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Return to the Blackjack table with an advantage
Casino Scene

Return to the Blackjack table with an advantage

Blue Chip

Pictured is a Blackjack table at Blue Chip Casino.

As casinos in the Region prepare to reopen, how about taking time to review some elementary and easy-to-use card counting strategy that will give you an advantage few players take the time to learn.

Being labeled as a "card counter" gives a blackjack player a bad reputation among casino owners and operators. It has always struck me as odd that a person who plays the game with a high degree of skill is subject to being banned from putting that knowledge to work. I cannot think of another pursuit where similar discrimination is enforced.

A card counter keeps mental track of the cards that have been dealt in order to assess the collective value of the cards remaining in an effort to determine statistically whether the game's house edge has increased or if it has tilted toward player advantage.

Grand masters of this skill keep mental track of every single card that is dealt and keep a running total of plus (player advantage) or minus (house advantage) in their heads. It requires intense concentration, a mathematical mind and countless hours of practice. Even after all this work, there are only select windows of playing opportunity that open where there is a decided player advantage.

For blackjack players unwilling to make that kind of commitment, allow me to present a very elementary method of counting. It is nowhere near as accurate as a running count, but any means by which you take basic strategy to the next level is better than none. Besides, it's easy to learn and requires minimum effort to master.

Here's how it works, remembering to keep in mind that you must learn to stop being a passive player paying attention only to your own hand and become a pro-active player who watches the hands of everyone at the table:

The model is a six-deck shoe, popular at a majority of casinos around the country. There are 312 cards in six decks, 96 of which carry a value of 10 (kings, queens, jacks and 10s).

Assuming the dealer will cut one and one-half decks (78 cards) out of play after the shuffle, 24 of them will theoretically be 10-value cards, leaving 72 of them in play among the 234 cards to be dealt.

If we are to establish that there are three players plus the dealer at the table (conditions under the Covid – 19 safe distancing regulations) and approximately 12 cards will be dealt on every hand, there will be 20 deals from the shoe before it's time to shuffle up. If the 10-value cards come out proportionately, there should be three of them on the table for each round.

Let's put this model into practice with a mock game: On the first round you observe that three 10-value cards have been dealt, which keeps the count neutral. On the second round only two come out, which now gives you a count of plus-1. On the third round four 10s are on the table, which brings your count back to neutral.

Once you enter the second half of the shoe and the remaining deals are in "plus" territory, this is an indication the shoe may be rich in 10-value cards and present favorable wagering opportunities. On the other hand, if your count reveals the remaining deals potentially weak in 10s, it may be time to decrease your bets or back off a little.

Since the opportunity to be dealt a blackjack and be rewarded with a 3-to-2 payoff is one of the main reasons we play the game, keeping a side track of aces can never hurt. If an unusually large number of them are dealt during the first half of the shoe, it may be time to decrease your bets during the second half since the chances of getting a blackjack are statistically diminished. If you determine the deck is rich in aces, it may be time to increase.

You may also want to pay attention to how many fives are dealt. Statistically speaking, the five is a powerful dealer card because it allows him to draw to strong hands. When the fives are depleted the edge goes to the players.

An easy way to maintain a count is to reserve a stack of chips for this purpose, adding to it when the count is in plus territory and subtracting from it when it's minus. If the stack is tall and there are only a couple of deals left out of the shoe, it could indicate you're in a favorable position against the dealer.


HORSESHOE: When the Hammond property reopens, Caesars Entertainment Regional President Dan Nita reports that many of the marketing programs for guests will be enhanced, specifically as it pertains to the Caesars Rewards program.

“Many of our marketing enhancements are focused on what most of our guests value – their tier status,” Nita said. “The tiers, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Star, provide our guests a multitude of perks and offers, everything from free room nights, airfare, cruises, priority access to events and shows and more.”

Here are some of the particulars:

• Tier status and benefits will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022

• Guests will find it easier to achieve the different tiers for the balance of 2020:

• Platinum Tier, previously achieved at the 5,000 tier credits level, is reduced to 4,000.

• Diamond Tier, previously achieved at the 15,000 tier credits level, is reduced to 12,000.

• Seven Stars, previously achieved at the 150,000 tier credits level, is reduced to 125,000.

• Additionally, Reward Credit expiration is being extended. They will no longer expire for six months of inactivity (at least until September 1, 2020 at the earliest).

• Also, Horseshoe Hammond will be rolling out a month-long 5-times Tier Credit and 5-times Reward Credit promotion. The exact dates for this are forthcoming.

Opinions are solely those of the writer. Reach him at


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