What is card counting?
Many of the best players in world blackjack may have succeeded using card counting techniques. In fact, some actively encouraged it. Blackjack card counting is a method players use to guess the chances of higher cards being available in deals. It works by remembering - mentally - which cards have come before.
A typical blackjack game will use six decks of 52 cards, so that’s 512 cards in total. A basic card counter isn’t someone who remembers how many cards of each number are left in the deck, called a shoe. That would be very difficult to maintain. Instead, card counters use an index technique to guess how many high-value cards are remaining.
How to count cards in blackjack
A card counter will give each card a value. The player will keep a running score of which cards have been used. If cards 2-6 are used, they increase the value. Likewise, if cards 10-Ace are used, the value decreases. Cards 7, 8 and 9 do not affect the value. So, a player effectively keeps an index in their mind of how many low cards are used up, compared to high cards. This is called the True Count (TC). Once you know your TC, you can use it to improve your chances of winning as you know the ratio of high cards left in the deck.
So, if you know there are many high cards remaining, you are more likely to bet more than you usually would, in order to use that advantage. Of course, you could still lose as the dealer may strike lucky and nail those high cards you are chasing. But over a period of many games, card counting is proven to work in the player’s favour enough to make it worthwhile.
Card counting is not necessarily illegal but casinos have the right to deny players access to their tables if they suspect a player is card counting.
Can you count cards in online blackjack?
For those wishing to count cards in online blackjack you may wish to look away now! There is no way of counting cards in online video blackjack because the simulations used to deal the cards use continuous shuffle. This means there is just as much chance of one card emerging from the deck as any other, even if that card was used in the previous round.
Now, in live blackjack you could theoretically count cards as the dealer takes cards off the top of the shoe in order. But live online blackjack dealers will shuffle in the middle of the shoe, rather than going through the whole pack, so card counting is not exactly easy.