Portrayed in multiple blockbusters including Rain Man and The Hangover, counting cards in blackjack is not as difficult as it seems in movies. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge in arithmetics and enough patience to practice can master this craft and apply it successfully at the blackjack tables.
More importantly this approach provenly reduces the house edge and tilts the advantage in favor of blackjack players. One question that commonly arises concerns the efficiency of card counting in baccarat, another popular shoe-dealt casino game. In today’s article, we are looking at the applicability of card counting in baccarat and address its effectiveness.
First Things First – What Is Card Counting?
Contrary to popular belief, card counting is neither illegal nor does it require one to be a mathematical genius or a savant. Rather than remembering each card removed from play as some people think, the practice involves keeping track of the ratio of high to low cards that remain to be dealt.
To achieve this, most card counting systems assign value tags to the high, low, and neutral cards in the shoe. The simplest and most commonly used system is the Hi-Lo which uses the following tags:
- Aces and ten-value cards (10, King, Queen, Jack) are tagged -1
- 2s through 6s are tagged +1
- 7s, 8s, and 9s are tagged 0
The player keeps a running count by adding up these values as cards are removed from play to determine the current ratio of high to low cards in the deck. For example, if A, J, 2, and 9 leave a freshly reshuffled deck, you are looking at a negative running count of (-1) + (-1) + 1 + 0 = -1. Most blackjack games are dealt out of a shoe containing multiple decks, however.
The player must, respectively, divide the running count by the number of remaining decks to calculate the true count, i.e. the ratio of high to low cards in the current deck. Counters make playing decisions and size their bets based on the current true count. The edge swings in favor of players whenever the true count gets higher than +1. Continue reading to see how this helps them gain a statistical advantage over the house.