Odds and probabilities are very crucial concepts in the popular game of blackjack. Knowing about the odds helps a player strategically decide upon his playing actions. A player’s chance of winning varies depending on the different situations and hands and especially when the player is counting cards. Let’s understand blackjack odds when counting cards in detail.
Refresher on Blackjack Card Counting
Blackjack card counting is a technique by means which players can keep a track of the cards that have been dealt and the ones remaining in the deck. Card counting is difficult to master but very effective in strategizing the correct playing decisions. The process of counting cards begins with assigning values to the cards. In one of the blackjack card counting methods, cards 2-6 are valued +1, 7-9 are valued 0, and 10-Ace are valued -1.
As each card is dealt, players add 1, subtract 1, or do nothing based on the card’s value. This way, a running count is kept.
After this, the true count is calculated to equal the running count divided by the number of decks remaining.
As an example, if the running count is 10 and there are 5 decks remaining, then the true count in blackjack is 2.
How do Blackjack Odds Change When Counting Cards?
Return to Player or RTP is an important concept in blackjack that players must understand. RTP is a measure of how much money a player can expect to win in the long run or over a certain period. For instance, a 99% RTP means that the player will earn $99 for every $100 wagered. There are several factors that affect the RTP by slightly increasing or decreasing it. When the natural blackjack pays 3:2, the house edge is lowered by 1.39% as compared to blackjack with a 6:5 payout. Similarly, doubling down on any two cards, the dealer stands on soft 17, doubling down after splitting reduces the house edge by 0.25%, 0.2%, and 0.17% respectively. In all these scenarios, the RTP also gets higher than the standard.
Generally, in a standard game of blackjack, players who do not use any optimized strategy have an RTP of 98% to 98.5%. However, when he is using techniques like card counting, this very same RTP can go up from 99% to 99.5%. This, however, is possible only in games where the dealer is using just one or two- decks of cards.
Why Blackjack Odds are Lower When Counting Cards?
Card counting has been used by players to improve their odds of winning and beat the casino’s edge. Earlier most casinos were not even aware of this technique being used by the players. But, card counting soon became popular especially, owing to Edward Thorp’s book. Since then, casinos have taken a lot of measures to stop card counters from boosting their odds to a profitable extent. This includes the use of biometric surveillance technology among major casinos.
Numerous casinos feature 6:5 blackjack instead of a 3:2 payout. This factor alone increases the house edge by as much as 1.4%. Similarly, there are tables that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17. This rule also boosts the house edge by 0.2%, helping the dealer to improve his soft hand. Further, casinos reshuffle the shoe at regular intervals to reduce the degree of deck penetration. If players are unable to keep track of the cards in the deck, it becomes difficult for them to implement card counting.
Backing off the card counters is another strategy put to practice by the casinos. By this, the casino not only keeps an eye on the player who is supposedly counting cards but also, tries to make him uncomfortable. Basically, the casino does so by attempting to get into the heads of the so-called advantage players. Backing off leads to reduced deck penetration and lets the player know that the casino is on to them at the same time.
Other Ways to Increase Blackjack Odds
Blackjack card counting is an effective way of improving the odds of winning. But given the fact that card counting is hard to master and even more difficult to implement while playing blackjack in a real casino, it cannot be the only method that players can trust to beat the casino’s edge. Among the other ways that players can use to increase their odds, the most accepted and safest way is to follow the basic blackjack strategy. The basic blackjack strategy lays down all the rules or playing actions that players must take in a wide variety of scenarios with different hands of both the player and the dealer.
Apart from following the basic blackjack strategy, players can look out for specific tables that pay 3:2 for a natural blackjack, which automatically lowers the house edge. The blackjack surrender option is also quite favorable for the player and hence, you can choose tables and games that allow this option. Early surrender, though less common, increases the RTP by at least 0.39%.
This somewhat concludes the study of blackjack odds when counting cards, a concept that is influenced by several other factors.