To win big and to win consistently at blackjack you must learn how to count cards. Counting cards gives you the extra advantage that will reduce the casino’s edge and put the blackjack odds in your favor. If you do not learn how to count cards, the Counting Edge system will still work but its effectiveness will be greatly reduced.
The Counting Edge blackjack system is primarily designed for those who are new to blackjack and counting cards. In the previous section we provided you with an outline of basic strategy. You should be working on memorizing it. The next piece in this system is learning how to count cards.
Misconceptions about card counting
Many players who are new to blackjack develop some misconceptions about card counting that need to be corrected. The first one of these is that card counting means keeping track of every card in the deck individually. Unless you are the Rain Man, this is practically impossible. Card counting in blackjack can be defined as a method of determining the favorability of the deck to the player. The method does not require you to separately count each card in the deck.
When you count cards you are identifying cards that are either good or bad for the player. The basic rule to remember is that ten cards are very good for the player. Small cards are very bad for the player. If the deck has more ten-valued cards left in it, this is advantageous for you. If the deck has more small cards remaining, this is bad for you. This will help to greatly simplify your understanding of the principle of card counting.
In order to determine whether the deck is favorable or not, we only need to find a way to quantify the proportion of ten-value cards to small cards remaining in the deck. By quantify, we mean that we want to express that proportion in a single number which will give us an immediate picture of the deck. We simply note that number and bet accordingly.
Another popular misconception about card counting is that card counting alone will make you a big blackjack winner. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can be the best card counter in the world, but if you do not understand basic strategy and know how to bet your skills are worthless. The pieces of the Counting Edge blackjack system all fit together hand in hand. You must have all of the pieces to make the system work.
Simplifying the count
Many books have been written about card counting. Some of them are classics and provide excellent information. Some of them are not worth the price one pays for them. If you read enough blackjack books you will notice that there are many methods of card counting. Each author claims that their method is the best.
The truth is that card counting is an evolving skill. It gets expanded and improved with each new generation of blackjack players. New systems are invented which improve upon old systems. The goal of all of them is to quantify that proportion we talked about in a more accurate way.
If you are just beginning to count cards, you need to begin with a very simple method. Do not try to learn the more intricate methods until you have mastered the basics. As you become more proficient you will begin to learn more methods of card counting, but if you try to master a difficult one in the very beginning you will become frustrated and give up.
Remember this: all card counting methods work to a varying degree. Some work better than others because they are more advanced, but they all work. Let’s take an example of a baker. The beginning baker knows how to bake bread by a very basic method. The experienced baker knows many methods, some of them more efficient than the basic one. Both bakers know how to bake bread, but the experienced baker can do it quicker and more consistently every time because he has improved upon his basic knowledge. Card counting is like that. When you begin you will be able to produce winning results at blackjack. Your results might not equal the results of someone who has been counting cards for twenty years. If you keep practicing, however, and learning new methods your skills will keep improving.
How the Counting Edge Simple Count works
The Counting Edge simple count is based upon other very popular basic card counting methods. It assigns a numerical value to each card in the deck.
Here is how the cards are valued in the Counting Edge method:
As you will see, there are only seven different cards you need to be concerned with at the blackjack table when using this simple count. Whenever you see a 4, 5, or a 6 add 1 to the count. Whenever you see a ten-valued card, subtract one from the count. That’s all there is to it.
Simple Count only requires you to track seven cards in the deck as they come into play on the blackjack table: 4, 5, 6, 10, J, Q, and K. The reason for this is that these cards have the most impact on the hands of the player and dealer. Cards such as 2, 7, 8, and 9 affect the percentages of blackjack in a much lower way, and often work to cancel one another out.
Aces are not “reckoned” or counted in the Simple Count in order to make things easier for the beginning card counter. The more advanced player will find many counting systems on our site which do require a side count for the Aces.It is called the Simple Count for a reason. This counting method was designed for card counting beginners. It is effective to a certain degree, but other systems (such as the Hi-Lo) will often produce a more accurate count than the Simple Count because of their added complexity.
The count always begins at 0. You should always begin counting on a new shoe. This means that you will begin your count on the first round of play after the cards have been shuffled. Start at 0 and as you observe the cards being played adjust the count accordingly.
Here is an example:
So, the simple count stands at -1 after the first round of play before the players act on their hands. Every time you see a card you must adjust the count. You count your own cards, the other player’s cards, and your cards.
A negative number means that the deck is unfavorable. You should be betting the table minimum. A positive number means that the deck is favorable. You should be increasing your bet in proportion to the positive number, something we will explain in a later section.
SIMPLE COUNT: How to practice the Counting Edge simple count
Before you even think about playing blackjack for real money in a casino, you must perfect the simple count described above at home until you can execute the method in a way that is second-nature. At the blackjack table you cannot hesitate or stumble over the count. Doing so will invite suspicion from the casino, and that is a kind of attention that you do not need.
Get out your decks of cards and take a seat at your kitchen or dining table. If you only have one deck of cards, that is fine. You will just have to shuffle them more often. Using multiple decks to practice the simple count is better because it more closely simulates live blackjack play and forces you to maintain the count for a longer period of time.
The count begins at 0. Start dealing the cards to yourself one at a time. As each card is turned over you will add this card to the running count based on the point value assigned to the card. Do this until all of the cards have been dealt. In the beginning you will not be able to go very fast. It will probably take you about 4-5 minutes to go through four decks of cards. This is okay. In the beginning your accuracy is what matters. With practice you will gain speed.
When you can go through four decks of cards, maintaining the count, in around 3 minutes you are ready to count at a live blackjack table. The reason for building up your speed to this level is because the action at the blackjack table will usually be a little slower than the pace you have established in practice. Always practice at home faster than the action will proceed in live play.
Before we end this section of the Counting Edge blackjack system one last word of caution is in order. If you cannot count perfectly at the blackjack table, do not count at all. Just use the basic strategy we have provided. You will do yourself more harm than good if your count is not accurate.