No matter the game, players always look for a sure way to gain an advantage over their opponents and win. When it comes to blackjack, the objective is to take down the house to get twice the money you’ve put down on the table. After years of playing and strategizing, professional players eventually came up with card counting, a technique that helps them make informed decisions.
However this strategy is by no means easy to master. Card counting utilizes mathematics combined with a mastery of basic blackjack strategy. Aside from that, card counters also need to pay special attention to their surroundings and blend in with the crowd when taking their seat at the table. Casinos have little to no tolerance when it comes to card counters since they have a significant advantage over the house. As a result, professional card counters make sure not to draw too much attention to themselves.
So with all that said, is counting cards still possible to master? How does it work and how hard is it to get to grips with? Find all the answers to your card counting questions below.
What is card counting?
Card counting is a technique used by blackjack players all over the world to improve their odds by keeping track of the cards dealt to them. By utilizing this strategy, card counters are able to make informed decisions pertaining to how large or small their bets will be as well as their overall success rates.
Is counting cards hard?
Some view card counting as a get rich quick scheme, allowing a player to gain the advantage against the house and walking away with more than initially staked. But at the same time, card counting has a reputation of being extremely hard since it utilizes advanced memorization techniques and mathematical equations. But how hard is card counting, really? What is the easiest way to count cards and how effective is it?
Learning to count cards
According to expert blackjack players, learning to count cards isn’t hard. What makes it a laborious task is the dedication and hard work you need in order to fully master it.
What is the easiest way to count cards?
There are different ways to count cards but the easiest and most popular method is the high-low counting system. This can be broken down into three easy steps: tracking the running count, converting the running count into the true count and then sizing your bet proportionately based on the true count.
The cards are then divided into three groups, each with their own assigned value.
The cards in this group are beneficial to the player and all have a value of -1. High cards include 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. When these cards are removed from the game, the player's advantage goes down.
Cards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 belong to this group and their count value is +1. As low cards are dealt, the player's advantage increases.
This group of cards doesn’t have a count value since they don’t benefit the house or the player in any way. Within this set are cards 7, 8 and 9.
How to count cards for dummies
To count cards is to track their count values. By adding the count values of each card and hand, you get the total running value.
Afterwards, you need to convert the running count into its true count, which is equivalent to the running count divided by the number of decks remaining, and rounded to the nearest half deck. The player's advantage increases with the true count.
The bet size goes hand in hand with the true count since this signifies how high your advantage is. As your odds of winning increase, you should adjust your bets proportionately to get the most back. To adjust your bet accordingly, take note that your bet size should be equivalent to the true count minus 1 betting unit.
Can anyone practise card counting?
The short answer is yes, anyone can learn to count cards but take note that learning isn’t the same as mastering it. Knowing the basics won’t be enough to give you the advantage you need when playing in a real blackjack game.
If you’re serious about winning money in blackjack, you need to fully master the technique itself. It takes dedication and hours of practice to perfect. If you’re up to the challenge, then yes, you can become a masterful card counter and take down the house with your newfound knowledge.
Casinos vs card counters
Most casinos are against card counting and do not tolerate those who practise it within their premises. Plenty of casinos hire retired card counters to pick out the would be card counters from regular players.
How to easily count cards
Gather as much information as possible
Before you start playing at blackjack tables, you should gather all the information you can about card counting first. Do your research and read books written by industry professionals.
Some books to consider include...
- The 21st-Century Card Counter: The Pros’ Approach to Beating Blackjack (Colin Jones, 2019)
- Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-one (Edward O. Thorpe, 1962)
- Professional Blackjack (Stanford Wong, 1975)
Train and train again
After doing your research, you can’t just head straight to the casino and test out your newfound knowledge. Instead, you’ll need to put the theory into practice by training with simulations or games where you don’t have wager real money upfront.
Make sure that before you play blackjack and practice card counting for real, you’re completely prepared.
Collect a list of ongoing resources
There’s no better way to learn than by hearing anecdotes from people who have been in the field. Establish connections with more experienced players in order to learn more advanced skills.
Blackjackinfo.com is one of the best online forums for discussing blackjack best practices and relevant issues with experienced players.
Tips for beginners
Keep on training
Train until you know the system like the back of your hand. Remember that card counting is not exclusive and anyone can learn it. So if you’re looking to learn the art of card counting, look no further than the previously mentioned high-low strategy. Master it and you’ll always have an ace up your sleeve.
Make sure you’re financially prepared
You also need to keep in mind that while there is no requirement for learning card counting, what matters most is the necessary bankroll to withstand potential losing streaks. If you don’t have a deep well of resources to support the learning curve, then you might want to reconsider.
Beware of your surroundings
People who know how to card counts can easily spot card counters playing at blackjack tables that’s why casinos hire retired card counters as their security personnel. So you should be extremely careful and hyper aware of not just the cards but also your surroundings.
Try to not be noticeable
Learning how to count cards is easy but the hard part is playing without being noticed. To play under the radar, spread your bets and don’t increase your bet as the shoe empties. Socialize with other players and keep a low profile at all times.
Words by: Leann Padilla