Card counting is a method that advanced blackjack players use to gain an edge over the casino. Getting the edge over the casino is huge in gambling. Casinos are businesses built with the intent to make a profit so they will always have the odds in every casino game. This small odds advantage is known as the “house edge” and it ensures that a player will slowly lose all of their money over the long term. The only way for a player to fairly win is during the short time period when they can quit when they are ahead.
Counting cards in blackjack is somewhat like cheating but technically it is fair. Players are given information that is readily available to both the dealer and all of the other players. The whole concept of counting cards is based on basic strategy. It does take some skill do count cards as well and you need to be good at your math and your strategy. A recent movie called “21″ was based on the MIT team who beat the house through card counting shows that it takes some math to do this.
Basic strategy is a type of game plan that players can use to make all the best moves on every game situation. Following basic strategy ensures that you are making the best moves possible mathematically according to odds and numerical percentages. You may have seen colorful charts showing what move you should make based on what cards you have and what cards the dealer has. As a matter of fact, players can actually bring these charts to a blackjack table and play (unless there are specific rules against it). The reason you can do this is even though basic strategy gives you the best odds possible, those odds are still not good enough to reduce the house edge and you still lose in the long run.
One major concept of basic strategy is the fact that there are more 10 point cards in the deck. This is because all face cards such as jacks, queens and kings are all worth 10 points. Hence, when the blackjack dealer is dealing out cards, there is a much higher probability of 10 cards being dealt and this is the foundation behind both basic strategy and blackjack card counting.
When you are good enough at the game where you essentially have memorized basic strategy and know all the correct moves, then the time comes to learn card counting. Learning how to count cards is the last advantage needed to tip the house edge over to your own edge. There are many systems of card counting available so I won’t get into explaining the specifics of them but you can visit our site in the links below to learn the specifics of each system.
The basic idea behind card counting is to keep a running count of all the cards on the table. It’s not as hard as you may think either because you are not counting the values on the cards. Basically you are just adding or subtracting (+1 and -1) for only certain cards that appear. For example, if three ten point cards are shown on the board, then you minus 3 points from your count. So when starting a game of blackjack, your count is just zero (0). If two kings are dealt, then your count goes to negative 2 (-2).
You also need to keep track of the low cards such as numbers between 2 and 7 for example. You add one point for the low cards. So if a 4, 7 and 3 are on the board after two kings, your running count then becomes positive 1 (+1). So you are just adding one point to the count for each of the low cards and subtracting one point to the count for every 10 point card.
Here is how you start betting: When you get a large positive count, this means that the dealer must have dealt many low cards, which means there are lots of 10 point cards still in the deck. The concept of basic strategy says that when more 10s are in the deck, this will favor the odds of the player. So the best thing to do is start betting higher amounts of money.
If there is a large negative count, this means lots of 10 point cards have been dealt and your odds start decreasing because there are fewer 10 point cards in the deck. Then it is wise to decrease your betting so you don’t lose as much. The concept of card counting is actually pretty simple but it takes practice actually keeping a count in your head because it is illegal to record all this on paper.
Casinos don’t like card counters and you will likely get thrown out of the casino if caught. This isn’t surprising because having an edge over the casino ensures that the casino will be losing money in the long run and you as the player will be using the casino as your own personal ATM machine when playing against them in the long run!
A few important notes to card counting is you need to start your count at 0 after the dealer shuffles the cards. Casinos battle card counters by shuffling the shoe of cards at random times in the game so that the player doesn’t have time to get a good count going. Ideally, casinos would like to shuffle the deck after every hand dealt, which is what online casinos do using their random number generators and computer software.
To learn about the different counting systems, visit our Blackjack Card Counting page. Also learn more about blackjack strategy, play free flash games, probability odds and other general blackjack information at our Casino Blackjack page.
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