How the number of decks used in a game of blackjack impacts the house edge and card counting, and the number of decks used by Australian land-based casinos. Blackjack, also known as twenty-one, is the most popular casino card game as it's fun and easy to win. Knowledge of Blackjack basic strategy is essential. Learn how to card count written by a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. Learn the easiest card counting method along with homework sheets to help practice!
If you are a casual player of blackjack, or just sit and play online or at your favorite casino without ever looking at how many decks are being used you might be surprised to learn that a single-deck game is better financially for you. If you play a lot of blackjack the difference can be worth thousands of dollars to you!
Many online casinos use an RNG device to simulate a shoe containing eight decks of cards, and many large casinos around the world have gone to a standard eight-deck game. That’s not catastrophic, but the truth is that when you compare the two games (assuming the dealer stands on soft 17, players may split any pair, double-down on any two-cards is allowed, and double-down is allowed after a split), that single deck game is .48% better for the player. Is that a lot? On a single bet, no. On an hour worth of play, yes.
Any casino, whether online or live, wins their percentage based on players’ total wagers, so if you happen to play about 60 hands per hour at $10 per bet, you get $600 in action. That .48% totals €2.88 per hour compared to the eight-deck game. That’s a nice savings, and if you play a few hours a week for a year (7 hours x 52 weeks) you’re talking about more than $1,000. Yikes!
Single Deck Blackjack Advantages
Aside from the obvious cash savings, a single-deck game has many other advantages, and the studious blackjack player can take advantage of them to further improve their play and their success. If you learn to play Blackjack Basic Strategy, you can enjoy a nearly even-money game at the best casinos that offer single-deck games.
You’ll also see some other things that might help you, like the fact that it takes only about two minutes to get a new deck put on the game (yes, casinos change the cards periodically). Nobody likes waiting while the casino changes eight decks! When the dealer goes to shuffle a single deck, it takes only about 30-seconds. More hands, more fun! Also, a whole shoe of cards can turn the odds to the house while players struggle for a long time.
If you learn to count cards you’ll be tipped-off when the odds go bad and you’ll be able to either get down to your smallest wager, or simply quit playing and search for another game. On a single deck, the odds change quickly, but the dealer won’t get nearly as many hands out, so when the deck goes bad, the shuffle is never far away.
Whether you are counting or not, you’ll have the advantage on a single deck of at least seeing what cards are coming out and you’ll be able to react.
In most cases, taking insurance when the dealer has an Ace showing is a bad deal. Insurance pays 2 to 1, but you can only wager half of your original bet. You’ll win anytime the dealer turns over a ten-value card to go with their ace, but there are just 16 tens in the deck, and after counting the ace, the odds of winning are just 16/51 when this happens on a fresh deck. But what if the chances of winning were actually better, because you were on a game with five players and you could see all ten player cards, and there were no tens showing? Well now we know that the odds have improved to 16/41 – and insurance is a good bet. You could even take insurance as a good bet if there were two tens out (14/41).
That thinking works on a single deck game, but unless you are counting cards, forget it at multiple deck games. However, since we are searching for advantages, the number of aces played (seen) is also important.
After the first round of play, suppose you have seen a dozen cards and there were no aces. Now the remaining deck is ace-rich, and if you hit a blackjack you get paid 3 to 2, but if the dealer gets a blackjack they only win even-money (1 to 1) from you. That’s a nice advantage to have. No aces in the first round means you can raise your wager and expect that in the long run you will win more money, even if you aren’t counting cards.
If you are counting cards, a single-deck game of blackjack is much easier to play. If you get distracted and drop the count you can just flat-bet and wait for a new shuffle. Your brain won’t be taxed nearly as much and as you get better you’ll be able to carry on conversations while keeping an accurate count. You’ll also get more extreme positive counts (and negative, but keep flat betting) and be able to get quicker results on your play.
Of course you’ll also be noticed easier by a well-trained Pit Boss, so keep your act up and do your best to disguise your play. Sometimes at single-deck games it is easiest to just double your wager each time the count improves. It looks more natural to the bosses, and you’ll get a higher return on your investment. You’ll also have some higher volatility.
Keep in mind that playing single-deck games, because of the quick swings in the count, will result in quick swings in your bankroll. Make sure you have adequate resources to handle the swing and sway of the cards.
Winning double-downs and splits are often the difference in having a good night at the tables and going home busted. Certainly games like Free Bet Blackjack help with bankroll and betting decisions, but use your memory and the cards shown on the layout when making tough decisions, especially when you want to double on a 9 or 10 against a dealer up-card of 8 or 9 and many tens and aces have been seen.
