(The best counting system for recreational players!)
The Hi-Lo system is the most popular counting approach for recreational players, and easy to learn. If you can add 1 and 1 and come up with 2, then you’re a strong candidate to master this method. First let’s review the respective values for each card:
You can see there are three groups. The twenty small cards (2-6) are counted as plus 1 when they are removed from the deck. The twelve middle cards (7,8,9) are considered the neutral cards and have no value. The twenty big cards (10-A) are counted minus 1.
It is helpful to think of these high and low cards as engaged in a continual war, with the twenty big cards constantly trying to overpower the twenty small cards. Here is a case in which you’d want to root for the underdog, since the removal of an excess of small cards increases your edge. Conversely, if the small cards win the war, the odds shift back to the house, and there is no betting advantage for the player.
Before I start showing you the insiders of this counting system, let me first give you a powerful Proof that card-counting really works (skeptical should read this):
Let’s take for example a roulette wheel and suppose that this roulette wheel has 40 numbers instead of 38 – half of which are black and the other half red (no zeros). In such a game, neither the players nor the house have any edge on either color – it’s dead even (50-50). However, suppose after each number was hit, that number was removed from the wheel. Now you have a whole different proposition.
The odds will fluctuate rapidly back and forth between red and black. Take this example: during the first 10 spins, red comes up 8 times and back only 2 times. If you want to bet red, your chance for winning that wager plunges from 50 percent (20 out of 40) down to 40 percent (12 out of 30). However, black moves up to become a 60 percent favorite with 18 spots left in the remaining 30 numbers. This customized roulette wheel shows the reason card counting works.
The logic is simple: As cards are removed from play, they forever change the remaining deck composition. When the majority of cards removed are tens and aces (-1), the odds will favor the casino. But whenever an excess of small cards (+1) are removed, the odds slowly climb past the 50 percent mark and will give you as a player, a real chance to beat the house.
How to Beat the House Using the Hi-Lo Counting System?
Practice, practice, practice….
The Hi-Lo Learning Procedure
The best way to learn Hi-Lo is to take a standard deck and flip through the cards one at a time until the value of each denomination becomes automatic. Fortunately, this is not to difficult after a little bit of practice. Remember, you don’t have to differentiate for any of the four suits – the 3 of spades counts exactly the same as the 3 of diamonds.
The next step is trying to keep a Running Count (hereafter called RC) of all cards in the deck. This is done by starting off with the count of zero. As you flip through deck, add or subtract the respective values of each card to your overall tally, or RC. After counting all fifty-two cards you should be back to zero.
Let’s take the example in which the first few cards in the deck were: 6,2,8,J,7,5. Your brain would process this information into an RC of +1,+2,+2,+1,+1,+2. Each card is added to he RC in the order you see it. A small card adds 1 to the overall number, while a big card subtract 1 from the total. If you have an aversion to negative numbers, here is a graph to show how this works:
Another trick pro counters use is to never call negative numbers “negative 1 “ or “minus 1”. It is much quicker to refer to them as “mi 1”. Mi is a short for minus. Another thing you can do is refer to positive numbers as simply “3” instead of “positive 3”. This also streamlines and simplifies the counting process, although I will use the + signs in this e-book to avoid any confusion while you’re still learning the material.
Next, go through the deck two cards at a time. This may sound more difficult but it’s actually much easier. The reason is that many card combinations will cancel each other out in Hi-Lo. Here are a few examples of cancellations at work:
All of the two-card combos shown above can essentially be ignored when counting since their total value is zero. Once you become acquainted with this fact, you often don’t need to add or subtract each card, which is why many consider Hi-Lo such a breeze to learn.
You can test your accuracy by removing one unseen card from the deck before you begin your count. When you’re done, turn over the hidden card and see if it matches your count. Once you get to the point at which you can predict the last card correctly most of the time, it’s safe to move on to your next assignment – SPEED. This drill is done exactly the same way – you flip over two cards at a time through a fifty-two card deck, except now you’re pushing yourself like a racehorse trying to win the race. The ballpark goal most people shoot for is twenty-five seconds.
