Now on to the tables where most of the players seem to be concentrated. Blackjack is the most popular casino table game. Most tables feature the multi-deck shoe game with all player cards dealt face up. The game is simple enough to play: You win if your hand has a higher value than the dealer’s hand or if the dealer breaks (goes over 21) and you don’t. The value of our hand is determined by adding up the face value of all our cards (face cards count 10 and aces count 1 or 11).
Starting with your initial two cards, can decide to lilt (take another card), stand, double our bet and take only one more card, or split a like pair and play two hands 6th a like bet on the second hand.
At some tables, this player pauses to observe a hand or two, but then moves on, unsatisfied with what he sees. After examining every table on the casino floor, he starts over in his table examination.
This man is a card counter, a back counter in blackjack jargon. He’s waiting for the count to reach a certain level before entering the game. He counts low cards as + 1 and high cards as -1 and keeps a running count from hand to hand and round to round at each table where he observes one or more rounds of play. If the count reaches a plus number equal to or greater than the number of decks remaining to be dealt from the shoe, he enters the game believing he has an even game or an advantage because there are a few more high cards than low cards left in the shoe. Otherwise he doesn’t play.
Let’s follow this player as he finds an acceptable game. It’s eight decks, two have been played, and the count is +10 as he takes a seat. The +10 means that there are 10 more high cards than low cards remaining to be played. And since high cards are more valuable to the player than the dealer, theoretically at least, this player has an advantage, albeit a very small one.
Our man notices the two other players in the game as he makes his first bet of $2.
He wins the first bet, plays a few more hands, losing most of them as the count skyrockets with bunches of low cards being dealt in the next few rounds, leaving the extra high cards in the shoe and yielding a theoretical advantage on the next hand.
He works his bet up to $300 on each of the two hands he is playing. He’s dealt a 20 on one hand and a pair of 4s on the second. He splits the 4s and pulls a 5 to the first, making a total of 9. Where are those extra high cards, he thinks? He doubles down on the 9 and pulls a 10 for 19. On the other 4, he pulls more small cards, ending with a stiff hand of 16. But he’s not worried because thedealer shows a 6 and will undoubtedly turn over a hole card of 10 and then break because of all the extra 10s in the shoe.
The dealer turns over a 3 for a total of 9, and then she deals her¬self a 2 to the hand, which now totals 11. By this time the man’s heart is pounding as he “sees” that 10 coming out of the shoe to make the dealer hand a 21. But it doesn’t happen. The clumped low cards keep popping up. She pulls a 5 for a total of 16. “Now the 10,” he feels like yelling out. But unfortunately it’s not to be as the dealer pulls a for a 21, wiping out his total bet of $1,200 on the two hands.
Is this man an advantage player? Is his card counting method an advantage system in the eight-deck game? You’ll learn in this site that the player was playing into a clump of low cards caused by the non-random shuffle. Low cards are advantageous to the dealer be¬cause she hits her hand last, after all the players have made their decisions, and has much less chance of breaking.