Blackjack Card Counting
Card counting is a practice used in blackjack to improve player odds. In fact, the strategy can actually eliminate the house edge and even give the player an edge over thehouse! It is not considered cheating because you are using the same information that is seen by everyone else at the table. Basically you are using your own brain to keep track of cards in order to find a mathematical pattern and betting indicators. In fact, the system isn't that difficult to learn either.
Learn How card Counting Works
Learning the tactic may seem like an arcane memory task at first. Once you understand how it works, then it's not so bad. Basically you are carefully keeping track of all of the cards that are being dealt. The trick is you are not trying to memorize all of the numbers though. Depending on what system you use, you are trying to keep track of a particular value of cards like remembering the count of ten cards being dealt.
Ideally, a shoe of cards will contain a fixed number of cards at the beginning of a match. You then set up a mental count starting at 0. When a card is dealt, you add or subtract to this number to keep track of a score indicator which determines when would be an ideal time to bet. Keep in mind that you also need to keep track of all the cards in play. This means counting the cards from the dealer and from other players.
In the most common card counting system, you are waiting for a positive count, which indicates that there have been many small cards already dealt. Due to the fixed number of cards in the shoe, this would mean that there are a higher number of large value cards.
The benefits of having big numbered cards in the deck mean that the dealer will bust more often, you will be dealt more tens or higher hands as well as more blackjacks. You are essentially playing basic blackjack strategy for awhile until you get these positive counts. When your count becomes a very high positive number, then you start to gain a huge mathematical edge.
On the other hand, you may start getting a negative count and you can take advantage of this by not betting as much when more small cards are in play. It is best if you play on a table with a large shoe with multiple decks of cards to ensure a long enough game to be able to get a large count. The problem is some casinos try to prevent card counting by shuffling the deck early so a good count cannot be established.
Card Counting History
Back in 1962, Professor Edward Thorp discovered a way to get a mathematical edge in blackjack. If anyone studies the basic strategy concept, they could see that when certain cards are taken out of the deck, the odds change. Thorp was the one who first figured it out. He found that when a card is drawn, the next card was actually dependent on previous history of moves in the game. This was different than other casino games like craps or slots when individual bets were independent of the previous bets.
Edward Thorp's main concept was that when a deck was low in 5 valued cards, the player would gain an edge over the blackjack dealer. This was most apparent in the 5 point cards than when any other type of card started to run out in the deck. Therefore early card counting was based on keeping track of the 5 point cards. That means when the 5's were low in the deck, then your edge gets much better and your winnings improve while also using basic strategy methods at the same time.
Later on, different systems were used such as counting the 10's in the deck. Both of these systems were known as "five count" and "ten count". There are also other complicated blackjack card counting systems that can even give you slightly greater edge as high as 0.15%.
Mastering the Skills of Card Counting
Obviously the safest way to really get good at card counting is to buy a few decks of playing cards at the store and deal yourself cards. This takes practice but it doesn't take too long. Get a group of friends together if you would like and practice the game around distractions or loud environments common in a casino. This is how the MIT Blackjack Team did it. If you have ever seen the movie "21", you may have remembered the card counting MIT students and professor.
Not only do you need proper card counting skills, you also have to remember blackjack basic strategy at the same time in order to give you the most optimal advantage. Once you memorize the basic strategy and complement this with card counting, then you could force a real advantage over the casino. This would mean a guaranteed profit in the long run, much like the casino has against players because of their edge. In a way, the casino could essentially become your personal ATM, especially if mathematics is backing you up
Is Card Counting Legal or Illegal?
This question is extremely interesting. Card counting is so popular because of that movie and also all of the books that have been written about it. Card counding is not illegal but you can get in trouble with the casinos, such as being banned from them if you get caught. Because you are using information that is readily available to everyone else and the only tool that you are using is your brain intelligence, then there is nothing wrong with counting cards. Although casinos do not like these people because they can take the edge away from the casino and lose money.
Land based casinos can't take legal actions against card counters, but they can kick you out and permanently ban you from their resorts and casinos. Also, they may even put you in a database as a well known counter and ban you from other properties such as the entire Las Vegas strip. It is hard to be caught because you are doing everything in your mind, so you should be safe as long as you don't do anything obvious like counting with your fingers. Although, casinos can take legal action if you are counting by using computer software or counting electronics as it would be a true form of cheating.
Have you ever wondered how casinos view that MIT blackjack movie? You may be surprised to know that casinos actually enjoy the attention. Mostly because many people don't practice at all and they don't even know the basic strategy. This results in having a lot more customers losing money because they improperly utilize the card counting system. So because of this inexperience, casinos make a ton of money on the blackjack tables.