pass bet in place, this bet becomes an option if the shooter rolls his come-out roll. ✓ Baccarat Systems This sophisticated game is one of the most popular casino games, and contrary to popular belief, it is one of the simplest. Although it is an option, avoid the tie bet at all costs. House edge on a tie bet is 14.36%, and it will flatten your bankroll in no time as it has the worst odds of winning. One of the most straightforward strategies to follow in a game of baccarat is to only bet on the banker. The simple reason for this is, once again, house edge. The positive progression systems may be a good call for players who want to add a system on top of the banker-bet strategy. ✓ Poker Strategies Poker is a game of skill, and during the 20th century, the card game, and specific variations of it, became extremely popular. Thanks to this, there are more than enough strategies for poker players, but they must first grasp the game's rules. A simple rule in all poker variations is to know whether or not your starting hand is good. The next obvious strategy is to fold if your cards present a low to no chance of winning. You could attempt a bluff, but consider your opponent's skill level before choosing that route. Because of the many options with poker, we are not detailing strategies for each game today. You can find brilliant poker betting systems for popular variations in our guides. Hone Your Skills Punters should hone their game skills for the best experience and chances of walking away as a winner. Play free versions and read up on the rules and odds to increase your knowledge. This is the safest bet at the end of the day.
  2. Most dream about striking it lucky and walking away with the jackpot. Others argue that a successful gambler understands how luck has very little to do with becoming a wealthy punter. So what do the wealthy and famous gamblers have in common, and how did they get to the top? As it is only a handful of people that make it to a level of astonishing wealth through gambling, there has to be a secret. With seven being the industry’s lucky number, we take a look at the top 7 richest gamblers of all time and what they did to get the title and wealth. A hint we can give is that being skilled at numbers has a lot to do with it. ✓ Tony Bloom Anthony (Tony) Bloom hails from the United Kingdom and he carries the nickname ‘The Lizard’. Worth approximately $1.7 billion, he owns a Premier League team and is a professional sports bettor, poker player, and owner of Starlizard, the UK’s largest betting consultancy. Add to his resume that he is the chair for Brighton & Hove Albion football club, and it becomes hard to imagine what this gambling superstar does not do. Bloom’s love for going against odds started as a teen, where he crossed some lines with an illegal ID, but he studied mathematics at the University of Manchester. He worked as an accountant and then as a trader before he became a professional poker player. Since then, he took part in 11 WSOP tournaments, made it to the finals and they report he collected $1.5 million in winnings by 2008. Known as a ‘cold-blooded killer at the poker table’, peers gave him his nickname. Bloom moved into sports betting and owns a few horses as well, which have given him very successful runs. Although Tony Bloom’s wealth comes from various sources, his gambling career gave him a head start and he once stated himself that he believes poker gives a person a good grounding for many things in life. Like how to observe a situation well and read people. ✓ Bill Benter This professional gambler is one of the most famous punters because of how he gambles and how much he has made thanks to his system. Reports say that William “Bill” Benter is worth $1 billion, and he started his gambling career at blackjack tables in Sin City. Benter always believed there must be a way to crack the code concerning the casino’s advantage and with his brilliant maths aptitude, he attempted Edward O. Thorp’s card counting strategy. After 7 years of winning some money, getting banned from Vegas casinos, and realising it is not as lucrative as he had hoped, Benter moved on to greener pastures. Horse racing became his new focus area, and he was hell-bent on making educated investments rather than gambling against odds. The mathematical genius teamed up with Alan Woods and they created a formula for predicting the outcome of horse races. Estimates are that Bill Benter can make around $5M to $10M on a single race day, thanks to his gambling software. Bill has a physics degree and, apart from being known for his brilliant gambling strategy, he is also a generous man known for philanthropy and supporting political groups. ✓ Edward O. Thorp It is little wonder that Edward Oakley Thorp is one of the most famous gamblers in history, as he got a PhD in mathematics and applied his genius to betting odds. The ‘Father of Card-Counting’ invented a formula most people have heard of while he was a university professor. They estimated his current worth at $800 million and naturally, his favourite game is blackjack, but Thorp also enjoys roulette, Baccarat, and backgammon. Edward O. Thorp wrote the first book on card counting, called ‘Beat the Dealer’. Here he explained how to tilt the house edge in your favour by tracking the ratio of high and low cards. Together with Claude Shannon, he invented the first