Advanced Blackjack Card Counting Adjustments
Many people know that basic card counting systems in blackjack can help you to know when to bet more. However, it can also tell you when to make other strategic adjustments in borderline cases. In the following, we break down how you can learn this advanced aspect of blackjack card counting.
Getting Into Advanced Card Counting Strategy
Card counting is a topic that’s romanticized a great deal. Movies, books, television shows and other forms of media have turned it into something interesting and cool to casual fans. However, there is a very real, concrete, discrete and mathematical aspect to it as well.
When you dig deeper into what card counting means, you start to understand the extent of the adjustments that can be made using this tool.
If you really want to get the most out of your card counting practice, then you need to learn adjustments. Strategic adjustments are not as complicated as learning to count cards itself. However, there is a bit of memorization involved that new players may not want to take on. With that said, it’s a powerful weapon that becomes viable even in live dealer online blackjack games. Only you can decide if it’s right for you, but it’s a deeper level of blackjack strategy than the usual.
Starting Off With the Hi-Lo Counting System
We’re not going to cover a lot of basics here. However, if you want to know about Counting Card in Live Dealer Blackjack Games Online, we have you covered. That link also covers strategies for how to study and get better at counting as quickly as possible.
Outside of that, we’ll be using the very common Hi-Lo system here. It’s super popular because it’s extremely effective considering how uncomplicated it is. The basic idea is as follows:
- Start with a running count of zero on a new shoe of cards.
- For each 2-6, add 1. For each 7-9, add 0. For each T-A, subtract 1.
- Divide the running count by the approximate number of decks remaining to get the true count.
The true count is the number that we’re going to be concerned with here. The above process will take some practice to learn how to do. However, it doesn’t take long before it starts being automatic. Once you get to that level, then you can start manipulating your betting and strategic adjustments.
If you aren’t able to count cards reliably using this system, feel free to keep reading. However, you’ll need to learn how to do that before you can reliably put these tools into play consistently.
Advanced Betting Adjustments
We’re going to focus on strategy for live dealer online blackjack games. However, similar approaches will work in brick and mortar style games as well. It’s also worth noting that card counting does not typically work well in traditional online games. This is because the deck is shuffled after each hand, so you can’t get deep into a shoe where the system shines.
Players who get started with counting cards learn that the house’s edge decreases as the true count increases. Likewise, there is a point where you will actually have the advantage against the house with a high enough true count. One of the keys to advanced card counting strategy is to bet more when you have the advantage against the house and less when you do not, which will help to increase your overall average performance in the game.
The point at which this happens can actually vary by a point or two depending on the specific game rules. However, as a general rule, you’ll virtually always have an edge with a true count of +3 or more. That means you should double or triple your bet.
If you end up with a true count of +5 or more, however, then you have to make a decision. You have a significant edge against the casino on the next hand in this scenario. Along these lines, it’s appropriate to make a significantly larger bet than you’d normally make. That is in the range of 3x to 10x of your normal size.
What’s critical to realize, however, is that you have to be confident in your ability to play once that happens. This includes doubling or splitting your hand, if needed, which increases your bet size further. What we’re getting at here is that you should only make these advanced betting adjustments to the extent that you’re willing to play the correct betting decision, no matter what that happens to be. If you don’t want to double or split with a given bet size, then you shouldn’t make it regardless of the count.
With betting adjustments out of the way, we’re going to hop into strategic play adjustments.
Deviating From the Basics: Advanced Blackjack Strategy
When the true count meets certain parameters, some of the core tenets of blackjack strategy can change a bit. Some of these adjustments can be difficult to make if you’re not completely confident in yourself. Along these lines, we suggest making these adjustments with smaller bet sizes than you’d normally make when getting started. This will help you to get used to going against the grain, so to speak.
We have a few different areas where we’re going to look at these types of adjustments. Breaking things up in this way will help you to focus on one thing at a time. This is really important because so much of this is simple memorization combined with confidence in applying what you’ve learned.
The Question of Insurance
Taking insurance is typically a sucker’s bet. As a part of general strategy, it’s usually advised to completely ignore it. However, if you’re keeping up with the true count, you can run into situations where it’s correct.
