Blackjack Strategy: Card Counting Odds

Card counting has always had this glamorous image in the blackjack world. It is considered the crème de la crème of blackjack skills. It is also the blackjack skill that can allow the player to beat the house. But how much of an edge does this piece of blackjack strategy give a player?

You might be surprised.

A skilled card counter may only get a 1% edge over the house.

But when you think about it and compare it to other casino games, that 1% is not as little as it might sound. Blackjack already has the smallest house edge of all the casino games: 0.5% for the player who uses perfect basic strategy, and card counters certainly do use it.

Card counting is when a blackjack player uses a counting system to get an idea of what kinds of cards are left in the deck. If their counting system reveals that a good number of lower cards (2 through 6) have been played, it means that the remaining deck has more high cards (10 through Ace) left than low cards.

Because there are more high cards left, the chances of being dealt a strong hand or a natural blackjack are increased. This is when skilled card counters will begin to raise their bets.

But when their counting system reveals that a larger number of high cards have been played, leaving the remaining deck rich in low cards that favor the dealer, the player will then begin to decrease his bets.

It is having the idea of what the remaining deck is rich in that gives players that 1% edge on the house—if they can exploit it and not be caught by the casino staff. And the risk of being caught is why players must be skilled at card counting to include it.