Mastering card counting while playing blackjack is a skill some players have perfected. But how does card counting work in Blackjack? With this article we try to clear things up for you.
In short, contrary to its name, card counting doesn't involve tallying cards. Instead, you assign a value to each card dealt. Professional Blackjack players typically use +1, -1, or zero. For instance, when a high card appears, you add +1. If a low-value card is drawn, you subtract one (-1). An average card value warrants no action, i.e., zero (0).
Hence, it becomes evident that card counting in Blackjack doesn't involve the addition or subtraction of actual card values.
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The Legality of Card Counting when Playing Blackjack
The above serves as a brief introduction to card counting. We will explore various methods or counting systems used by players in casinos later. However, a critical note before we proceed: Card counting in Blackjack is entirely legal!
Casinos (including live casinos online) might lead players to believe that card counting while playing Blackjack is prohibited – this is misinformation. You're not engaging in anything illegal. You're simply applying a “mnemonic” technique, assigning values to the cards yourself. Based on these values, you aim to improve your chances of “predicting” the value of the next card. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Theory Behind Card Counting
Historically, Blackjack was played with a single deck of cards. In this traditional format, the “house edge” (the percentage advantage a casino has) is negligible if you employ the best counting method. Combined with a good memory, you could even turn the game profitable. Blackjack is the only casino game suitable for this.
By tracking the values of the cards, you can theoretically reduce the house edge to zero. Some professional Blackjack players make a living by counting cards.
Valuable information for you
Counting the cards provides valuable information to apply to your betting strategy. Based on the cards already drawn, you decide whether to bet or stand. You already have a better insight into which cards remain in the game.
If many high cards remain, your chance of a Blackjack* (or 21 in total) is higher than if many low-value cards remain. With many low-value cards in play, the dealer's risk of “busting” is lower.
Blackjack or 21?
*A “Blackjack” only counts if you have a combination of an Ace and a “face value” card of 10, i.e., King, Queen, Jack, or ten. A 21 with more than two cards does not count as a “Blackjack,” and the payout is lower.
Implementing Card Counting in Practice
As introduced earlier, “counting cards” is merely assigning a +, a -, or a 0 to the dealt cards. This counting method is known as the “High-Low” count. This is the simplest form of card counting in blackjack. You only need to remember three groups of cards: high cards, low cards, and cards of average value.
High Face Value
For each high face value card (10 or face cards), you subtract one point from your count. You do the opposite with low-value cards, which include two through six. If a card falls into this group, you add one point. Cards with seven, eight, and nine are not included in your count, keeping the sum at zero.
Suppose you have a positive four count, then many low cards have already been played. This indicates there are relatively many high-value cards left in the deck. Based on this, you could choose to bet higher than you initially intended. However, confidence in your counting ability is essential.
Negative Results can be Positive!
Should your count result be negative, it indicates that a good number of high cards have already been played. Consequently, the likelihood of low-value cards appearing is higher. As described earlier, the dealer's chance of busting becomes relatively smaller. This may be the opportune moment to fold or bet lower.
Practice Makes Perfect
Card counting may seem straightforward at first glance (similar to a strategy in Baccarat), but it's advisable to practice thoroughly before implementing this counting method in a live game. Mastering this strategy flawlessly demands focus and memory training. Especially in a (live) casino with multiple players at the table and considerable background noise, maintaining concentration can be challenging.
Playing blackjack at a live casino online casino offers the advantage of using a notepad to track your count. As nobody can observe your actions, you can note down your count freely. Technically, you could do the same in a physical casino, but we wouldn't recommend it. It may appear odd and may lead your fellow players to suspect you're jotting down notes about them, which breaches “casino etiquette.”
Card Counting Doesn't Guarantee Winnings
It's critical to understand that counting cards in blackjack doesn't guarantee winnings. The counting method merely provides information on the cards already played in the game. In theory, this could lower the house edge of the casino, or even reduce it to zero. However, even then, Blackjack remains a game of chance, much like online roulette.
Furthermore, it's important to acknowledge that a card counting method does NOT work with software versions of Blackjack available in online casinos. To be able to count, you must play with physical cards.
Lastly, the most effective card counting outcomes in Blackjack are realized when only one deck of cards is in play. With multiple decks in the “shoe,” counting becomes significantly more challenging.
For instance, with six decks, there are already 24 Aces in the deck… and that's without considering the number of high cards like Kings, Queens, and Jacks…
Answers to Your Questions
There are no federal or state laws explicitly prohibiting the practice of card counting, nor is it classified as a criminal activity. However, it's essential to understand that casinos are private enterprises that establish their own rules. This means that despite the lack of statutory prohibition, you can still potentially face consequences (like suspension of your account) if you're caught counting cards in a live casino. Therefore, discretion and understanding the specific rules of each casino are crucial when employing such strategies.
The Hi-Lo strategy is considered a 'balanced' counting system due to the alignment of High, Neutral, and Low cards in a deck summing to zero. This system demands you to maintain a cumulative tally of all cards presented in the game. so not considereing only just your own hand but also the dealer's. On a multiplayer table you would also need to count the cards dealt to your opponents
Regardless of the specific counting system being utilized, the guiding principle remains consistent. If an individual places high bets when the count is high and decreases their bet when the count drops, they could potentially be employing a counting strategy. Similarly, if a person refrains from playing when you do, they might also be a card counter. This pattern of behavior is typically indicative of counting tactics in play and casinos are well aware.
It is hard to tell and differs form person to person. Our estimation suggests that it typically requires between 100 to 200 hours of practice counting cards at home before an average individual acquires the skills needed to gain an edge over the casinos. Yet, even after investing this much time in practice, we advise against adopting a highly aggressive strategy in a casino until you've accumulated around 40 to 50 hours of casino-specific card counting training.
Practicing card counting at home can be achieved by shuffling six or eight decks of cards and dealing them out. In the event you lose track of the running count, you have the liberty to review the dealt cards without any constraints. It's preferable to hone these skills at home for free, rather than risking actual money at a casino.