Beating The Casino At Blackjack

Can You Beat the Casino at Blackjack? There is only one way to beat the house at any land-based or online casino game: quit while you’re ahead. As soon you are up, whatever the amount, just take your chips and head to the cashier straight away. Win at the casinos Your premier resource for beating the odds Blackjack Craps Roulette Baccarat Slots KENO Join the Club Free VIP Membership today Join the rest of us and become a VIP member of the Black Chip Club to get access to; Professional tips and tricks for increasing your chances of leaving a winner Home Read More ».

  1. Beat The Casino At Blackjack
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Most every successful person has an ah-ha moment, an epiphany that alters the trajectory of what he does and changes his life for the better. Colin Jones, now 39, experienced his lightning-burst of inspiration about 15 years ago at a blackjack table in a casino in Las Vegas.

He was already an adept card counter and played on a team with other sharp advantage players. Like most people in the game, they highly valued their ability to ply their trade without getting booted by casinos that hate the idea of people playing any game at an advantage. In order to maintain that, they played cautiously in Vegas with what is known as cover: small gambits designed to keep casino personnel from realizing that the guy with a big pile of chips won them by means other than luck.

But cover costs money. It means doing things that are less than optimal—like maybe hitting a 16 at the wrong time or not doubling 10 against a dealer’s 10 when the count warrants it. Nevertheless, even while giving a little bit back, Jones was having a hell of a run. In fact, he was ahead by $25,000 over the course of his session. Aware that he would have won even more if he had taken full advantage of the game, Jones wasn’t complaining.

Not until he received something to complain about: Attention from a casino employee who wanted to have a word. “He backed me off,” Jones remembers, using card-counter parlance for being told that he can play any game in the casino but he cannot play blackjack. “I had used the full, ultimate gamut of everything I was supposed to do to make me last forever. I even ordered a Scotch”—card counters tend not to drink when they play. “But I got backed off anyway. That was when I came to a realization. Why not make the most of it?”

This point is a cornerstone of his approach to the game, a central tenet of his new book, The 21st-Century Card Counter, and the way that blackjack pros extract money from the game these days. “I’ve had people on my show who’ve made a million dollars playing blackjack,” says Richard Munchkin, co-host of the radio show “Gambling with an Edge” and a successful advantage player in his own right. “They spread enormously, hide nothing and play until they get thrown out. They may last 30 minutes or they may last three weeks, but they play outside of Vegas—where casinos are very quick to catch counters—and keep moving. I heard about one guy at a casino far from Vegas who lasted weeks and won a million dollars before getting tossed.”

The style, which Jones and others adapted more than created, is as 2020 as a new Tesla. As Munchkin emphasizes, it’s a balls-to-the-wall approach that must be employed in the current casino environment. “Blackjack has become a more aggressive game,” Jones says. “There’s no longer a Vegas high-limit room act for people looking to get over on casinos. It’s all about attacking tables and trying to take down games without a lot of subtlety. Playing with cover generally doesn’t work anymore. There aren’t as many good games [games with rules that enhance advantages for players] and you have to go full-on to get the money.”

Jones knows from where he speaks. He has personally taken some $600,000 out of casinos, which, from the perspective of gaming executives, is bad enough. But, for them, the news gets even worse. Increasing his threat exponentially, Jones has trained more than 2,000 players to do the same thing. He manages this through his Blackjack Apprenticeship education program, which teaches card-counting via live classes and online tutorials. Running since 2008, it fosters a community where people share advice and gain much-needed emotional support while playing a game with only a two-percent advantage that can result in long losing streaks. “If someone announces that he’s coming to my town, I’ll tell him which casino to play last,” says Jones. “That’s the one that will flyer you if they see you counting cards.” In a world where instructors claim that they can teach you to overcome insurmountable odds and help you to make money at sports betting by selling you picks, Jones ranks among a handful of honest operators. He really does train students to beat blackjack in its current state.