Single-deck blackjack is more of an art than multiple-deck games. When you get the hang of it, you’ll be painting a masterpiece. Practice, as with everything in life, makes perfect!
Written by: Heather Ferris – An experienced Las Vegas blackjack dealer.
Ever since Edward Thorpe exposed the game in 1962, Blackjack has increased in popularity as a game of cat-and-mouse. Thorpe’s basic strategy, as well as his Ten Count system, was what pushed that pebble over the hill creating this huge snowball effect of card counting that we know today. Players have numerous systems to choose from and which one you adopt depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. The Hi-Lo count is an easy strategy to learn; is recommended for most situations and will be the system we will be focusing on in this article.
Step 1: Assigning Card Value
The first step to learning the Hi-Lo count is to assign value to the cards. Each card has a specific value that must be memorized. All ten value cards including the Jack, Queen and King, plus the Ace are all valued as negative one (-1). Sevens, eights and nines are valued as zero, or even and twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes are valued as one (+1). By valuing the cards in this manner it makes card counting much easier and obtainable for the average person.
Blackjack Card Counting Values
Homework 1: Identify Card Value
Many hours of at-home practice are required when learning how to count cards. The first homework assignment is to be able to quickly identify the card value without any hesitation. Take a single deck of cards and run through it until you’ve correctly identified the value given to each individual card. For example, when using the Hi-Lo system, if you see a Jack then the correct answer would be Negative One (-1). Keep practicing until you’ve run through an entire deck without making a mistake. This is also a good warm-up exercise to use before card counting.
Identifying Card Counting Values
Step 2: Counting Cards
Now that you know the value of the cards it’s time to count them. It’s better to start the count after the dealer has shuffled the deck and a new round begins. Card counting is not the same as memorizing the deck. The player is mentally keeping track of the ratio of high to low cards. The player will start at zero and add or subtract the value of the card as they are seen there by creating a tally or a running count of the deck. If the count is high, the remaining deck will have a lot of 10’s in it making the situation more favorable for the player. If the count is low, the remaining deck will have more numbers in it making the situation more favorable for the casino.
Running Count while playing blackjackNo deposit slots 2017.
Homework 2/3: Learn to keep a running Count Of Cards
The second homework assignment is to be able to accurately keep a Running Count of the cards. With a single deck in hand, start at zero and total the values of the cards. You know you’ve succeeded if you hit zero or Even by the end of the deck. If you can do this 9 out of 10 decks then you’re ready to move on.
The third homework assignment is the same as the second however instead of counting one card at a time, now count two. A good card counter will count down a single deck in 20 seconds with one error or less.
Starting a running count
Ending a running count
Step 3: True Count
Now that we can count the cards, what do we do with this information? A count system provides three critical pieces of data. When to bet more, when to deviate from basic strategy and when to take insurance. When making a wager or deciding whether to take insurance professional card counters convert the running count into the True Count. The true count is the actual count or value of the deck when the player is making a decision. You’ll need to convert your running count into a true count on all multi-deck games. However, single deck games will always give you a true count. In order to calculate the true count the player would need to divide the running count by the number of decks remaining. For example, if the running count is +9 and there are 3 decks remaining then the true count is +3. +9 divided by 3 is +3. If the running count is +8 and there are 2 decks left then the true count is +4.
True Count formula
Homework 4/5: Estimate Decks Left & Calculating True Count
The fourth homework assignment is to be able to accurately recognize how many decks are left in the shoe and to use that information to calculate the true count. Buy a shoe and several decks of cards. Place one deck in the shoe in order to get a feel for what that looks like. Then increase it to two. Keep repeating this step until you’ve seen all 8 decks. Complete this exercise several times until you feel comfortable identifying the number of decks in a shoe. In order to test your knowledge, ask a friend to set up the shoe, then enter the room and try to correctly identify how many decks are in the shoe.
The fifth homework assignment is to be able to successfully calculate the true count using your newfound skill. A good way to practice this is to ask that same friend to come back and deal a mock game of blackjack for you. Calculate the true odds in your head and then check the deck and use a calculator to verify if you’re correct.
