Card Counting Not as Hard as it Seems

I am not joking. Card counting really is not a hard blackjack strategy skill to learn. It takes time, practice and patience to master, but the basic skill is not hard.

If you can add and subtract 1 then you can count cards. Many novice card counters will start out with the Hi Lo counting system. It is the most basic and teaches novice counters the basics that will allow them to move up to more advanced counting systems in the future.

The Hi Lo system starts out by assigning counting values to the cards, either a +1, a 0 or a -1 like so:

Cards 2 through 6 are assigned and counted as +1
Cards 7 through 9 are assigned and counted as 0
Cards 10 through Ace are assigned and counted as -1

Players then count the cards on the table with their appropriate counting values, adding 1 and subtracting 1 where necessary. It is as simple as gong around the table adding and subtracting what counting values the other players, you and the dealer have.

So what do you do with this running total that you have?

Well it depends on what the cards you have counted add up to. If the running total in your head is in the positive by +3 or more it is a good indicator that a good many low cards have been played, hence the higher positive count. A positive count means that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—the cards that favor the player and increase your chances of being dealt a natural blackjack.

Now if the opposite is going on and you have a running count of -3 or more it indicates that more high cards have been played and passed out of the game. At this point the remaining deck is rich in low cards which favor the dealer, and it is time to reduce your wager.

This afternoon I will go over some card counting tips to help you make even more of a success out of card counting in your blackjack strategy arsenal.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part II

Now that we have discussed the legality of card counting, we can move on to other basics about blackjack—no need to worry about being arrested for card counting now.

Now we will go over where card counting can and cannot be used.

If you want to use card counting and are dead set on using it, you will need to make a trip to a brick and mortar casino because card counting will not work with online blackjack.

I have no doubt that you have heard the rumor that card counting only works when you know how many decks are being used, and that it makes card counting possible for the online blackjack games that do tell players how many decks are being used.

This is not accurate.

Knowing the number of decks in play does not have any impact on the success of your card counting abilities—regardless of whether you play blackjack online or in a brick and mortar casino.

What does make a brick and mortar casino necessary is that cards are discarded from play. In online blackjack, cards are never discarded; the Random Number Generator (RNG) pulls from all possibilities when ‘dealing’ cards in the game. Say for example you were just dealt a 4 of spades and a 2 of clubs. In a game of blackjack in a casino, those cards would be removed from play. Granted, with multiple decks there is a chance those exact cards could show up again.

But the point is that two low cards would have been removed from play, which increases the ratio of high cards left to be played.

That is the who purpose of card counting—to give players an idea of whether the remaining cards are rich in high cards or low cards. Knowing this helps them to choose how to wager on their rounds. And since any cards could be dealt in online blackjack, card counting is ineffective. If cards are not removed from play, who can you tell if the remainder of the deck is rich in high or low cards regardless of the number of decks in play?

You cannot, and that is the whole reason why card counting cannot be used with online blackjack. Knowing the facts about card counting can pay off in that avoiding the rumors about card counting that could interfere with the effectiveness of the skill. And interfering with the effectiveness can interfere with the success of the skill.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part I

Card counting is one of the most coveted blackjack strategy skills in the game. It is easy to play according to basic strategy—all you do is look off of the chart and make the recommended play. I am not saying that basic strategy should be dispensed with in favor of card counting. Actually both are necessary.

Basic strategy can get you within 0.5% of the house’s edge over you. But card counting can make up that half of a percent and even tilt the edge in your favor.

But such a skill as card counting does not come as easily as basic strategy. It requires practice and patience to learn. That practice can make the difference between gaining that slight edge over the house and being caught and subsequently kicked out of the casino.

Because of its known potential to beat the house edge, card counting has built up a reputation, some of which is true and some of which is not. Part of using such a strategy skill in blackjack is to know what is true and what is rumor.

One of the biggest is that card counting is illegal. This is not true exactly.

There is now law that says that card counting is against the law. However, casinos are private businesses. This means that they can choose who they want to do business with, and by that I mean they can refuse to allow players to play as playing is considered a business transaction between a player and the casino. It is on these grounds that casinos can have a card counting player banned from the blackjack tables or removed from the casino.

This is why you want to practice your card counting skill regularly—you do not want to get caught counting. You must be able to count quickly and quietly in your head without any outward signs that you are doing so, and all in the midst of the lights and sounds that make a casino what it is.

That is the first most basic thing you need to know about card counting—the actual legal stand point on the highly acclaimed blackjack strategy skill. You need to know that it is not illegal but that there is the risk of being removed from the casino if you are caught counting. Knowing this helps enforce the need for practice and it also imparts the seriousness with which casinos regard card counting blackjack players.

Your Bankroll and Card Counting

For players who do not know much about card counting—real card counting, not the stuff that they show in movies—there is pervasive idea that card counting blackjack players are rich and that they win every time which is what makes them rich.

This would be an inaccurate idea about card counting.

Now a betting system, those require a large bankroll due to their need to double and double and continually double wagers in order for the system to be used. Note that I said ‘used,’ not ‘work.’ That is because betting systems do not work.

Anyway. Card counting bankrolls.

