Monday, November 8, 2010


Black jack, also known as twenty-one (21), is one of the most common gambling games out there, every casino in the world has this game and has even gone as far as to Online Black jack gambling. The good thing about this game is that it is against the house, all the players seated must beat the house by trying to get 21 and making sure not to exceed that number. However, dealers (the house) stops adding more cards to his hand once he gets a 17, and so a person's best bet would be to try and get the dealer to exceed 21 (also known as a bust.)

There are a couple of reasons why people are fond of this game. Firstly, because it requires luck (chance), skill and also because of card counting. 

One of my favourite movies is 21 starring Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey (who also produced it, he also produced "The Social Network" [which was rated 8.4/10 on IMDb]). This movie revolves around a couple of mathematically-gifted (yes, I call it a gift because Mathematics is not my kind of subject) university students that are chosen by a professor to learn count-carding techniques in Black jack and end up going to Las Vegas every weekend to go on a "money-spree" (the reason I call it this is because they basically are buying money)

My question about this is "Does card-counting actually exist and, more importantly, does it work?"

Card counting dates back to 1962 when Dr. Edward Thorp published a book, about it, called "Beat the Dealer" which became so popular that it was on the New York Time's best seller list.

One of the most early successful Black jack counters was Ken Uston. He made fools out of all the pit bosses in Las Vegas as he and a team of Black jack counters wiped out both casinos in Las Vegas as well as in Atlantic City! 

So how does card counting work? That is the question I will try and answer as it is a lot more complicating than it looks. And, of course, it requires a lot of practice so if you are not interested in taking a couple of weeks to months, maybe even years, to learn this method then don't bother.

Firstly, as the cards are dealt, the player keeps a tally in his head.
  • If a card valued TEN is dealt (i.e. a ten, jack, queen or king) then the player minuses one from his tally.
  • If a card valued less than TEN is dealt (i.e. two - nine) then the player adds one half to his tally.
  • If an ace is dealt, the player does nothing.

For example, if the following hands were dealt in a three player game the player's tally would be 1.5 .

DEALER: Ten, Seven (minus 1, plus 1/2 )
PLAYER 1 : Five, Three, Ten, (minus 1, plus 1)
PLAYER 2: King, Ace (minus 1)
PLAYER 3: Five, Four, Two, Two, Three, Five (plus 3)

The more TENS that are left in the deck, the more likely the player is to win. Therefore,
  • If the players tally is less than zero, he should bet low
  • If the player's tally is greater than zero, he should bet high.

The player continues his tally until the end of the shoe at which he starts again at zero.

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