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ULTIMATE STRATEGY CARDS FOR CARD COUNTERS

by Kenneth R Smith

Tournament expert Ken Smith has appeared on all four seasons of GSN's World Series of Blackjack, and had several appearances on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS. He is the author of the e-book How to Win More Blackjack Tournaments: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Supercharge Your Game and, How to Win EVEN MORE Blackjack Tournaments-Volume 2. Ken hosts the popular website www.BlackjackInfo.com as well as the online tournament community at www.BlackjackTournaments.com.  You can subscribe to his free email newsletter at http://www.blackjackinfo.com/news/.

The latest product in the BlackjackInfo line takes the idea of a blackjack strategy card to a completely new level. The new Advanced Blackjack Strategy Card set of cards focuses on six different rule sets and provides an optimized basic strategy for each of the games, just like our popular basic strategy set. However, that's just the beginning.

Sometimes it's OK to deviate from basic strategy if you know what you're doing. If you are not familiar with the use of index numbers in card counting, let me explain. Let's take a typical hand of (T,2) vs. a dealer 3. An accurate basic strategy will tell you that you should hit this hand. However, what if you knew that the remaining deck had more high cards left than usual? It might make sense in that case to stand with 12 v 3, because the chance of you drawing a ten and busting is higher than usual. A card counting index number is a way of quantifying how far away from normal the deck must be to make an alternative play more effective than basic strategy. Let's look at our specific example, assuming that we are playing a 6-deck game where the dealer stands on all 17s. In that case, with a hand of 12 v 3, the index number for the popular Hi-Lo counting system is "+2". If the current true count is +2 or higher, you should stand with 12v3 instead of hitting.

Our new advanced strategy cards provide all of these details. Building on the basic strategy on each card, we have added entire Hi-Lo card counting index numbers between -5 and +5. Just like the basic strategies themselves, the index numbers were carefully calculated specifically for the game in question. Until now, players have had to rely on the generic index numbers provided in the handful of books about the Hi-Lo system. In the years since most of those numbers were published, the state of the art in index generation has advanced considerably.

The indexes provided on these cards were generated in two months of intensive effort, fine-tuning and optimizing the results. Index values are interdependent, and small changes in the game conditions can create subtle changes that propagate through the process. By choosing typical conditions for each rule set independently and running many separate passes through the generation process, these indexes are possibly the very best you will find anywhere.

As an example of how the index numbers are optimized for each rule set, consider this: For our example hand of 12v3, the index in single-deck games is +3 (instead of +2). In two-deck games, and the aforementioned 6-deck S17 game, the index is +2. Finally, in a 6-deck H17 game, the index changes again, to a value of +1. You won't find that level of accuracy in any of the published index tables, but it's right there on each of our cards.

Here is a small section of a card, magnified to show the index number details:

In the above example on the strategy card, we're looking at the details of a hard 9 vs. a dealer 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 upcard. In each case, you'll see the index value indicated right on the card. For this hand, these are "doubling" indexes, meaning you should double if the current true count is equal to or greater than the index. Notice that there is no index in the final square, which corresponds to the hand of 9 vs. 6. That hand is a very strong double down and the index number for that decision would be lower than -5 so itís not listed. (The cards display only values from -5 to +5.)

As you may have noticed, there are multiple types of indexes. Our original example of 12v3 is a stand index, used to decide between hitting and standing. The picture above shows an example of double indexes, used to decide between doubling or just hitting. Similarly, there are split indexes, used to decide between splitting a pair or playing them out as the original total instead. Once you are familiar with the concepts, it is obvious which decisions are appropriate for a given index.

If you want to see the full instructions for the cards, they are on http://www.blackjackinfo.com/card/advanced-strategy-cards.php.

Once you are ready to add strategy variation to your playing arsenal, these cards give you finely-tuned index numbers for the exact games that you play. Either you can use them as a study and memorization tool, or you can take the pocket-sized cards into the casino with you. Other than the small index numbers in the corner of some of the squares, the cards otherwise look just like any other basic strategy card. Indeed, the title of the top of each card says just "Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart". Still, you may be nervous about using these cards with numeric indexes while playing blackjack. No problem ... stay tuned to next month, when I'll explain why our set includes twelve cards, instead of just six for the six different games.

Editorís Note: The Advanced Basic Strategy Cards are a great product and weíve added it to our BJI online store. You can purchase the strategy cards at a discounted price by clicking here.

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