Beat the Casino
January 11, 2013
There are those who say you can easily beat the casino with
some easy system--and the ones who say this are usually selling
such systems--and then there are those who will claim that the
casino will always win. The truth is that there are ways
to get the statistical edge as a player of several different
gambling games. However, they are generally not easy systems
I worked as a blackjack and roulette dealer earlier in my
life, and I saw many hopeful schemes and ideas tried at my tables.
Some of these systems worked, meaning some players (but not many)
consistently came out ahead over the long run. In blackjack,
for example, card counting has a proven track-record of making
money for those who can do it properly. This technique can make
you more money than you lose in the long run, but not necessarily
on any given day--you'll still have losing days. You just have
the odds in your favor, and so beat the house over time.
Note: The rules of blackjack or "21" can
be found easily online and in many books, and will not be explained
To be a good card counter you have to first know the game
of blackjack well enough to play "basic strategy" pretty
much flawlessly. This means that you should know at a glance
when to "take a hit" (another card), and when to "stand,"
or stay with what you have, based on your total card count and
the dealer's "up card" (the visible one). There are
plenty of books that will teach you basic strategy, but practice
is important. You will not be able to keep track of everything
you need to keep track of if you have to concentrate to decide
if you should split a pair of sevens when the dealers is showing
a six. All basic plays have to become automatic before you are
ready for counting cards. Otherwise the odds may not be in your
Card counting requires patience. The basic idea is to monitor
the cards as they come out, while you are playing, and when the
deck has more high-value cards (10,J,Q,K,A) than normal in it,
you bet more. You bet less when the house has the edge, which
is most of the time. For example, if you are at a table with
a $5 minimum, that minimum is all you bet most of the time. Only
when the deck is "rich" enough in high-value cards
do you start betting, say, $25 per hand. Because you are more
likely to get blackjack, which pays one-and-a-half times what
you bet, and because you are more likely to get two face cards,
which add up to twenty (which will only be beat by a dealer's
blackjack), you have a slight edge over the dealer.
That the odds tilt slightly in favor of the player with proper
counting has been proven statistically. However, how much the
odds favor you depends on the "house rules," meaning
the exact rules of the game as played in that particular casino.
The odds also depend on the number of decks that the dealer deals
from, and how far into the "card shoe" (the holder
that the cards are dealt from) the dealer deals before shuffling.
If you are playing at a table with a five-deck shoe this will
still work if the dealer is playing through four decks, for example,
because there is enough time for imbalances to develop and be
taken advantage of. On the other hand, if the cards are reshuffled
after only half of the five decks are dealt out, card counting
probably won't work.
The counting part is essentially assigning a value to the
cards and tracking them. This is done more easily at tables where
all the cards are dealt face up (except the dealer's "hole
card"). In one variation of the system, aces and face cards
are given a value of -1, two through six are valued at +1, and
seven, eight and nine are considered neutral. As you watch the
cards you add and subtract their values, betting the table minimum
all the while. When you arrive at a predetermined count, let's
say +7, you raise your bet. The high count means that there is
a higher percentage of high-value cards left in the deck than
normal, so the odds are now in your favor.
This is a limited explanation, and you need to study a good
counting book if you want to give this strategy a try. You also
need to practice, probably at home for many hours, because your
play has to be precise to have the edge. It is difficult to keep
track of all those cards flying out of that shoe while the other
players talk and waitresses interrupt you.
One card counter I dealt to for years would sit at the table
for most of an evening, betting the $2 minimum (it helps to have
such a low minimum bet). He shifted chips from one hand to another,
his own way of tracking the "plus or minus count."
When the shoe (five decks of cards in this case) was rich enough
in high-value cards, he would suddenly start betting two hands
at $20 each.
He made money, but not much (which is why the casino management
left him alone). Do this well, and you may get a 1.5% edge on
the casino. If, between your minimum bets and the others you
average $8 per hand, and 75 hands per hour are dealt at your
table, you'll make about $9 per hour. This assumes you can tolerate
alternating losing and winning days and hours of concentration.
Betting more brings that hourly rate up, of course, along
with the risk of bigger losing days. If you are at a $5 minimum
table and betting $50 when the count is right, you can still
have days when you lose a thousand dollars, even if you make
a profit over the course of a month. Card counting is definitely
not for everyone.
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