A Card Counter’s Guide: Where to Sit at the Blackjack Table

A Card Counter’s Guide: Where to Sit at the Blackjack Table


– When counting cards,
what’s the most valuable
spot at the table to sit?
I’m gonna break down the
math of that question,
as well as a few considerations
for the next time you
hit the blackjack tables.
An inevitable question
when someone gets into card counting is
where at the table should I sit
or does it even matter?
First, let’s look at the expected value.
I ran a whole bunch of simulations
to see the difference in
win rate, or expected value,
of sitting first, or sitting
in the middle of the table,
or sitting last to act
at the blackjack table,
and the bottom line is
for a shoe game, meaning
a six or eight deck game,
there’s absolutely no
measurable difference
to sitting first, in the
middle, or sitting last.
In a double deck game,
however, there’s a very small,
I’m talking one to two,
less than 2% difference
if you are playing last compared
to if you’re playing first.
This is what I was expecting
’cause I remember hearing very
early on as a card counter
that when you play last,
you get a little bit more information
by seeing other players
cards from when they hit,
or split, or double down, or whatever,
that you can take that extra information,
it’s gonna make your playing decisions
a little bit more accurate,
but it’s a very small increase in EV.
So, the academic answer is
that it’s slightly more valuable
to play last in double deck
and it really doesn’t
matter in a shoe game.
But don’t overthink this,
we’re likely talking
about pennies per hour,
and there are a lot of
other ways to generate
a lot more than 1-2% more EV.
If you wanna generate another 1-2% EV,
play one or two more hands
at the end of the hour
or the end of the night.
Better yet, rather than playing last
at a table with multiple other players,
you’re way better off
playing a less crowded table
because you’re gonna get
in way more rounds per hour
if it’s a less crowded table
than a more crowded table.
I’m talking about twice as many,
like, a 100% increase in EV
or even a 200% increase in EV.
But beyond the EV, there
are a few other things
you might want to consider.
The first, of which, is if
you’re new to card counting,
it can actually be helpful to sit first,
and the reason why, is because
when you’re the first to act,
you have as much time as you need
to update the running count.
The dealer cannot deal until
you make a player decision,
and you might feel awkward
if you’re sitting there at First base,
and they’re saying, do
you wanna stand or hit,
and you’re saying, hold on,
but the reality is you have
as much time as you need
and what can happen is
if you’re playing last,
and you don’t have the count in time,
and this guy at First base
starts hitting his hand,
and he busts,
and they’re taking cards off the table,
you’re getting behind on the count.
You’re actually missing out on cards,
and so, my advice is early
on sit at First base,
take your time, and control
the speed of the game,
so that you could
actually count accurately.
Another consideration is that
if you’re gonna play Third base,
which is the last to act,
it’s kinda stupid but
you have to be prepared
to get a little bit more
flack from the other players.
There’s this false gambler logic that
you’re playing decisions
impact the whole table
and that’s not true.
You can run computer simulations
and there’s no measurable impact.
Your playing decisions don’t
affect the player’s odds.
Yeah, sometimes, your
decision makes everyone lose,
sometimes your decision
makes everybody win,
but it doesn’t affect
the odds of the game.
But, don’t tell a gambler that
because they believe that
Third base is the anchor,
they’re responsible for the
whole table winning or losing.
It’s stupid, it’s not logical,
but that’s what they think.
So, if you’re gonna play Third base,
be prepared for someone to say,
hey, you screwed up the dealer’s hand,
and, you know, my advice
is to ignore them,
but if you just wanna avoid
that flack all together,
just sit somewhere else.
One final consideration is
if you sit at First base,
keep your eyes out because there are times
when you can catch a glimpse
of the dealer’s bottom card
and if you know how to
use that information,
it can be a piece of information
to use as a card counter.
I’m not talking about
shuffle tracking here,
but if you’ve been to one
of our blackjack boot camps
you likely know what I’m talking about
because it’s something I always
cover during a boot camp.
It’s a small bit of information
but it’s still a bit of
information that can be used
for your advantage.
So, here’s the deal,
sitting at First base or at
the middle or at Third base,
the last spot,
that’s not the difference
between being a successful card counter
and an unsuccessful card counter.
There’s really very little
measurable difference, if any,
where you sit.
What does make you a
successful card counter
is perfect basic strategy,
perfect counting,
perfect betting and true count conversion,
and knowing the playing deviations
so that you can have a strong
edge against the casino.
If you wanna learn more
about beating casinos with blackjack,
you can subscribe to this YouTube channel,
and you can also check out
blackjackapprenticeship.com,
where for 10 years now,
we’ve been training people
how to beat casinos legally
with card counting for real money.

