Card Counting: How Does it Work? Is it Legal?

Casinos have statistical advantages to make sure “the house always wins”. But what's all the hullabaloo about card counting? Is there a game where the player, with the right strategy, can turn the odds in their favor?

That game is blackjack. Read below to discover how card counting works, if it is legal, and strategies for card counting. More into slots strategies? Or maybe you prefer sports betting. Check out our parlays guide.

What is Card Counting?

Blackjack, which is also known as twenty-one or twenty-one blackjack, is one of the most popular casino games in the world.

This is due to the ease and simplicity of the game. The aim of blackjack is to push your luck while attempting to beat the dealer by getting as close to 21 points without going over. A card's value is its number, except for the face cards valued at 10. Aces can be either 1 or 11, which makes them a powerful card to hold.

Now, the blackjack dealer has to stick to the same set of rules. However, players are allowed to use different strategies in order to try and improve their odds.

Card counting is one of the strategies players can use in order to win one over on the dealer. Don't worry, card counting is not as complicated as it looks. It quite literally is just ‘counting cards'. No need for complex math or memorization. You just need to keep a good eye on what's being dealt.

How Does Card Counting Work?

How to count cards? In a normal game of blackjack – played with a single deck of cards – the house edge is the probability that the casino will win. Luckily, this is normally nil. That said, it can be tricky to top the dealer, particularly if they're standing on 17.

This means that if you play using this strategy, in the long-run, you’ll break even or profit. Now, that might not sound like an excellent advantage. But, blackjack is the only table game where this can happen. Due to this reason, it can be profitable in the long term to count cards.

The term ‘card counting' just means keeping a tally of certain cards while the dealer deals through the deck. By keeping that tally, you know approximately which cards are more likely to come up for both you and the dealer. And that little bit of information can tell you when to bet big, or when to bet small.

Is it Foolproof?

If you have ever watched the 2008 movie 21, you'll have heard of the group of MIT geniuses winning big by card counting. The  MIT team's intricate system certainly paid off but it wasn't totally foolproof, and no strategy can guarantee a payout.

If played correctly, counting cards improves your odds by around 1 percent which will certainly pay off in the long run.

Card Counting Strategies

Black jack table There are very few card counting strategies and furthermore many few that really work.

One of the best strategies remains the High Low Strategy.

This is perhaps the best and easiest system for both beginners and professionals.

The High-Low Strategies

Using the High-Low strategy is one of the easiest because the person counting the cards only has to keep a simple and not extremely accurate mental tally of three groups of cards.

So, every time you see a high number placed on the table, which consists of 10's or above subtract 1 from the players total.

For every low number cards which are from 2's to 6's you must add 1 to his or her tally. The middle cards or 7's, 8's, and 9's are simply ignored.

How do I turn this into strategy?

For example: if the running tally is at +3, that means the upcoming cards are more likely to be high so it is extremely advantageous for the player to bet big.

However, if the total is at -2, the odds are on the dealer’s side because of the forthcoming low cards, and so it’s best to bet small.

And when the deck is shuffled, the count goes back to zero and you start all over again.

Overtime counting the cards becomes effortless but it is necessary to practice.

Furthermore, card counting is a long term strategy which means playing game after game in order to keep your 1% edge.

Is it Illegal?

Black jack cards Card counting is not illegal despite what many casinos would like you to think. The only problem is if you use a device in order to help you win. That said, casinos are not a fan of card counters, and you're likely to get banned if they catch you. Likewise, retail casinos in Vegas and AC share info on customers. So, you could find yourself on the outs.

Casinos are well aware that card counters lose them money. Therefore, they have the authority to deny service to anyone they like.

Furthermore, many casinos use shuffle machines so now it is more difficult to count cards in many of the more popular casinos today. Be careful; casinos are quite good at spotting card counters. Usually, a card counter is hyper-focused on the game, playing for long stretches of time, and betting varied amounts.

Intro to Card Counting

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