Card counting has long been a strategy used by skilled blackjack players looking to gain an edge over the casino. The concept involves tracking the ratio of high to low-value cards remaining in the deck, thus helping the player make informed decisions during gameplay. However, the advent of various game variations, like infinite shuffle and free bet blackjack, has made card counting increasingly challenging. Let’s take a closer look.
Card Counting: A Brief Overview
Card counting is a strategy employed in blackjack to determine whether the next hand is likely to give a probable advantage to the player or the dealer. Players who count cards keep track of cards that have already been played to have a better idea of the cards that remain.
The premise is that having a deck rich in tens and aces increases the probability of the player hitting a blackjack, which pays out at 3:2. Also, the dealer is more likely to bust when forced to hit on a 12 through 16. Therefore, card counters will increase their bets when they have a higher probability of winning.
Infinite Shuffle: The Card Counter’s Kryptonite
Infinite shuffle machines, also known as continuous shuffle machines (CSMs), are a card counter’s worst nightmare. These machines continuously shuffle the cards, making it nearly impossible to get an accurate count.
In traditional blackjack, the dealer shuffles the deck(s) after a certain number of hands, allowing card counters to track the cards played and calculate what’s left in the shoe. CSMs, on the other hand, reshuffle the cards after every hand, nullifying any count a player has made. This constant shuffling of the deck leads to a more random distribution of cards, making card counting strategies ineffective.
Free Bet Blackjack: A New Twist
Free Bet Blackjack is a relatively new variation of the traditional game. In this version, the casino covers the player’s double-down and split bets on qualifying hands, essentially making these bets “free.”
While this might seem like a good deal for the player, it complicates things for card counters. The additional rules and payouts for Free Bet Blackjack alter the game’s basic strategy, affecting when to hit, stand, double down, or split, which in turn influences the count. Furthermore, like many blackjack variations, Free Bet Blackjack is often played with a CSM, which as discussed earlier, negates card counting strategies.
While card counting can provide a slight advantage in traditional blackjack, the presence of infinite shuffle machines and the advent of new game variations like Free Bet Blackjack complicate its execution. These games can be fun variations for the average player, but for those intending to count cards, they pose significant hurdles. As always, understanding the rules, strategies, and odds of any blackjack variation is crucial for successful play, whether you’re a casual player or an aspiring card counter.