Home - Overview - White Papers Contact

How it works...

Blackjack is a beatable game!
There are multitudes of books and Internet resources available which detail the mathematics of Blackjack.
In a few words: it is a fact that, statistically, high cards favour the player and low cards favour the house. (For more information on blackjack theory, check out the White Papers section of this website.) Several reasons for this mathematical behaviour are as follows:

  • Blackjack, a result of high cards, pays 3 to 2 to the player but only even money to the dealer.
  • Players may choose to stand, but dealers must draw to 17.
  • If both player and dealer bust, dealer wins.

Blackjack is quite a "fair" game if played properly, with a house edge of around just half of one percent (0.5%) in the casino's favour. "Playing properly" refers to knowing the correct playing action for each situation. For each combination of cards in the player's hand, and the dealer's "up" card, there is a correct action (hit, stand, split, double down, and so on.) The set of correct decisions for each situation is known as "basic strategy" and basic strategy tables are widely available. Click here to see a basic strategy table for a typical set of house rules.

The result of this is that, if a player can keep track of the relative "high-card density" of the dealing shoe, the player can place small bets when he or she* is likely to lose the hand, and large bets when likely to win the hand.
(* Players will hereafter be referred to as "he" although card counting is by no means a male domain!)
Over a period of time, this strategy will result in reversing the slim casino's house edge to the player's favour.

Sounds complicated? Well, card counting is easy! It turns out that there are many different methods for determining the relative density of high-to-low cards remaining in the shoe. The simplest and most common is the Hi-Lo count. The player keeps track of every card dealt since the start of the shoe with a mental running count. Every time a card of value 2 to 6 is dealt, the player adds one to the running count. Cards 7, 8 and 9 are zero. Tens, picture cards and Aces are worth minus one (-1). To determine the "true count" the player divides the current running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. That's all! When the true count is greater than a threshold (typically, plus one) the player places big bets. This is because the remaining cards have a surplus of tens and aces, so the statistical likelihood is for the player to win the hand. When the true count is less than plus one, the player places the house minimum bet (or, doesn't bet at all if he can avoid it) because the probability is that the house will win the hand because the shoe has a relative abundance of small cards.

That's all there is to card counting, in a nutshell. There are many variations, such as:

  • Different count systems - balanced and unbalanced counts
  • Modifying playing strategy according to the count (basic strategy index variation)
  • Keeping a side count to keep track of different card densities - for example, Ace tracking
  • Keeping segment counts for shuffle tracking (more on this later)
  • Table hopping and card counter team play
  • Bet camouflaging

These are to enhance the player's knowledge of when he has a higher probability of winning, and - equally as important - to attempt to disguise his card counting activities from casino staff. Protec 21 can detect and analyze all of these strategies.

Needless to say, it can be difficult and time-consuming for casino staff to detect a card counter or counting team.

Enter Protec 21

When a player is suspected of card counting, surveillance staff use the CCTV system to follow a player's behaviour. There are several modes of operation, but the quickest and easiest to use is Live mode. The surveillance operator enters the suspect's bet, then all the cards dealt during the game. This process is repeated for two shoes of play, which typically takes around half an hour. The screen appears as on the right.

Data may be entered using any of the following methods:

  • Keyboard
  • Touchscreen monitor
  • Speech recognition (using the DragonDictate recognition engine)

Using any of these methods, the operator can easily follow the game in real time.

After a reasonable amount of playing data has been entered into the database, Protec 21's sophisticated Analysis Engine produces a comprehensive player report. The report shows the fluctuating advantage on the same graph as the player's initial bet, and analyzes the correlation between the two. The analysis displays whether the player is card counting or shuffle tracking (or not) and, if so, how effectively. If there is not enough representative data for the system to draw a conclusion, it will indicate this and request the operator enters one more shoe of data. This may be done at any time, for example, the next time the player is in the casino.
Areas of particular interest are displayed on the graph, for example when there was deliberate "heat" on the player, to determine whether his playing style varied whilst under close observation by pit staff. Per-game statistics are available at the click of the mouse on the graph. Many different counting systems are included and you can add your own counting systems and then analyze existing player data according to the counting system you just added.

Click here to view a report on a card counter (PDF format).

Play Analysis Mode

There is a more detailed mode available to further analyse players - Archive mode (so called because it requires that the player is recorded on video because data entry is slower than Live mode). With Archive mode, every player decision is recorded - hit, stand, and so on. That's why it's slower and can require the use of a Pause button on the VCR. However, the reports generated from Archive mode are very detailed and fully analyze a player's skill.

Click here to view a play analysis report (PDF format).

House Edge Analysis

Protec 21 makes use of "Rule Sets" to describe your property's particular game of Blackjack. Using the House Edge analysis module you can create and modify Rule Sets to instantaneously see the effect on the house edge of varying aspects of the game such as number of decks, doubling down, surrender, and the effect of introducing rules such as five card half win and six card win on your game.

Shuffle Analysis

Shuffle trackers keep track of rich segments (that is, clusters of high cards) and actually follow them through the house shuffling procedure. Then, after the cards are shuffled, the tracker knows where the high cards are! Although it sounds impossible, it's not. Shuffle trackers employ software to simulate your house shuffle, then look for its weak points. Once the tracker has thoroughly analyzed your shuffle, your Blackjack game is vulnerable.

Protec 21 includes a sophisticated Shuffle Engine to analyze your own house shuffle. Using a simple descriptive procedure, you enter your house shuffle procedure into the system. Using powerful visual analysis makes it easy to immediately spot the weaknesses in your shuffle. You can then use the module to "tweak" your shuffle or design a new one. A shuffle is a compromise between good card dispersion, and minimum table downtime. Protec 21 gives you a powerful design tools to allow you to design secure yet speedy effective shuffling procedures. Sections of the shuffle, on either the pre-shuffle stack or the post-shuffle stack, can be marked out using the mouse and the source or destination of the marked cards instantly viewed.

A key element of Protec 21's Shuffle Engine is its "human simulation" feature. When simulating shuffles based on your own shuffle procedure, Protec 21's unique algorithms ensure the grab sizes are not quite consistent, and that "riffling" cards does not result in a "perfect" riffle - because human dealers' don't do perfect grabs and riffles! Repeated simulations of the "same" shuffle result in slightly different graphs because of the human factor, and the difference between multiple iterations of the same shuffle can been seen in real time.

Click here to view a shuffle report. A section of the shuffle has been marked out to illustrate where that marked section ends up in the post-shuffle stack.

Quikstart Manual

Protec 21 comes with a hard copy "getting started" manual for easy reference. Click here to see the Quikstart manual.