43 thoughts on “A Card Counter’s Guide: Where to Sit at the Blackjack Table”

  1. If the casino that you are playing does not allow late surrender, then I suggest that you sit at first base position so you'll always have that option to surrender.

  2. I agree that sitting at the first base helps you count card. Cuz you can start counting your cards right before you hit or stand. Or you can start counting cards when dealer is dealing the cards. It's just that you have a bit of time to prepare to count cards or to start counting your first two cards before the round begins. Once you bust and deal takes the card away then you can start counting other players card.

  3. When I play it's a shoe game. I usually sit in the center: it's easier to see the cards. But when I sit at 3rd base, I usually make the announcement "I don't want to hear any crap about 3rd base messes up the cards.!" Most people laugh.

    Also, I remember Thorp or Wong saying something about 3rd base is slightly better.

  4. For me its as close to 3rd as possible. I use low bankrolls so I rely heavily on whether or not the count dictates that I use basic strategy, illustrious 18, or index plays. Also anyone with low bankrolls who want to play blackjack and not get wiped MUST learn some form of shuffle tracking too. You need to be able to notice patterns in the cards that come out.

    The optimum for a counter is to play heads up, and play three separate hands if possible. But your bankroll has to be several thousand for that lol.

    Question for the apprenticeship guys: How much more EV can someone generate if they have completely memorized Illustrious 18 and Index plays? I already have basic strategy completely memorized now I am working on index plays and illustrious 18.

  5. I prefer to sit at 3rd base, because you have more time to check other players' cards, and you can change your tactics when necessary, based on other players' decisions. Cons are you get good cards last since you're sitting at the last, but at least you won't get pressured to make a decision fast while counting cards.

  6. Something that I use, as a smoker I sit at 3rd base at a shoe game and stand my cigarette pack near the discard rack. Knowing the exact spots on the pack for 1-2-3 deck thicknesses (taking into consideration the thickness of the plastic on the bottom of the rack) I can more accurately estimate the number of decks that have been discarded. This also helps in fractions of decks discarded to calculate a more accurate true count. I’ve done this for years and have never been challenged by a dealer or pit boss. I usually play at an Indian casino in Oklahoma that has a 4 deck shoe and is a $10/$400 table. With only an allowed 40 unit spread they don’t get too fussed at a 10-12 bet spread, thinking the low max bet is sufficient to thwart card counters.

  7. Were you ever a "recreational" gambler or was it always more of a job for you? Would be interesting to hear more of what got you started. Keep up the good videos in any case!

  8. I play 6 deck shoes. Often cant see where the dealer places the cut card as the shoe is blocking my vision.

  9. After listening to gambling with an edge podcast with you and Joe, I'm starting to think all you guys know is the basics (just like me). How can you let that guy tell the story of 700 hands an hour?? Either you actually believe him OR you let him skate which imo is worse. That guy conned you and the host.

  10. Is there more chance of winning by standing behind a random player then count the card. Bet in the same box as that player when the count is high?
    Melbourne Casino only has BlackJack with shoes with $50 minimum bet. And for a student, couple of grands bankroll are not that easy to have

  11. Great videos. You should do one about software. And could i get your opinion on freebet/push 22 is it worth playing over standard blackjack?

  12. Having self control and especially maintaining it as the hours goes by is one of the hardest thing to do inside the loud and sometimes annoying casino.

  13. I like first base. In addition to it being easier to keep the RC, you are less likely to piss off the other players. Oh you just said that lol

  14. You’re playing decisions do affect the table though if you take a card or if you don’t and the next hand comes someone could get a suited 678 on lucky lucky

  15. Colin, @0:53 you had mentioned that in DD about first and third base. However, you didn't mention anything on the middle. Did you find anything for that? ETA: when you mentioned sitting at 3rd base and the 1% – 2%, it could also be that yes your count is more accurate, however, the "effective pen" is higher too. So yes you get more info but also the effective pen is also better. So the player doesn't necessarily have to put more unseen cards "behind the cut card."

