Last Man Standing are articles intended to help the average guy prepare for some of life’s oddest events. It’s just advice. It’s better than being clueless.

Ever see that movie ’21′? It starred Kevin Spacey as an MIT professor who masterminded a card-counting scheme that allowed he and his students to scam Vegas casinos out of tons of money. It’s based on a true story, meaning you and your friends could go out there and do exactly the same thing after reading this post. Well, probably not. But at least you can sort of learn how they did what they did.

Don’t try this at home (even though we know you will)

Casino rules vary on card counting, but the activity is generally frowned upon and can get you booted from the tables. Also, be aware that multiple-deck games wear away the benefits of card-counting. Oh, and don’t take this post as an endorsement of “cheating.” Casual card-counting is a way to add another dimension of analysis to a game of chance.

The basics

Like just about all casino games, blackjack is a poor bet because the odds are stacked in favor of the house. Play long enough and you will certainly lose money, but you can make things more interesting by using math rather than intuition to make your in-game decisions. If you employ a card-counting method and maximize your bets when the odds are more in your favor while minimizing them when you’re more likely to use, you can give yourself a fighting chance to catch a winning streak that allows you to cash out while ahead.

Learn to count

Blackjack Tactics walks you through the “Hi-Lo” counting method, which assigns a point value to each card and tasks you to keep a running tabulation of the deck’s value so you can place your bets accordingly. The 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are worth one point, while the 10, Jack, Queen King and Ace are all worth negative one. The other cards are neutral.

Put your ‘mathemagic’ into action

You add together the values for all the cards you see. The higher your count, the more the odds are in your favor and the more you should bet. The MIT guys set up operations that had them counting cards at every table in the casino, then sent a specific dude to go in, act like he was drunk, and place big bets at hot tables. You’re more likely to play well enough to stick around for a few extra hands and free drinks, which will turn you into an actual drunk dude who makes large bets and probably doesn’t win. But since when is reality different than the movies?

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