Blackjack is the only casino game where it is technically possible to tip the odds in your favour and take the house for a ride. Elsewhere, the randomness of the outcome with every other casino game makes even semi-accurate predictions impossible. With Blackjack, card counting holds the key to reversing the house edge and walking away with a fatter wallet. 

You’ve seen it in the movies, you’ve heard of celebrities doing it and you know it’s frowned upon by casinos worldwide. But is card counting something that’s worth dabbling in? Given the potential for plentiful pay-outs if you get it right, is it worth taking the risk and tipping the balance in your favour?

Let’s take a look at some of the basics of card counting in a little more detail.

What is Card Counting in Blackjack?

The concept of card counting is, at a fundamental level, relatively simple. It’s a strategy that involves keeping tabs on the cards that have been dealt, in order to predict whether or not the next hand will be advantageous for the dealer or the player.

Those who count cards assign value to each of the cards in the deck, in order to memorise the total value of the cards that have been played so far. This subsequently gives them a clearer picture of how many low cards and high cards are left in the deck, making it possible to make reasonably accurate predictions of which cards will be dealt.

There’s still an element of risk involved, but card counting nonetheless makes it easier to avoid excessively risky bets. It’s also a useful way of working out when to make major bets, with the highest likelihood of beating the dealer.

How Does Blackjack Card Counting Work?

The principles of card counting are therefore simple – you maintain a tally of the total value of the cards already dealt in your mind. However, approaches and techniques to card counting vary massively from one player to the next.

Some of which are ridiculously complicated, while others are surprisingly simple to get to grips with.

Here’s an example of one of the most popular methods for blackjack card counting, which once mastered can do the trick:

  1. Prior to playing, the player assigns value to the different categories of cards in accordance with their value in the game. For example, cards 10-Ace are valued at –1, cards 7-9 are valued at 0 and cards 2-6 are valued at +1. These values are then memorised, so as to be immediately identified when they are dealt during the game.
  2. When the game starts, the player keeps a close eye on the cards as they are dealt and keeps a running tally in their mind of their total combined value. This means that in accordance with the card dealt, the running total will either stay the same, or decrease by one or increase by one each time. This is where the gift of discreet mental arithmetic pays dividends, as any physical ‘tells’ that show you’re counting will be picked up on by the dealer.
  3. The basic principle with this technique is that as the game progresses, you have a rough idea of the total combined value of the cards left in the deck. In accordance with this total combined value, you can then make more strategic decisions with regard to how much you bet. 
  4. If you estimate the total value of the cards remaining in the deck to be positive, you should decrease the size of your bet as the dealer’s deck still have plenty of high-value cards. If it’s a negative total value, you can increase your bet as there are more low-value cards in the deck.

Of course, mastering the mental arithmetic tasks like this can be tricky, when you’re also attempting to keep tabs on what’s going on at the table. Expect a certain amount of confusion at first, but you’ll get the hang of it with plenty of practice.

Is Card Counting a Good Idea?

As for whether or not you should give card counting a go, it’s entirely a judgment call. Though it’s worth bearing a few things in mind, if thinking of giving yourself a shot at reversing their house edge.

First and foremost, card counting is not illegal. It’s not even considered cheating, as you’re not technically doing anything wrong or breaking any rules.  This means that even if you’re busted red-handed, you’re not going to find yourself in trouble in any legal capacity.

That said, the overwhelming majority of casinos worldwide are wise to the tricks of card counters. Not just this, but card counting is expressly forbidden (or at least frowned upon) as far as house rules are concerned. This therefore means that if there’s even the slightest indication you’re counting cards, you’ll be asked to leave and forbidden from returning.

Excessive blinking, tell-tale eye movements, tapping fingers, mouth movements – it’s surprisingly simple for a trained dealer (or security guard) to spot the signs of card counting.

Still, if you’re 100% confident you can get away with it and don’t mind being banished and banned from your favourite casinos, the answer is yes – card counting is worth trying out.

Is Card Counting Possible Online?

Unfortunately, card counting isn’t something that works online. Given the fact that online casino gaming works by way of a computer algorithm rather than a physical deck of cards, there’s no way of realistically predicting the outcome.

When gambling online, all outcomes are 100% random in nature – courtesy of a random number generator.

This is something that rings true across all online casino games across the board. There are no strategies, tips, tricks or hacks that can guarantee wins when gambling online…period. 

If you’re adamant about giving card counting a try, you’ll need to do so in a traditional casino environment. Preferably one you can deal with never visiting again, if (or when) you’re caught and given your marching orders.

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