Blackjack-Author Ken Smith: There's still money in counting cards!

Ken Smith is a professional Gambler, author and webmaster of blackjackinfo.com.

In our interview he gives insights to his carreer, blackjack today and card counting.

He mentions that there is still money to make by counting cards!

Read the interview in english or translated into German.

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Blackjack-Vegas: How did you get involved in playing blackjack?

I studied the game briefly before making my first trip to Las Vegas many
years ago. I knew that blackjack offered the best opportunity for the gambler,
and I memorized basic strategy before my trip.  By choosing the best rules in
Vegas and using correct basic strategy, I was playing an almost even game.

Although I was aware of the concept of card counting then, I didn't put any
effort into learning to count because the only US casinos at the time were
located far from my home, in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

That changed as casinos began to spread throughout the States.  In 1992,
when casinos came to my home state of Mississippi, I decided to revisit the
game of blackjack, and learn to beat it.

As a math guy and a software developer, it was easy to write my own
software to analyze the game and test my methods.  My first year was
profitable, and I haven't looked back since.

Blackjack-Vegas: Do you still play blackjack?

These days I actually don't play much blackjack, but I do stay busy playing a
variety of games. Like many players, blackjack was the first step in my learning
to be a profitable gambler, but that doesn't mean it is always the best choice.
Once you begin to look at gambling as a profitable venture, you can find many
ways to make money in the casino.

Blackjack, because of the widely understood methods of card counting, is
well-known as a potentially beatable game.  Casino personnel are well aware
of this too, so blackjack winners are often watched closely.  Beating other
games takes different skills, but because those games aren't considered as
vulnerable, they can actually be more lucrative in the long run.

Blackjack-Vegas: Which Counting System do you use?

When I do play blackjack, I use the same count I learned years ago.  Note
that my count is not one that I ever recommend to other players.  It's
complicated, and for most players, the complexity is not worth the extra
effort.  For most players, I recommend either the popular Hi-Lo count, or
the unbalanced KO count.

But, to answer your question, I personally use a count described by Stanford
Wong in his book "Professional Blackjack".  It's called the Halves count,
because the card index numbers use not just whole numbers but halves
as well.  For example, the tag number for a "5" card is "+1.5".
The Halves count is a three-level count with the following tag values:

2: +0.5
3: +1
4: +1
5: +1.5
6: +1
7: +0.5
8: 0
9: -0.5
T: -1
A: -1

That is a complicated set of indexes, and while the count is powerful, it
really doesn't make much sense any more to use such a complicated
system.  The extra profit potential is small compared to a simpler system.
If I were starting today, I would just use either Hi-Lo or KO and leave it at
that.  I just continue to use the Halves because I have done it for years,
and it is automatic for me.

Blackjack-Vegas: Is counting worth it anymore? Why?

It's definitely still worthwhile.  While it is true that many casinos have
changed the rules of blackjack in ways that make it difficult or impossible to
beat some of their games, that just means you have to look a little harder.

Blackjack is still expanding around the world, with more and more casinos
opening and competing for business.  There are good games to be found
all over.  Just look past the awful 6:5 blackjack tables and the continuous
shuffle machines, and you'll often still find deeply dealt 3:2 blackjack tables
with good rules.

Card counting remains the easiest mathematically sound way for most
players to beat the casino.  And once you learn to count, you'll start seeing
opportunities in other areas as well.

Blackjack-Vegas: What's your favorite casino to play and why?

I'm not loyal to any particular location, but instead I go wherever I can find
the best opportunity.  I made a one-day trip a few years back to a casino
about 800 miles from my home for a promotion.  It was a very profitable
day, netting over $40,000 in profit for the day.

Profitable players need to be flexible, and ideally have the freedom to
travel.  However, even for play near your home, I advise all players to keep
a close eye on the rules and conditions.  Casinos often make changes, and if
you choose to play with the best rules and conditions available to you,
it will make a big difference in your results.

Blackjack-Vegas: Have you ever gambled in Germany?

Not yet.  Most of my international travel recently has been for leisure not
work.  In the last year I've been to Turkey, the UK, Ecuador, and Peru.
For some photos, your readers can visit my personal blog at
Sweet-Tea-No-Lemon.com.

I do hope to make it to Germany for Oktoberfest sometime soon.  Maybe
I'll try out your casinos then!

Blackjack-Vegas: What's your expert tip to beginners in Blackjack?

The single most important thing to learn about blackjack is basic strategy.
Investing just a little time in learning the correct strategy will save you
lots of money in the casino.

If you don't want to memorize the strategy, then just print out a copy
and take it to the table with you.  You can get a free strategy chart at
my BlackjackInfo.com site.  I also have wallet-size plastic card charts
available there.

Blackjack-Vegas: How about some advice for card counters?

A new product I recently added at BlackjackInfo.com is the Advanced
Strategy card set, which has perfectly optimized index numbers for
the popular Hi-Lo counting system.  If you want to learn the best
possible set of index numbers, you can see all the details at
http://www.blackjackinfo.com/card/

Thanks for reading, and now get out there and win some money!

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