Land-based and online blackjack players are always looking for ways to beat the odds in this highly strategic and mathematical casino game. And, card counting is one of the most successful blackjack strategies for improving a blackjack player's odds of winning. Which truly begs the question... Can you win at blackjack without counting cards?
However, apart from card counting, there are other strategies and methods that players can resort to and gain a winning edge in the game of blackjack.
Why Card Counting Gives Players An Edge
The technique of counting cards in blackjack enables players to keep a Running Count and a True Count of the cards being dealt. Expert card counters are able to get a clear idea of which cards are being dealt and which are remaining in the deck.
Based on this count, the player will expect a certain hand and base his playing decisions strategically on this hand. As blackjack is a mathematical game, this strategic calculation, if done in the right way, can indeed give an edge over the house and allow you to grow your $100 to $1,000.
Card counting is an overarching family of counting strategies for the blackjack game. There are many ways to count cards but they are following the same principles.
Card counting is a skill that takes a long time to master. Also, it cannot always be applied in multi-deck blackjack games or online blackjack. However, it is still a good method to improve the odds of winning at blackjack, especially in the long run. This is because card counting gives players the power to alter their bets according to the cards left in the deck. With card counting, the real pros can even overturn the house edge in some games.
Casinos have put in place multiple mechanisms to stop card counters, both online and offline. The most widespread measure is the omnipresence of automatic card shufflers that basically make each hand brand new. These render blackjack card counting apps useless in effect.
How To Win At Blackjack Without Counting Cards
From following the basic blackjack strategy to adhering to more complex techniques, there is a narrow range of other interesting methods that can give blackjack players a clear edge in the game without involving any card counting scheme.
Using Basic Blackjack Strategy
Playing with the basic blackjack strategy in mind is probably the safest way of maximizing the winnings in blackjack. Following a strategy is how some of the best blackjack players are able to sustain their careers. The basic strategy tells the players what playing decisions to take based on their hand and the card the dealer is showing. Implementing the strategy perfectly can help players by reducing the casino's advantage to less than 0.5%. Following are the basic blackjack strategies summed up for you:
- Players should always double down on a hard 11. The exception is when in a multi-deck game, the dealer must stand on soft 17 and as a result, the player has a slightly better chance of hitting against the dealer's ace.
- Players must always split a pair of 8's and aces irrespective of what the dealer's upcard is.
- Players should not split a pair of 5's or because it is better to draw one more card closer to a 10.
- Players should hit a hard 12 against the dealer's upcard of 2 or 3.
- Players should hit Ace-7 or Soft 18 when the dealer's upcard is 9, 10, or Ace.
- Players must double down on 10 when the dealer's upcard is 9 or less.
- Players must stand with a pair of 9's when the dealer's upcard is a 7.
- Players should always surrender hard 16 against a dealer's upcard of 9, 10, or ace and hard 15 against the dealer's upcard of 10.
- Players should avoid taking the insurance bet unless it is a single-deck game and the player is really good at counting cards.
Make use of strategy cards if your local casino allows them!
Hole Carding is basically the ability of the players to try and identify the dealer's face down card or what is referred to as the hole card. This method or strategy, if executed in the right way, certainly gives an edge to the player over the house. Now, the question is how hole carding is done?
Well, in some casinos, there are dealers who are known as flashers because they actually show the hole card before laying it down. However, interestingly, they will not do it on purpose but largely, by mistake. This mistake will give a subsequent advantage to the player who has a keen sense of observation and is quick enough to get a glimpse of the hole card.
There is no doubt that this mistake committed by the dealer will be too subtle to be identified by the beginner-level players. Professional blackjack players can, however, be quite alert. Also, blackjack experts will be observant enough to find out just as the dealer peeks at his hole card. This kind of attempt at "peeking" or "spotting" is called "first basing" or "third basing". Now, the application of this strategy is largely based on the position in which the player sits at the table. Left of the dealer is the first base and the right of the dealer is the third base, considering whether the dealer is left-handed or right-handed. With a left-handed dealer, the third base sitter has the advantage and vice versa.
One thing that the player must avoid while applying this hole carding strategy is leaning back as that makes it more obvious that he is trying to apply some methods for getting an edge in the game.
Edge Sorting is yet another method to consider if you are considering how to beat blackjack without counting cards. Well, Edge Sorting, as a strategy, was popularized by the poker legend Phil Ivey and it has actually helped some professional gamblers earn millions of dollars at casinos.
The method basically involves looking for flaws in the deck though all decks will not have a flaw. Plus, players need to be really observant to catch a flaw. When the cards are rotated by 180 degrees, Edge Sorting becomes easier. The flaws can come in many forms, such as irregular patterns like half-diamonds on the back or edges. Having the ability to closely observe and identify such flaws is the key to implementing this strategy successfully.
Don Johnson Method
That there can be other ways and methods of winning consistently in blackjack without counting cards was certainly proved by Don Johnson. Don Johnson was a high roller who beat the casinos in Atlantic City for over $15 million dollars in 2010 and 2011 and he did it without counting cards. In fact, card counting was not allowed in the Atlantic City casinos as they shuffled the cards after each hand. What he did was applying a few strategies and executing them brilliantly well.
To begin with, he negotiated a loss rebate, which meant that if he lost money during a trip, a percentage of the loss would be returned. He got this incentive as a perk of being a high roller. But while high-rollers had a minimum requirement of playing at least 12 hours to qualify for the rebate, Johnson was exempted. Consequently, the table maximum wager was $10,000, there was no minimum play requirement and Johnson could claim a 20% rebate on his losses every time he lost $500,000 or more.
Jonson's key to optimize his winnings was by determining his win/loss quit points. When the 'Loss rebate Theorem' was used to analyze Johnson's 20% loss rebate program, it could be derived that Don Johnson would quit after winning $2,411,000 and losing $2,597,000. The probability of hitting the win-quit point in a particular session was about 49.07%. This made him play at an effective 0.26% edge over the house. The number of expected rounds to reach a quit point was 481 and finally, the expected win per day for Johnson was an impressive $125,000, on average.
So, we can conclude by saying that though card counting is an established technique of improving the odds of winning at blackjack, there are definitely other methods, mastering which, a blackjack player can beat the odds in the game at a casino.
This article was published on June 16, 2021, and last updated on October 25, 2022.