True Count example with 2 decks
Step 4: Deviations or Indices
Typically, the house edge for blackjack is roughly around 0.5% however it is possible to bring that number all the way down to Even or 0% if Edward Thorpe’s basic strategy is used. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know blackjack strategy by heart. This guide tells players what actions to take during specific situations. We’ve provided several blackjack strategy charts for single deck, double deck and multi-deck shoes as well as for games where surrender is available. Card counters will follow basic strategy the majority of the time. In order to achieve an advantage over the house, counters must know when to deviate from basic strategy. These deviations, or indices, must be memorized and used according to the true count. We have provided a simple chart outlining these indices. This chart will tell you when to deviate from basic strategy. For example, when looking at the cross sections for TT vs. 6 we see +4. This means when the true count is greater than +4 the player will deviate from basic strategy by splitting instead of standing. If we go to 13 vs. 2 we see -1. This means when the true count is less than -1 the player will deviate from basic strategy by hitting instead of standing.
Examples of Basic Strategy Deviations for card counting with Hi-Lo count
Blackjack Strategy Cards:
Homework 6/7: Memorize Basic Strategy & Deviations from the Indices Chart
Single Deck Blackjack Card Counting Strategy
The sixth homework assignment is to memorize basic strategy. You can learn via the classic techniques or, depending on your learning style, you can learn by simulating a hand of blackjack with a deck of cards. This may be more helpful to some people rather than writing the answers down on a sheet of paper. You know how you learn so do what is most comfortable for you. Either way the blackjack strategy should be practiced until it can be recalled instantaneously. The seventh homework assignment is to memorize all of the deviations from the indices chart provided. Create home-made flash cards, writing out the same chart over and over again until it is memorized. These are all classic techniques that will help with learning these deviations. If possible, have a friend deal you a mock blackjack game as you use your newly acquired skills.
Step 5: Bet Spreads
Bet spreads and bankroll requirements are two more tools that are critical to a card counters’ success. Bet spreads is when the player raises or lowers their bet based on the count. A small spread would be 2 to 4 units while a large spread would be 8 to 16 units. Card counters raise their wager when the true count is positive and lower their bet when the true count is negative. Bet spreads are mainly used on multi-deck games and are not typically used on single-deck games. A large bankroll is also needed in order to weather any losing streaks. If the player spreads between $100 and $300 then a bankroll of $20,000 will be needed. If they spread between $5 and $10 then a $2,000 bankroll will be needed. As you can see, with the amount of time, effort and cash investment needed this can quickly become a serious hobby. Card counting can increase the excitement of blackjack as players have fun testing their skills against the house.
Here is a quick overview of popular blackjack card counting methods. There are options for both the beginner and the advanced player.
Hi/LoCount – This is our recommended card counting system outlined above which gives you many of the advantages of other counting methods without the steep learning curve.
Hi Opt 1 System – This was developed by Charles Einstein in 1968. This is similar to the Hi / Lo System except that 2s and aces are assigned a 0. This makes the system more accurate, but at the cost of being more difficult because you need to keep an ace side count.
Hi Opt 2 System – This adaption of the Hi Opt 1 System was created by Lance Humble in the 70s. It’s more accurate than it’s predecessor, but it’s even more difficult because you need to keep a side count for 8s and 9s, too. That’s on top of needing to keep a true count (for multiple decks).
KO System – This system was developed by Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancura in 1998. The KO is considered an unbalanced system, because +1s are assigned to 7s, making the overall count end at +4 when you go through an entire deck (instead of 0).
Uston Advanced Count – This system was developed by Ken Uston. It’s considered one of the most accurate card counting systems, but also one of the most difficult to learn and use. The UAC assigns a -1, 0, +1, +2, or +3 to each card. You also need to keep a side count for aces.
Zen Count – The Zen Count was created by Arnold Snyder. This balanced system assigns -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 to each card. You will also need to figure the true count (before betting). You can learn more about the Zen Count on the Blackjack Forum, or in the book, Blackbelt in Blackjack.
Omega II Count – This was first published in Blackjack for Blood, written by Bryce Carlson. Players will want to figure out the true count, but keeping a side count isn’t necessary (but it is more accurate). This system assigns the values -1, 0, +1 and +2 to each card.
10-Count – The 10-Count was created by Edward Thorp. No one uses it anymore, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. Thorp tested it in Vegas and won more than $11,000 in a weekend. It paved the way for the systems used today, too.
Wong Halves Count – This was created by Stanford Wong, and was first introduced in his book, Professional Blackjack. It is a difficult, yet accurate system to learn and use. This system assigns -1, 0, +0.5, +1 and +1.5 to each card. You also need to figure the true count.
Single Deck Blackjack Strategy Card
Red 7 Count – This system was developed by Arnold Snyder. Players will need to keep an Initial Running Count (IRC), which starts with -2 for every deck in the game. For example, one deck would be -2, 4 decks would be -8, etc. Then you start counting from there. You can learn more about this system in Blackbelt in Blackjack.