Does card counting work and is it legal
Does Card Counting Work, And Is It Legal?
Card counting is a commonly used blackjack strategy, which keeps track of the proportion of high cards to low cards in the deck. But many people don’t know if they can do it or if they’re allowed too. Below we’ve looked at the possibility, legality, and practicality of counting cards.
What Is Card Counting?
Card counting is a strategy for casino games that is used to reduce the house edge, lower betting risk, and ultimately make it easier for players to win.
Predominantly used in blackjack, counting cards is designed to tell the counter if the hand played gives an advantage to them or to the dealer. The way this works is that the player keeps a running count of which cards have been played. This allows the card counter to increase their bets when they have the edge, or choose not to place a bet when the blackjack dealer does.
Blackjack card counting is a tactic that uses a ranking system for each card in the deck, giving them either a zero, negative, or positive value based on its effect of removal – i.e. how the removal of the card impacts the house advantage.
How To Count Cards
There are many blackjack card counting strategies, plus chancers who create their own bespoke approaches to beat the house. However, while approaches differ from counter to counter, the principles remain the same and they’re quite straightforward.
Give Each Card A Value
There are 52 cards in a standard deck, and each one is used during blackjack. Because the purpose of card counting is to provide you with an idea of the value of placing a bet, you must keep a tally of all the cards played. This involves giving each card in the deck a value.
You don’t have to give all 52 cards a different value. The simplest way to score your cards is to use a Hi-Lo system to group them:
- Ace to 10: -1
- 9 to 7: 0
- 6 to 2: +1
Every time your blackjack dealer issues a card, you subtract, add or don’t do anything based on the assigned values above.
Keep A Running Count Of The Cards
The running count is your overall total based on the cards you have been dealt. When the count is negative, the house has the edge; and when it’s positive, the counter has the advantage.
Establish The True Count
While blackjack requires a minimum of one 52 card deck, casinos often use multiple decks. The reason for this is that it makes it harder to establish where the advantage lies. To get around this you must establish the true count of your cards. Luckily, there is a simple equation that allows you to establish the true count when multiple decks of cards are in play:
Running Count (RC) ÷ Decks Remaining (DR)
Here’s an example of how that might work. If you have a running count of +4 at the end of the first round of betting in a game played with 4 decks your running count is +1. This is because you still have about 4 decks left and so the sum is 4 (RC) ÷ 4 (DR). If your score is +4 when you have 2 decks remaining your running count is +2 because 4 (RC) ÷ 2 (DR) equals +2.
Alter Your Betting In Line With The True Count
In order to take advantage of your card counting, you must use the data from your true count to inform your betting – bet high when you have the edge and don’t bet when the house does
Does Card Counting Work?
Lots of casinos, gambling websites, and betting commentators claim that card counting no longer works. Their argument is that online casinos make blackjack card counting near impossible (which is correct), while land casinos have put steps in place to block and catch counters. However, there are many reasons why card counting still works in the game of blackjack when playing in a land casino.
For instance, counting cards:
Increases The Chance Of A Blackjack Dealer Going Bust
A dealer is required to hit up to a soft 17. If a dealer holds a soft 16, he has to hit. If the deck is full of high cards, this increases the chances that he will go bust. A player is not required to hit on any specific number so he can play more cautiously if the deck holds a higher proportion of high cards.
Improves The Counter’s Chance Of Getting A Blackjack
There is more chance of scoring blackjack – when the deck holds a higher proportion of tens and aces, there is more chance that the player will score a blackjack. This is true for the dealer also, however, as blackjacks pay out 3 to 2 in favour of the player, this is a more valuable hand for the player than for the dealer.
Makes It More Likely You’ll Get A Successful Double Down
More successful double downs occur when the deck is rich in tens and aces.
Means There Are Better Splits For The Card Counter
Player splits are more successful – in decks that are rich with tens and aces, split hands tend to be more successful as they are disproportionately against weak dealer cards. In this case, the dealer will tend to bust more often when the player splits.
The Insurance Pays Out To The Player More Frequently
Insurance pays off more often – if a deck has a high proportion of tens and aces making it more likely for blackjack to occur, insurance is a good bet for the player.
Practising Card Counting For Blackjack
Like everything in life, if you want to maximise the chances of successfully counting cards in blackjack you need to practice. While there is software available that serves as online card counting trainers, you can practice on your own and you only need to invest time and the cost of a pack of playing cards.
To practice on your own, deal out a set of 52 cards and count them, making sure you keep a score throughout. You’ll know you’ve done it correctly if you get to the end of the deck and have a score of 0.
Once you’ve got counting a single deck nailed, you then move on to multiple decks and repeat the process until you can reach 0 from eight decks of cards.
If you want to make the process more realistic and engaging, you can practice with friends by using them as other players and/or the dealer.
You can really add value to practising with others by using them as part of your team of card counting buddies – helping you to beat the house. This is important because if you want to use card counting to your advantage in a real casino, you’ll really benefit from having a team around you; one that can keep a look out for the house employees because those reps will be trying to spot you counting cards.
How To Tell If Someone Else Is Counting Cards
Casinos don’t want you to count cards because it costs them money. Because of this, many will employ ex card counters as they know how to tell if someone else is counting cards. This is how they do it.
- People who bet more at the latter part of the shoe (total cards) may be counters
- If someone increases their bet amount when low-value cards are dealt
- Players using the insurance can be a sign that they know they have a good hand
- Lack of consistency may mean a player is altering their strategy to hide their counting
Is Card Counting Legal?
Card counting, without using any external devices, is completely legal. That said, casinos are aware that skilled card counters have an advantage over the house and, of course, they don't want to lose money.
Casinos will employ all sorts of techniques to attempt to prevent card counting from occurring. They use surveillance machinery to gauge how skilled a card counter is. A dealer may engage the counter in conversation to attempt to break his conversations. He may shuffle the deck more often or whenever the card counter increases his bet.
Casinos in Las Vegas, which are private property, will simply prohibit a known card counter from playing blackjack in their casino – some have also been known to ‘rough up’ counters to discourage other people from doing it.
One thing you should bear in mind is that the best that you can hope to achieve with card counting is approximately a 1-2% advantage over the casino. There are also many factors that will affect exactly how much of an advantage you can achieve, such as your skill at card counting, the strength of your strategy, the game rules, and the ratio of your high bet to low bet. This means your actual advantage may be much lower than 1%.
So while you won’t land yourself with a criminal record, you could get banned from your favourite casino, or get a trip to the hospital, all for getting a tiny advantage while playing blackjack.
Summary: Card Counting Works And It’s Legal But Is It Worthwhile?
Card counting works and despite what many people think, it’s completely legal. But it takes a lot of practice to get card counting right and even then there are so many checks in place by casinos to catch counters. The question you must ask yourself is whether it’s worthwhile for the sake of a 1-2% advantage. We’ll leave the answer up to you.
Is It Illegal To Count Cards In The UK And US?
Card counting is completely legal in both the UK and the US, with no laws in either nation prohibiting it. However, while card counting is legal, it’s frowned upon by casinos and many will eject counters if they are caught.
Is It Hard To Learn Card Counting?
If card counting was simple, then every blackjack player would do it. Card counting requires a lot of training and even if you master the art of it by practising at home, putting your skills into use at a casino is a very different game.
Does Card Counting Give You Much Of An Edge?
The myth of card counting is that it tips the balance decisively in favour of the player, but this is far from the truth. Counting cards give players an edge of 1-2% over casinos.