This free course on blackjack and card counting was created by the GameMaster, publisher of the GameMaster Online website. It is reproduced here in its entirety with permission of the author. His 24-lesson course is an excellent introduction to winning blackjack.
To start at the beginning, visit the Welcome page.
A Few Words on Single Deck
In the previous lesson, I taught you how to figure the “true count” for a multi-deck game, but I want to emphasize that the concept of true count also applies to single-deck games as well. The conversion is done a bit differently, but the result is the same; you end up with a standardized count per remaining deck. If you see just one card in a single-deck game, a 5 for example, you now have a “running count” of 1 and a true count of one. That, of course, is because there’s only one deck in the game to begin with and we determine the true count by dividing the running count by the number of remaining decks. If, after playing several hands the running count is 6 and there’s three-fourths of a deck left to be played, we must divide the running count by .75 in order to determine the true count. In this instance, the true count is 8. If we were at the halfway point of the deck, the true count would be 6 divided by .50 = 12. Got the concept of that? In a single-deck game, you have to divide by fractions, and that isn’t easy to do, so all you single-deck counters need to practice this in order to figure it properly when you play.
Betting With the True Count
For each increase of 1 in the true count as figured by the Hi / Lo counting method, the player’s advantage increases by about .5% in the average Blackjack game. If the casino has an edge over the basic strategy player of .40% (6 decks, double on any first two cards, double after splitting pairs, dealer stands on A-6), it takes a true count of just about 1 in order to get “even” with the house. Being even means that the player who utilizes proper basic strategy will win as much as s/he loses — in the long run — at a true count of one. A true count of 2 gives the counter an edge of .5% over the house; a true count of 3 gives the player an edge of 1% and so forth.
It is the edge that a player has on the upcoming hand which determines their bet. Counters bet only a small portion of their capital on any given hand, because while they will win in the long run, they could lose any one hand. By betting an amount which is in proportion to their advantage (called the “Kelly Criterion”), they are maximizing their potential while minimizing the risk. A lot of people misinterpret the Kelly Criterion by assuming that the amount bet is in direct proportion to the advantage. They think that if you have a 1% edge, you should bet 1% of your “bankroll” and that is incorrect. What they are forgetting is the doubling and pair splitting which goes on in the course of a game and that increases the risk or “variance” of a hand. For a game with rules like those listed above, the optimum bet is 76% of the player’s advantage. Here’s a table of optimum bets which will work well for most multi-deck games:
|True Count||Advantage||% Optimum Bet|
|-1 or lower||-1.00% or more||0%|
By using this table, you can determine the optimal bet for any bankroll; just multiply the figure in the last column by the amount of the bankroll. Thus, for a bankroll of $3000, the optimal bet for a true count of 2 is .0038 X $3000 = $11.40.
Some Practical Considerations
First and foremost, it isn’t practical to bet in units of less than $1, so a betting schedule must be rounded off. Secondly, it is more appropriate to bet in units of $5 so that you’ll look like the average gambler, plus it cuts down on the calculations you need to make. Further, it is impossible to refigure your optimal bet while seated at the table, even though it should be recalculated as the bankroll varies up and down. Finally, it just isn’t possible to play only at shoes where the true count is 2 or higher; you will sometimes have to make bets when the house has an edge. All of this rounding and negative-deck play cuts into your win rate, but by knowing the conditions which can cost you money, steps can be taken to minimize their impact on your earnings.
The Betting Spread
A single-deck game with decent rules in which thirty-six cards or more are used before a shuffle can be beaten by a 1 to 4 spread. A two-deck game in which seventy cards or more are used before the shuffle can usually be beaten by a 1 to 6 spread. A game with four decks or more will require a spread of 1 to 12 in order to get an edge. We’ll discuss the evaluation of games in a later lesson, but I wanted to lay the foundation for your money management by giving you an idea of what it takes to play winning Blackjack. The spread is expressed in betting units, so if you play with $5 chips, you’d be spreading from $5 to $60 in a six-deck game. Since a counter should have a bankroll consisting of a minimum of 50 top bets, a spread like this will require a bankroll of $3000.
With a $3000 bankroll, a betting schedule could look like this:
|True Count||Player’s Bet||Optimum Bet|
|0 or lower||$5||$0|
A betting schedule like this allows you to “parlay” your bets as the count rises, thus making you look more like a “gambler”.
YOU WILL SAVE A LOT OF MONEY AND FIND MORE PROFITABLE SITUATIONS IF YOU LEAVE A TABLE WHEN THE COUNT HAS GONE DOWN TO A TRUE OF – 1. BUT LEAVE ONLY AFTER LOSING A HAND; NO GAMBLER WOULD LEAVE A TABLE AFTER A WIN.
So, have I got your brain spinning? If so, just hang in there as I’ll be wrapping all this up in a nice, easy-to-understand package in the coming weeks. As always, get your homework, then you’re outta here.
None. How’s that for a break?