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I Am Not a Blackjack Fanatic!
I just like to go to Vegas 3 or 4 times a year and I'd much rather win than lose.
That's you talking; not me. I AM a certified Blackjack fanatic, but I really do understand that not everyone else is.
So, do you have even the tiniest bit of a prayer at the tables?
If you do as I say, you will.
First, you have to learn the proper basic strategy for your game of choice. This means knowing how many decks the casino uses,
when doubling is allowed (including after splitting pairs), whether or not the dealer hits A-6, etc. Then go to the first article in this
series and it will show you how to get the proper basic strategy for that game. Then, see what I have to say about flashcards in
"The GameMaster's Secrets" column and you're on your way to winning -- some of the time.
Nobody wins every time they play; I break even or lose in 30% of my playing sessions and if you only use basic strategy,
the casino still has a long term edge over you. But, you will have some winning sessions. To even things up a bit more,
you can use a very simple counting system called the Ace-Five count.
Simply put, the Ace-Five count recognizes the two most important cards in the game. The Ace is the most important to
the player because it is the key component in a 'natural' Blackjack. Plus, it's a very versatile card to get, even if it's not matched
with a ten. The five is the most important to a dealer (dealers' 'naturals' put aside for the moment) because it takes the 'stiff'
hands of 12-16 which the dealer MUST hit and turns them into hands totaling 17-21. Clear with that concept?
Now, what can counting those cards do for you? If you keep track of the Aces by assigning them a value of -1 (minus 1)
and track the fives by assigning them a value of +1 (plus 1), you'll know when there's an imbalance of Aces versus fives in the
shoe you're playing. Think about it. At the beginning of a shoe, there are an equal number of Aces and Fives in the deck(s) to be played.
If, in the first round, 3 fives are played but no Aces show, you know that for the second round, you have a better chance of receiving an Ace.
That may or may not happen, but it's a percentage play and if you bet more money when there's a better chance of getting an Ace and
less money when the shoe is neutral or 'poor' in Aces, you'll cut down the house's edge a bit. Just how much depends upon a lot of factors
such as the casino's rules, the ratio between your low bet and your high bet, how well you play according to basic strategy and how
accurately you keep count.
Here's a recommendation for a game which has six decks, double is permitted on any two cards including after splitting pairs and the
dealer stands on A-6. The casino's long term edge over a player who uses the proper basic strategy perfectly is .40%. When the count
is minus (more Aces have been played than fives), exactly even or up to +2, bet the minimum. If the count goes to +3 or +4, bet twice
the minimum; at +5 or higher, bet 4 times the minimum. If you have a large enough bankroll (250 units or so) and understand that you will,
in time probably lose most of it, this will work for you.
"Oh, great, Mr.Bigtime card counter" I hear you saying, " I can lose on my own thank-you-very-much! Whoa. Chill out for a second.
I didn't say you HAD to lose, just that you MIGHT lose. Secondly, what if you were to take maximum advantage of the comps the casino
has to offer: shows, rooms, dinners, bimbos. If you're currently betting with $25 chips and losing, this count will trim your losses and still
keep the welcome mat out at the casino of your choice. If you'll manage your money carefully, you could go for years and not lose a dime.
But how much can you make in freebies?
In this column, things will get more and more complicated, but if you try the Ace-Five count, you'll discover how easy card counting really is.
And that's the real bonus here; I may turn you into a card-countin', blackjack-playin' pirate who strikes terror in the hearts of casino magagers
worlwide. Hey, it could happen.
As a little 'homework', go visit Grinder's Blackjack Simulation Warehouse. This is a web site put up by
a numbers lover and he did some interesting comparisons of the Ace-Five count with other counting methods. You'll see that this isn't a bad count
at all and, in fact against a double-deck game, it can be very effective.