Here’s the rule to know: If the true count is +3 or higher, then take the insurance. If it’s +2 or lower, do not take it.
It’s pretty easy to understand why this would work. It has to do with the ratio of tens/aces in the deck to lower cards. Since the count keeps up with this directly, it’s fairly straightforward.
Playing Pairs of Tens
Another hard and fast rule that you typically has to do with playing paired totals that add up to 20. You’re always advised to never split those 10-point cards, and it makes sense most of the time. However, there are two situations where it can actually be advantageous to do so.
- When facing a 5, you can split 10s with a true count of +5 or higher.
- When facing a 6, you can split 10s with a true count of +4 or higher.
The reason for this is that the dealer has a much higher chance of busting than usual. When you combine that with you having a much higher chance than usual of hitting high totals with your starting cards of 10, the reasoning becomes fairly intuitive.
Hitting Hard Totals Against a Ten
Some of the most difficult and most borderline situations to play involve a mid-level hard total against a ten. Doing this with a total of 15 or 16 is particularly hard to play. This is because you have such a good chance of busting. However, you also are unlikely to win otherwise.
Your typical play with both of these hands against a 10 is to simply hit. However, standing can be correct more often than you might think, especially with 16.
- With a hard 16 against a 10, stand with a true count of +1 or higher.
- With a hard 15 against a 10, stand with a true count of +4 or higher.
These are very specific situations that will only come up a few times during your session. The thing to realize is that getting down to this level of detail in advanced blackjack counting strategy is all about making the most of even the smallest edges.
Doubling Hard Totals
If you have a hard total of 10 or 11, you typically double most of the time. However, basic strategy has you hitting with a hard 10 against a 10 or ace. It also has you hitting with a hard 11 against an ace.
As you may have guessed, adjustments can be made to double in these scenarios. Here are the required counts for it to be best to do so:
- Double 10 against a 10 or ace with a true count of +4 or higher.
- Double 11 against an ace with a true count of +1 or higher.
The edge needed to double against an ace with a total of 11 isn’t very high. That means it’ll come up a bit more often than the corresponding scenario for playing a 10.
Playing a Hard 12
Experienced blackjack players know that playing a hard 12 is often a delicate thing. In some variations, you should stand against a 2 or 3, for example. In others, you always hit.
As it turns out, you can actually vary your play based on the true count against any weak dealer cards. For reference, these are the cards 2-6. Here are your guidelines on how to do so:
- Facing a 2 – Stand with a count of +3 or higher
- Facing a 3 – Stand with a count of +2 or higher
- Facing a 4 – Stand with a count of 0 or higher
- Facing a 5 – Stand with a count of -2 or higher
- Facing a 6 – Stand with a count of -1 or higher
You will run into one of these five scenarios a few times even during a short session. They’re pretty common, so they’re worth learning if you’re interested in advanced card counting strategy. With that said, they’re definitely a little easy to mix up. That’s why we recommend taking a lot of practice.
Finally, we’re going to look at four surrendering scenarios. These are the least important of these strategic changes for online live dealer blackjack fans. This is because surrender options aren’t super popular in live dealer games.
With that said, these four spots are so commonly referenced that they have a name: the Fabulous 4. Here are the four situations:
- With 14 Against a 10 – Surrender with +3 or higher
- With 15 Against a 9 – Surrender with +2 or higher
- With 15 Against an Ace – Surrender with +1 or higher
- With 15 Against a 10 – Surrender with 0 or higher
Once again, we want to reiterate that these four spots are not the priority to learn on this list. However, if you want to be a complete player, we suggest learning them at some point.
The strategic adjustments that we have recommended here are all based on sound mathematics. To put it another way, they are proven beyond dispute, and they aren’t just guesswork. With that said, it’s a lot of nuance to jump into if it’s not something you’re particularly fond of.
For online players, we recommend focusing on live dealer games with multiple decks. We suggest targeting titles that do offer a dealer hole card and that do check for blackjack. This helps to avoid strategic complications that would render most of the majority irrelevant.