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Why can you write down past results at any casino game except blackjack?

11 February 2013

By Alan Krigman

Question: Casinos let you write down the results of past plays at any table games except blackjack. In fact, they even have signs showing previous winners at roulette and some baccarat tables. Why can you do this in certain games, but not blackjack?

Answer: In games like roulette and craps, each round is independent of whatever happened previously. Some people believe these games exhibit patterns from which future results can be predicted. But this is mathematical malarkey.

It's different in card games where what's drawn in one round is set aside and not subsequently available. Take blackjack. A player who knew all the aces were gone would drop out of the game until the next shuffle because there would be no chance of being dealt a 3-to-2 natural or a soft hand suitable for doubling down.

There's a relationship between cards withdrawn from the shoe and chances of winning on Player, Banker, or Tie in baccarat. But it's a weak and complex link. Changes in edge are small and even a computer would be taxed to do the calculations fast enough.

In blackjack, however, monitoring withdrawal of high versus low cards gives a strong index of when the edge is with the bettor or the house. This is essentially what card counters do in their heads. Ability to record what's been taken from the shoe, and maybe do some figuring, could yield a significant advantage. So crib sheets are forbidden. And computers are illegal.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns were focused on those interested in gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.