For many inexperienced players, counting cards may seem like the ultimate strategy when playing blackjack. It feels like it’s on the edge of legal, with casinos on the lookout for it, so of course, it is the special ingredients in any winning player’s game. This is not the case. Although some count cards as part of their strategy, counting cards doesn’t win every hand, and a player must have some skill to use it right. This might come as a shock, but some of the most experienced blackjack players don’t count their cards at all. It takes a lot of focus for relatively little return. In the end, it is the player’s preference whether or not they count cards. It depends on the ability to focus and personal preference. Of course, it can be a helpful skill, even if you don’t think you’ll use it.
What is counting cards, anyway? Counting cards is a strategy used by blackjack players to determine how likely it is that the next hand will be a favourable one. Card counting is pretty simple, but it is also policed by casinos. If a player is a suspected card counter, they are sometimes kicked out of the establishment.
There are four main steps in this method of card counting. This is the hi-low method. First, the counter needs to assign a numerical value of +1 to cards 2-6 and a -1 to cards 10-A. Next, count during each hand. So, if a 2, 6, 7 10, Q and A are dealt, your running total would be -1. Third, the counter must pause after each hand to consider the results. If the total is negative, the cards that are left are poor. If the total is positive, the cards left are richer in large cards. If the total is positive, increase your bet. If it is negative, decrease your bet. That’s it. It can be used very successfully when done right, but some casinos look down on counting cards, and it is not a strategy in and of itself. There are other ways to count cards, but this way is easy to pick up, and it’s recommended to beginner card counters. Just because it’s easy to learn doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It gives the player plenty of information with which to place their bets.
A more difficult method is the Revere 14 Count method. This is one of the most famous and hardest methods to learn. Only the most experienced players use this method because other, easier methods work almost as well, but some players still swear by the Revere 14 Count method. This method, like all card counting methods, also assigns values to cards. The values are as follows: 2 – +2, 3 – +2, 4 – +3, 5 – +4, 6 – +2, 7 – +1, 8 – 0, 9 – -2, 10 – -3, J – -3, Q – -3, K – -3, A – 0. When a deck is freshly shuffled, the counter starts at 0. As the player counts throughout the game, if the total is positive, the deck holds larger cards, and if it is negative, the deck holds smaller cards. Once a deck is played all the way through, the player should have a total count of 0.
If these strategies for counting cards don’t interest you, there are so many more. If you want to learn how to count cards, there are plenty of websites that offer instructions on each method and even a rank of how difficult each method is to learn. With a little practice, any method can be learned and tried out in a real game setting, and if you don’t like the method you picked, they all have the same basic concept, so it’s easy to learn another.
Many tips can help you learn how to count cards. When you first begin counting, play online games with a single deck and plenty of time for you to make your move (and count the cards). Secondly, 100% accuracy is attainable, if you focus on perfecting your counting at a slow speed and continue to increase speed slowly. Make sure you reach 100% accuracy multiple times before moving up a speed level. As your accuracy improves, you will find ways to speed up. Some players let one high and one low card ‘cancel’ each other out, which speeds up the process because these cards are not counted.
Although this gives an advantage to the counter, it doesn’t mean that the counter will win no matter what. Counting cards does not change the hand you’re given; it just gives you a little more information about the cards you will be given. That is why most card counters will also employ other strategies. Usually, a player will use a basic blackjack strategy, keeping an eye on the running total, and if it looks like there will be an overwhelming amount of good cards, they bet more. If it looks like there is going to be almost no good cards, they bet less.
While counting cards is technically not illegal, there has been no overarching ruling on this. Some casinos may kick out a player for suspected counting others have no choice but to let players count. The reason casinos dislike card counting so much is that counting cards give the player a .5% to 1.5% advantage over the dealer. Casinos would go out of business if the player won every time! Luckily, if a player is interested in card counting, it is easy to count cards subtly. Overall, though, counting cards is not the end all be all of blackjack. Many players don’t count cards because it takes focus away from the rest of the game it doesn’t give the player a huge advantage and casinos are on the lookout for it. Usually, there are better strategies to winning a hand of blackjack, and most experienced players would only recommend card counting as a last resort or as a secondary strategy if you’re experienced enough to keep track of all of that.
Overall, while counting cards is not the skeleton key to winning that the media has made it out to be, it is a good tool to have. Although it may not be a good idea to go around bragging about your card counting strategies to the casino owners, most of the time it is easy to fly under the radar when counting cards, especially because counting cards doesn’t guarantee success. Again, most players choose not to count cards, though, because it takes a lot of focus to remember the running count and many other strategies can be employed when playing blackjack. In the end, if you are invested in card counting, it can be helpful, but it will not make you a world-wide blackjack legend like the media may have you believe.