Counting cards in blackjack

By | March 6, 2010

Travel back in time a few decades and you will find the source of many modern myths. The most interesting swirl around the group of professional gamblers who devised the so-called basic strategy and those people, blessed with a good memory, that can beat the House by counting cards. Today’s wisdom says that putting the two together gives you the best chance of beating the house edge. There is some truth to this for those of you who go to real-world casinos. Indeed, many casinos actually sell small cards with the basic strategy printed in neat tables and charts. The original math wonks who crunched the numbers used to guard their knowledge and sell it only at high price. Today, the casinos effectively give it away. Why are the casinos so confident you will not break the bank?

For those of you who are serious about learning the game, sitting in front of a live dealer with the strategy cards as your reference point is a daunting prospect. You are surrounded by one-hundred-and-one distractions. You have an audience who immediately see you as a newbie and will enjoy watching you make the wrong decisions. Worse, you will play with the speed of a constipated snail. On tables with several players, there is an expected rhythm to the play. No-one wants to sit idly around while you run your finger up and down the rows and columns to decide which strategy to play given the combination of cards on display. The only place where you can “safely” learn the basic strategy is online. The animated dealer will sit patiently for minutes while you think.

Thanks to the success of the movie “21”, the exploits of the MIT team are well-known. They won millions during the 1990’s by counting the cards. Before you all rush off and start training your own team, you have to recognize the difficulty of the task. Every person has to be able to count and keep it up for hours at a time. You have to develop a system of signalling to other members of the team without the security staff noticing. Although card counting is not illegal, casinos ask counters to leave and blacklist them by sending photographs to all the other casinos. Being barred from one casino is being barred from all major casinos. This is not something you can put together in a few days. It will require months of training and planning. Even then, you are only shading the odds in your favor. You will need a bankroll. Unfortunately, this is one time the online casinos will not help you. The online backjack program uses a random number generator to determine the next card. Unlike the real-world stack of six decks where the order of the cards is fixed until the stack is emptied or changed, you cannot use counting to predict the probability of high/low cards when you play online blackjack. So all your practice will have to be in real time. Do you have that much dedication? Most do not and the majority of card counters play blackjack on their own. More importantly, they keep a very low profile to avoid detection by casino staff. That way, they can maintain a gentle accumulation of profit on their bankroll. It can be done. It just takes time, patience and skill.

One thought on “Counting cards in blackjack

  1. kologosss

    I have tried some strategies for blackjack, but they could help me to win only sometimes. But if we speak about card counting this method doesn’t work when you play in virtual mood, which comes most popular.

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