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BASIC STRATEGY TO CARD COUNTING:

HOW TO MAKE THE TRANSITION

By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin has been a successful card counter for 35 years. He has taught card counting to thousands of players in his courses and seminars. He is the author of the best-selling book Blackjack: Take the Money & Run, lead instructor in the Golden Touch Blackjack course (www.goldentouchblackjack), and editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter. Tamburin also writes a blackjack column for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, and 5 other publications.

Many of our BJI subscribers are new players, or experienced basic strategy players who have never made the transition to card counting. When I ask players in the later category why they donít learn card counting, invariably I get one of these responses:

  1. Card counting is too difficult to learn.
  2. I canít keep the count when the dealer is dealing so fast.
  3. Card counting is too much like work. I want to have fun when I play.
  4. I donít have the time to spend months learning how to count when I only play a few times a month.
  5. The casinos have made blackjack unbeatable with their continuous shuffling machines.
  6. Why bother? If I card count in a casino they will throw me out.

First off, why bother indeed to learn card counting? Itís simply because basic strategy alone will not give you the mathematical edge over the casino. Many of you are probably using some type of progressive betting system where you increase your bets following a win (or maybe following a loss). However, hereís the absolute reality on progressive betting systems: they can not, and will not, alter the house edge against you. So donít delude yourself into thinking betting progressions will make you a winner because it wonít.

Now donít get me wrong, Iím knocking basic strategy players. Learning basic strategy is the first step to become a winning blackjack player. But if you stop there, the reality is that even though youíve decreased the house edge by playing your hands perfectly, the house still has the edge. Grant it, itís a small edge, about a half percent depending upon the rules, but the house still has the edge none the less. And as long as they have the mathematical edge in the game, in the long run you must, and you will, lose more money than you win.

So the obvious big incentive to become a card counter is that it will completely neutralize that house edge and in fact, swing the edge in your favor. Essentially, you turn the tables on the casino; they no longer have the math on their side, the math is on the side of the card counter, so they will win more money than they lose over time.

OK, maybe all this isnít news for you and youíve thought about card counting or may be tried it and concluded that itís just not your cup of tea. Here me out before you tune me out on this.

In the past, when many wanna be card counters have asked me how long it will take them to learn to be a card counter, I was honest and told them that they need to spend about 30-40 hours of diligent practice at home before risking a penny in a casino. In fact, for many years I taught the traditional High Low card counting system in a four-week course (one 2.5 hour class per week), followed by a lesson plan that required another 20 hours of practice at home (the time requirement to master card counting can be less if you take a hands-on class vs. learning it yourself at home). Thatís not to say that card counting is something impossible for average players to master. Iíve taught many players in my life time from all walks of life who have become very successful at card counting and many have kept in touch to let me know how well they are doing. But, these players were dedicated students who put in the time necessary to learn card counting, and more importantly, the important concepts of bankroll and over betting (i.e., risk of ruin).

So up until a few years ago, if you wanted to learn the traditional High Low counting systems, you had to put in the time to practice and practice and practice keeping the count, converting to the true count for betting, and learning strategy indices. Card counting got easier with the evolution of unbalanced counting systems like the K-O and Red Seven. But even with unbalanced counting systems, average players still couldnít just read a book, practice for an hour, and then expect to go to the casino and play accurately with an edge over the house.

Nowadays, card counting has become a whole simpler for average players with the development of simple systems like...

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