Blackjack Card Counting Strategy & Rules

Blackjack card counting as used at the Sahara in Las Vegas

The following blackjack game is new to the Sahara in Las Vegas and is outlined by Stanley Ko. One aspect covered is black jack card counting.

Ultimate Blackjack – the table game at the Sahara in Las Vegas.

By Stanley Ko

Rules of Play

The table layout consists of 6 betting options for each player. Players may wager on any combination of the 6 options on any hand:

Betting Option



Blackjack 4 to 1 A-6-Q-10 => A-Q = Blackjack
21 3 to 1 3-8-5-K => 3-8-K = 21
20 1 to 1 A-2-3-6 => A-3-6 = 20
19 8 to 1 4-5-J-3 => 4-5-J = 19

25 to 1

2-6-7-3 => 18
17 or under

30 to 1

2-3-4-6 => 15

After the players have placed their wagers, the dealer will deal four cards face up and place them in front of the chip tray.   The dealer will then determine which combination of the four cards makes the best hand according to the traditional rules of Blackjack.   Only the highest possible hand wins.   The dealer will offset the winning combination, pushing them forward.   The dealer will then pay the winners and collect the losing wagers.   The four cards will then be placed in the discard rack and the next betting round will begin.

Card Counting

The game is dealt from a six-deck shoe with 50% penetration. Bet limits are $1 – $25.

All the six bets are vulnerable to card counting but only Blackjack, 19, and 17 or under are worth counting due to the poor deck penetration.  I have devised a counting system for each of the 3 bets as follows:

Tag Value









Blackjack -12 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 -1
19 3 1 -2 -1 -2 -1 -2 0 -4 2
17 or under 1 -3 -2 -1 0 0 0 0 1 1

Like conventional blackjack counting systems, true count must be determined from the running count and only at positive true counts will the bet be favorable.

Count Pivot Approximate Advantage Per Count Point Initial Advantage at Pivot
Blackjack 4 1.4% 1.34%
19 2 1.6% 1.10%
17 or
1 7.0% 0.53%

Pivot is that true count at which the bet swings to the player’s advantage.  The pivots were generated from floored true counts.   For each point the count arises, the counter’s advantage will increase by 1.4% up to
7%, depending on which count is used.

As one cannot count three bets at the same time, three card counters are needed.   When more than one bet is favorable, which occurs 8.1% of the time, choose the one that yields the highest advantage, but
for camouflage purposes the three of you probably want to make different bets if the difference between the advantages is not too big.

To estimate your advantage you need to multiply each additional point over the pivot by the approximate advantage per count point and add it to the initial advantage for the bet. For example, at a true count of
4, a 19 bet counter should have an advantage of (4 – 2) x 1.6% + 1.1% = 4.3%. At a true count of 7, a Blackjack bet counter should have an advantage of (7 – 4) x 1.4% + 1.34% = 5.54%. Suppose both the
19 and Blackjack bets are favorable at the same time; a max bet of $25 should be placed on Blackjack since 5.54% is greater than 4.3%.

When none of the three bets are in your favor, you either sit out or bet $1 on 19 as 19 is the least disadvantageous of all the 6 bets.

If all three of you work together and bet accordingly, then 59.9% of the time a favorable bet will occur and EACH of you can expect to win more than $110 per 100 hands. Here are the favorable opportunities and advantages for the three bets:

Favorable Opportunities
Advantage Per Favorable Bet
17 or under

Blackjack Rules….

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