Card counting is a process by which blackjack players can gain small but profitable edges over the casino in blackjack games. Most effective when implemented using a team of blackjack players, card counting has been utilised in land based casinos for more than 50 years.
In order to fully understand card counting, you mut first understand the basics of blackjack.
The aim of a game of Blackjack is two fold. One, to draw a hand whose value is as close to 21 as possible yet not over it. Two, for your hand to be of sufficient strength that the dealer is unable to either match or exceed it.
In Blackjack, the value of a hand is assessed based on the numbers on the cards. In the case of Royalty, all these cards are assumed to be worth 10, except the Ace, which could be 10 or 1. The BlackJack hand, which is worth 21, is the Ace and Jack of spades.
Players can keep hitting (adding cards to their hands) until they decide to stop, but the closer a player’s hand gets to 21, the more dangerous it is to hit. By contrast, the dealer must continue to hit until they either beat the player or go bust, but must stand on 17.
The Theory Behind Card Counting
In Blackjack, the deck of cards is traditionally not shuffled between hands. Rather, to save time, it’s fed from a device called a shoe. And it’s this quirk that makes card counting possible.
There are a finite number of cards in a deck – 52 in all. Among these, there are 4 tens, and 16 Royals, including the Aces. That makes 20 cards in all with a face value of 10.
If you have the propensity to remember the cards you’ve seen dealt so far during a game, then you can start to make some very educated guesses about what remains in the deck, and can start applying this to how you bet. Understand, this isn’t something you can pull off after a hand or two – it requires a sustained period of play and the willingness to lose some money in the pursuit of a bigger haul.
Card Counting Scenarios
Let’s say, for instance, that you’ve been counting what comes out of the shoe and you’ve noticed that nearly half the deck as been dealt, there’s still around 14 high cards lurking in it. That means that there’s a high statistical likelihood of being dealt a hand containing two high cards: for a value of at least 20, or 21 if you land an ace.
This, therefore, is a great time to bet high, because the odds of winning are good.
Let’s look at another possibility. Suppose you’re aware that most of the good cards have already left the deck. Because most of the high cards are gone, it creates a much safer scenario in which to hit, because doing so is less likely to cause you to go bust.
History of Card Counting
Edward Thorp is often credited with being the father of card counting thanks to his infamous 1962 best selling book – “Beat the Dealer” which was the first formal publication that discussed card counting methodologies and strategies in depth.
However, there are a great number of documented stories about earlier card counters who were working the tables long before the release of Throrp’s book. Since then, new and improved card counting strategies have been devised using the same underlying principles. Used correctly, these methods can provide a savvy card counter with an even greater edge against the house.
Read more about the history of card counting
Card Counting Legality
While some people consider card counting to be cheating at blackjack, it actually isn’t – provided that the only equipment you use to achieve it is your brain. If you’re utilising any kind of technology to gain an advantage, well, that’s cheating by any definition, in any game.
Contrary to popular belief, counting cards in blackjack is actually completely legal. A casino is allowed to stop card counters from playing at their tables. However, there are no legal repurcussions for card counters unless they use devices such as computers to assist in the card counting process.
Read more about the card counting laws
Card Counting Methods
Card counting methods can range from the most basic high low count systems to extremely advanced point systems where each individual card has a predesignated value attributed to it. Listed below are the most commonly used card counting systems catering for both beginners and advanced card counters.