• Jonathan Zhou

Gambling is a fool's game for fools but an opportunity for the well-prepared

Gambling is an activity often considered as a fool’s errand, but by using the correct strategies, most can win with an acceptable profit margin—before they get kicked out, of course.

While there are many ways to gamble at any casino, Blackjack, also known as 21, has the lowest profit margin for dealers, making it one of the most exploitable weaknesses in any gambling institution. Setting up the game is simple: each player starts by betting a few chips and is dealt two cards face up. The only exception is the dealer, who has one card face down and only flips it if their first card is an ace or ten-card.

The objective of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over, in which case a player loses. Cards with numbers on them are simply worth their numerical values, picture cards are worth 10, and aces are worth 1 or 11 depending on the player’s choice, and a player wins instantly if they are dealt a “ten-card” (a 10 or a face card) along with an ace and the dealer pays the player back their bet with a 50% bonus.

After everyone receives their cards, the leftmost player from the dealer begins and must decide to “hit” (take another card) or “stand” (stop taking cards). The player can continue to hit until the cards reach 21, go over 21 (“bust”), or the player decides to stand. If a player busts, that player’s bets are collected by the dealer. The dealer then moves to the next player and repeats the process until all players have finished their turn.

When the dealer’s turn arrives, the dealer first flips over his second card before taking another card if he has less than 17 and standing otherwise. While this could cause the dealer to lose a few games, this strategy is used by casinos to prevent dealers from making mistakes and give players the illusion of control, giving the illusion of control and promoting participation.

In Blackjack, the dealer only has a few small advantages. The first advantage is that one of the house’s cards is not shown until the dealer’s turn, which makes it difficult for players to accurately choose whether to hit or stand, causing them to often go bust. The second advantage is that the dealer goes last, so even if they go over 21, they still harvest the cash of other players who went bust before them.

Due to the relatively insignificant advantages the dealers have, the Blackjack table only has a profit margin of 2%, which is one of the lowest margins in any casino. This leads to many players trying to make money off of the Blackjack table, but even against the most experienced players, Blackjack still has a profit margin of 0.5%.

The most experienced orthodox players, that is. Despite the outward complexity of card counting, card counters can use a variety of methods to drastically simplify the process. The most common system of card counting is the Hi-Lo system. In the Hi-Lo system, 2-6s are worth one, 6-9s are worth zero, and ten-cards and aces are worth negative one. The player starts the count at zero and adds the value of the card to the count every time it is dealt. This count gives players a general sense of probability and when they should hit or stand, but is overly simplistic, leading to the development of more complex card counting systems that give each card their own values.

By counting cards, even on the most basic level, any reasonably experienced player can usually secure a positive profit margin over a long period of time. Furthermore, it is a perfectly legal activity as long as a player does not use a device to count cards.

However, players who have a high win rate are often kicked out of casinos and blacklisted, which is why many professional card counters go to great lengths to hide their identities. Luckily though, a few state courts like New Jersey’s have made it illegal to kick players out based on their skill.


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