by Norm Wattenberger

Chapter 10. Effects on Other Players

We have all heard it — "You took the dealer's bust card." But in fact, one player can have an effect on another. Some such effects as well as myths are examined in this chapter. The Shuffle Tracking chapter discusses the subject further.

"Paranoia is just reality on a finer scale." — James Cameron, 1995

How does back-counting affect others?

Backcounting or wonging — playing only good counts — is clearly a method of improving card counting advantage. But, what happens when someone else backcounts your table? There are two sims behind this chart. The first sim consisted of two players. A basic strategy player in seat one and a Hi-Lo card counter in seat two. The second sim was the same, but a third player sat down at a true count of +2 and left at a true count of -1. We are interested in the effect on the Hi-Lo player in seat two. This chart displays the win rate by true count for the seat two Hi-Lo player in each sim plus the backcounter. The red area displays the win rate for each TC for the Hi-Lo player at the first table. The green area shows the win rate for the same player, only at a table where a backcounter comes and goes. The blue ribbon is the win rate of the backcounter. We can see that at the higher counts, where we win money, the interrupted player's winnings are reduced. The backcounter is stealing some of his good cards. Overall, the Hi-Lo player's edge drops from 1.37% to 1.23% when the backcounter appears at the table.

The Blackjack basic strategy player is not charted here but is also impacted. For the basic strategy player, the house edge increased from .38% to .42%.

Where did the lost winnings go?

We have seen that the frequency of positive true counts that you experience will decrease when a back-counter is present. This chart details that effect. At the negative counts, the Hi-Lo player plays about the same number of hands whether or not a backcounter is present. But when the counter is haunting the table, only 75%-80% as many high true counts are enjoyed. This is due to the backcounter eating cards in positive true count conditions.

There is also a further impact if the Hi-Lo player is using betting camouflage. With cover betting, at positive TC's the drop-off in units bet is more severe than the drop-off in hands played. That is, the average bet will be lower at high TC's. Why is this? Since the backcounter's interference tends to reduce the length of high TC consecutive hands, and reduces the number of hands dealt per shoe in favorable situations, the Hi-Lo player has fewer opportunities to win enough hands in a row to pump his bet up to the optimum level if constrained by cover betting rules.

These charts indicate that a card counter should probably leave if someone is backcounting his/her table. On the other hand, a basic strategy player that realizes the situation can increase his/her bet whenever a backcounter sits down and will end up improving his/her advantage.

Sim details

  • Six decks, 5/6 penetration, S17, DAS, LS, 2 players, Basic Strategy and Hi-Lo, Sweet 16
  • Six decks, 5/6 penetration, S17, DAS, LS, 3 players, Basic Strategy and Hi-Lo and Hi-Lo back-counter in at +2 out at -1, re-enter, Sweet 16
  • Five billion rounds


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