GENERIC BASIC STRATEGY
THE HIGH-LOW SYSTEM
HOW TO WIN WITHOUT GETTING KICKED OUT
Wonging For Blackjack
"Wonging" is a word made up by Atlantic City card counters in the late 1970s. It means hopping from table to table, playing only when you have an advantage.
Wonging still works. Rather than sitting at one table for long periods, walk around and look at the cards in play at other tables. When you see a pack become profitable, sit down and play at that table. When the pack turns unprofitable, leave the table. If you do not play against unprofitable packs, you have no need for small waiting bets. Your waiting bet is as small as it can get zero. Casino personnel do not equate leaving the table with making a small bet. As mall bet tends to look bad, while leaving the table usually passes unnoticed. You must, however, make your standard bet against freshly shuffled cards once in a while lest casino personnel catch on to you.
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Don't Play Bad Blackjack
The only justification for playing in unprofitable situations is "advertising." If you think that leaving the table will look suspicious, then stay and play another round. Only play in an unprofitable situation if doing so will buy you more playing time. Otherwise, play only when you have the advantage or when the pack is neutral. Have patience. Do not play just to be playing. If you do sit down at a game in progress because you see small cards, and then aces and 10s pop up to make the count negative, get up and go without playing a single hand. If you are already playing and the count goes negative, you should leave the game.
You are not trying to get in the most hands possible; rather you want to play as many favorable hands and as few unfavorable hands as possible. Not playing at all costs less than playing against a negative count. Hopping from table to table with a uniform bet is more profitable than sitting at one table and varying your bet size, because when you stay at one table you have the advantage only a fraction of the time. The rest of your time can be better spent looking for profitable situations than betting small because the dealer has the advantage.
watch a few rounds
Jumping in with small bets is easy against multiple decks; you find a dealer who has just shuffled and watch a few rounds without playing. If the pack becomes profitable, you jump in and play; if it becomes unprofitable, you leave; and if it stays neutral, you can stay and watch another round.
Against a single deck, or with big bets, subtlety is required, and watching the cards without playing is an art. If you watch a single deck being shuffled, watch a couple of rounds being dealt and played, and then, when the count is good, jump in with a big bet, you will find that you are being eyed suspiciously. Perhaps your action will even cause the dealer to shuffle away a profitable situation. When looking for a profitable single deck, keep walking as you are looking at the cards at various tables. Never take root and stare. You may stop and watch, if a round is in progress, because you must wait until the round is finished before you make a bet. When the dealer is ready to deal the next round you have only two valid options-bet or walk away. Do not watch a second round at that same table, because your watching may be watched. You do not want anyone to question the chastity of your blackjack playing.
You may wonder whether betting exactly the same amount each hand hour after hour and day after day might be interpreted by casino personnel as unusual behavior. It has never attracted any attention to me.
You may vary your bet size if you wish, but be sure to do it in a manner that is not suspect. Do not appear to bet bigger because the pack has turned more favorable. You want to be mistaken for a gambler. A lot of gamblers bet small when they first sit down at a table and bet bigger after they have been at the table for a while. You may do this too if you wish. For example, bet half your standard bet on the first hand you play at a table, then go to your full standard bet on the next round if you stay.
You can usually switch back and forth between one hand and two hands without attracting attention.
When the pack is profitable, bet two hands; when it is neutral, bet one hand; and when it is lousy walk away.
If casino personnel watch you closely in an effort to discover why you hop from table to table, you could give them a reason for what you do. For example, you could leave a table only when the count is negative and you have just lost a hand, and never leave a table after a win. Your expected win rate will be reduced slightly if you play occasionally when the cards are unfavorable, but the offsetting benefit is that the pit bosses will attribute your table-hopping to your losing a hand.
A similar disguise might be used for altering the number of hands you play. For example, if you play one hand and 10se, continue to play only one hand whether or not the pack is favorable. If you play one hand and win, then play two hands on the following round -if the count is favorable.
You can increase your bet size against a fresh shuffle without attracting adverse attention. You might consider doing so if you have been playing two hands and winning. Suppose you have been winning with two hands of $200 each. If you think that cutting back to one hand of $200 when the dealer shuffles will look bad, you might switch to one hand of$300. You now have only $300 on the table instead of$400, but the dealer and pit boss may think that you are increasing your bet size.
To get more money on the table, you can double up after a 10ss, or let a winning bet ride. If you really want to look unlike a card counter, play two hands of unequal bet size.
If the pit bosses think that they know why you do what you do, and if they think that what you are doing does not involve getting an edge over the casino, then you can play indefinitely.
