The innovative Advanced Blackjack Strategy Cards from BlackjackInfo provide a first-ever pairing of the best possible basic strategies, with optimal card counting index numbers right on the card.
The 12-card set includes two cards each for these rule variations:
One card for each variation shows the card counting index numbers as a small printed number. A second “stealth” version of each card encodes the counting indexes using a series of black dots in a clock-face pattern.
These cards include complete basic strategy information like our Basic Strategy Card products. For an explanation of how to read the basic strategy portion of the cards, you can refer to the instructions for our basic strategy cards.
The instructions here cover only the advanced features of the card set, the Hi-Lo card counting index numbers.
For those users who already understand what the Hi-Lo index numbers mean, we will begin with an illustration of how the indexes are represented on the cards. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how to use the numbers in a moment.
In the numeric index version of each card, the Hi-Lo card counting index for each decision is printed in the bottom right corner of each square. For example, this section of the card shows player hands of hard 9 vs a dealer 2 through 6.
With 9 vs dealer 2, the basic strategy is to Hit and the Hi-Lo index number is +1. (This means that you should double if the current true count is +1 or higher, and hit otherwise. I’ll give you more detail on how to use the numbers below.)
With 9 vs dealer 3, 4, and 5, the basic strategy is to double, and the index numbers are -1, -3, and -4 respectively.
With 9 vs 6, the basic strategy is to double and there is no index number shown because the index would be less than -5, the lowest index shown on the cards.
If you are concerned about using the cards with printed index numbers in the casino, you can use the “stealth” version of each card instead, which encodes the card counting index numbers using a series of black dots in a clockface pattern.
Each index from -5 to +5 is represented by a different position in the decision square. A black dot at the center top of the square represents an index of zero. As you move from zero in a clockwise direction, the indexes increase from +1 to +5. As you move counter-clockwise from zero, the indexes decrease from -1 to -5. Here’s a map of the index values:
Here is the same example of a hard 9 vs a dealer 2-6:
The index values are the same as before: +1, -1, -3, -4, and none.
In addition to concealing the nature of the cards, this visual representation can also serve as a useful memory aid.
If you already know how to use index numbers with the Hi-Lo count, you’re all set. For those of you that need some help understanding what this all means, please read on.
Card counting exploits the fact that small cards are bad for the player while ten-value cards and Aces are favorable for the player. The popular Hi-Lo count allows a player to track whether the remaining deck has more or fewer high cards left than usual. As cards are dealt in the game, the player keeps a running plus/minus count using the following card values:
Card values 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are counted as +1.
Card values T, J, Q, K, and Ace are counted as -1.
Card values 7, 8, and 9 are ignored.
You begin the count after each shuffle with a running count of zero, and add or subtract as cards are dealt or revealed.
Any time your running count is positive, the remaining deck has more high cards left than low cards. (That’s good!) Any time your running count is negative, the remaining deck has an excess of small cards. (That’s bad.)
Before you can use the count to make a betting or playing decision, there is one more important step. You must convert your running count into the current “true” count, by dividing it by the number of unseen decks left in the shoe.
A running count of +6 is much more meaningful if only one deck remains in the six-deck shoe than if we are only a hand or two into a freshly shuffled six decks. That is why the true count conversion is important. In the case where only one deck remains, the running count of +6 divided by 1 deck remaining yields a true count of +6. In the case where nearly all of six decks remains in the shoe, the same +6 running count becomes a true count of just over +1.
By betting more in plus situations and as little as possible in minus situations, a player can swing the odds of the game into his favor and have a long-term positive advantage over the casino.
Obviously, this is a very abbreviated explanation of how to count cards. I strongly encourage you to read the far more in-depth details in our free blackjack school.
Most of the benefit of card counting comes from betting more when the deck is favorable. However, since you know something about the composition of the remaining deck, you can also use that information to change your playing strategy when appropriate. For example, let’s say you have a hand of (Ten,2) and the dealer has a 2 showing. Basic strategy says that you should hit 12v2.
If there are enough extra high cards in the remaining decks, it becomes better to stand with 12v2. Just how many “extra” high cards are “enough”? That’s where index numbers come in. If the Hi-Lo true count is +3 or higher, you should stand with 12v2 instead of hitting it. If the Hi-Lo true count is +2 or lower then you should hit 12v2, just like normal basic strategy says.
The “+3” in this case is an “index number”, which dictates the point at which the best playing strategy for a specific decision changes.
I will repeat my advice… This is a very brief overview. If these concepts are new to you, please see the in-depth details in our blackjack school.
The cards include several distinct types of index numbers:
|Hand Type||Index Type||What the Index Means|
|Hard 8-11||Double or Hit||Double if the current true count is >= the index. Otherwise, hit.|
|Hard 12-16||Stand or Hit||Stand if the current true count is >= the index. Otherwise, hit.|
|Soft A2-A6||Double or Hit||Double if the current true count is >= the index. Otherwise, hit.|
|Soft A7-A9||Double or Stand||Double if the current true count is >= the index. Otherwise, stand.|
|Pairs 22-AA||Split or No Split||Split if the current true count is >= the index. Otherwise, do not split.|
In addition, there is one important index that is not listed on the card:
If the true count is +3 or higher, you should buy Insurance when the dealer has an Ace up.
(In single deck games, you can insure at +2 or higher.)
This is just about the shortest possible explanation of card counting and index numbers. Did I mention that you can find a far more comprehensive explanation at our free blackjack school?
Why, yes, I did. 🙂
I want to make one point especially clear. If you have any doubt about how to apply an index number, or you find that you aren’t sure whether the true count is sufficient for a particular play, just use regular basic strategy. It is far more dangerous to apply these ideas inaccurately than to not use them at all.
You don’t have to be Rainman to count cards, but it does take practice and discipline. Until you feel comfortable with the process, just stick with basic strategy. Even after you learn to count cards, it is helpful to play just basic strategy while varying your bet sizes for a period of time. Once the process of card counting becomes second nature, you can add the index numbers and strategy variations to your game.
And last of all, I should remind you that playing blackjack with an advantage doesn’t mean that you can’t lose. Hardly! You’ll have slightly more winning sessions than losing sessions if you accurately use the Hi-Lo counting system, but your edge is small. Don’t bet money that you can’t afford to lose. And please, if you have a problem with gambling, get help from one of the many organizations that address the issue of compulsive gambling.
Don’t have a set of our advanced cards yet? You can purchase a set here.
And if you aren’t ready yet for the advanced strategy cards and card counting, please check out our Basic Strategy Cards instead.