Card Counting

Card counting is something which has been demonised and even declared illegal in some casinos but the real question is whether in today’s environment there is really anything to be gained. In a single deck card game such as bridge or whist it is imperative to keep a check on which cards have been played in order to know which card remain and similarly with poker you can assess your chances of achieving a hand based on the cards you can see but it remains an assessment of probability and chance.

The most common and simple form of card counting does not involve counting every card but rather use what is known as a running count using a value for each card as +1, zero or -1. Based on the idea that high cards favour the player and low cards favour the dealer it could be useful to know the chances of high cards remaining in the deck or decks. A simple running count will therefore allocate a +1 score to a 2 through 6, zero to 7 through 9 and -1  to 10 value cards or an ace. The higher the running count then the better are the chances of getting dealt a high card. There are other methods in the running count include allocating +2 to some cards or even using a 0.5 value.

Card counting is a skill that can only to be learnt with time and experience and can only be done when you are playing blackjack using a shoe where the cards that have already been played get laid aside until the shoe is nearly empty which generally happens at land based casinos or at the live blackjack option at online casinos. This way you can count the cards that have left the game and you know what cards are left in the game. Once the shoe is nearly empty, all the cards will get shuffled and placed back in the shoe for the next few rounds. You may have heard of the term “back counting” which is where a player will only play hands when the count is high enough or alternatively will continue to play at minimum stakes or if playing surrender blackjack use that option more frequently on a low running count and increase stakes when the table starts to run “hot”. One of the limitations of any card counting method is the number of cards that the player actually gets to see to be able to count and it has been known for players to team up so that more cards can be counted but needless to say casinos are wise to this and will look out for it. From this point of view playing multihand blackjack will give you sight of more cards. It will also be fairly obvious to players that the more decks that are in a shoe the less meaningful any single card becomes so early after a shoe has been shuffled the count is pretty meaningless. Online casinos and land based casinos will often try to stop effective card counting by shuffling the decks in the shoe long before it is even half empty or in some cases it is shuffled when only 20% or so of the cards have been dealt. Most online casinos will publish data about how frequently the decks are shuffled so if you are a card counter this information may be important.

Many casinos nowadays have automatic shuffle machines and once a hand has been played the cards are put straight back into the machine and they are then shuffled for the next round. This is most popular when playing with one or two decks and it makes card counting useless as the card that you might just have played can reappear in the next round. The whole concept of counting cards is something that we would all like to be able to do and to become a good card counter is not difficult, it is just a question of practise and time but being a successful card counter is quite difficult. There are many different aspects to card counting and it is not simply being able to count but think of all the different emotions that you have to be able to control and at the same time play your blackajck hands correctly. If you have just lost 25 hands at 100 euro a piece, then you have to be able to stick with the system and keep on going as if you where just starting which may sound easy but it is not. There are many players who practise card counting in the world but only a handful that are successful.

The whole system of card counting is based on statistics. If you know what has already left a deck or decks then you have a better chance of knowing what is coming. If you were to be playing blackjack with one deck and in the initial deal there were 8 cards with a value of ten then you know that there are only eight, 10 valued cards remaining. With this knowledge you can change your way of playing to your advantage but always remember that card counting is a question of chance and probability; nothing is certain in these games but any little advantage you can get is worthwhile. Before you get too enthusiastic about counting cards, try doing it at home and see how you get on.