I remembered when gambling stocks in Macau were all the…

# Micro-Counting: Using Existing Information To Reduce House Edge

There are three things that thrill me with a Blackjack game. The first one is of course winning money. The second one is when I occupy every seat at the table and play every hand perfectly with Basic Strategy in an extremely fast manner. Hit, stand, split, double, hit, hit, stand, stand, double, split, split, stand, stand, stand, hit, stand. The third one is having an audience witness this.

There’s a logical reason why I love occupying the entire Blackjack table all by myself. It isn’t due to an ego thing, rather it’s based on the need to play the hands differently during abnormal situations using the concept of Micro-counting.

Today, the Continuous Shuffling Machines (CSM) used by casinos benefits them in many ways. One, it prevents counting. Two, it prevents ace tracking. Three, shuffling is much faster – the more hands dealt per hour, the more the casino can earn.

I must admit, however, that while my concept of micro-counting isn’t as advantageous as counting or ace tracking, it has the ability to reduce the house edge.

Micro-counting is the concept of using the existing information that you have on the Blackjack table (or from previous information which I’ll explain later) to determine how you should play your hands. As most Blackjack enthusiasts attest to, they stick with the Basic Strategy, which in most cases is correct.

However, there are some extreme cases where playing differently may be preferred. since the more cards that are dealt, the odds of getting that particular number again decreases. Let me give you an optimistic example to illustrate what I mean.

There are seven seats on the table, and you occupy all of them. Assume the table uses one deck of cards only. No dealer hole card. The cards are dealt, and you get four 2’s, four 3’s, four 4’s, and two 5’s. Which order they come from doesn’t matter in this example. The dealer gets a 6. In this situation, if a dealer gets an 8 or above consecutively, he busts. In a 52-card deck, the number of cards that are 8 and above are 24 cards total.

Now because we have only been dealt 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, the largest sum we can get is a 10 (from two 5’s). Common sense says that we should hit these hands because we are riskless; no matter what card we get, we will not bust, so why not try to get the highest sum possible until the probability of busting becomes more likely for us than for the dealer?

However, by hitting these hands, you are reducing the probability that the dealer will bust! Think about it – because you’ve drawn all these small cards away, the odds of getting an 8 or above from a 52 card deck (24/52, equivalent to an infinite deck) substantially increases to (24/37) for the dealer. That’s almost a 19% increase for the dealer to become bust! So my question is, why hit and reduce these odds when the odds of the dealer busting is much higher? Why try to maximize the sum of one hand when you can stand on every hand and create a high percentage for the dealer to bust, causing **ALL** of your hands to win?

Referring to my example, let’s imagine that one of our hands is two 5’s, resulting in a sum of 10. With basic strategy, we should double against a six. Should we double given that we should transfer the big cards to the dealer rather than us? Now I admit I don’t have the statistical evidence for this, but I believe that in this scenario you should. If you double and get an 8 or above, the odds of the dealer getting 8 or above afterwards is 23/36. That’s only a 1% reduction. But for this 1% reduction, you have the potential of winning 8 hands instead of 7 hands if the dealer busts, and one (or should I say two) of your hands will be in the “safe” zone (sums of 19, 20, 21).

If you end up getting below an 8 for the doubled card however, this is even more preferable. By drawing a small card, you’ve increased the odds of the dealer busting even more. Suddenly the odds are 24/36 that the deck contains 8 or above, while you got yourself another hand to win money with! Now I must admit if there are more than one hands with which you can double with, it may be preferable to only double those that sum up to 11. You don’t want to substantially decrease the odds of the dealer getting an 8 or above should you happen to consecutively draw big cards.

So you can see why I love occupying the entire Blackjack table – should statistical aberrations like these appear, I can take advantage of this and play accordingly. When someone else comes along, he may reduce the odds of getting the dealer busted by hitting instead of standing during these aberrations.

Other things to note – the example I used was for *ONE *52 card deck only. Most casinos use at least 4 decks. The odds are not as good with 4 decks or more. Using my previous example but with 4 decks instead, a single deck of getting 8 or above remains 24/52. In a situation where I have 4 two’s, 4 three’s, 4 four’s, 2 five’s, and the dealer gets a 6, the probability of 8 or higher is (96/193), which is about 3.6% higher odds than a single deck.

Also something to note – most casinos use the brand one2six for their CSMs. One thing I noticed is that when they put the cards in the machine, the ones that are still visible seem to not have been shuffled. If you can memorize those last few remaining cards to be put into the CSM and include that information with the existing cards on the table, you will have even more information to determine whether there is a statistical aberration for you to take advantage of.

Another thing to note – not all tables allow you to occupy 7 seats. Usually it would be 6 seats. The less seats you can occupy, the less information you have, and therefore the less information advantage you have.

One last thing to note – you may not be able to occupy all the seats in a table. I know in Macau you can do so by placing a min. bet on each of the seats, but in Vegas some restrict you to a maximum of two hands, or some require the doubling of at least the min. bet for each seat you occupy (ie. if you occupy just one seat you pay the min. which is $10, if you occupy two seats it’s going to be $20 on **each** hand etc.)

P.S. while I’m on this topic of Macau and Vegas other differences to note – Macau dealers are much, much faster with dealing cards and it is thrilling when you’re giving hand signals at a fast pace. Vegas is more about the fun, the experience and the conversations. Also, the dealers are generally better looking and more friendly. Unfortunately for Macau, it’s all about the money, so the dealers usually look gloomy or bored or tired. The reason for the difference? The culture of tipping. Tips in Macau go to the casino. Tips in Vegas go straight to dealers. For more details on how compensation affects employees, please click here. Hopefully Macau will grow into a place like Vegas one day, where it’s focused more on entertainment and atmosphere, not just money.

P.P.S. I mentioned in my previous post on Blackjack that sitting in the last position may be pivotal in certain situations; the example I gave in this post is one such example. Say that you’ve seen the cards dealt and you know the odds of hitting an 8 or above is very high; rather than trying to maximize the sum yourself, you should hand those odds to the dealer (when he has bust cards like 5 or 6). In most cases however, the last seat in Blackjack is overrated, and people blame this person with illogical reasons. See my previous post about the importance of sitting in the Blackjack’s last position here.

P.P.P.S. so far this is only a theory. Reason being it requires at least someone who knows their statistics well enough AND programming to create a program to calculate the odds to see whether what I’ve said holds substance / how different factors impact the probabilities (ie. # of decks, what cards are dealt etc.). If this topic interested you and you’re good with stats / probabilities and/or coding, please contact me.

What other Blackjack strategies do you know of (besides counting and ace tracking)?

**Modified on Aug. 12, 2014*