The key to true blackjack success is tied to card counting, and practitioners of this art have managed to walk away from land-based casinos with millions. Mastering this tactic takes practice and patience, but it’s ultimately something that can be learned by most gamblers with a desire to improve their overall winning percentage.
There are lots of books on the market that promise to teach you the secrets of card counting, as long as you’re willing to shell out some money for their purchase. However, I believe you can become a successful card counter without shopping at Amazon, which is why I’ve put together this article.
What Is Card Counting?
Card counting is a strategy that’s commonly used on blackjack and similar games. The player tries to keep a tally of the cards that have been introduced into play, with each receiving a numerical value. When this count provides the player with an advantage, they increase their wagers. When it results in a disadvantage for the player, they make smaller bets.
While it sounds simple in theory, there are a number of different counting systems to choose from. Some players swear by a single system, while others attempt to learn as many as possible. Some of the more well-known names include Hi-Lo, KO, Omega II, Halves, and Zen Count.
Unfortunately, card counting doesn’t work for the online version of blackjack. Live dealers use multiple decks of cards and only shuffle every once in a while, allowing card counters to build up a count over the course of multiple hands. The decks are shuffled after every hand in the online version of the game, and this prevents the advantage player from ever building up a useful count.
Is Card Counting Illegal?
Card counting isn’t illegal at land-based casinos. In fact, a lot of establishments are happy to see card counters sitting down at their tables. That’s because most of these players haven’t quite mastered the art, which means their sophisticated tactics aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans over the course of hundreds of hands. By the end of a session, there’s a good chance that the rookie card counter will be just as broke as someone who’s never heard of the strategy.
Casinos have the right to kick out any customer they choose, and this always serves as a last line of defense against the truly skilled card counters. If the customer can’t play, then the casino doesn’t have to worry about losing. This often evolves into a test of wills, with veteran counters donning all manner of disguises in order to slip into establishments where they’ve previously been shown the door.
It should be noted that Atlantic City casinos are forbidden from kicking out card counters. This is due to a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that resulted from a lawsuit filed by Blackjack legend Ken Uston in 1979.
Learn Basic Strategy
This is the cornerstone of success for blackjack players, and it covers the best play for all 300 possible hands. While it doesn’t guarantee you a win every time, it does give you a distinct mathematical edge over those who just wing it. It also shaves a few percentage points off the house edge, which is always a good thing.
If you’re going to embark on a mission to become a successful card counter, this is the place to start. Those who try to learn a counting system without first memorizing basic strategy are just wasting their time.
I don’t have enough room in this article to list all the details of basic strategy, but it can be found at hundreds of sites across the Internet. Even better, you won’t have to pay a penny to get access to it.
Learn the Hi-Lo System
One of the most popular card counting systems, Hi-Lo instructs the player to assign a value of +1 to every card that ranks two through six. Seven through nine are assigned a value of zero, while a ten through ace is given a -1.
When the count is higher, you’ll want to increase the size of your wagers. That’s because the count indicates that lesser cards have been introduced into play, leaving the more advantageous face cards and aces for possible blackjacks.
If the count is close to or below zero, you’ll want to decrease the size of your bets. This is because a lot of high cards have already been dealt, which leaves you with the unenviable task of building a winning hand with threes and fives.
When you combine basic strategy with the Hi-Lo system, you’ll have everything you need to be a successful card counter. At that point, it’s just a matter of repetition and not getting banned from all your local casinos.
Practice in a Live Environment
No matter how often you’ve practiced at home, there’s no substitute for playing at a live casino. This is where all your preparation eventually leads, anyway, so you might as well get familiar with the challenges that accompany it.
The biggest adjustment involves the speed of the game, although chatty patrons and general background noise also take some getting used to. Casino employees must be taken into account, as well, especially since some may eventually approach you if it becomes obvious that you’re a winning card counter.
The best advice I can give is to practice with small sums of money at a live casino. Once you’re comfortable with the hustle and bustle, go back later and bring your actual bankroll for some serious gaming.
You can become a successful card counter without buying any books, as the information is available in abundance across the Internet. Once you’ve obtained the basic methods of play, it’s simply a matter of repetition and practice.
Keep in mind, however, that card counting can be a frustrating skill to learn. Memorization often seems unfamiliar to those who are well past their college years, and the live environment of a casino is far more unforgiving than that of your kitchen table. Throw a hostile pit boss or two into the mix and you often create a scenario that’s too much for some novice card counters to handle.
Despite these difficulties, card counting is a proven key for profitable blackjack sessions. If you want to make a significant dent in the almighty house edge and possibly walk away with a small fortune, then it’s the best way to do so.