If you enjoy casino games, you have most probably heard of card counting, which is often used by blackjack players. In fact, this type of strategy play is so popular that even people who are not gambling have heard of card counting. There are several ways to apply this type of strategy to blackjack sessions, with different players deciding to implement slightly different ways to count cards.
And while most people are aware of card counting, expert blackjack players also know that there are plenty of other techniques that go hand in hand with simply giving cards high or low values. Most of the types of advantage play we will discuss are more like elements of card counting rather than separate techniques. If you learn how to combine all of them, you can definitely gain a good advantage over the house.
If you are determined to improve your card counting skills, we recommend you also work on the techniques we will discuss below. Shuffle tracking, clump reading, hole carding, wonging, and edge sorting are a few of the techniques we believe can make your card counting endeavours more successful.
To help you implement the aforementioned techniques in your blackjack play, we will cover their specifics and how they can help you gain an advantage over the casino.
Why Advantage Play is So Popular Among Blackjack Players?
While all casino games share a similarity in the way luck plays a huge role in the outcome of the games, not all casino gaming options are the same. Some games like blackjack also require certain skills that can help change the outcome of every round that is played. As players are required to make decisions whenever playing blackjack, they often strive to do the optimal move on every card deal.
Even though the casino always wins in the long run, players are constantly looking for ways to gain an advantage over the house. Expert gamblers have developed the card counting system, which has turned out to be very successful. In fact, it gives such a big advantage over the house that you will most probably get kicked out of any land-based casino if you are caught counting cards.
However, motivated card counters cannot be stopped easily, with many players still resorting to this type of advantage play. Moreover, expert card counters are working on other skills to further improve their counting and enjoy a bigger advantage over the house.
Players who have mastered shuffle tracking have the potential to make their blackjack sessions very lucrative. However, this is a technique that requires intense concentration and calculation. That is why it must also be combined with other strategies and techniques to bring you the ultimate results while playing blackjack.
As the name of this technique suggests, it is related to the shuffling of cards and is also a part of card counting. The theory of shuffle tracking suggests that players can predict the positions of certain cards in the shoe. If this theory is proven, it means that the card shuffling casinos implement to keep their edge is irrelevant to shuffle trackers.
Nowadays, brick-and-mortar casinos are using shuffling machines to make sure that cards used on blackjack tables are properly shuffled. This process used to be carried out by dealers who were shuffling cards by hand. However, this requires dealers to stop the game, with manual shuffling often being less thorough than the automatic one.
How Shuffle Tracking is Used
Before you can utilise the shuffle tracking strategy, you will need to be fully aware of card counting and how to use it. Card counters keep a track of the cards that have been already dealt to determine the ratio between low-value and high-value cards in the shoe. Keeping an accurate count is important for players who also use shuffle tracking to gain a better advantage.
If we take for example a six-deck blackjack game with a count of +6, once the dealer gets to the cutoff, a shuffle tracker would assume that the cards positioned beneath the cutoff are not favourable for him/her. This is due to the fact that in most basic strategies, the final count of a complete deck should equal zero. That is why it is important for the advantage player to proceed with tracking the clump of cards as they are shuffled to be used in the next round. If the shuffle tracking is successful, the player will be able to predict where these unfavourable cards are in the shoe.
Even though shuffle tracking may potentially give card counters a bigger edge over the house, the strategy has its lacking points:
- Shuffle tracking has not been proven to be as efficient as card counting itself, so many players do not bother perfecting that skill
- Many land-based casinos have replaced shuffling by hand with automated shuffling carried out by machines
- Like card counting, shuffle tracking is useless with online blackjack or live-dealer blackjack
Shuffle tracking is another type of strategy that can be used when you play blackjack. Whenever the cards get shuffled several times, the high-value cards tend to form clusters in the decks. The more cards appear in the game, the larger the high-value clumps may get. The so-called clumps are most prominent in variations with six or eight decks.
To be able to predict clumps of high-value cards, you must be extremely observant. You may notice that some rounds will mostly consist of high-value cards and others will reveal mainly low cards. Of course, it is also possible to have rounds with almost equally spread low and high cards. You can notice clumping due to the way dealers place used cards on the discard area of the table.
In most cases, a player is expected to hit a hand if he/she is holding low-valued cards. If the player goes bust, the discarded hand will mostly consist of low-value cards. Meanwhile, in cases of players drawing two high-value cards, the most common move is to stand. That indicated the collecting of cards is going to be at the end of the round, comprising a clump of mostly high-value cards. The effect of achieving clumps can be even stronger if all players on the table are using basic strategy and are standing or hitting according to the dealer’s up card.
Unfortunately, just like shuffle tracking, clump reading is not possible in casinos which use shuffling machines. Since cards are discarded in these devices, players cannot really keep a track of the cards and clumps. Moreover, these machines are designed to be more effective in shuffling cards than the human hand. That makes clump reading even more impossible.