The beauty of card counting is that you can use any size bankroll. No joke. You can play with $100 or $10,000. It boils down to what the table minimum is and how much you are betting per round.

If you are starting out with a smaller bankroll you need a blackjack table with a lower table minimum. That minimum will be you base wager. As the count swings up into the positive slowly begin to raise the amount of your wager. Do not jump from $10 up to $50. That is called a give-away. It is bad and it tips the dealer and pit boss off that you are up to something. Then they will watch you and watch you and put pressure on you until you either quit counting or they will escort you out.

The point is that you can start out with a small bankroll and slowly work your way up. You are not going to win every single hand in blackjack if you are card counting. But if you follow the count and subtly increase you wagers as the count goes positive, you can increase your bankroll. Being rich is not a necessity with card counting.

Card Counting: Really Illegal?

As I began to discuss yesterday, card counting is surrounded by blackjack myths. It increase the mystique of this blackjack strategy skill. It also raises it up on a pedestal as the blackjack strategy skill that every player wants but just does not think he can achieve. All because of the myths that surround card counting.

One of the myths about card counting makes up most of the intimidation about the skill, and casinos are only too happy to allow that myth to keep going. It is widely believed that card counting is illegal.

The truth is that there is no law that says that a player is not allowed to think—to use their brain—when gambling. While I am sure the casinos would love for players to not use their brains when playing blackjack, the truth is that players are at least protected from legal action against them for counting cards.

However, the law stops there.

It is also widely believed that casinos will throw players they catch card counting out. Casinos are private businesses. They are offering games as their services, and any business can refuse to serve a customer or ask them to leave the premises.

This holds true for casinos when they catch card counters. They can ask blackjack players they catch counting cards to stop playing blackjack or to even leave the casino entirely. And such actions are well within the law.

So while it is a myth that card counting is illegal—the law does not prohibit brain use when playing blackjack—it is within the casino’s right to ask a player to stop playing blackjack or to leave the casino.

Because casinos can legally ask caught card counting players to leave, it is your task to practice your card counting skills so that you do not get caught. That means practicing your card counting skill so that you can count quickly and quietly in your head while surrounded by distractions and even when making small talk.

Blackjack Myths for Card Counting

Thanks to movies like ‘Rain Man’ and ‘21’ a good many people are convinced that some of the blackjack myths surrounding card counting are in fact truth.

I would not already be calling them myths if they were real.

Blackjack myths having to do with card counting surround the skill in a sense of mystique like how the rose bushes surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle. You know they are there and you want what is on the other side. But there are all those thorns and other scary things in between.

And like how Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, the myths about card counting are just as untrue.

For example, a photographic memory is required to be successful at card counting.

This would be very untrue. Yes, I know that Rain Main did. But it was a movie and that is all. Card counting does not require a photographic memory. It does require basic math skills. Can you add 1 and subtract 1? Yes? Then you can learn to count cards.

All card counting is made up of is assigning tags or values to cards, such as +1, +2, -1 or -2, to the cards and then doing the appropriate addition or subtraction when those cards appear in game of blackjack.

Similar yet opposite of the photographic memory is the blackjack myth that you need to be a mathematical genius in order to successfully count cards.

Obviously I have already unreasoned that one. Adding and subtracting one is not an exceptional math skill. In fact, you could probably teach a child to count cards to a certain extent as they are capable of adding and subtracting numbers.

And those are only two of the blackjack myths that surround the castle of card counting. Make no mistake that card counting is a worthy skill, that it can give blackjack players a slight edge over the house.

Card Counting Practice Helps Your Math

You hear often enough that practicing blackjack and blackjack strategy will improve you blackjack game and skills. This is very true. The only way you become better at something is to do it.

This truly applies to card counting when you are first learning the skill. Card counting, while it can greatly benefit your blackjack odds and your profits, it does require a lot of practice and time to make the skill a profitable one.

This is especially important if math is not your strong point. Even the most basic counting system, Hi Lo, involves adding positive and negative numbers together in your head quietly and quickly. It is important for you to be able to do your math in your head quickly and quietly with no outward appearance of doing so.

It is just as important as making sure to vary your wagers a bit when counting cards. Casino staff will watch players’ faces when they suspect them of card counting to look for signs of concentration. They will often try to engage players they suspect of card counting.

Because of the distractions they might try to throw at you, it is important to practice your math and that is easily done if you take the time to practice your card counting.

Here are some tips for practicing your card counting:

-Take a deck or two and shuffle it to mix all the cards up. Then work on counting quickly and quietly in your head. Time yourself to see how long it takes you. Work on decreasing the amount of time it takes. Try to reach a point where you are not stopping to think about the math, but rather are looking at the card you flip over and can instantly do the math.

-When practicing turn some music on, or the TV, or even both. Casinos are full of noise and noise can be distracting. Practice doing your card counting math with such distractions.

-This one might start out being a bit difficult. But have a friend sit down and try to count while talking to them. You do not have to have an in depth conversation, but talk about something like the weather or a sports team. Stick to light conversation that you would have with a stranger.

Working those tips into your practicing can help improve your ability to do math that relates to card counting, making you ready for the distractions and light conversation the dealer will have with you. Improving your math will improve your counting sills. The better your card counting skills are, the closer you are to gaining an edge over the house.