Beating Blackjack is Easy By Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D. June 13, 2017 at 12:28 am There are more ways to beat blackjack than any other casino game. It’s amazing the game can survive at all given its multitude of game protection conundrums. In this article I will share a few of these ways. Before I do, there are some methods that definitely do not work. These include progression systems, timing/discipline, looking for hot tables/dealers, lucky charms and many others. When a guy at your table brags about his degree in “science,” don’t be shocked if he also complains when a player hits his 12 against a dealer 3. Here are a few of the many methods that can be used to beat blackjack: Card Counting. Everyone knows about blackjack card counting. It is simply a method of keeping track of the relative proportion of good cards (T, J, Q, K, A) and bad cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) left in the shoe. When there are a few more good cards than bad cards, the player has an edge over the house. The player beats blackjack by betting more when he has an edge than he bets when the house has an edge. Blackjack card counting is an over-hyped and extremely weak approach to beating blackjack. Ace location techniques. Knowing you will be dealt an Ace as one of your first two cards gives you more than a 50% edge over the house. One way to locate Aces is to memorize two key cards right before an Ace as the cards go into the discard tray. If the shuffle does not contain a strip then the player may able to predict when the Ace will come out. This method is often employed in a team approach which allows the team to steer the Aces and to track more than one Ace. Hole Carding This means playing at a game where you can see the dealer’s hole card as it is dealt. The view may come while the dealer slides the card under his face-up card. But it is just as likely that the dealer exposes the card as he removes it from the top of the deck. Hole carding is also possible in shoe games when a sloppy dealer slides the hole card over the edge of the chip rack or some other obstruction, or when he simply lifts the corner because he isn’t paying attention. Hole card play can get players an 8% edge (or more) over the house. Next Carding. Even more powerful than hole carding is next carding, where the player knows the next card to be dealt during the course of the hand. Depending on the card, the player may choose to hit/stand/double more effectively. If the card is likely to bust the dealer’s hand, the player may choose to stand. The next carder may know the first card to be dealt so that he can size his wager to the edge he will get on the hand. One situation where next carding may be possible is in a hand-dealt game with a nervous or fidgety dealer who is exposing a corner of a card prior to it being dealt. Edge Sorting. Edge sorting takes advantage of asymmetries on the backs of cards that arise because of inconsistencies in the printing process. This method became very well known after Phil Ivey’s baccarat edge sorting lawsuits gained international attention. But long before edge sorting at baccarat became international news, players were using edge sorting to beat blackjack. Edge sorting allows the player to know information about his first card, the next card and the dealer’s hole card. In the best case scenario, the player can get an edge of 10% or more over the casino. Skilled Cutting / Card Steering. Sometimes the dealer will expose the bottom card of the shoe when the cut is offered. The cutter skillfully cuts this card to a known location in the shoe. For example, a skilled cutter can place the known card exactly 52 cards (1 deck) from the top. Using a team of players the card is steered to either a big player if it is a good card, or to the dealer if it is a bad card. This is done by selectively hitting / doubling / splitting, as well as having players enter or exit the shoe and spreading to multiple hands if necessary. Card Counting Side bets. Every side bet can be beaten by card counting. Usually the profit potential is not very good, but some side bets can be quite lucrative. In the U.S. the main obstacle for the side bet card counter is the limit on the maximum bet (typically $25), but internationally this is not the case. Shuffle Tracking. This method involves following slugs of high cards (T, J, Q, K, A) through the shuffle process. It’s a tough way to get an edge, but if things go right the player may gain as much as a 3% edge over the house. Shuffle tracking has gone into disfavor over the last decade with the advent of automatic shufflers and the increased awareness of many more powerful methods. Loss Rebates. If the player wins then he gets to keep his full winnings, but if the player loses then he is given some percentage of his losses back. Depending on the casino and the level of play of the high-roller, these rebates may range from about 5% up to 20%. The most famous player to take advantage of loss rebates in blackjack was Don Johnson, who beat Atlantic City casinos out of 15M in 2011/2012. But in spite of the publicity that Johnson brought to this method, it continues to be available to high-rollers worldwide. Comps. Most casinos return a percentage of a player’s theoretical win (t-win) as soft comps, including room, food and beverages. Many casinos also award cash comps, which include match play, free play, promotional chips, show up money, airfare and others. The key to beating comp systems is understanding how the casino calculates t-win and taking advantage of the human element in this formula. By playing perfect basic strategy, selectively sitting out hands, making large bets and slowing down the game pace, the player can achieve an effective t-win that is much less than the t-win the casino records. If the baseline house edge for blackjack is low enough (which it often is for high-rollers), the combination of soft and hard comps can give the player the edge. Beyond what is listed above, there are any number of other opportunities to get an edge. These include exploiting promotional rules, like 2-to-1 blackjack specials and happy-hours. Also, some casinos allow players to “split for less,” which can allow players to negate the house edge. Some newer novelty blackjack versions give special opportunities. Cards can have incidental marks that allow them to be identified. Certain dealers may be error prone. Shuffle machines may have defective shuffling algorithms that can be reverse engineered. The are some casinos internationally that offer “early surrender” and other rules that give players an off-the-top edge. And so on. Walk into your casino with imagination and attention to the possibilities and you will be amazed at what you see. If it weren’t for the blackjack “scientists” who believe in flow, progressions, timing and all the other nonsense, blackjack would be a loser for the casino, pure and simple.