My last lesson hopefully got you thinking about single-deck games and perhaps this one will convince you that’s it’s the best game for ‘bringing home the bacon.’Some games are better than others, at least from a house rules point of view, but the real qualifier is how many cards you’ll see. If the dealer plays one round and shuffle, you have limited opportunities to use your counting skills. But, if you can find a game with 60% penetration and get away with a 5 to 1 betting spread, it’s fairly easy to obtain a long term winning rate of 1.5% of all the money you bet, just by playing basic strategy and varying your bets according to the count. If you also modify the play of your hand according to the true count, a win rate which approaches 2% is possible. That’s serious money Blackjack fans, so the effort is worth it.
Which Counting System?
I use two different systems for counting cards; the Hi/Lo for multi-deck play and the ‘Hi-Opt 1’ system for single deck play. The latter counts 3-6 as +1; 7,8,9 and ace as 0 with 10s as -1. Since there are only four aces to track in a single deck game, I find omitting the ace in the count improves the play of the hand, yet I can still ‘adjust’ the count for betting purposes. Let’s talk about a side count of aces for a moment. We expect to see one ace per quarter-deck played in a normal distribution, but of course that doesn’t always happen. For example, if a quarter deck has been played and no aces have come out, the remaining deck is ‘rich’ one ace. I can — for betting purposes — temporarily add +1 to the count, yet for playing purposes the true count without adjustment is correct. Got that concept? If a quarter-deck has been played and 2 aces have come out, the remaining deck is ‘poor’ by one ace, so I would lower the count by 1 (that is, algebraically ‘add’ a minus 1 to the count ) just for betting purposes, since my opportunity to receive a natural has decreased. This is a very powerful addition to your game, but my advice is to just use it only in single-deck play because an ace adjustment is very taxing, mentally.
If you want to learn the Hi-Opt count, use the same techniques I showed you for learning the Hi/Lo count. All of my advanced techniques will, however, be based upon the Hi/Lo system, since that seems to be the method most of you are using.
The most difficult aspect of single-deck play is computing the true count. First you must ‘calibrate’ your eyeballs for measuring the number of cards which have been played. Today most casinos have the dealer place the discards in a rack to the side; unlike the ‘old’ days when they put the discards underneath, so deck estimation is easier. The really tough part is the division which is required. In a multideck game, we’re almost always dividing one whole number (the running count) by another number which is at least 1. Admittedly, some people have a problem of dividing 17 by 2.5 quickly, but it doesn’t take long to get used to it. In single deck, you’re always dividing by a fraction or decimal and that’s not easy. For example, if you’re at a single-deck game and a quarter-deck has been played, with a running count of 3, the true count is 3 divided by .75 = 4. That’s actually an easy example. Try dividing a running count of 5 by .5. The answer is, of course 10, but how many of you wanted to say 2.5 or 1? Only practice will make this an automatic process.
I’ll be back in a few weeks with a betting schedule and some tricks for winning at the single-deck game.