The most commonly used card counting strategy for blackjack is the Hi-Lo counting system. It’s also the most talked about strategy among players and blackjack experts, which was invented by Harvey Dubner in 1963. Since then many people have tried to explain it by publishing books on it, and today you can read about it on the internet. In this article we will try to explain the Hi-Lo card counting strategy as brief as possible in order to cover the basics to get you started.
Winning a blackjack hand depends on the number of decks and the mix of the cards, and how many high or low cards remain. More low cards benefits the dealer, while more high cards benefits the players. Your goal is to count them. This process doesn’t entail remembering all the cards played, but using a simple calculation which will help you in determining the ratio of low to high cards.
By assigning point values for high and low cards, you can track the ratio more easily. For example, low cards (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) are assigned +1, while high cards (10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace) are assigned -1. Neutral cards are 7, 8 and 9, and they are counted 0. If there are more high cards in the deck, the player has a bigger chance of hitting over 17 or scoring a blackjack. So, as you draw cards, you just add and subtract, for example, if King and a 9 are drawn, it is -2. If the next card is 2, you subtract 1 point and the count returns to -1. If neutral card is drawn, you don’t add or subtract anything and so on.
By getting the true count, which doesn’t need to be very accurate, just a rough estimate, you get some picture of how many high or low cards remain in the decks. To do that, you need to divide the running count with the number of decks remaining. For example, if your running count at the moment is +6, and there are 3 decks remaining, you get the number of 2. When the true count remains positive, you are safe to make bigger bets, but when the true count is negative you need to be more cautious and play the minimum bet. The betting part is consisted of assigning units to the bet amounts. If you are playing a $1 table with 6 decks, you have to spread your bets in 12 units, for example, $1 would be 1 unit, $2 would be 2 units etc. So, if you have estimated that the true count is 0 or less, you should bet strictly 1 unit. As the count rises into positive you can increase the units and spread your bets more profitably.
This strategy is more difficult to implement with an online blackjack game, because you cannot track how many decks were spent and how many are remaining. You can’t do that too at a land-based casino, but you can get a pretty good estimate by looking at the tray with discarded cards and visually determine how many decks have been played. Get yourself 6 or 8 decks at home and pile discarded cards on top of each other in order to get a clearer picture of, for example, how a pile of 3 discarded decks looks like. Also, remember to practice this strategy before employing it into a real-money game.
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