Aces key to blackjack strategy

Ever since Ed Thorpe revolutionized blackjack with his "Beat the Dealer" in the early 1960s, there have been various systems and strategy guides published for fans of the game.

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One of the systems that generated a lot of interest when it was introduced about five years ago is the Triangle Blackjack system.

Developed by Gary Headrick in 2005, Triangle Blackjack is similar to counting cards – the system developed by MIT engineer Ed Thorpe – but much simpler.

While counting cards requires tracking high and low cards, namely the "10" cards in the deck, Triangle Blackjack requires the player to simply keep track of the aces, which, Headrick calls the most important cards in the deck.

"Simply having an ace as one of your first two cards gives the player an overall advantage," Headrick says. "No other single card has anywhere near the power of an ace."

Triangle Blackjack also requires a systematic method of increasing your bets when the deck is favorable, thus capitalizing on 3-for-2 naturals (even though 6-5 in casinos is now becoming commonplace), doubling and split opportunities.

The first step in the system is keeping a running count of the aces. If at any point in the game, 75 percent of the aces have been shown, the player should sit out the remainder of the game. Here are the required counts for various decks:

• Single deck: stop playing or reduce bets after seeing three aces.

• Double deck: stop playing or reduce bets after seeing six aces.

• Six decks: stop playing or reduce bets after seeing 18 aces.

• Eight decks: stop playing or reduce bets after seeing 24 aces.

Assuming the deck is rich in aces, the second step is to increase your bets when two of a prescribed set of conditions occur.

The first set of conditions is used when the player is heads-up against the dealer:

• You draw three more cards without busting and no aces.

• You have two consecutive rounds with three or more cards and no aces.

• You have three consecutive rounds with no aces.

• The dealer draws three or more cards without busting and no aces.

• The dealer has two consecutive rounds with three or more cards and no aces.

• The dealer has three consecutive rounds with no aces.

Remember, that two of the above events must occur before it’s time to increase bets. Included in the count are split hands, which take a second set of cards.

When there’s a full table (six players), the number of conditions relaxes:

• The total card count at the end of a round is at least 24 with no more than one busted hand.

• Two consecutive rounds occur with one ace or less in each round.

• A minimum of 19 cards is played in the current round with no more than one ace showing.

Although the system sounds complicated, it should be mastered after just a few hands of play.

Headrick says the Triangle Blackjack has advantages over traditional card-counting systems.

"Traditional card counting systems are no longer as effective," he says. "The reasons range from the casino’s use of a ‘cut’ card and random shuffles."

Next week, we’ll review the system’s methodology of increasing your bets, and present a few examples of the system at work.