Card Counting

πŸ“Œ History of Card Counting

The history of card counting dates back to the sixteenth century. Edward O. Thorp, an American mathematician, was considered the father of card counting. He wrote a book titled Beat the Dealer, which outlines playing and betting strategies for the fairest play.

Though some rules no longer apply as casinos took countermeasure, we can't talk about the history of card counting without mentioning Edward. Before Beat the Dealer, a few professional card counters were beating the blackjack game in Las Vegas. These include the likes of Joe Bernstein and Jess Marcum. Bernstein was described as an ace counter feared throughout Nevada in Harold Smith's book titled β€œI want to quit winners.”

Aside from those above, several other professionals have written books on card counting strategies. As technology rose, more advanced card counting strategies were developed.

πŸ“Œ Basics of Card Counting

The rules of card counting are pretty straightforward. Card counting is statistical evidence that low-valued cards (2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, and 7s) favor the dealer while high-valued cards (aces, 9s, and 10s) favor the player. You might wonder how high cards can benefit the players. Well, here are some reasons:

  • High-valued cards increase players' probability of hitting a natural, which payout is 3 to 2 odds.
  • Doubling down also raises your expected value. The increase in the ratio of aces and tens improves the odds that doubling down will be a success.
  • They offer additional splitting options for players.
  • Also, they raise the probability that the dealer will bust. While it also raises the players' chance of busting, they can decide to stand on lower totals based on the counts.
  • It makes the insurance bet more profitable.

In contrast, low-value cards benefit the dealer. It allows the dealer to hit on a stiff hand (12 to 16 totals), and low-value cards are less probable to make these totals bust. A dealer with a stiff hand will bust if their next hit is a high-valued card, let's say 10.

To count cards, you don't need to track or memorize the cards. You will assign a point score to each card, then track the sum of these values with a running count.

πŸ“Œ How does Card Counting work?

You need to understand how card counting works before you start practicing it. In the card counting strategy, players must assign a negative, zero, or positive value to each card. When a card is dealt, you will update the count by the card's counting value. Low cards increase the value of the count, thereby increasing the ratio of high cards in the deck. In contrast, high cards reduce the count, which means a high ratio of low cards in the deck.

One of the popular card counting strategies is the Hi-Lo system. The system subtracts one for each King, Jack, 10, Queen, and ace card. On the other hand, it adds one for any card between 2 and 6. Card 7s, 8s, and 9s are counted as zero, which does not affect the count.

πŸ“Œ Running Count vs. True Count

The running count is the running total of each value assigned. In a balanced count (such as the Hi-Lo system), the running count will be converted to a true count, which factors in the number of decks used. With a system like Hi-Lo, the true count will be the running count divided by the number of decks that haven't been dealt with yet.

πŸ“Œ Card Counting Legal Status

Card counting is not illegal under the local laws of the United States, provided the player did not use any external counting devices. However, most casinos still frown at card counting. They try their best to prevent and ban players believed to be counting cards. While card counting is allowed under the law, electronic devices are prohibited and can lead to a player's arrest.


Can a casino ban card counters?

Counting cards is not illegal, but casinos can ban you if they catch or suspect you to be a card counter.

How do you count cards successfully?

Assign a value to each card and monitor the running count. Calculate the true count and change your bet as the true count increases.

How do casinos prevent card counters?

Casinos implement countermeasures such as CSMs, shuffling techniques, and monitor unusual betting patterns.

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