One old-school rule he encourages breaking is that you should not jump your bets. A previous generation of card counters used to emphasize that if the count suddenly goes through the roof and the game becomes significantly more advantageous, you should not necessarily move up your bets with it. Rather, you should slowly chip-up by allowing your winning bets to ride. The fear is that casino bosses will recognize the sudden rise in action, find it suspicious and realize that you are counting. “Not jumping your bet up or dramatically bringing your bet down, when appropriate, those are both really expensive,” he says. “I ran the numbers on those situations.”

While Jones, a father of six, plays less than he used to, he does keep himself on the circuit. “Last year, a buddy and I went to check out a town where we heard the casinos were pretty good and pretty tolerant,” he says. “The games were not the best, but we made up for it by going from table minimum of $15 to two-by-300 [slang for playing two spots of $300 each]. We stayed for a few days and played six casinos. It was a good trip.”

A couple of Blackjack Apprenticeship guys took it further: “They camped out there for six months.”

Part of what makes this aggressive approach so viable is the fact that some 30 states across America have legal casinos. Many of them are not aligned with one another and they don’t necessarily share information about the people who have been backed off. “They kick you out. You know it’s going to happen and when it does, you move on. You go somewhere else to play,” Jones says. “Blackjack is not going away any time soon and neither are the people who count cards.”

It’s a Friday afternoon in November at Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Freshly arrived guests roll bags of golf clubs across the casino floor, heading up to their rooms. A poker tournament is in progress and a flurry of players chant for a six to hit at the craps table. Positioned between two blackjack games, appearing completely harmless, Jones eyeballs the action.

Standing tall and looking innocent, the Born Again Christian family-man takes in the proceedings as if he is simply curious to see how the game gets played. At this moment, he surely ranks among the most threatening people in the casino, but, just from glancing at him, you’d never know it.

Of course, Jones is not at Aria simply to observe mid-afternoon blackjack. He’s actually watching the cards and keeping track of the counts without risking any of his own money in negative
situations. It’s a move known as “back counting” and allows him to recognize when one of the games will turn advantageous for players and negative for the house, which is what happens when the shoe of cards becomes rich in 10s and aces.

As one of the games gets good, Jones would normally jump in and play. Instead, he puts cell phone to ear conspicuously. Two buddies of his see that as their signal to hit the table. “Eight o’ clock,” he whispers as they walk past him.

They recognize that the so-called running count of the game is a plus eight. A handy round of division, taking into account the decks of cards that have yet to be dealt, lets them recognize that they are playing with a decent edge.

Making relatively modest bets from $50 to $100, they play until the count deteriorates. Strolling away with a few hundred dollars in profits, the two gamblers, who’ve done their share of time card counting and weathering bad counts, are pretty pleased with how it all went.

“This is definitely the way to play,” one says to the other. “It’s nice to not be at a disadvantage.”

They are both smart enough to know that call-ins are nothing new. Less obvious is that Jones, who basically did it as a favor, does not even approve of playing in this way—that is, with one person counting the cards and another playing them.

Made famous by the notorious MIT blackjack team, it’s a style in which spotters count cards, bet small and signal in the so-called big player (or BP). The BP then slams down large wagers and does not appear to have been card counting. It’s a great way to play, except that casinos are completely wise to it. “I’m not a huge fan of team play,” Jones says. “Having two or three spotters and a BP is inefficient. You wind up with only 60 percent of your expected value and you really don’t want to be caught collaborating like that. They will kick you all out, put you all together and notify other casinos in the area.”

Jones knows. For six years, he was a founding member of the Church Team, a group of card counters who were despised by casino bosses from one end of the United States to the other. As the name implies, the core of the team’s players were serious Christians and Jones even got turned onto blackjack while working as a counselorat Bible camp. It’s where he met Ben Crawford, a fellow Christian who was drawn to the math of blackjack more than he was to the gambling. That’s a good thing when your goal is money and not rushes of adrenaline.