wearable computer to take into casinos with his formulas for beating roulette and blackjack. They have since banned these, but the formula remains one of the favourite blackjack strategies. Thorp moved into financial markets and became a hedge fund manager, which is his principal source of income today, but he still loves his game of 21. Edward is one of the original 7 gamblers to be honoured in the Blackjack Hall of Fame. ✓ Andrew Black The co-founder of the first bet exchange, Betfair, Andrew Black, has many streams of income but is one of the wealthiest gamblers of all time. As a sports bettor by heart, he owns a few horses, but it is his gambling business that is his mainstream income. He has an estimated net worth of $500 million and the software he developed for making money on bets changed the gambling industry. He originally worked in derivatives, but as his success in gambling increased, he set his sights on bigger things. Black is also an avid bridge player and his love of this game opened the door for Betfair. One of his favourite opponents in this game was Edward Wray, and this is where he presented his software design for a money-making betting business. Wray was all in and the two launched Betfair at the beginning of the Millenium. Since 2000, the sportsbook gained tremendous momentum, made it to the London Stock Exchange in 2010, and became one of the largest in the world. ✓ Alan Woods He became a legendary Australian horse bettor and his estimated net worth is AUD670 million ($470 million) but the late Alan Woods wasn’t always on the up. In his family home, he grew up playing bridge and despite his mathematical brilliance, the University of New England expelled him for poor performance and lack of attendance. He started gambling during his university attendance, but it wasn’t until later that he discovered his blackjack skill and knack for picking the right nag. Woods carried the nickname of ‘The Playboy Punter’ and after a failed marriage, he became a full-time gambler. This decision led him to Hong Kong and there he and Bill Benter discovered their formula for horse betting. Alan Woods went on to become a sports betting tycoon and created his betting network. The punter never left his apartment to place bets, as he had a team of bettors all over the world who bet on his behalf using his formula. He continued to live a life of luxury and did so from his home in Manila with all ‘The Girls’, a Philippine version of the Playboy Mansion. ✓ Zeljko Ranogajec Zeljko Ranogajec is one of the most elusive gamblers and keeps a low profile, but in the gambling world, he bears the nickname of ‘The Joker’. He holds a record for winning the biggest keno prize worth $7,5 million, but we know him as a blackjack and sports betting enthusiast. Experts believe that Ranogajec’s net worth is around AUD610 million ($430 million) but they also speculate that his gambling turnover can be well over $1 billion annually. The Joker studied at the University of Tasmania and was born in Australia, although his parents are of Croatian origin. He dropped out of university to become a professional gambler. However, he still holds a day job despite his wealth and successful gambling. Ranogajec had the same fate as Bill Benter as casinos banned him due to card counting and so he moved his focus to the sports betting scene. A strategy that Ranogajec admits to using is favourable discounts and rebates, a tactic that allowed him to buy an apartment in the most expensive development in the world. One of his betting partners and university friends, David Walsh, had an enormous influence on his betting strategies. ✓ David Walsh From humble beginnings at the Australian University in Hobart and a well-known friend and gambling partner of Zeljko Ranogajec, David Walsh is a fascinating punter with a different take on betting. With an estimated net worth of $200 million, he utilises the wisdom of crowds and says talent has very little to do with his success. Walsh is also a mathematician, and he believes that when considering formulas designed to predict bets, one should incorporate psychology concepts too. Nicknamed the Tasmanian Devil, Walsh partnered with Zeljko Ranogajec and set up a gambling company called Bank Roll. Through this, they both turned a fortune and had others doing their betting work for them, utilising their formulas and strategies. Some things this eccentric gambler did with his millions included opening the Mona museum, which he refers to as ‘adult Disneyland’ and transferring visitors to this venue in camouflaged ferries. In contrast to his betting partner, Walsh is very open about his gambling and life and makes a habit of sharing his wisdom. ✓ Honourable Mention: Don Johnson Although Don Johnson did not reach the levels of the aforementioned seven punters, he did make waves in the betting community for his approach. We think he deserves a spot on this list because would-be professional punters can learn from the man who broke Atlantic City. Johnson made a small fortune in a very short period in blackjack and he did this without counting cards! During 2011 and 2012, the clever businessman used his negotiating skills and persuaded the pit boss to apply the blackjack rule of lower house advantage and a loss rebate. In his winning streak, Johnson banked $15 million thanks to what we now know as a ‘positive expectation bet’.
