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Blackjack Card Tracking Made Easy

12 May 2004

Last week I addressed the necessity for basic strategy blackjack players to ascend to the next plateau if they are committed to being as successful as possible.

The next plateau is keeping mental track of the cards that have been dealt. Since the odds during a blackjack game continually fluctuate, card tracking is the only way to take advantage of situations where the advantage tips in favor of the players.

Master players generally have keen mathematical skills. They make a science out of card tracking and invest countless hours practicing. The time investment the masters make is beyond the capabilities of a majority of recreational players.

That's why today I'm presenting an alternative system that's simple and easy to use. Because it isn't scientific, you won't get the precisely accurate count that the masters get. But you will have an idea of how the "middle game" is balanced in relation to the players as a collective group and the house.

The model for the system will be the six-deck game that is played at a majority of casinos in the Chicago area. Here goes:

We established last week that the 10-value cards and the aces are the most powerful cards for players. There are 120 such cards in a six-deck shoe, constituting 38 percent of the 312 total cards.

To employ the system you must stop being a passive player and learn to be an aggressive, observant player. This means that in addition to paying attention to your own hand, you must make note of the hands of all the other players and the cards that have been dealt.

When a new game begins, keep mental track of the 10-value cards and aces that are dealt. After two decks have been played (you'll be able to estimate by keeping an eye on the dealer's discard stack) your count will be extremely valuable as you proceed through the next two decks of the game.

If your count of 10-value cards and aces is 38 after two decks have been played, it means the game is proceeding at an even keel and the advantage hasn't tipped in either direction. If your count is under 38, it means there are a higher percentage of those cards remaining to be played which can tip the advantage to the players. If your count is over 38, it means a higher percentage of those cards have already been dealt and the advantage has tipped in favor of the house.

Keeping a separate count of the aces is a bonus. It is only with aces that players can be dealt a blackjack. There are 24 aces in a six-deck shoe. Eight aces should have been dealt at the end of two decks to keep the game even. Any less means the middle game could be exciting, any more means the chances of getting a blackjack during the middle game may have decreased.

I use the word "may" because my system is based on a thoroughly random shuffle and distribution of the cards in a six-deck shoe. In practicality this is impossible. There is bound to be a phenomenon known as "card clumping" whereby concentrations of equal value cards may be found. You must also take into account, depending on the casino, that one and one-half to two decks are cut out of play.

Depending on the degree of your "over/under 38" tabulation at the end of two decks dictates how you adjust your play during the middle game. You can also continue keeping track as the middle game proceeds to see if the advantage tips even further.

Finally, even if you detect a player's advantage has emerged, remember it is based on players as a collective group. If the table is full, not everyone is going to be dealt a 20 or a blackjack. But you at least you'll know your chances have increased.

A final word on card tracking next with an emphasis on the dealer powerful four, five and six value cards.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp