Is It Really Possible to Make an Income from Counting Cards in Blackjack?
Mar 8, 2014
At the blackjack tables in casino-land, an urban legend has sprung up about the professional card counter. Is it easy to make millions Rain Man style or periodically swindle casinos like in the movie 21, or is it a myth to forget and we should go back to playing poker?
Since there are a number of books on card counting and blackjack strategy, it appears that there is a way to beat casinos at their own game.
With the odds in your favor, is it possible to make a living from counting cards? Or will you just gamble yourself into bankruptcy?
We’re going to examine whether card counting can give you a cushy income and strip away the myths behind professional blackjack playing.
What does it take to be a professional blackjack card counter?
Becoming a professional card counter is not a career path for everyone, since it requires a tough set of skills including observation, mental arithmetic, and being able to fool the casino staff into thinking you’re not an advantage player.
For those determined to make a living from playing blackjack, you’re going to have to put in hours into developing your game, and even then it won’t be fool proof.
You’re going to need blackjack strategy to begin with, so you’re going to want to learn the rules and commit to perfecting the basic strategy for the game.
Once you’ve mastered that, then comes the long process of card counting. The infamous MIT team who serially won at blackjack in the Las Vegas casino used the Hi-Lo method, but mastering this will require hours and hours of practice.
Card counting allows you to garner an idea of when the deck is stacked in your favor, and expert card counters can earn a rate that is as high as three-quarters of a percent per 100 hands played.
To put your potential earnings down in mathematical terms, your win rate is equal to the hands played multiplied by the average bet and multiplied again by the player edge.
Famous professional blackjack players:
• Edward O. Thorpe, the author of the 1960s iconic book “Beat the Dealer” and one of the most famous blackjack player in history.
• Ken Uston was a professional player who popularized team play, often disguising himself in casinos and known for suing Atlantic City casinos for the rights of card counters.
• John Chang was famed for being the former manager of the MIT Blackjack Team.
This will of course depend on the amount you can bet, and the hands received. You’re going to need a decent bankroll to make card counting work for you, but on no accounts take out a loan to kick start your career change into blackjack!
Card counting: Now and Then
One of the urban myths perpetuated by movies like 21 is that it’s rather easy to card count in a casino. It’s important to bear in mind that the MIT team featured in the movie operated in the 1980s and 1990s, and since then casinos have stepped up their game.
You’ll find most casinos have upped their blackjack sets to six decks, which makes card counting trickier. If you’re applying the Hi-Lo method, you’ll need to divide the running count by six to get the true count.
In fact, some casinos will shuffle their decks, especially if they’re suspicious of card counting.
Even though card counting is not illegal, casinos are on the look out for advantage players, and with more and more getting into the card counting game, casinos have stepped up the precaution measures.
Edward O. Thorp’s famous blackjack bible “Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One”, cited as one of the best blackjack card counting books out there is horrendously out of date right now, since many casinos have clued into card counting strategies.
Does this mean modern players have no chance at winning or do they need to be extra sharp?
Can it be done?
In theory, yes, but casinos have become more clued in about card counters and will keep an eye out for any abnormal betting patterns.
Although, saying that, one of the appeals of the blackjack tables is that many unprofessional players think they stand a chance, so casinos want to keep perpetuating the image that it’s not difficult to beat the house.
Continuously shuffling cards would take time and lose players in the process, meaning the casino would lose out on making money.
Asides from that, if a casino got a reputation for making it harder for people to play a game well, making it even harder to win, then it will lose clients quickly.
The game has become harder, and while it’s still more difficult for players to beat the house, there are still some card counters who make a living.
The truth is that card counting is a sophisticated skill that takes hours of dedication and practice to build up, so it’s not a career change for the light-hearted or on a whim.
Can you do it online
Online casinos are growing in popularity, with more and more players turning to online and mobile casinos for gaming. However, when it comes to blackjack, many ask whether it’s possible to count cards?
The simple answer in this case is no.
Thanks to random number generators, it’s easier for online casinos to completely rid players of any chances of card counting.
Although, there are some sites that offer live dealer play, which means there is the possibility to card count, the odds are still against the player when compared to a live casino.
In online gaming, it’s better to play blackjack with the usually strategies.
To sum up, it is possible to make a living out of card counting strategies, but it’s not a career for those who do not possess the skills, the willingness to train themselves in card counting or the bankroll to back it up.