  3. Gambling is a global pastime and as such comes with its own vast library of myths, legends, facts and loads of fiction. We’ve delved into these stories to bring you twelve gambling and casino facts that sound stranger than fiction. ✓Blackjack Saved FedEx from Going Under The 70s were a tough time for a struggling freight and delivery company named Federal Express. Failing to secure the $24,000 he needed to pay the company’s outstanding fuel bill Fred Smith, FedEx founder, gambled the last $5000 in the company account and won. After a successful run of luck playing blackjack Smith turned his $5000 bankroll into $27,000 saving the company. Today FedEx has an annual turnover of more than $60 billion, making it one of the biggest paydays in gambling history. ✓Card Counting is Actually Legal Despite Hollywood’s portrayal of card counting as a dubious practise the reality is that it is nothing more than an intelligence-based method for keeping track of cards. Where the confusion comes into play is that casinos will do whatever they can to maintain the house edge, especially where low margin games like blackjack are concerned, and as such remove card counters from the casino. They do so by invoking their “right of admission reserved” clause, not by citing any law or legal precedent. ✓The Playing Card Roots of Slot Machines It is not only FedEx which has a deck of cards to thank for its existence, so does the slot machine, video slot and fruit machine industry. Prior to 1890 gambling consisted primarily of dice and card-based games. Looking to spice things up a mechanic built a drum wheel and populated it with paying cards. Winning lines on this first slot machine was based on winning poker hands. The stronger the hand the higher the prize the bar would offer which included sweets, free drinks and even cigars. ✓Early Las Vegas Supported Feminism The 1920s was a powerful time for women in America, not only would they receive the right to vote but a woman would lead the charge in legalised casino ownership. The Northern Club was opened on September 5, 1920, by Mayme Stocker. Her venue offered patrons refreshments and access to the only casino games that were legal at the time, these being stud, draw and lowball poker. When Las Vegas officially began offering gambling licenses in 1931 her standing in the community saw Stocker receive the first one. ✓Las Vegas Does Not Rule the Gambling World While Las Vegas dominates popular culture and media as the epicentre of gambling the real king of the hill lies more than seven thousand miles to the East. Macau is the worlds largest gambling centre and generates more than three times the amount of revenue annually that Las Vegas does. Vegas generates annual Gross Gaming Revenues (GGR) in excess of $6 billion while Macau’s GGR can exceed $28 billion. ✓Pachinko Rolls Around Japanese Gambling Laws Japanese residents are avid gamblers however access to local land-based casinos is strictly regulated. Gambling fans are only allowed to visit a licensed casino once a week and must pay a hefty entrance fee for the privilege. However, Pachinko machines are legal as patrons purchase trays of silver balls to play with but cannot win cash from the machines, only more silver balls which can be traded in for a variety of items or prizes. On an interesting but totally unrelated note, there are always curio shops not far from the Pachinko parlours willing to buy these trinkets from lucky players for cash. What a fortunate coincidence. ✓The Great Wall of Keno While modern gambling companies are seen to donate large sums of money to local charities, programs to support the prevention of problem gambling and other honourable causes, however, this is far from being something new. Keno was invented in China during the 2nd century BC and soon became a favoured game with nobles and peasants alike. So much so that when the Great Wall of China was being built the Emperor used taxes on Keno as a way to supplement the project. ✓The Rise and Fall of Archie Karas While it is true that what goes up must come down the story of Greek gambler Archie Karas is one of the dangers of chasing wins and losses while gambling. The 1950s saw Karas go on what has become known simply as The Run, a gambling streak that saw him turn $50 into more than $40 million in less than three years. Unfortunately, his streak of luck turned sour and Karas lost it all in less than three weeks. The moral of the story is to know when to cash in your chips and enjoy your success. ✓Playing the Long Game We have all heard the tales of how skilled poker players can face off against one another over extended periods of time, however, the truth, in this case, will sound stranger than fiction. The longest recorded poker game in history was played in Arizona and began in 1881 when all was said and done more than $10 million had changed hands over a period of nearly eight and a half years! ✓A Million Dollar Lotto Lesson NN ran the story of Glenda Blackwell, who protested her husband's ongoing fascination with the lottery by buying a ticket of her own. Intended to be a lesson in the pointlessness of playing the lottery Glenda had to eat her words when her $10 Carolina Millions Scratchcard paid out a staggering $1 million! If ever there was a lesson worth learning this was one of them. ✓Craps Hall of Fame When it comes to gamblers who have defied the odds and carved out a niche for themselves in the gambling hall of fame nothing compares to tales told at the Las Vegas Desert Inn of an anonymous sailor from the 50s. As the legend goes this lone sailor made 27 consecutive winning passes while playing Craps, the odds of this astounding feat are 12,467,890 to 1. In honour of his amazing streak, the dice are on display in a glass case at the Desert Inn till today. ✓Gambling on the Go The term ‘gambling on the go’ is most often associated with mobile gambling today given the burgeoning mobile casino market, however, it is a label that perfectly fits the world’s smallest casino. Birmingham’s Grosvenor Casino unveiled their smallest gambling location in 2016, a converted local taxicab. The casino-cab features a gambling table, its own dealer, a bar, television screens for sporting events and access to online casino games. What is your favourite tall tale or unbelievable gambling fact? Create a free GamblersPick account today and share your stranger than fiction factoids in the comments section below.
