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Jerry Patterson - Does Card Counting Still Work?

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  • Jerry PattersonQuestion 1: Does card counting work in today's multi-deck blackjack game?

    Question 2: Can blackjack be beaten in today's environment?

    Question 3: Which blackjack winning strategy should I adopt?

    Question 4: Should I learn how to count cards or is there a more effective way to win better suited for today's blackjack environment?


    For traditional blackjack players, in the multi-deck shoe games, only for long-term players and assuming that they have sufficient bankroll and time to play to the long term. Most blackjack players simply do not play to the long-term.

    In Stuart Perry's book, Las Vegas Blackjack Diary, reviewed in the 2001 edition of my best selling Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook, Perry describes a three-month period of intense card counting play in Las Vegas. The winnings his $20,000 bankroll generated, he complained at the end, did not reach expected value and his conclusion was that the had not played to the long term.

    And, if you take the time to analyze his the meticulous records, most of his winnings were derived from the single- and double-deck games which can still be beaten using card counting with proper casino comportment.

    In Barry Meadow's book, Blackjack Autumn, also reviewed in "Handbook," a similar conclusion was reached after Meadow's 60-day journey through Nevada. His outcome was different than Perry's; he generated $21,000 in winnings from a starting bankroll of just $8,000. But, in the end, Meadow said: "I was lucky. I could just as easily have lost. I could leave tomorrow, play 60 more days, and wind up behind." And, I might add, most of his winnings were generated from the still beatable single- and double-deck games.

    Did Perry and Meadow play to the long term? Their conclusions seem to say otherwise. I will leave you with a rhetorical question: If a two-month or three-month duration of intense, daily blackjack play, cannot generate a long-term sample, what can?

    Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook discusses the problem of card clumping as it relates to short term play. Simply put, clumping wipes out the card counters edge in many games by inverting the information generated by the count. Instead of an advantage, as the count may indicate, the counter is playing to a disadvantage as he or she bets up into a low-card clump and draws the unfavorable low cards,

    Not only that, the counter is committing the very sin for which so many card counting authors criticize the player who uses a non-count system: just like many gamblers, he is betting up on successive losses.

    There is another problem, however, which all but nullifies any potential theoretical advantage the short-term counter expects to realize: bankroll swings versus small advantage.

    Consider the short-term card counter in his or her attempt to grind out profits using a card counting system. First, the counter must contend with boredom because betting with the count is a waiting game.

    It has been shown in many card counting books that high bets make up fewer than 5 to 10% of the hands. So when those high bet opportunities present themselves, the adrenalin starts flowing as the big bet is pushed out. On a loss, another big bet as the count increases into a low card clump, and more adrenalin.

    If the counter is using a betting spread of 12 to 1, which many traditional blackjack books recommend for the multi-deck shoe game, it is quite easy to lose 40 units or more in a clumped shoe. This ratio between high bet and low bet is necessary to overcome the house edge and give the counter his 1% theoretical advantage.

    But these swings in the counter's bankroll are devastating and in some instances catastrophic to a player with the standard bankroll of 200 units. Many blackjack card counting authors recommend bankrolls of 200 units, and, in my opinion, even a 200-unit roll is not safe in a heavily clumped shoe game. It is interesting to note, however, that books published late in the 20th century, have upped this units per bankroll number considerably -Vancura in Knock Out Blackjack to 1000 and Ian Andersen is Burning The Tables in Las Vegas to as high as 2000.

    An internationally known gaming author, player, and instructor, Jerry is the author of five gaming books:

  • Casino Gambling
  • Blackjack - A Winner's Handbook
  • Sports Betting - A Winner's Handbook
  • Blackjack's Winning Formula
  • Casino Gambler's Winning Edge.

    The two most popular are Casino Gambling and Blackjack: A Winner?s Handbook. Either can be purchased at Amazon by clicking the links below, or at Jerry?s Web Site:

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