Blackjack, unlike other games, also depends on the choice of the player, which can reduce the casino advantage, playing with basic strategy. This strategy determines when to take a card and when to stop. It also determines when it is best to double down or split two equal cards.
This strategy is based on a comparison of the player’s cards and the dealer’s up card. However, there are variations in this basic strategy, depending on the rules used by the house and the number of used cards. Nevertheless, it is applied with common rules in most American casinos playing 6-8 card games, as in Las Vegas.
- S = Stand
- H = Hit
- Dh = Double (if not allowed, then hit)
- Ds = Double (if not allowed, then stand)
- SP = Split
- SU = Surrender (if not allowed, then hit)
The above tables are not strictly accurate to play Blackjack in Europe:
- They are extrapolated from an American strategy game where a holecard is used (the dealer uses a hidden face card in addition to its only visible card). This rule is not used in Europe, and it changes some decisions parameters.
- Another notable difference is that the dealer stands on soft 17 (Ace + 6) in some European casinos, but this rule is not applied in other casinos.
- Other differences also affect the number of successive splits, with the possibility of doubling split and the number of points required in order to double down (in some countries on any score, but sometimes only on 9, 10 or 11 to other casinos).
Each of these rules has the effect of significantly changing the basic draw strategy (for example, no double for 11 against Ace and it does not split 8,8 against Ace).
- Whatever the location, the player has no interest in taking the insurance.
- If abandonment is allowed, the option is to choose with 16 against 9, 14-16 against 10, 5-7 against A and 12-17 against A.
Drawing tables more suitable to European rules are available on the web. For purists, you can further refine with table generators.
Basic strategy provides to the player the direction of his choice to the options with the greatest probability of winning. Indeed, Baldwin has developed this strategy by simulating the results obtained from millions of played hands. So he could base his research on statistical series and probability. However, for optimum efficiency, the card counting technique can prove to be a valuable asset.
Card counting allows two kinds of opportunities:
- the player can bet more when the remaining cards in the deck are to his advantage;
- the player can use information about the remaining cards to improve the basic strategy for specific hands.
There are many card counting systems that do not require the player to remember every played card. In fact, a point system is established for each card, and the player follows the points count when the cards are dealt by the dealer.
According to blackjack rules applied by the casino, basic strategy can reduce the house edge to less than 1%. The card counting gives the player an advantage of 0.5 to 1.5% over the house.
There are many card counting systems in Blackjack, but the Hi-Low system proposed by Edward O. Thorp in 1963, and later redefined by Julian Braun and Stanford Wong, remains one of the simplest. This method is to count the points. The principle is that a value is attributed (1, 0 or -1) for each card dealt to the players and to the dealer.
After shuffling, the count starts at zero. Aces and cards equivalent to 10 count as -1. Cards 7, 8, 9 each count to 0. The cards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 each account for 1.
- The dealer deals the following sequence of cards 5, 7, Ace, 6, 3, 8, Jack.
- For each drawn card, the count is adjusted this way +1 for 5, 0 for le 7, -1 for Ace, +1 for 6, +1 for 3, 0 for 8, -1 for Jack.
- Let’s consider an runnung count of +1 + 0 – 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 – 1 = +1
- RC (Running Count), after the above sequence is therefore +1.
Now, the counter will have to turn his RC in TC (True Count, or real account).
To do this, divide the RC by the number of games remaining in the package.
For example: With our RC of 1, considering that there are two sets (104 cards), it gave a TC of 0.5.
This TC will give a real estimate of the benefit because it will vary depending on remaining cards in the deck.
Generally (but this varies according to the rules of casinos) our advantage is positive starting from a TC of +1.
The Hi-Low system is an example of balanced card counting. There are as many as 1 and -1 in the game, so a count of 52 cards gives 0 at the end.
When the cards are dealt, the player continues to mentally count the cards that are played and determines whether to bet or not:
- Higher is the total, that is to say, if the card count to be dealt (10 points and Ace) is high, the greater change that the game turns to the player’s advantage and he should increase his bet.
- If the total is around 0, the chance is neutral and neither the player nor the dealer has a clear advantage over the other.
- Finally when the total is very low, it means that the player does not really benefit against the dealer, upcoming cards will be low. It is recommended to make minimum bets or leave the table.
During the distribution of cards, card counting is more accurate and the player can increase or decrease its bet relying on a higher probability of winning. We must not forget that the counting is reserved only for a certain category of individuals. This technique requires many qualities such as greater ease in mental calculation, ie be concentrated without showing it to the dealer or security, a great logical sense to change the basic strategy, and must also have the disadvantage of being in love with the game.