They practiced, fine-tuned their technique and hoped that it would supplement their incomes. “I figured that if I could make $300 or $400 a week, it would be great,” Jones says. “Pretty quickly, though, we realized that the potential was a lot more.”

In short order, he was managing as many as 20 players, dealing with outside investors and divvying up banks of $200,000 after expenses. Through the course of playing, Jones dispelled one of the card-counter myths that has been longstanding. “There is a white whale that if you limit your bet spread”—say, start out betting $25 and never bet more than $250, no matter how advantageous the count becomes—“you will play forever,” he says. “But that’s stupid. It’s only a matter of time before you get caught, even with the small bet spread. I would rather make the money quicker and come back from losses quicker. The goal is not to work twice as hard.”

The Church Team broke up in 2012 and Jones had already turned to teaching, encouraging a form of play that finds ways to make money even as 21st-century casinos strive to make it tough on APs. The house does it by imposing seemingly innocuous rule changes that seriously impact the game. These impingements include dealers hitting soft 17 instead of standing and no longer allowing the re-splitting of aces. Despite those chinks and others, Jones emphasizes that card counting is alive and well for those with the right approach. “The idea,” he says, “is to find your edges where you can and to take advantage of them. They may not always be obvious.”

A day later, in the living room and den of a large house, 20 or so minutes from the Vegas Strip, a half dozen blackjack tables are loaded with players. Dealers shuffle cards and chips get wagered. Though this may resemble an illegal gambling club, it is in fact a blackjack intensive being put on by Jones for a couple dozen of his faithful students. They’ve paid $2,999 to attend this bootcamp where they can either finish learning the basics of card counting or else hone their advanced games. The dealers, of course, are instructors who make at least some of their incomes from playing blackjack in the aggressive manner that Jones prescribes.

There are seminars on bet-spreads (make it gigantic), camouflage and cover (use as little of it as possible) and ways to maximize expected value in the game. Regarding that one, Jones emphasizes that for 21st-century hustlers, not just any casino will do. While past generations of blackjack pros found their edges by deploying exotic counts, Jones does it by recognizing what constitutes an advantageous game today. “We just use the old-fashioned High-Low system,” he says with a shrug. “I’d rather focus on fast dealers than using brain-numbing systems.”

Aided by a PowerPoint demonstration, he compares two players: the one who patronizes a casino where employees are cordial, the driving distance is short and his friends all go, versus the one who looks for fast dealers, better rules and clueless pitbosses who overlook the large bet-spreads that he emphasizes. The latter is so important that it is worth playing games with lower limits as long as the minimum bets are rock bottom.

Playing professor before a class of pupils sprawled around the living room, Jones asks, “Which has more EV [expected value]? Would it be a game where you can spread from $1 to $200 or $100 to $300?”

With dollar-signs in their eyes, students in the room tend to figure that it’s $100 to $300. Jones shakes his head. “Actually, $1 to $200 is better,” he says. “Don’t forget. Our goal here is not to play blackjack. It’s to generate EV.”

That night, Jones throws a party at the pool house of the home he’s renting for the seminar. Munchkin is there and so are fellow casino assassins Tommy Highland, Eddie Teams and a woman known as Miss Brown. It’s the kind of event where casino security guys would love to snag a few snapshots. And that leads to a question about casino surveillance crews getting sharper and their high-tech tools getting better.

Doesn’t that make card counting more difficult? “The cat and mouse game continues,” says Jones. “So we’ve had to up our game. They have better surveillance and better facial recognition. But it’s not to the point where you still can’t make six-figures by counting cards.”

Beat The Casino At Blackjack

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If there’s one thing everybody knows about gambling it’s that the house always wins. And while it is true that casinos always make a profit, there are a number of ways to cheat the system – some of which are actually perfectly legal.

Half a century ago, mathematician Edward Thorp published a groundbreaking book outlining how a player could use “card counting” to get an advantage in the game Blackjack by keeping track of the cards left in a deck. Ever since, casinos have been trying to eradicate card counting while card counters are getting increasingly skilled at not getting caught. So is it possible to outplay casinos today? And what will it be like in the future?

