Counting Cards

Blackjack is a casino card that has been around for hundreds of years. The objective is to hold the cards that total 21 or closest to 21. The only person that each player competes against is the dealer, no matter how many players sit at the table. The rules are really simple but the level of strategy can be as complex as you make it. The fact that most of the cards played are revealed makes this a game suitable for card counting systems.

Odds in blackjack give the house an edge about 5 – 8% advantage, against the average player. If you attack the game with a solid strategy, you can drop the house advantage to a 1 – 0.5% advantage. Card counting can potentially flip the advantage in favor of the player.

If you have seen any movies that depict card counting then you may have a few misconceptions. First, in the USA it is not against the law, but casinos are a private club and they do ban card counters. So you won’t go to jail, but you won’t be in the casino either. Another major misconception is that you need a degree from MIT to count a shoe filled with 8 decks of cards.

Counting cards is accomplished by players adopting a system. There are several systems to try out depending on how precise you are attempting to be and your ability to keep track of multiple counts. The point of these systems is to assign a point to every card and keep the “running total” in your head by adding or subtracting as new cards are revealed. One of the simpler systems is called “Hi-Lo”. It assigns each card in the deck a +1, 0 or -1. Cards 2-6 will increase the running count +1, cards 7-9 are effectively a 0 on the running count and 10-Ace are -1 on the count.

This running count will be a number that needs to be converted into a true count by dividing the count by the number of decks not yet dealt in the shoe. In addition to Hi-Lo, there are also multilevel count systems “Zen Counts” or “Wonging” to make a more precise count of the cards. Waiting and watching a game of blackjack unfold can give a player a head start before playing any money. By standing behind the action and watching the cards spent, a counter can significantly decrease the house advantage.