There is something that everyone who plays any kind of casino game, whether that’s blackjack, poker, roulette, slot games, or anything else, needs to know. That is: the house always has the advantage. Of course it does; there would be no point in anyone opening up a casino, online or offline, and not making money from it.
Although this is par for the course and something that should be expected, it’s not something that every player is happy to accept. These are the players who cannot see the difference between playing fairly and cheating. They look for the loopholes that will help them to win every time, or at least more times than they would if they were playing by the rules.
One of the most famous ways to cheat a casino is blackjack card counting. It actually became such a problem that it is now usually an automatic ban if you are caught doing it, and it’s certainly not something we would recommend. However, it is something that people are curious about, and, if we’re fair about it, it is a fascinating system. So read on to find out a little more on how to play blackjack, and to find a brief explanation as to how it all happens. It is, contrary to popular opinion, not illegal to count cards. You’re not exactly cheating. But you are upping your chances of winning, and that’s why casinos are impressed when you do it.
The Theory of Card Counting
When a game of blackjack is played using just one deck of cards as is usually the case (although not always, it will depend on the casino and the particular game being played) then the house edge (the likelihood that the casino will win rather than the player) is around 0.5 percent. It’s basically nothing. Therefore, if you were to learn every strategy and memorise every options available to you when you play, you’ll break even in the long run.
This may not sound like a huge amount of fun – it’s a lot of work for essentially nothing – but the odds are actually much better than most other casino games, which is why blackjack is popular, and why card counting is something many try to do; making the odds better and winning more often makes the game much more fun to play.
In its most basic form, counting cards literally means keeping a tally of cards as the dealer deals. You still play the game in the same way, but if you have counted cards then you know, or at least have a fair idea, which cards are more likely to be dealt to you and the dealer. This little bit of additional information means that you will know whether to bet large or keep your money to yourself and keep your stake small. You’ll also have a better idea of when to hit and when to stick or stand.
The theory is that if there are more of the low numbered cards left in the deck your chances of winning are small. That’s because you’re much less likely to get anything that’s going to add up to 21 on the first two cards, and the more cards you draw, the closer you are to going bust and losing the lot. Plus, the dealer is much less likely to bust too – and remember, when playing blackjack it’s not the first person to 21 or the closest to 21 who is necessarily the winner; it’s just the person who has the higher total on their cards when the dealer and player both stick, or the person who doesn’t bust.
The more high value cards are left in the deck the better for the reasons stated above. If there are more high value cards, the chances of getting 21 is greater.
The idea is that if you play according to the rules but you also count cards, you can improve your odds by about one percent. It might not sound like a lot, but over a large number of hands this really can add up, and if 0.5 percent was going to break you even, 1.5 percent is sure to give you a profit.
The Practice of Card Counting
In practice, as with anything, card counting isn’t quite as simple as the theory makes it seem. There are lots of different strategies, each one with its own set of ‘rules’ and methods. However, the one that is easiest to begin with and which is the one that most card counters seem to opt for is called ‘high low’.
When using the high low card counting method, the card counter simply has to keep a tally (in their heads, of course – they can’t write anything down or they will be removed immediately) of two different groups of cards. The first group is the high value cards, meaning the face cards and the 10s. Every time one of these is seen, the counter needs to take one away from their total. When the counter sees a low card (anything from two to six), they add one to the total. What happens to the 7s, 8s, and 9s? They can safely be ignored at they don’t really make much difference either way.
Since the tally will start at zero, if the final tally is a positive number it’s more likely that the cards coming up will be high. If the number is a negative one, then the cards will probably be low. Of course, when the deck is shuffled the tally goes back to zero again.
Of course, the more you practice this technique the quicker you’ll get at it; it will eventually become effortless. However, something important to remember is that this is not a way to get out of learning all the important strategies that come with blackjack. The card counting has to happen at the same time as playing the game in the normal way. It is to give you a better edge when it comes to winning, and not a way to win every time.