Casinos are businesses and operate by building in a margin – often referred to as the house edge. If you play roulette and bet on a single number you will be paid at odds of 35-1 when the true odds are 36-1 in Europe and 37-1 in the US. The fact that you are receiving less than the true odds is the house edge and explains why casinos make money in the long term. Of course, some people have to win, otherwise casinos would cease to exist.


Playing Blackjack At The Casino

Advantage players

What casinos don’t like are “advantage players” – people seeking to have an edge over the house. Sometimes this involves cheating and/or illegal activities ranging from past posting (making a bet after the time when no more bets are to be taken) to collaborating at the poker table and using a computer to help make decisions.

Card counting, however, is legal. In Blackjack, the aim of the player is to achieve a hand of cards whose points add up nearer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, but without exceeding 21. Many hands are played from the same deck of cards, so what happens in one hand will influence what happens in future hands. As an example, if a ten has been played from the pack then it cannot appear in the next hand. This is different from other games, such as roulette, where the outcome of one spin has no effect on the next spin.

Can You Beat The Casino At Blackjack

Card counting is based on the fact that a large proportion of high cards (such as tens, jacks, queens and kings, which are all worth ten points) left in the unplayed deck statistically improves the player’s chances. This is because a player can decide not to draw a new card to a hand such as 16, but the casino is forced to, as it follows strict rules. If there are a high proportion of high cards left in the unplayed deck of cards, the dealer has more chance of busting (going over 21). This can be combined with “basic strategy” – developed from computer simulations of millions of blackjack hands – which tells the player the best action to take for each possible card combination.

Combining card counting and basic strategy can help a player convert the (long term) house edge from 2.7%, in favour of the casino, to about a 1% advantage to the player. Of course, once you have this advantage you can increase your bet.

To give a simple example, if you were playing basic strategy and were dealt a ten and a six, and the dealer had a three showing (one of the dealers cards is visible to the player), you would stand (not take another card) as you hope that the dealer would draw a ten and bust. If you were card counting, and you knew that more low cards had been played, you might decide to increase your stake at this point.

Evolving battle

Casinos have introduced a number of measures to deter card counting. These include spotting those doing it and simply banning them from playing, or even from entering the casino. Another approach is to increase the number of decks from one to (typically) six, or even eight. Some casinos also shuffle the cards after only about 75% have been played or shuffle them constantly using automatic shufflers.

Casino Free Blackjack

You might wonder why casinos don’t simply withdraw blackjack. Well, it remains a popular game, and one that is still profitable. There are also many would-be card counters who are not actually that good at it, and they provide income to the casinos.

Many blackjack players have fought back against such measures, arguing that casinos should allow gamblers to use skill when playing the game. As a card counter operating on their own is relatively easy to spot (intense concentration, increasing bets and so on), a team of students from MIT showed it could successfully be done in teams. The idea is that somebody else counts the cards – they may not even be sitting at the table. When the count reaches an agreed value, they signal to another player, who joins the table to start betting. This is a lot more difficult to detect but casinos may stop players joining the game until after a shuffle to combat such a strategy.

Other players have used shuffle tracking, where blocks of cards are tracked so that you have some idea when they will appear. If you are given the option to cut the pack, you try and cut the pack near where you think the block of cards you are tracking is so that you can bet accordingly. A variant on this is to track aces as, if you know when one is likely to appear, you have a distinct advantage over the casino.

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It’s been 50 years since Thorp’s book, and it is unlikely that the war of wills between blackjack players and casinos will end any time soon. Some of our work has investigated how artificial neural networks (simple models of the human brain) could help evolve blackjack strategies. Oklahoma thunder vs golden state warriors live stats. This was done by playing thousands of blackjack hands and the computer learning what to do in any given situation, getting better each time. There is a lot of scope to see if automated computer programs could learn even more sophisticated strategies.