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Beating Las Vegas

Kevin Blackwood, author of Legends of Blackjack and Casino Gambling for Dummies, teaches you how to beat the house at its own game.

Photo courtesy of the Pallazzo Hotel | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012


  • Check out a “basic strategy” chart, which gives you a set of rules to play each and every hand in blackjack (e.g., you should always split aces and eights). Memorize it!
  • Normally, your best odds are in games with fewer decks. If the rules are good—dealer stands on soft 17 (ace-6), double-down any two cards, blackjacks pay 3-2—the house edge is reduced to nearly nothing for anyone who has memorized basic strategy.Wanna count cards? Remember the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Stick to an easy system like Hi-Lo (below).
  • Wanna count cards? Remember the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Stick to an easy system like Hi-Lo (below).
  • Practice! If you can’t cor­rectly count down at your kitchen table, you’re going to fail inside a noisy casino. Try flipping over two cards at a time until you go through an entire deck, ideally in less than 30 seconds.
  • Budget your bankroll carefully. Even the best card counters have only a slight edge above the house, so a good rule of thumb is to have about 100 times your top bet available for gambling.

The Hi-Lo Method
This is the simplest card-counting system, assigning a point value to each type of card in the deck.

Low cards: Two through six receive a value of +1.
High cards: Ten, jack, queen, king, and ace receive a value of -1.
Neutral cards: Seven, eight, and nine have no value.

Running count: Once you know the point values, start keeping a running count for the whole deck, adding and subtracting values as you go along.

True count: Divide the running count by the remainder of cards yet to be dealt, which you’ll have to figure out by looking at the discard tray and estimating how many cards/decks are there. Once you know how many decks have been played, subtract this number from the number of decks you started with. For example, in a six-deck shoe, you’ve determined the running count is +16 and see that four decks have been played, so there are two left. Divide the running count of +16 by two and you get a true count of +8.

Betting: The way you get your advantage is by betting the minimum when the true count is +1 or less, and more when the true count is +2
or more.