  4. Finding the best games to play in Vegas could mean different things to different people. Maybe you're looking for a little fun on your honeymoon. Maybe you're trying to win big, or see how long you can stay in the game before you have to bow out. For most of us, getting winning odds on a bet is part of the fun. Nobody likes to feel like the house won too big during their visit. We like to imagine we've got the game locked down, at least somewhat. And that means finding games that give us better odds of winning. So, join us today, as we break down which casino games have the best odds, as well as one that is less likely to payout. Vegas Casino Games With Best Odds Looking for the best odds casino games before your next big trip to Sin City? Check out our pick of the top three, and get ready to win big! Blackjack "What is the easiest game to win at a casino?" This is a question a lot of people will give you passionate answers about. You'll want to ignore people's feelings, in these matters and turn to one source above all others: the numbers. Blackjack has the best odds of winning out of every casino game. It's a simple game, in terms of rules, with players only needing to beat out the dealer without hitting 21. They're not trying to beat out other players and, even though it's a game of chance, there are fewer variables than, say, roulette. What's impressive when it comes to blackjack is your actual, measurable odds of winning. The casino has, on average, a .5% edge, which translates to roughly half a penny lost on every dollar you spend at the table. This number varies depending on the skill of the player, but even someone new to the game can pick it up with some patience and simple observation. As a last note, did you know that casinos will let you bring your cheat sheet with you to the blackjack table? Knowing whether to hit 12 against a dealer with a 2 or to split 4s is all information professionals have committed to memory. There's no rule against bringing your homework with you to the table, though. So, do a little research, find some good cheat sheets, and bring yours with you to the table. You may catch some sideways glances from other players, and they will likely poke fun, but your winnings will speak for themselves. Craps There's a reason craps is one of the more popular games on any casino floor, and that reason is one small number: 1.5%. Those are the house odds during a game, meaning a statistical loss of one penny to every dollar, on average. And some casinos go even lower than this How do you go about winning? Walk up to a table, make a "Pass Line" bet, and hope for the best. This is one of the baseline bets every player makes, and everyone in on it tends to earn a small return. Nothing is ever set in stone, but it's a solid bet for a beginner and a great starting point until you're ready to add more bets to your repertoire. This is a game of chance. You're betting on a roll of the dice that someone else is making, so there isn't even the illusion of control. But, time after time, this produces one of the highest win rates in casinos across the country. Roulette Coming in at a solid third on our list of best casino games in Vegas in terms of their odds is the Roulette wheel. With as little as a 2.7% house edge, the rules are simple. Pick a number, group of numbers, high or low, odd or even, or red or black, and make a bet on the ball landing on one of those. Then let lady luck take the wheel. You'll win back on this more regularly than many other Las Vegas casino games. Bet on reds or blacks, exclusively, and you have a nearly 50-50 chance of winning. Wondering why it's only "nearly" 50-50? The extra green 0 and 00 positions on the wheels, which give the house its edge in this game. Vegas Casino Game With The Worst Odds Of course, where there is a selection of "best" gambling games in Vegas, there must be one with the worst odds, as well. The Slots Your odds when playing the slots are a little hard to calculate, but experts put the house edge at anywhere between 3% and 20%. They're designed to eat up coins in rapid succession, the results are random, and people often feel intimidated to try any of the table games, instead. So, they sit at the slot machines all night, which is behavior that often leads to losses over time. As a note to this, however, we'd like to point out that slot machines can be a fun way to kill a little time in the casino. They're brightly colored, easy to use, and the payouts can be massive if you're lucky. Just don't make them your only game for the whole night. And don't believe the myths and rumors about nearby staff controlling slot machine payouts, either. Casinos are monitored by the Vegas games commission for unethical behavior, and that kind of thing is taken very seriously. The Best Games To Play In Vegas The whole point of gambling is to play a game of chance and see how your luck fares that night. This is why we put bets on horses or wagers on fights. It's why we walk up to machines we know are completely random and let them choose whether to give us any of our money back. Because we want to see if we'll beat the house. Even the best games to play in Vegas are still based on chance. There are ways to play them that give you better odds, but nothing's ever a surefire hit. We support safe gambling, so remember never to bet more than you have, never to cheat, and to take a break from time to time. Enjoy a drink. Enjoy some of that Vegas atmosphere. Then come back to the table with a clear head and, hopefully, enough luck to hit it big! Hopefully, today's article gives you what you need to hit the floor and make some smart gambling decisions this summer. For more news and guides, as well as casinos, bonuses, games, and jackpots, make sure to check out the rest of our website, today!
