The Art of Twenty-One

by Michael Dalton

The Art of BlackjackThe key to success for most blackjack card counters is the act.  It is the very essence to the art of twenty-one.  It is what distinguishes the average card counter who has trouble finding a good game and the blackjack expert who manages to make the game good.

A player once told me that he gave up card counting because every time he raised his bet the dealer would shuffle up on him and intimidate him by trying to deal faster.  If this player had used some common sense and not acted so obviously like a card counter he probably would have been left alone.  A good card counter should be able to keep up with the fastest dealer, however, if you are having issues with this, here is a tip:  Just play your hand slower and think about every decision.  Don’t let the dealer dictate the speed of the game!  To be successful at twenty-one you not only have to be able to count cards you must develop a unique style of play that is different from what the casinos are looking for.

CARD COUNTERS DON’T DRINK

All books recommend that players not drink.  All casinos realize that drinking affects judgment and card counting and drinking don’t mix.  Therefore, players who drink are not a threat to the casino and more likely than not they are preferred to your average player.

I also recommend that you don’t drink when you play but no one ever said you couldn’t pretend to drink.  I will often order a Heineken or dark bottle beer only to empty 95% of its contents out and refill it with water.  This completes my full gambler/tourist act.  It doesn’t cost much since you can always refill your beer bottle with water.  Just don’t try carrying your beer bottle from casino to casino.  You might get arrested!

EARLY MORNING PLAY

Many card counters prefer to play early in the morning (3-6AM) because they tend to get better games and there are less crowds.  However, most casinos also realize this.  If your schedule calls for early morning play, try not grooming yourself when you wake up.  In other words, don’t shave or shower.  From the casino’s point of view, you will appear to be a player that has stayed up all night and thus less of a threat.  Some players push this to an extreme!  I once ran into an fellow card counter1)Yes, a card counter can usually identify another card counter in the casino.  I remember the first time this happened to me many years ago.  I was at the Silver City Casino in Las Vegas playing a $1 minimum single deck game.  It only took about 15 minutes.  I didn’t like the fact that this player was practically mirroring my bets.  I later discovered after talking to him that he was using one of Lawrence Revere’s Point Count Systems.  Recently, I found a fellow counter playing much higher stakes on a cruise ship.  He was betting $50 to $500 or so.  I watched him for a few days and after being convinced he was accurately keeping the count, I would occasionally jump into his game betting my maximum bet whenever he had $500 or more on the table. who attempted to block seats while smoking, drinking and essentially acting like an idiot.  

NEVER STARE

One give-away that you may be a counter is that you sit quietly and stare at the cards.  You need to get over this!  A glance is all that should be necessary to accurately pick up the count. You should be counting cards as efficiently as possible – counting cards in groups of 2, 3 or more and canceling cards out.  For minus counts, never think “minus X”.  Always think “my X” or something simpler.  It is shorter and more efficient.  If you get distracted for some reason, have a method to “lock in” the count.  Using chips or a chip location has worked for me. 

ALWAYS BE FRIENDLY

Probably the best advice I can give to increase longevity in the casino is the ability to talk with other players, the dealer and pit personnel while accurately keeping the count and playing perfectly.  For more ideas on putting on the perfect “act” be sure to read The Blackjack Player’s Guide to Idiot Camouflage and Ian Andersen’s book below.

Burning the Tables in Las VegasIan Andersen’s Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (First published 1999)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This was the long awaited sequel to one of the best-selling blackjack books ever written, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas. Included powerful camouflage strategies to avoid detection by casino staff while card counting.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Burning the Tables in Las Vegas ]


Copyright © 1992 – 2020 All Rights Reserved
Originally published (in part) in the Summer 1992 issue of Blackjack Review Magazine

BLOG MENU 2)The Art of Twenty-One: Blackjack and Smoking Cigars Background image courtesy of Michael Godard, the “Rockstar of the Art World”.

Footnotes

1Yes, a card counter can usually identify another card counter in the casino.  I remember the first time this happened to me many years ago.  I was at the Silver City Casino in Las Vegas playing a $1 minimum single deck game.  It only took about 15 minutes.  I didn’t like the fact that this player was practically mirroring my bets.  I later discovered after talking to him that he was using one of Lawrence Revere’s Point Count Systems.  Recently, I found a fellow counter playing much higher stakes on a cruise ship.  He was betting $50 to $500 or so.  I watched him for a few days and after being convinced he was accurately keeping the count, I would occasionally jump into his game betting my maximum bet whenever he had $500 or more on the table.
2The Art of Twenty-One: Blackjack and Smoking Cigars Background image courtesy of Michael Godard, the “Rockstar of the Art World”.

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