The Best Way to Learn How to Count Cards

Posted on by gambling guru

Blackjack Card ShoeWe’ve all seen it in the movies: the card shark who walks up to the blackjack table, starts counting cards and ends up cleaning out the casino – usually getting on the wrong side of a casino boss or two in the process.

It should therefore come as no surprise that card counting is the holy grail of gambling, with many gamblers believing that learning this skill is a guarantee of wealth.

The truth is a bit less romantic and far-fetched. But, the good news is that card counting is an effective long term blackjack betting strategy that can overturn the house edge, and even better news is it’s probably not nearly as complicated as you thought it was.

What is card counting?

It’s tempting to think that card counting requires an exceptional memory, and involves keeping track of every card in the deck in an attempt to figure out which cards are due to be dealt next. However, the reality is much simpler than that.

Card counting involves determining the ratio of cards with a value of 10 to the ratio of cards with values lower than 7. When this ratio is high, the player will get the best possible results from applying basic blackjack strategy, and when the ratio is low the player is better off placing minimum bets and waiting for the ratio to change.

How does it work?

While there are dozens of different card counting strategies that range from highly complex to simple, they all follow the same basic strategy – trying to keep track of the ratio of high cards to low cards in the deck being used at a blackjack table.

The simplest strategy to begin with is the Hi-Lo count method.

To use this method you need to keep a score starting with the first card dealt from the deck. The score will change after every card.

This is how the scoring system works:

  • Start with a score of 0
  • If you see any card with a value between 2 and 6 you add +1 to the score
  • If you see any face card, 10 or an ace, you subtract 1 from the score
  • For any other card you score 0 – i.e. the score does not change

This score gives you an idea of how many low scoring cards are left in the deck. The higher the score, the more 10s, face cards and aces there are left in the deck. The lower the score, the more low value cards there are left in the deck.

There’s one more step involved before you can use your count to determine your play. You need to establish a ‘true count’. This means that you divide your count by the number of decks left to be played. This can be a rough prediction, where you keep an eye on the shoe to estimate the number of decks left in the game.

The true count will give you a reliable indication of how many high cards are left in the deck. The higher the number, the greater the number of high cards left in the deck. If the number drops below zero, then more high cards than low cards have been dealt.

How does knowing high cards are left in the deck help you?

Knowing that there are lots of high cards to come in the deck can help you make some extremely important betting decisions while you are playing blackjack:

  • You’ll have a good statistical chance of winning your hand when you have the option to split or double down
  • If the dealer gets dealt an ace and you have a high count you know that it’s time to take insurance
  • If you get dealt a hand between 12 and 16 and the count it high you’ll know that it’s safer to stand

When the count is low, you play minimum bets using basic strategy and keep counting until the count is in your favour.

Simply making these decisions at the right moments using the count will give you a statistical edge in your blackjack play. As time passes you’ll be able to read up on, and apply, more complex strategies. If you’re playing online try cash in on bonus funds like the Europa casino bonus offer $10 while you’re on your learning curve.

Things to keep in mind

You’re not the first person at your local casino to attempt card counting. While it’s not illegal to count cards, you’ll most likely be asked to leave or stop playing if you’re suspected of using this technique. It’s also possible that the dealer will just reshuffle the shoe frequently, destroying your counting opportunities.

Obvious tells are counting under your breath or significantly raising your bets when the count becomes high. To appear natural, master the counting system at home by dealing a deck to yourself until you can count without making it obvious. Also remember to raise your minimum bet occasionally when the count is low, and lower your bets occasionally when the count is high to avoid alerting the dealer.

Practice Makes Perfect

Remember that you should practice this technique at home or on an online casino before attempting this at your local casino. Start with one deck and work your way up to the maximum of six. Even when you have mastered the system, don’t rush into live play.

Visit your casino, watch a game and see if you can keep count in a real life casino blackjack game. Only once you have mastered successfully keeping count in a live environment will you be ready to apply your card counting strategy.

Finally keep in mind that card counting is a long term strategy, and don’t expect to clean up in one session.

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