How Counting Cards Fails

Counting CardsMuch to the contrary of popular media, counting cards is something that any tourist gambler can figure out; you don’t have to be Rain Man. All you need to start counting cards is basic math skills and innate knowledge of blackjack rules. Counting, or Reading Cards as it is sometimes called, is all about statistics. The cards in a deck are known, so counters can use this knowledge along with the cards that are shown to them in order to determine the make up of high and low cards in the remainder of the deck. This can be used for many different types of games using a deck or multiple decks of cards, but is most common in single-deck Blackjack, which is what I will use to explain the method a little more in depth.

For those who don’t know, Blackjack is all about trying to get to 21 points or a higher score than the dealer. Each player receives two cards, and is “Blackjack” if it naturally adds to 21.  The players will either hit until they are satisfied or until they “bust”, meaning they get a score of 22 or higher. The dealer must hit until he hits 17 or higher. A tie is called a “push” and the player neither gains nor loses money in traditional scoring. Essentially, there are high and low cards in Blackjack. Low cards (2-7) and high cards (8-10, face cards, and Aces). High cards are beneficial to players and detrimental to the dealer because high cards help players get close or all the way to 21 and will cause dealers to bust. Low cards will help dealers get scores from 16-21 without busting and will put players in riskier situations. Ideally, a player wants one or two high cards and one low card to make or get close to 21. Counters will assign values to the different cards and keep a profile of the remaining deck in their head so they have the chances of getting a high or low card in mind when betting or deciding whether or not to hit again. There are many different specific methods of counting cards, but they all roughly adhere to the aforementioned system.

Counting Cards Truth

The important thing to remember when counting cards is that it will not produce a win every time for the player, it only improves and influences the chances of a player winning. As most people know, casinos by making money in the long run, which is much more important than the short run, especially in statistics. A good counter can take a game like Blackjack, which when playing normally has odds slightly in favor of dealer and make it so the game pays out to him more than he loses. If he holds when he knows the chance of card that will make him bust is high and hits when he knows it wont make him bust, his average will be above zero, and he will win larger sums of money overtime. Winning real money blackjack by using card counting takes many hands, and the best systems often use a partner system. Partner systems are tricky and require both members to remain focused. Because card counting is not allowed in any casinos, partners not only have to focus on the cards, remember the profile of the deck, remember to win only slightly more than they lose, and help their partner, they also have to communicate discreetly and pretend not to know each other.

Most casinos will not notice card counters until the money they win is significant enough to draw attention from the management, so a big part of the strategy is timing and knowing when to cash out. It is important to remember that casinos do not allow counting cards and will throw you out if they catch you- and they will keep your winnings. Counting cards can be used to impress friends, and maybe help you earn back money lost on a vacation, but I do not recommend it as a source of income. Casinos are really good at hanging on to their money, and if you are not careful, they will learn your face and you wont be able to play at all. Operating in teams is an even easier way to get kicked out of a casino. They will begin watching you if you win a significant amount, and if they see two strangers who are always at the same table where one of them is making statistically improbable amounts of money; they will put two and two together. Another mistake that counters make is over-betting. They have too much confidence in counting and bet too much: this can be very costly if you make a simple addition error.

Depending on what game you want to beat all your friends at, counting cards varies in terms of usefulness and noticeability; it will barely make a difference in some games like bridge or games using five (or three) card draw or it can give you the edge to keep you one step ahead of dealer, so go forth and count carefully.