Card Counting in Blackjack

Blackjack, like most card games, is as much about luck as it is strategy and math. You need luck because even the most skilled player cannot control what the next card drawn will be. Similarly, they cannot predict what face-down cards have already been dealt or what hand the dealer has.

Some players use gut instincts, or try to read faces for ‘tells’ as if they are playing poker. Other players try to count the cards.

Card counting in blackjack is a method which attempts to increase the advantage that the player has. It is not a way to predict what cards will be dealt next, but it does give a slightly broader picture of what is happening within the finite deck.

A card counter can employ any number of different systems to try and win the hand. Most of these involve watching what cards are dealt and either adding or subtracting 1 from a running total they maintain mentally. This total is, essentially, the odds that a favorable card will be drawn from the deck.

The player who is counting bases decisions on the current number they have figured out. A low number means the chances of getting a helpful card is low, and a high number means the opposite. They will wager their money accordingly, attempting to minimize their losses and maximize their gains.

The actual mathematical edge that card counting in blackjack gives a player may seem relatively insignificant to most people. However, for those who play cards for a living, even single-digit percentage advantages can make a huge difference over time.

Blackjack is usually chosen as the game of choice for card counting strategies because the game itself already begins with the highest odds for a player to beat the house and win. The odds can be much lower for other card games (like poker), regardless of the players level of ability.

Despite what some people think, it does not take someone with supernatural mental prowess to count cards. It just takes a person who understands one of the establish methods of doing it, and understands the game of blackjack.

It should be noted that card counting is not illegal. If the count is kept in one’s head, and no external device is used, then there is nothing criminal about doing it. Still, it cannot be used at most casinos. These are private businesses that have every right to deny services to any person for any reason. Most casinos are actively searching for card counters and regularly throw out those suspected of it, with or without evidence.

There are many books written on this subject, and there are at least a dozen different methods that can be employed. The simplest is called the ‘Hi/Lo’ method and is relatively easy to learn. Card counting in blackjack can give a definite edge over other players and the dealer, but luck will still determine the ultimate outcome of a hand.

To sharpen your skills, make sure to practice your skills on our free Blackjack Trainer, a interactive flash game which teaches while you play.

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