Blackjack Card Counting. How to Count Cards & Is it Legal?

card countingA high number of Aces and tens in the shoe or pack give a better probability of Blackjacks (which pay at 3:2 unless the dealer also has Blackjack). Tens also increase the value of doubling, and a high number of ten-value cards makes the insurance bet more likely to land since it is basically a bet that the dealer’s card is a ten.

On the other side of the coin, low cards are good for the casino.

How do You Card Count?
Well, the important thing to understand, is that you are not trying to memorise all of the cards in play when you are blackjack card counting. Card counting is merely a technique, by which you can determine the distribution of the card values. You give each type of card a score and then keep track of a running score, or running count, to enable you to work out the distribution. And then you bet accordingly, when the odds are in your favour.

Casino Blackjack Ballroom

The Basic Technique
Assign a positive, negative, or zero value to each card. When a card is dealt, you ammend the running count accordingly. Low cards that are dealt increase the count by 1 as they increase the number of high cards in the shoe, while high cards decrease it. So, in basic card counting your starter count is 0. if a 10, A and 3 is dealt, you count is now -1 -1 +1 which is -1.

Cards dealt
10s, Face Cards, Aces: -1 for each card
2-6: +1 for each card
7-9: 0. Score remains the same.

This is the Hi-Lo system, the most widely used form of card counting in blackjack. There are also more complex methods that score in more detail. But of course, these are more difficult, so if you are new to this- start with the Hi Lo system.

Vary Your Bets
Now of course, you are looking for high scores for an advantage (at least +1). Vary your bets accordingly. Play the minimum when the count is negative, ad play your maximum as the count increases. Have a strategy before you start as to what you will bet with each score and make sure you play to a perfect strategy.

Blackjack Payout When Card Counting
Blackjack is one of the highest paying games in the casino of course, (if you play to a perfect strategy): typically you´ll be up against a house edge of less than 0.5%. Count your cards correctly, however, and vary your bets correctly, and estimates of your edge are between 0.5 – 1%. And some counters claim they can achieve a 2.5% edge over the casino playing certain variants. 6 deck games are the best. If you are betting £100 per hand with a 1% edge over the casino, on average you should make £1. So play 50 hands, and you could be £50 up.

Electronic Devices to Help you Card Count
We are now straying into an area that is extremely unpopular with casinos and illegal in many countries: using electronic aids to help you card count. These systems obviously help you to count using more sophisticated and complex methods (than the Hi Lo for example). They can range from some pretty highly technical applications to iPhone apps that buzz in your pocket when you hit the hot spots for betting.

Is Card Counting Illegal?
Well, that depends on the country, of course. In the US, it is completely legal. But actually, it doesn´t matter, as the casinos don´t like you doing it. If they catch you, you´ll be thrown out of the casino anyway.

Tricks the Casinos Use to Stop You Card Counting
The casinos will use every trick in the book to stop you counting cards, including:

  • Distraction by staff members.
  • Shared ID networks between casinos (face recognition) to “blacklist” serial counters.
  • Scanners that automatically spot counting systems.
  • Systems that track your betting profile and match it to known card counting betting profiles.
  • Dealers shuffling when a player increases their bet.
  • Enforcing flat betting where you cannot change the amount you bet during a shoe.

The more the casino shuffles, of course, the better for the casino and the harder it is for the counters.

Can you Card Count at an Online Casino?

The key thing to understand, here, is when the pack is shuffled. If you are playing online, we recommend you investigate the rules to which the blackjack is played to determine if the pack is shufflled after every hand. If it is, then forget about card counting.

But wait! You can theoretically card count online. You just need to play Live Blackjack (which is dealt by a real dealer over a webcam feed). Again, make sure you understand the rules (when the pack is shuffled, number of decks in the shoe etc) and then it is game on! In theory, your chances of being able to card count are no different to your chances in a land based casino.

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