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Casino safety measures create Blackjack opportunities
Casino Scene

Casino safety measures create Blackjack opportunities

Blue Chip

Pictured is a Blackjack table at Blue Chip Casino.

The safety measures that have been implemented at casinos in the Region include limiting the number of players at blackjack tables to three.

Fewer players can mean it is an excellent opportunity to employ a card counting strategy and improve your chances of long-term success at the game. Because you won’t have as many hands on the table to keep track, the chances of beginners being overwhelmed diminish.

Blackjack is unique among casino games in that the odds fluctuate with every deal. Depending upon which cards have been dealt and which remain, the advantage that the house wields over players changes constantly. At times it's greater, at other times less, sometimes even tipping toward player advantage.

Not so long ago it was practical only for professional players to invest the hundreds of hours of time necessary to learn a complicated card counting system in an attempt to capitalize on casino blackjack's vulnerability.

Casino executives have gone to extraordinary measures to stifle blackjack players from beating them at their own game. They're not worried about people who don't know how to play the game (but still do). Such folks are welcomed to the tables with open arms.

They don't even concern themselves with basic strategy players. Both groups are by far the majority of people who play blackjack, and it's the main reason the game exists.

Mention "card counter," however, and it's very possible you'll detect a slight grimace or even an eye tic. Casinos know that in spite of the proliferation of multi-deck games, shallow cuts, and frequent shuffle-ups, it's still possible to get a far bigger edge on the game than they'd like to see you get if you use a mental system of keeping track of the cards that have been dealt.

Being labeled a "card counter" may be a dirty word if you're a casino operator, but if you're a player, a card counter should rightly be regarded as one of the true heroes of gaming. It takes a great deal of study, practice and concentration to track cards. If you're willing to invest the time and effort, it's well worth your while.

Systems to keep mental track of the cards (remember, you cannot bring paper, pencil, or any type of counting device with you to the table) can get mighty complicated. Throw in the added skill of what has become known as "shuffle tracking" and you're talking about a major investment of time which pays off only if you play blackjack with frequency and for high stakes.

Today we're going to examine an elementary, relatively easy-to-learn tracking technique. It doesn’t have the accuracy of the real scientific methods of running counts, but some form of tracking is better than none at all. It can only help make you a better player.

One way to get started is to become an interactive blackjack player instead of a passive one. Don't just sit there and pay attention only to your hand. All the cards are out there on the table face up for you to observe! It can be a big advantage, especially when it gets down to the last couple of deals out of the shoe.

At least for starters, if you don't keep track of anything else, watch for the number of lower-value cards, especially the fours, fives, and sixes, to come out of the shoe. Such cards are powerful ones for the dealer because they make him draw to big hands.

The more of them to come out of the shoe, the better. If you detect an inordinate number of them have been played out and there are still a few deals left in the shoe, you could have a situation that's in the player's favor.

If you get ambitious, keep a side count of the aces. One great advantage that players have in the game is the fact they are paid 3-2 for a blackjack. But the only possible way to get a blackjack is with an ace. If a majority of the aces have been played out, the chances are less likely you'll get a blackjack and it may not be a good time to make a bigger than normal bet.

If you're a five-dollar player and consistently make five-dollar bets, the casino will "grind" your money from you no matter how good a player you are or no matter how much short-term luck you may have.

If you sit there for any length of time and play $5 a hand, the game is structured in such a way you're either going to wind up losing, wining a little or simply breaking even.

If you keep some mental track of the cards and know when the shoe is somewhat depleted of lower-value cards and is rich in 10-value cards and aces, it may be to your advantage to increase your bet to $10, $15, $20, or even $25 once in a while. After all, you're not just playing a hunch. You're taking a calculated risk based on knowledge that few players bother to take the time to learn.

Supervisors won't be bothered if they see a $5 player push a $25 bet out there once in a while. It's the real sharpies who increase their $5 bet to $100 that'll catch their attention.

One of the most respected gambling authorities in the country has developed an ultra-simple card tracking method that is so easy to learn that casual and recreational players no longer have an excuse not to take their game to the next level.

The method is available free of charge on Michael Shackleford's marvelous gambling website, . Shackleford, a.k.a "The Wizard of Odds", is an actuary by profession whose passion is analyzing casino games using pinpoint mathematical accuracy.

When you log on to the site, you’ll find a treasure trove of blackjack information. One is "The Wizard Ace/Five Count".

It's a method founded on the importance of five-value cards first revealed in the 1961 landmark gambling book "Beat the Dealer" by Edward O. Thorp, who discovered through mathematical analysis that fives are the most powerful cards in the deck for dealers.

Another component is keeping track of aces, the card that makes it possible for players to be dealt a two-card 21 (blackjack) and receive a 3 to 2 payoff. Fewer aces remaining to be dealt translates into a diminished chance of capitalizing on this huge player perk.

Shackleford recommends starting a running count at zero at the start of a new shoe. For every five you see dealt, add one. For every ace you see dealt, subtract one. If the running count is at zero or in negative range, make your minimum bet. Otherwise gamble twice your minimum bet multiplied by the positive running count number. All playing decisions are to be made according to basic strategy.

He says the strategy is designed to give players positive expected value in six-deck games where the dealer stands on soft 17.

Opinions are solely those of the writer. Reach him at


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