  5. Card counting isn't just something that savvy mathematicians do in the movies. It's in fact very real and potentially very profitable. Some card counters are so talented at the practice that they can earn millions of dollars in a single night. But what exactly is blackjack card counting? And how does it work? Continue reading and we'll walk you through everything you need to know about card counting and how you can use it the next time you go to the casino. The Origins of Card Counting Blackjack wasn't legally played in casinos in America until the 1930s. But it wasn't until the 1960s that blackjack card counting would become a real thing. It all started with a mathematician by the name of Edward O. Thorp. Thorp received his Ph.D. in mathematics at UCLA in the late 1950s. He then went on to teach math at MIT, New Mexico State University, and UC Irvine over the next several years. After earning his degree, he became very interested in the game of blackjack. Using an IBM 704 computer, he researched the probability of winning blackjack with different hands. After much research, he came up with what he called a "ten-count system." With this system, he would start with two numbers in your head - 36 and 16. The 16 represents the 16 cards with a value of ten and the 36 represents the other cards. As cards were dealt out during the game, he would count backward and divide that count with the number of remaining "other" cards. This was back in the day when there were single-deck games. Using Thorp's method on today's eight-card decks would mean that you would have to start with the numbers 288 and 128 and then count backward while also doing division. Thorp took his system to the casino one weekend with $10,000 in hand. He left the casino a few days later with $21,000 in his pockets. News spread quickly of Thorp's method and he became a celebrity among the gambling community. Then, in 1966, Thorp wrote his seminal book Beat the Dealer. It was an instant success and even became a New York Times bestseller. The Casinos React As we can imagine, the casinos weren't too pleased that Thorp had figured out a way to beat the game. They started to implement changes. For example, they went from single-deck games to four-deck games. Blackjack dealers were also required to reshuffle more often. However, the casinos soon realized that Thorp's book was actually good for them. Suddenly, floods of wannabe high rollers started coming in and playing blackjack. But these new players didn't have the patience or the skills needed to apply Thorp's system. Despite Thorp's book, the casinos were doing better than ever. Hi-Lo Count Going off of Thorp's work, a computer programmer by the name of Harvey Dubner invented a counting system known as the Hi-Lo Count. As computer systems became more popular, programmers were able to take the variables that casinos kept adding and determine what their advantages would be. The Griffin Agency The reason why casinos don't make blackjack a lot harder is that they want the game to still be attractive to players. Even if you play perfect basic strategy, the house still has an edge and is thus likely to win your money. Because of this, they even encourage players to try and beat the game. Dealers know exactly what basic strategy suggests and they're more than happy to offer the system's advice whenever a player is deciding what to do. But what were casinos to do about players who actually figured out how to beat the house? Robert Griffin, a private detective from Las Vegas, came up with a solution to this problem. He made a book that contained information and pictures of suspected and known card counters and sold it to the casinos. He would constantly update the book and sell them newer versions too. Team Play A card counter by the name of Al Francesco devised the team play system in 1971 as a way to avoid being caught by pit bosses. He would go to the casino with his brother who was also a counter. While his brother sat, Al would sit next to him and pretend to have a conversation. Whenever his brother placed a large bet, Al would casually throw down $100. The scheme was so successful that he became the first Big Player in blackjack history. Al would go onto train other players including Ken Uston. Uston went on to write a book about the strategy. This book led to a major increase in people engaging in team play, including the MIT team which the movie 21 is based on. Stanford Wong Stanford Wong took card counting to another level. After earning a Ph.D. in economics, he wrote a book called Professional Blackjack and wrote about his own strategy. He suggested back-counting and hopping around different tables to find the best shoes. By counting cards but only betting when the count was in his favor, he could avoid losing money and he could also avoid attention by not making constantly shifting bets. Also, during this time, casinos weren't as worried about using computers. Players would design complex machines that they could hide inside of their clothes. They would input information by tapping their feet and then the computer would output information through vibrations. What Is Card Counting? Essentially, to count cards means that you are keeping a general mental record of the cards being dealt. Because you know how many cards are in the shoe, and which type of cards are still left, you can more or less determine if you have good or bad chances of winning upcoming hands. The most popular method for counting cards is Harvey Dubner's