Card Counting- How does it work?

Published by Dave Perez on May 14, 2020

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Published by Dave Perez on May 14, 2020

The art of card counting has captured the imagination of players from all corners of the globe. It comes as no surprise though, who wouldn't want to walk into a casino with 50 bucks and turn that into millions.

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Card Counting


Over the years card counting has become harder to do thanks to measures put in place by casinos to try and curb this somewhat illegal practice.


Some players will pick up the technique with ease; however, many will struggle at first or may not ever get the knack of it. The only way you’ll know is by giving it a go. There is a lot of stigma surrounding this art which has been modified and tuned over the since it first started being used in casinos. With this in mind though, there are the basics which every player needs to start with before being able to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.


There are few techniques players can use when counting cards, in this article we shall be taking a look at the more popular methods. Should you wish to expand your knowledge, there are numerous sites and YouTube videos one can make use of to hone your skills.


The history of card counting


There are just a handful of players who can be considered the one of the first to use card counting methods in the game of blackjack. No one really knows when the techniques were first used, but what we do know is when the first actual books and guides were published.


Edward Thorpe was a well known mathematician and worked as a professor at 2 universities within the United States. He is considered to be the father of card counting, however, this may just be because of the fact that he was the first to release a book that reached a wider audience than others.


Andy Bloch was a member of the infamous MIT blackjack team. During his career he was able to put many of Thorps methods into practice and prove their validity. Being somewhat of a mathematician himself, Bloch was able to create a few of his own methods that turned out to be just as useful.


There are a few other players who have managed to etch their names in the history books thanks to their uncanny knack of gaining an edge over the house accumulating some epic winning streaks.


The Different Card Counting Techniques


There are actually quite a few ways players are able to count cards and some are easier than others. Depending on your skills and brain of course, you’ll have to work out for yourself which one works the best for you.


Hi-Lo Counting


This is by far the easiest way to card count due to the simplicity of the tactic. Basically, all players will need to do is keep a running count of the cards that have been played. Every card is assigned a value of 1, -1 or zero, which is also referred to as neutral.


High value cards, i.e.: 10, J, Q, K and Ace are given a +1 every time they appear.


Low value cards are 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6; these will be given a -1 value.


Neutral or zero value cards are 7, 8 and 9, which will be given a zero value.


All the player needs to do is keep track of all the cards that have been dealt. The system works by indicating when the ratio of high and lowing paying cards are unbalanced. Should a pack be unbalanced where there are more high value cards, this gives the player the edge. This is the case because it is far more likely that the dealer will draw a high card and go bust. Alternatively, should the pack contain more low value cards, this means that the dealer is likely to go bust should they draw another card.


All players need to know really is that they have to keep track of every card coming out of the shoe. Most casinos these days will use multiple decks in order to curb card counting. The more cards that have been counted the higher your chance are of having an accurate count.


True Counting


This technique is used in conjunction with the Hi-Lo card counting method. What it does is make your count far more accurate than just using the Hi-Lo. How it works is just as basic, however, players will need to use their judgment and Approximation skills in order to get the most out of this method.


Most casinos these days will use numerous decks in their blackjack shoes. This will vary from between 4 to 8 packs depending on which casino. During the game, you will need to guess how many decks or cards are left in the shoe. Once you have come up with a number, you’ll have to divide your running count by this number, this will give you a much more accurate clue as to whether the cards left are higher or lower in value.


Back Counting


This technique became famous after being implemented by a man named John Ferguson. John was an avid blackjack player and had studied many techniques which he often practiced. He managed to come up with his own system which is referred to as “Wonging”. The name was coined after he used a fake moniker, Stanford Wong.


The system works pretty much exactly the same as the previous methods; the only real difference is when you start playing at the table. Wong would stand around the casino and count the cards prior to actually taking a seat at the table. By doing this he ensured that he would not be losing any money by playing a table from the beginning. Instead he would wait until the table was hot before joining the game.


How Casinos Curb Card Counting


Over the years casinos have cottoned on to the techniques and systems implemented by individuals trying to card count. They have literally gone out of their way to make sure they are not being duped by players trying to swindle them out of their profit. Here are a few methods casinos have put into place to try stop players.


Multiple Decks


As mentioned earlier in the article, casinos have realized how easy it was for players to card count when there were only one or two decks being played. It is for this specific reason that casinos have implemented the practice of using numerous decks.


Obviously, using multiple decks makes the act of counting cards a little harder due to how much more you’ll need to keep track of, however, it has not necessarily completely abolished the system. Yet another way casinos have tried to manage card counters is by using dealing shoes which hold a number of decks. By doing this players are unable to see how many cards or decks are left in the shoe, therefore stopping them from making an accurate decision by using the true count method.


Keep It Simple


Although there may be complex strategies which attract your attention with their complexity, it is not always wise to use them. For new players especially, things can get a little confusing when trying to keep track of numerous details. This in turn will slow your game down and in doing so; will most likely attract the attention of casino personnel.

Author: Dave Perez

Dave Perez is a casino content expert working in the industry for 5 years as a content manager, looking for the best online casino tips? follow this guy

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