If you’re playing with black ($100) chips, a 1/4% increase in your win rate may be worth the trouble, if you can play an advanced strategy with speed and accuracy. If not, you may be wasting your time, or even lowering your win rate.
Consider a game that would net the Red Seven Count about 1%, and would net a more advanced system, like the Zen Count, about 1 1/4%. Whereas the Red Seven Count would win at a rate of $8 per hour, the advanced system would win only about $10 per hour, even if you played with equal speed and accuracy.
$10 x .0125 x 80 = $10 per hour
So, if it’s $20 per hour you’re shooting for, the advanced techniques alone won’t accomplish your goal. By all means, go for the greater win if you can, but don’t delude yourself if you’re struggling with decisions at the table. Your mental efforts are unlikely to pay off in dollars and cents.
For the average card counter, there is little to gain from an advanced counting strategy. Most players would either slow down so dramatically, or play so inaccurately, that they would gain nothing. Many would actually decrease their win rates.
The last factor in the Profit Formula is hands per hour. Most blackjack authors estimate that a player gets about 75 to 100 hands per hour. Full tables may cut this down to 60 hands per hour, or even fewer if the other players act slowly. Head-on play, when you can find it, will get you about 200 hands per hour. Many players do not believe they can find head-on games, and when they can, they do not believe they can play that fast. Actually, this is a pretty normal rate of play in a head-on game—if you don’t waste time making your decisions.
Playing faster is more challenging, and is also excellent cover. Dealers and pit bosses expect card counters to play slowly and thoughtfully. Also, in hand-held games, dealers will sometimes deal deeper into the deck for fast players, which is another advantage. After all, the faster you play, the more often the dealer must shuffle. If you’re accomplished enough as a counter to carry on some semblance of small talk while playing your hands at a good clip, you will more likely be judged as no threat to the house.
To find head-on games (also often called heads-up, or head-to-head), especially at low stakes, you must play at off hours. Mornings and early afternoons on weekdays are often excellent times to go hunting for dealers who are standing behind empty tables twiddling their thumbs. The best times are often different for different casinos; scout and you’ll find out. There are, to be sure, other arguments—pro and con—with regards to playing under various crowd conditions for purposes of camouflage, team/partner attacks, and the like. I will attempt to cover all of these considerations later. For now, it’s important that you understand the basic math of how a card counter estimates his win rate in dollars and cents.
In a game where 80 hands per hour nets you $10 per hour, 200 hands per hour, assuming the same average bet size, and the same % advantage from your card counting efforts, will raise your expectation to:
$10 x .01 x 200 = $20 per hour
One question that many new counters ask is, “How much money can I make?” The answer, as you can see, is not so cut and dried. Every one of the factors in the Profit Formula is a variable, and every one has a big effect on the answer.
Stem-sellers who claim that using their blackjack system will net you $XXX per hour, per day, per week, or per year, are generally hawking nonsense. Unless they fill in all the variables of the Profit Formula—which will differ for every player, and change according to the table conditions you face—any such claim is pure speculation. In the meantime, to best apply the Red Seven Count, or any other card counting system, you’ll need to learn much more about table conditions, betting strategies, camouflage, toking, and every other aspect of casino blackjack that is important to a professional player.
But how do you figure out your average bet size? You don’t just pick a number out of thin air and decide to bet that much per hand. Any pro will tell you that the most important factor in bet-sizing is the size of your playing bankroll, and even if you don’t see yourself as a pro player, you must take into account the same factors that professionals do when sizing your bets.