Hi-Lo count. How the Hi-Lo Count Works First off, it's worth pointing out that you don't need a Ph.D. in mathematics to count cards. You just need to be someone who is patient, level-headed, and disciplined. The very first step to being a successful card counter is learning basic strategy. Card counting is useless unless you can master and memorize basic strategy. This system is a strategy that tells you the mathematically optimal move for every possible hand in the game. Once you have basic strategy down, it's time to learn the running count. To do this, we're going to have to give a value to every card. Imagine separating a deck into three chunks. The cards numbered 2-6 will be our low cards. They will have a value of +1. So every time you see a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, you're going to add 1 to your running count. The 10 through Ace cards are your high cards. They have a value of -1. Cards numbered 7-9 are neutral and have a value of zero. Keeping a Running Count To practice keeping a running count, you should flip over cards in a deck one at a time. As each card comes out, attempt to keep the count going at a steady pace. By the time you reach the end of the deck, your running count should equal zero if you were doing it correctly. When at a table, you can use the hi-lo system no matter how many decks are in the shoe and no matter what the specific rules of the game are. When keeping the count, you need to make sure that you are counting every single card that comes out. Not just your card but the cards of the other players and the dealer too. You want to continue counting until the cut card comes out and the dealer reshuffles. When this happens, the count resets. As more low cards continue to come out, that means that there are more high cards on the verge of being dealt out. This is how blackjack is different than any other game in the casino. Other games are based on the spin of a wheel or throw of the dice. But with blackjack, all of the hands are cumulative. Cards that come out of the shoe aren't going to be in play again until the shoe is reset. Calculating the True Count Unfortunately, keeping a running count isn't enough to give you a good advantage. Having a running count of +10 but with five decks still left in the shoe will be different than that count with only one deck left. Because of this, we also need to calculate the true count. Figuring out the true count requires only some basic division. To calculate it, you divide the running count by how many decks remain in the shoe. Let's go over an example. Imagine that you have a running count of +15. If you have five decks left then you calculate 15/5. This would mean that your true count is 3. This information will determine how you bet as well as which playing decisions to make. Using the True Count When counting cards, there are times when you don't want to follow basic strategy. Only when you know how to use basic strategy as well as calculate the running and true count can you gain an edge over the casino. The higher the true count gets, the more you should increase your bet. Also, as the true count gets higher, you'll spend more hands standing, doubling, splitting, and surrendering. If your True Count is +4 or greater, you will always want to stand. This is because a high count means there are more high cards in the shoe. And if you hit, you increase your chances of busting. But you also have better odds of being dealt out a winning hand. Is Counting Cards Allowed? Contrary to popular belief, counting cards is not illegal. You're not cheating when you're counting cards and you're not committing fraud or tampering with any equipment. All you're really doing is doing mental math. And there's nothing against the rules about doing mental math. With that said, casinos can ask you to stop playing. Casinos are private institutions and they have the ability to tell you to stop. Yet, they can't always do that. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that casinos can't discriminate against card counters, even if they know they're counting. So instead, if you go to Atlantic City, you'll see that they use eight-card decks and that dealers are shuffling a lot more often. This is to inhibit card counters from playing. This is much different than in the Las Vegas casinos. If you get caught card counting in a Nevada establishment, the pit boss will come up to you and tell you that it's time to play a different game. How to Avoid Being Caught Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to play it cool. Don't count out loud or move your lips. Try to keep all of the math in your head. Also, don't drink alcohol. Non-alcoholic drinks are fine but drinking alcohol can quickly lead to major slip-ups. And if you start winning a lot, don't be afraid to throw in some misdirection. Purposefully making bad bets or bad decisions can throw the pit bosses off your trail. And also remember to tip your dealer. Tipping helps to get the dealer on your side and it also distracts them. The Importance of Knowing About Blackjack Card Counting As we can see, blackjack card counting is something that most people can do. However, it's something that most people aren't willing to put the time and energy into. But if you commit the effort, you can be counting cards as well as your winnings in no time. Looking to play some blackjack right now? Be sure to check out our many blackjack games and start playing!
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