The next thing you should do in order to master completely the Hi-Lo counting system is to make yourself a practice sheet where you can practice your count. Bellow is a practice chart you could use to improve your counting system:
The Running Count (RC)
Nearly all the advantage a card counter gains over the house in a shoe game (six or eight decks) comes from betting. Play decisions matter very little comparatively. It is possible to glean most of this gain without reading much farther. If you are able to correctly maintain a RC and play perfect Basic Strategy in the casino, you’re ready to become the favourite, rather than the house.
Let’s see now a few betting strategies. Let’s suppose you have £10,000 bankroll. If you have more or less than this amount, just adjust the numbers accordingly. What every skill blackjack player is looking for is a high plus count. That indicates there is an excess of big cards (10-ace) left in the remainder of the shoe, which will favour the players rather than the house.
A perfect betting strategy to take advantage of these positive counts would be to hike up your bet during the high counts and stick with your minimum bet the rest of the time. The minimum bet would be £5 to £10, depending on how aggressive you play. Stick with this bet any time the RC is +4 or less (this includes of course all negative numbers).
From +5 to +9, bet £25. if the RC climbs into double digits, then bet £50 from +10 to +14. Jump to £75 for a RC of +15 to +19, and when the RC breaks +20, take a deep breath and push out that £100 chip.
Fact is that, there is only one way to gain a veritable advantage in any betting strategy – to wager more when the count is high enough to tilt the odds in your favor. Doing this will make overall winners out of disciplined players.
You could fine-tune it a bit more by moving your big bets up one notch over the second half of the shoe. For instance, now bet £100 on +15 or above and £75 on +10 to +14.
Negative Numbers Strategy
If you struggle with keeping the count when it falls into negative numbers, you might try by starting off with a count of +10 rather than zero. If you go up or down from there, you will rarely dip into negative digits, and if you do, you should definitely live that table. Obviously if you use this counting strategy, you’d need to adjust your betting and play decisions to correspond with the different starting point (£5 at +20 rather than +10).
True Count (TC)
The only reason I expect to have more winning days than losing ones is because I raise my bets during positive counts. The previous chart shows when to raise your bets according to the RC, but the maximum dollar-per-hour return would be to theoretically jump to your highest bet (£100 in our example) any time you have an edge over the house.
This would also be the simplest betting scheme. However, such a strategy packs unnecessary risk, and players employing such aggressive tactics would be in danger of tapping out their £10,000 bankroll rather than winning.
A smarter approach is to modify your bets so they are in proportion to the actual edge you have on any given hand. A rule of thumb is that the higher the count goes into the positive numbers, the larger your edge. This is why the chart shows incremental increases in your bets based on how high the RC rises.
However, most counters never base their bets just on the RC because the value of the count changes depending on how many cars remain to be played. For example, if you took a 4 out of a pack of 52 cards, the odds would shift by about 0.5 percent in favor of the players. Yet you would need to remove six 4s out of a six-deck shoe to cause he same shift in the house advantage.
As you can see, the effect of each individual card value is diluted depending on how many decks are used. The bigger the pitcher or shoe, the less effect each card will have. Therefore, the only way know the proper proportion and correct odds is with a True Count (TC). This conversion process scares off many players, but it can be learned with a little practice.
Here is the formula that shows the equation:
True Count = (Running Count) / (Unplayed Decks)
Getting back to the example of our 4s, a RC of +6 with six decks remaining to be played yields the same TC of +1 as a RC of +1 with one deck remaining (6:6=1). This is because the effect of removing a small card of one deck (1 out of 52 cards) is significantly greater on the remaining composition that removing the same card from six decks (1 out of 312 cards).
This TC provides a much more accurate gauge for the proportions of high cards to low cards over the reminder of the shoe than an RC. And that is the information you need to know – whether there are sufficiently more tens and aces than normal, so your bets can be raised higher.
