Advanced Blackjack Strategy

Hole Carding in Blackjack

Hole carding refers to gaining knowledge of the cards that are supposed to be hidden from view. This tactic of advantage gambling can only be used in live casinos.

The reason hole carding can be an advantage is that Blackjack players normally make decisions based on seeing only the dealer’s upcard. However, if a player can spot the dealer’s hole card, this can result in an advantage of up to 13% to the player, as opposed to the normal disadvantage of 0.5%, if a player is using optimal strategy. It goes without saying that if you are attempting this tactic in a live casino, you should ensure to do so as discreetly as possible.

Blackjack card counting techniques

There a number of methods for counting cards. Despite what you may have heard, none of the methods require you to remember cards that have been previously played. Instead, tracking methods are used to count the ratio of unplayed 10’s to smaller cards in the remaining decks. Card counters simply bet more when the deck has a lot of 10’s, which can result in a 1% edge to the player.

There are a number of reasons that counting of 10’s can be advantageous:

  • Players can choose to hit or stand on a stiff
  • Dealers must always hit their stiffs
  • A deck with a lot of 10’s will be more likely to bust a dealer than a player
  • Small cards lower the probability of winning with a double or a split
  • Small cards tend to create stiff hands. As a result if both the player and the dealer have a stiff the dealer can beat you by drawing a small card

In summary- players generally win more when the ratio of 10’s is high.

The Hi-Lo Blackjack System – The Harvey Dubner Counting System

The Hi-Lo system is as simple as its name suggests. This system is based on assigning a ranking of +1, 0 or –1 to cards as they fall and the result is an exact measure of how many tens and aces are left in the deck compared to smaller cards. This system is one the most popular system used by Blackjack teams. Once you begin with a new shoe at a Blackjack table, the card count begins at zero.

Card values:
Cards valued at 2,3,4,5, or 6 are counted as +1
7, 8 and 9 are counted as 0
10’s and Aces are counted as –1

Based on the above, for every deck that is used in the shoe there are 20 small cards (2-6), 12 neutral cards (7-9) and 20 high cards (Aces and 10’s). This means that the system is balanced as once every card is counted you would end up with a count of zero. When a lower number of smaller cards are in the deck the advantage is with the player as the odds of winning are higher. A common strategy used by card counters is to use a spread based on the count whereby stakes are increased when the advantage is with the player.

5:1 bet spread for HiLo card counting

Card count Bet Player advantage
0 or negative Standard stake -1%
+1 Standard stake 0%
+2 Stake X2 0.5%
+3 Stake X3 1%
+4 Stake X4 1.5%
+5 Stake X5 2% or more

Multiple decks and card counting

The Casino’s first line of defence against card counters is multiple decks. With six to eight decks, the swings are generally not so extreme. While four tens missing from a single deck would be a big deal, the same cannot be said with a four deck shoe. In order to counteract this measure, the running count is divided by the number of decks that have not yet been played. E.g. the running count of +3 is only +1.5 when two decks are left and only +0.5 when six decks are left in the shoe.

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