This type of strategy is basically using card counting while you are not playing on the blackjack table. Instead of going through your bankroll while counting cards, winging allows you to join the game only when the count will be in your favour.
Of course, some players have a difficult time counting cards while being at the table, let alone when they are not participating in the game. However, professional wongers can successfully observe games from afar, with some even being able to count cards on two separate tables.
Players practising winging will start counting cards on a table they are interested in joining at some point. Of course, to be as efficient as possible, wongers are recommended to start using this strategy at the beginning of the shoe play. While the count is low, players obtain from joining the game. As soon as the count is in favour of the player, however, wongers join the table and enjoy successful gaming sessions without risking their money during the counting process.
Wonging could be used by a single player, but it can also be a strategy involving several people. That makes the strategy even more effective and can lead to very fruitful results.
Of course, as this method heavily incorporates card counting, it will have you kicked out of the casino if you get caught. That is why, it is important to do your research on the casino, the specific table, the dealer, and the surrounding area on the casino floor. Such information will allow you to use wonging for your next blackjack winning sessions.
Hole carding is yet another type of advantage play that blackjack players can make use of and gain quite the edge over the house. We must set a clear differentiation between using additional devices for hole carding and simply implementing a strategy you have learned. In cases when players use mirrors or other aiding tools to gain an advantage, this is considered a crime, with possible harsh consequences for those caught cheating. However, using hole carding as a skill you have developed, without any additional devices is perfectly legal.
Types of Hole Carding
Combining hole carding with the correct basic strategy can give players an advantage over the house that can reach up to 13%. If you want to implement hole carding in your next blackjack play, you must keep in mind that there are different ways to use this type of strategy. Each method has its strong and weak points and it is up to you to decide which option is most suitable for you.
This variation of hole carding is obsolete nowadays due to casinos remodelling the way dealers peek for hole cards. However, it used to apply to the player sitting in the first-base seat of the table, which is on the left side of the dealer. The goal of this type of hole carding is to peep the dealer’s hole card at the same time he/she is checking it. Back in the days, spooking used to be done by two people, with one taking the first-base seat and another one standing behind the dealer. The one who sees the dealer’s hole card would give a hint to the other player involved in the scheme. However, this is considered cheating and could get you thrown out of the casino.
This type of hole carding involves players trying to see the hole card as it is moved under the top card. This variation of hole carding does not require being seated in a specific seat but it is very difficult to be performed successfully. Less experienced dealers might be more prone to mistakes and give players a small chance of seeing the hole card.
There is nothing too different in this type of hole carding but instead of trying to see the value of the hole card, players are trying to get partial information by getting a glimpse at the card and trying to guess its value based on what they were able to see. An example of this type of hole carding is seeing that there is no pip in the corner of the card. That means the hole card could be an Ace, 2, or 3.
Edge sorting is another type of advantage play that blackjack players tend to utilise in their gambling sessions. While players deem this strategy to be legal and similar to card counting, casinos consider edge sorting illegal and it can be the cause of kicking players out of a casino. Considering the advantage players can get when they implement successful edge sorting, it is no wonder that the technique is frowned upon by land-based casinos.
Edge sorting takes advantage of any manufacturing mistakes on the back of the playing cards. The design of cards is typically intricate, covering almost the entire back of the cards with geometric shapes. The way different cards are cut can hint at skilled players the value of the cards without actually seeing them facing up. Of course, this technique is not easy to apply, especially as casinos are well aware of that type of advantage play.
It is possible to make edge sorting even easier by involving an unsuspecting dealer in your strategy to play blackjack. You can try asking the dealer to turn around all tens when they are dealt, using an excuse such as being superstitious, or anything of that sort. Having all of the tens in the deck turned in another direction will allow you to easily spot them just by looking at the back design of the cards. Even after the dealer shuffles the cards, they will remain in the direction they have been placed back in the shoe. In the following rounds, a good edge sorter will be able to spot all of the tens and gain a huge advantage.
As mentioned before, however, casinos are well aware of some blackjack players using edge sorting. That is why you may have a tough time finding a dealer who will not catch up on your attempts to gain an additional advantage. Unfortunately, casinos tend to withhold the winnings of players caught edge sorting, with some cases even involving legal actions taken against the player.
As casinos always have an edge over players, many gambling enthusiasts are constantly working on developing new ways to tilt the balance in their favour. One of the techniques that give blackjack players the biggest edge over the house is card counting. In fact, the method is so successful that you can get kicked out of a casino if you are caught counting cards.
Even though it is a risky technique to be used, card counting is still extremely popular among advantage players. What some of them do not know, however, is that there are other methods that can be combined with card counting. Using shuffle tracking, clump reading, hole carding, or edge sorting can give you some extra edge, making your blackjack sessions even more successful.
The aforementioned skills are not easy to obtain but they can give players quite the advantage. Combining these methods with basic card counting can take your blackjack experience to the next level. One thing to remember, however, is that casinos will not appreciate players using any of these skills in combination with counting cards. That is why it is important to be careful when you are engaging in that type of advantage play.