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Beating Blackjack With a Simple Plus/Minus Count

By: Devon Eleven, 07/28/2012

Can blackjack be beaten? It sure can. There are various methods available for overcoming the house edge and gaining a long-term advantage, and one of those is by employing a rather simple blackjack plus-minus count. 

The idea is this: when you are aware that there is an abundance of high cards (ten-value cards and Aces) left to be played, you can be holding an edge over the house, because of the fact that you will be able to take advantage of the options that are allowed; e.g., splitting, doubling and insurance. Also, while the dealer is constrained to playing within a strict set of rules, in which he must hit 16 and stand on 17, you don't, which means that you can use this to your advantage as well. 

Mathematical studies that have been done on the game, going all the way back to the pioneer of blackjack card counting, Dr. Edward O. Thorp, have demonstrated that when an abundance of these cards is left, the player has the edge. The question is how to exploit it. 

One way this is done is with the blackjack plus-minus count, in which numerical values are assigned to cards as they are played from the deck or shoe. These values will be either plus-one (+1), minus-one (-1) or zero (0). When the low cards are removed (2, 3, 4, 5, 6), you will count them as plus-one (+1). When the high cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10) are removed, they are counted as minus-one (-1). There are three cards in this count that are not counted at all. Those would be 7, 8 and 9. They are known as "neutral" cards. 

In the blackjack plus-minus count you are going to train yourself to count the cards not individually, but in combinations. So if a combination of a King and an eight (8) is dealt to you, that would constitute a minus-one (-1) combination. You will add and subtract combinations, then individual cards as they are given to each player. Count every card you see. 

The count that you have at any given time will govern a couple of things: what variations on your playing strategy you are going to make, and how much you are going to bet on any given hand. However, the running count alone isn't going to get the job done. For this, you are going to have to convert your blackjack plus-minus count to "count per deck." This is also known as the "true count." 

What you'll do is divide the running count you have compiled by the number of decks that remain to be played. This requires another blackjack card counting skill, which is the ability to estimate the number of decks that are in the discard rack. So for example, if your running count is +6, and there have been two decks played out of a six-deck shoe, that means there are four remaining. You'll divide +6 by four and your true count is +1.5. You may want to raise your bet one unit when you get to this point. In fact, you may want to lay out a betting strategy that raises the bet one unit for every half-point above +1 you come to in the true count. 

Estimating remaining decks is one part of the game that involves a little more art than science, but if you are going to play the blackjack plus-minus count, it's something you want to practice, over and over again!

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