Card counting is the practice of counting the cards that have already been dealt to have an approximation, by their absence, an idea of those which remain in the deck. Numerous systems have been created to count cards; none of these need a photographic memory or a ridiculously high IQ.
All a player is required to do is to keep track of a running total which indicates whether the rest of the shoe is favourable, by a rather straightforward method which is accessible to a person of normal intelligence. The running total, also known as the “count,” indicates to the player when to amplify his bets when the deck is in his favour or decrease them when it is in favour of the house.
Is This Cheating?
The art of counting cards it is discouraged by casinos, which have achieved in showing the practice in a negative light to the point that many players believe that it is against the law. Where it is acceptable for casinos to do so, they will happily eject a player who counts cards. This is all a marketing campaign by the casinos to dissuade players from making the smart bet.
Cheating, by definition, is an interference which offsets the odds. A cheater may plot with the dealer, modify equipment, and use sleight of hand to increase his wager or swap his cards after the deal. The card counter, on the other hand, simply watches occurrences which are visible to any other player at the table under normal circumstances. When the ordinary course of events happens to turn in his favour, he simply makes the best of it.
This does not infringe on the rules of the game or alter the situation at all, any more than a sports punter who reflects on the past performances of a team prior to placing a wager for or against them.
Card counting does not guarantee a victory. Even in circumstances where the deck appears to favour the player by a large amount, the order and value of the cards continue to be random. Irrespective of the “weight” of the deck, the cards fall as they may. There is a greater likelihood of winning in some situations, and the card counter will increase his wager consequently nevertheless the possibility of losing is always there.
For these reasons, casinos have failed in their efforts to lobby for legislation against card counters. The practice continues to be completely legal. In places where a casino is allowed to refuse service to anyone, card counters are keenly pursued, ousted, and banned from the premises. To put it simply, the house does not want to serve a punter who stands a good, or even chance of winning.
How Card Counting Works
A popular saying is “chance has no memory”. This saying is often used to deter players from taking an interest in the previous outcomes since history offers no advantage. In the majority cases, this is true.
For example, a coin could land on heads five times in a row; this does not mean that the next toss is more likely to be tails; this is due to the fact that each toss is an independent random event. There will still be a still 50/50 possibility of heads or tails on the sixth toss. The same holds true for most casino games.
However, blackjack is an exception to this rule since the outcome, is random, but not totally independent. Once card has been dealt, it cannot be dealt again, its nonexistence from the remaining deck affects the probability of the outcomes of future hands (until the cards are shuffled).
If all four kings come out of a single deck in the initial hand dealt, it completely guarantees that no others will be dealt until the deck is shuffled. If two kings came out in the initial deal, it doesn’t ensure the kings will not come out as players hit their hands, but it does make it 50% less likely. This is what card counting is based around.
Numerous mathematical models have been run to determine the exact effect which removing an individual card has on the deck. Their results are shown to the right. As a general rule, the removal of low cards favours the player, while the removal of high cards favours the dealer. It’s also vital to keep in mind that this is the effect per deck. In a six-deck game, six fives are needed to be dealt before the remaining deck is altered by 0.64% in the player’s favour.
At a glance, the concentration of high cards in the deck doesn’t seem to matter, as they are just as likely to be dealt to the dealer. However, consider these factors:
- A player is paid a 50% bonus when a blackjack is dealt, and loses only the original wager if the dealer receives blackjack.
- A player is permitted to double down on a low or soft hand, and usually does best when dealt a high card.
- A player may surrender any hand that they don’t feel will win, releasing half his original wager.
- The player may stand at any time, while the dealer must hit to 17 or bust. A bust is more probable when there are more high-value cards in the deck.
The Rewards of Counting
As with any other player, a card counter will not walk away with a large amount of winnings every time. Simply due to the fact that the order of the cards is forever random, and because there is an equal chance of a decent hand being dealt to either side of the table when the count is high.
Basic strategy by itself lowers the house’s edge to around half a percent, and after a shuffle, the card counter has no advantage. From here, the balance moves to the player by about half a percent times the count (the “true count,” which is explained later).
On average, a player who combines basic strategy with card counting will have a 1% advantage over the house over the course of each shoe, meaning he will lose a little less and win a little more than a player who just uses basic strategy.