To calculate a TC it doesn’t matter how many decks you started with, but how many are left to play. Each number in the TC is called a True Point and is worth about 0.5 percent with the Hi-Lo count. In other words, every time the TC rises one point, your edge goes up 0.5 percent.
In most games, a TC of +1 brings you back to about even or slightly ahead of the house, and every possible number over that increases your advantage. For example, a TC of +3 yields about a 1 percent edge and a TC of +5 will give you a 2 percent edge over the house. Here is how this is calculated: the TC of +5 is multiplied times 0.5 percent (value of each true point). This gives a total of 2.5 percent. Then you subtract the starting house advantage (which is usually about -0.4 percent against the players). That leaves a total of approximately 2 percent for your edge. You can readily see how this more precise information can help you bet correctly. However, you must be able to convert the RC to the TC to take advantage of this data.
Determining the TC will help in two ways. The main advantage is in being able to bet the correct amounts at the right time. One important thing to remember is that a negative RC always equals a negative TC. So if you are calculating a TC only to determine a bet, you can save yourself the effort on any negative number because you will never change your bet (with the Hi-Lo system) until the RC rises over into the positive side.
The other reason you need TC is so you can vary your play decisions from Basic Strategy according to the count. It may sound stupid, after I took so much time to explain the importance of the Basic Strategy, to tell you now that there are occasions when out throw it out the window.
Here is the reason: when an excess of face cards are left in the shoe, it is sometimes wiser to stand on your stiffs and let the dealer bust. Also, you’d want to double down and split more frequently in positive counts and less often in negative decks.
The correct time to deviate from Basic Strategy is determined by a matrix number. However, you still Basic Strategy on vast majority of the hands. Some of these modifications according to the count can greatly increase your edge. I have determined for you the most important hands from changing your play from Basic Strategy.
Here are the matrix numbers (calculated for 6 deck shoe), to use during critical situations:
What the chart above means is that sometimes playing strategy (as well as betting) can be affected by the count. For example, now there are times to stand with your 15 versus a face card (TC of +5 or higher) even though that is contrary to Basic Strategy. Taking advantage of this additional information to alter some of your play will increase your edge over the house.
Advice: you always want to round the TC down for playing decision, and you always deviate from Basic Strategy if the TC equals or exceeds that number.
Remember that in a shoe game the TC is almost always less than the RC. A conversion is never required unless the RC is at least higher than the matrix number you need. For example: in 16 vs 9, you’d stand (raher than the usual play of hit) if the TC equaled or exceeded +5. However, if the RC is anything less than +5, you don’t even need to do the math. Any fraction of +5 will be less than +5.
Sometimes you may have a decision that is toss-up – a hand that is borderline for the number. The best way to resolve such close calls is to go with Basic Strategy and err on the side of safety.
Undertaking the Blackjack Tables
This chapter contains all the basics for you to become an overall winner at the casinos. However, at times this task may seem to difficult and overwhelming, and you may want to give up, but the reward of the work you put in now is will be great over your lifetime. Disciplined players who adhere to the proper strategies will win far more often than those who play blackjack by the seat of their pants.
The important principle is to only use what you are able to master. And don’t forget to put in the work at home before entering the doors of the casino. Practice should be done at home, not at the casinos. The cost of your education in the real world can be very high.
Assuming you are ready to undertake the blackjack tables, I suggest you start off betting small. Don’t make the mistake 95% of the players make, by going in unprepared and overconfident. It is better to start slow and work your way up to higher chip levels. There are many things to keep track of when you first start card counting, and if you are also sweating over the amount of money at risk, you have a recipe for disaster.
If you’re already learned a valid counting system (like the KO), there is no need to change if you are comfortable with that. However, more chips wait for you at each additional rung of the ladder. The higher you are willing to climb, the larger the gain. In the next part of the e-book I will reveal insider tips and strategies to help you maximize your return at lucrative handheld games. And those chosen few who are diligent and serious about their blackjack game can join the ranks of the true upper class in blackjack – the Pros.