If the count indicates a zero advantage and you play anyway you will be adding to your risk but not to your expected win. But you might find that playing only when your advantage is large attracts unwelcome attention. For cover you probably will want to play some hands at less than a 1% advantage. In shoe games I play whenever I have any kind of advantage at all, and sometimes when I have a disadvantage but the count is zero or positive. In single deck I even tolerate negative counts if the game is fast and the dealer is giving good penetration.
Today's casinos have seen many card counters Wonging from table to table playing only positive counts. Casino pit bosses are aware that it is a winning technique. They are watching for it, and when you come in and use it yourself they might catch on quickly to what you are doing. So you may not want to use pure Wonging.
Of course you want to use techniques that give you an edge. But it is better to use a technique that nobody else is using. Then the people who are watching you do not know in advance what you are up to. They may see you win and suspect you are up to something that gives you an edge, but make them watch you for a long time to figure it out. You should try to play only positive counts as much as possible. For sure the first hand you play in any casino should be on a positive count. Whenever you leave the table the count should be negative.
Jumping into a Game in Progress
The only problem with jumping into a game in which cards have already been discarded and you do not have a count of them is that the shuffle comes too soon.
Suppose for example six decks have been shuffled, two have been cut off, and three have been used before you start to count. You are only going to be able to see the cards from one deck before the dealer shuffles. You will be dividing your running count by five or six to get your count per deck. You never get to play against a big count per deck if you get to see only one deck out of six before the cards are shuffled.
The procedure I use is to check the discard tray before I check the cards on the table. If the discard tray has more than half a deck already, I do not bother to scan the cards on the table. I do not want to waste time on situations where I have a small advantage for a few hands and then the dealer shuffles; I would rather keep looking for a situation where there are enough cards remaining to be dealt so that there is a chance I can get a big advantage for a few hands.
You might wonder why you find count per deck by dividing by the number of decks unseen rather than the number of decks remaining in the shoe.
If you jump into a table after one deck has been played but you do not have a count of that deck, you should mentally add one to the number of decks left in the shoe every time you calculate count per deck. The reason is if you see a bunch of small cards on the table, that means the cards already used are likely to contain a slight excess of big cards. Dividing by total number of decks unseen rather than decks left in the shoe adjusts for it. If you have a running count of+10, there are four decks left in the shoe, and you did not see the first deck, then on average the deck you did not see contains two excess 10s and aces. The four decks remaining in the shoe on average contain the other eight excess 10s and aces.
If you have a plus count after watching a hand, that plus count is your best estimate of the running count. The cards already used but unseen are NOT more likely to contain a higher proportion of excess 10s and aces than the cards yet to be dealt.
So yes, it is OK to Wong in after unseen hands have been played. The disadvantage to jumping in after unseen cards have been played is the shuffle comes with too many unseen cards -those left in the shoe plus those in the hands you did not see. If you watch from the first round, then the shuffle comes with unseen cards limited to those left in the shoe.
Wonging Full Tables
If you happen to be walking by a table on the first round after a shuffle, glance at the cards even if there currently are no open spots at the table. This hint was first published by Arnold Snyder in his Blackjack Forum. If the count is very high, stand and watch more rounds. If a spot becomes available, which usually happens, sit down and play: Sometimes you will be frustrated; you will count down a whole shoe and have a high count the whole time, but no spot ever opens. But often a spot will open, and you can jump right in to a very high count. Do not waste your time Wonging full tables if casino rules prevent mid-shoe entry.
While keeping track of the count at a full table, if a dealer on either side should happen to shuffle you can count that table down too. Yes, with practice it is possible to count down two tables simultaneously. Try to stand where you can see all the cards at both tables without moving, but usually you will have to move around a bit because players' heads get in your lines of sight. I have tried keeping the count at three different tables simultaneously; but I do not do it anymore because I cannot look casual while doing the amount of moving around that is required.
Sitting Out a Hand
Here is a variation of Wonging that works. Every once in a while, sit out a hand or hands and join in again when you feel like it. Of course the hands you sit out should have negative counts. Nobody seems to care if you sit out a few hands. If you sit out too many, the dealer or a boss might ask you to give up your seat to someone else who wants to play. Sitting out an occasional hand with a negative count is a winning technique. You might say something like "Maybe I will sit out a hand to change the order of the cards". I have never tried sitting out 100% of the negative counts.
And of course if the count goes too negative too early but you want to stay at that table because of good penetration or whatever, you will probably feel the need to go to the rest-room. Come back to the table just as the dealer is shuffling.
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