Card counting is the most talked-about blackjack advantage play method, but it’s usually thought of as being done by a single person. A single card counter can do fairly well in blackjack, but a well-run blackjack team can be much more profitable.
Books and movies have been released about famous blackjack teams, like the MIT blackjack team. If you’re interested in putting together a blackjack team to battle the casinos, I’ve covered some pointers below.
Types of Blackjack Teams
A blackjack team consists of two or more people, and a team can be run different ways.
The same concept can work with three or more team members.
Another type of blackjack team has a number of counters who sit in games and count cards but don’t vary the size of their bets. When the count is favorable, they signal another team member, who enters the game and makes big bets while the count remains in their favor.
This type of team can have as few as two counters and one big player or a large number of counters and one or two big players. Depending on the talents of the players on the team, the same member can work as a counter on one trip and as a big player on a different trip to a different location. This isn’t normal, but it’s possible.
Both types of teams can win money in the long run, but if a team is run correctly, a larger team using a big player can be more profitable, and it’s more difficult for the casino to identify the team.
A blackjack team that’s bigger than two people needs a clear leader or manager. The manager doesn’t have to play, but he or she can play as part of the team. The manager needs to be smart, and it needs to be clear that he or she is in control at all times.
This page is designed with the team manager in mind, but the information can be useful to anyone involved with a blackjack team.
The team manager controls the bankroll, plans how the team runs, organizes trips, and makes sure the team members don’t make mistakes that lead to the downfall of the team. The manager also has to have a firm understanding of variance because even the best blackjack teams lose sometimes. A string of losses can destroy a team if it doesn’t have a strong manager.
For a blackjack team to make enough money to pay everyone enough to make it worth their while, you need to have a large bankroll. You also need a large bankroll so that the team can ride out short-term negative variance and survive until they start making a profit.
You can set up the way team members are paid in different ways.
The simplest way is for each team member to receive an equal share, but many times, the counters are paid a straight hourly wage.
Things can get complicated when the bankroll comes from an outside source that must be repaid and gets a percentage on their investment.
In a perfect world, you provide the entire bankroll and build and run the team. But this is challenging or impossible for most players. They simply don’t have enough money.
This page isn’t about how to fund the team bankroll, but understand that you’re going to have to get the money somewhere.
This means that you’re probably going to have to convince someone that you can safely offer a good return on investment.
The two most important things you need for a blackjack team to be successful are talent and trust. All of the team members need to be talented enough to make money for the team, but trust is just as important.
This is why building and running blackjack teams is so difficult. Beyond the fact that team members have to be trusted with cash, a team can start coming apart during a downswing.
Beating the casinos using card counting isn’t something that happens in a straight line. Some sessions are losses or break even, and some sessions are profitable. If the team has more than one big player, one of them can have a great session while the other doesn’t.
While you hope to recruit talented counters, sometimes they make mistakes. Any time the team faces a downswing, it can build resentment and distrust. Accusations can be made, and feelings can get hurt.
This might not seem like a big deal, but anything that can cause discord inside the team must be eliminated as quickly as possible.
You have to have one or more people who can count cards well. It helps if the person you use for the big bets can also count, but it’s not a 100% requirement. I don’t believe there’s a perfect team size, but a team with three counters and one big player is a good way to start.
It’s not overly difficult to learn how to count cards. With enough practice, almost anyone can learn how to do it. Because counters on a team always make the minimum table bet and just use basic blackjack strategy, they usually are safe from heat from the casino. This reduces the pressure on them.
Of course, you want to make sure your counters are good enough that they rarely make a mistake, but you can teach most people how to be good enough. For this reason, I recommend finding a few people you can trust and training them as counters for your first team.
You can use friends or family members, but you want to make sure that family members don’t look alike. It’s important that the casino never sees the team together and that it’s as hard as possible to identify team members.
Find two or three friends or family members and start working on your skills. You can act as the big player to start. Once you learn the ins and outs of making your team a success, you can start expanding or building another team.
While it’s good to be close to the team, you can run more than one team in different areas if you have good management skills and have people you can trust.
At times, some of the MIT blackjack teams had dozens of members working all over the United States and elsewhere. You can do the same thing if you’re smart and can put together a large enough bankroll.
Challenges of Running a Blackjack Team
Blackjack teams face a number of challenges in addition to the ones I’ve already covered.
What are you going to do if you get caught with tens of thousands in cash and are questioned by the authorities?
Carrying around a large amount of cash isn’t illegal, but law enforcement often thinks you must be into something illegal if they catch you. The simplest way to explain all of the cash is to file taxes as a professional gambler and keep the records with you. This doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have trouble, but it can help.
You might be thinking that you can avoid all of this by simply wiring the money to the casino, but this is a big mistake.
Members of your team need to stay in different places and never spend any time together away from the blackjack pit. They can’t act like they know each other even in the pit. They need to start playing at different times also.
If you do things well, the big player can earn comps, including free hotel rooms, but even this can be dangerous. Eventually, the casinos figure out that they’re being attacked and start looking closely at everything.
The good news is that there are more casinos available than in the past, so you can move around a great deal. You can also rotate players as your team grows to make it more difficult to identify possible team members.
If you run successful teams for a long period of time, you’re going to get burnt by the casinos eventually. Most of the successful people behind the best teams are forced to work behind the scenes. This stresses your management ability, but you can make it work.
A blackjack team can be profitable, and it’s not as hard to put one together as many people believe. The truth is that a proper bankroll is about the only thing needed that you can’t learn.
Start small by creating a blackjack team with people you trust, and you have a good chance to succeed.