Have you ever seen Rainman or 21? These two movies are the quintessential Hollywood portrayal of a blackjack card counter: Mathematical geniuses that can memorize whole decks of cards and gain enough of an edge on the casino to walk away with millions. So how can you follow in their footsteps and retire early? Through the power of counting cards.
Isn’t this illegal?
Now you may be saying, “wait a second – Isn’t Card Counting illegal?” And the answer to that question is a big NO. And If you’re afraid of getting dragged and beaten up by mobsters in the basement, worry not! Life isn’t a movie and Casinos are run by respectable corporations nowadays.
So what is the law? Card counting is not illegal under British law, as well as US federal, state, and local laws. There is one caveat though – you cannot use an external card counting device or another person to assist you in counting. It all has to be done in your head! Now just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean that you cannot be banned from the Casino. Vegas Casinos have dedicated a lot of resources in order to find counters and ban them from the property. If you are willing to bear the risk of being banned, then proceed.
The Basics of Card Counting:
Card counting comes down to this. You need to keep a running count of each card that is dealt on the table. Keeping track of what is dealt will allow you to have a better idea of what will come next. When you are counting cards, you won’t magically be able to win more hands, that’s impossible. What this skill will give you though, is the ability to more accurately predict the outcome of your hand, and allow you to adjust your bet size because of it. If you knew when you would win or lose, what would you do?
Basic card counting assigns a positive, negative, or zero value to each card. When a card is dealt, you then need to adjust the card by the value associated with it. Low cards increase the count because they increase the percentage likelihood of high cards remaining, whereas high cards decrease the count for the opposite reason.
As an example, when using the widely-used Hi-Lo strategy, you would subtract 1 if you see a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, or add 1 for any card value between 2 and 6. Cards between 7-9 are assigned a value of 0 and do not affect the count.
It’s All About the Count
The purpose of the count is to tell us what our advantage vs the casino is at any point during a blackjack game. In a standard 6 deck blackjack game, each count will move the house edge 0.5% lower and in the player’s advantage. Anything above a two means that the player now has an advantage over the casino. Now the key here is to use this advantage to size your bets appropriately. If the count is higher, raise your bets if it is lower do the opposite. This allows you to win more on your winning bets and lose less on your losers. Now even if the count is high, it is still possible to lose. One key aspect of this strategy is being able to play for a several hours at a time.
So you’ve done all the math and are ready start, but how do you avoid getting caught? Here are a few strategies that can minimize your chances of being detected.
Casinos are constantly looking for card counters, and any casino employee can in theory figure out you are counting. Some key tells are: Large Buy-ins, table hopping, playing multiple hands, and dramatic bet variation. As a card counter, your behavior is going to vary from a normal player – so you need to think if you are obviously coming across to the dealer and pit boss as a card counter. Some professional card counters will even go so far as to wear disguises to avoid detection!
So are you intrigued by this fast paced lifestyle. If you are, do your research, practice extensively and you may soon be sitting back, relaxing, and drinking margaritas on the beach! Good luck 😉