  16. Thank you
    I got a question
    Have you considered the true number, I mean I haven’t seen about this index (based on how many decks) in these videos
    My question is when we should divide count number on decks number or if it’s important at all?
    And what if casino doesn’t let us know how many decks are in the shuffling machine?
    Thank you

  17. My favorite is when one of the sheeple lose a double down and then won’t do it again. The pain of that first loss weighing heavily on their soul.

  18. If you have an idiot on third base busting when the dealer has a 6 and taking the bust card, it does make a difference!

  19. You should NEVER play single or double deck with any other players besides the dealer at the table.

    And even shoe games are best kept to as few players as you can find.

  20. My friend is a blackjack dealer and on his forearm is a tattoo of a king and and ace. See I am a blackjack player so I got a tattoo of a king, a two and then another king. Mitch Hedberg

  21. First or third makes it easier to count your head won't be going left and right as you scan the cards, this is why I always sit 1st preferably or 3rd second choice.

  22. 3:53 catch the dealers bottom card…this is so true, and I accidentally found this out in my earlier days of BJ. Weaker dealers sometimes accidentally expose their burn card and bottom card. And first base is usually the seat to catch a glimpse

  23. Third base is where a lot of CC's go and the pit bosses will be eyeing the position as well. You can sit second last and throw in some stupid losses in so not to attract these guys whose job is to make sure the casino only wins. Its not gambling, its losing !! when you cant play the casino at its own game. Be smart, dont play unless you really KNOW how to….

  24. in the far east, we only have csms, i have not seen a shoe game… i found most profit on sitting first base though… playing against the dealer one on one is the worst …

  25. You obviously shouldn't be using monte carlo simulations. Certainly not when it's something that you ought to be able to solve mathematically rather than trying a bunch of random trials of it. Monte carlo methods are the loser's way out to any calculation. It should be a last recourse if you can't do a calculation ANY OTHER WAY. What this demonstrates is that your results are no good. I can tell you precisely how much difference it makes. It makes no difference in the bet SIZE you make, which must be determined before you make anyone gets any cards, but it makes a substantial difference in the deviations to basic strategy you make…. and makes it equivalent to a greater penetration equal to the average number of additional cards everyone to the right of you at the table gets past their first 2, TIMES the fraction of performance of card counting that comes from deviations in basic strategy and not from changing your bet size. That's it. You should be able to figure out what it does exactly, from that. And this is significant in a 2-deck game AND in a 6-deck game. It is QUITE significant in a 6-deck game if the cut-card is like 1 deck before the end, because then if there are 5 people at the table, it's like the difference between a penetration of 5 decks leaving 1 deck left, or 5.2 decks leaving 0.8 deck left… but times about 0.2, the fraction of the advantage that comes from basic strategy deviations. Which is still a LOT. I wouldn't even PLAY at a 6 deck game if the cut-card was 2 decks before the end, there would be no point. It makes a LOT of difference where the cut-card is, if it's 1 deck before the end, or if it's 0.8, because right at the end of the playable shoe is where the standard deviation of the truecount is the most…. AND it's where you're most likely to be making a BIG bet, and that also means that it is the point where it is most critical that you do the most accurate deviations to basic strategy.

    So no, you're dead wrong, and you're doing your simulations wrong, or you didn't do a large enough quantity of the simulations. Also, generally I don't get a choice between tables based on number of players at them, there's only 1 or maybe 2 tables with the conditions I want, I'm not going to play free bet blackjack or spanish 21 or lucky ladies just because there are 3 people at the table I want and I want to play alone.

  26. I'll switch seats or move tables if the spot I'm playing is cold. I had a session where I played 8 different spots and couldn't catch anything. You will come across those every now and then unfortunately.

  27. when it comes to avoiding flak from gamblers… it really doesn't matter where you sit. They always find something to complain about in the way you play. I was recently at a casino, and I was criticized for not playing through the entire suite. ( I stopped when the count was very low)

  28. When cards are dealt face down I prefer the middle seat I can see more cards in the middle. Also if a player doubles for less I like to make up the difference and win or lose with them.

  29. When the dealer shows 10 or face upcard and they eventually have blackjack but they still let players continue to bet and in case they double or split they will lose more. Should I play at that table? Its online with live dealer BJ. Tks

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