Stop Telling Yourself That Card Counting Isn’t for You: Math Skills Not Required
May 20, 2014
While movies like Rain Man and 21 give the impression that card counting in blackjack requires a certain level of genius, the truth is card counting is actually much easier than it looks.
You don’t need to hold a mathematics PhD from MIT to make card counting work for you. We’re going to give you a lowdown on the user-friendliest techniques to turn the odds in your favor.
Mastering blackjack does mean you need to have the basics down, like good blackjack strategy, but once you have that you should stop telling yourself that card counting isn’t for you.
How does card counting work?
The theory behind card counting is not difficult. The reason top blackjack players use card counting strategies is to determine when the edge swings towards you or the casino.
The basic theory behind card counting is that the more low cards that are removed from the deck, the higher the player advantage, and when more high cards are removed, then there the advantage favors the casino.
Blackjack tips for success!
• You should always hit a soft 17, split aces and 8s, stand on a hard 17 and double down on an 11
• Never split 10s or 5s, never stand on a 12-16 if your dealer shows a 7 or higher
• A 6 or 8 deck game is slightly more disadvantageous to your play, but you’re more likely to get cheated in a single deck game
• Never take insurance
Card counting simply assigns values to the cards in the deck to give a numerical value the player can use to see whether he or she is in the advantage or not, and how to bet accordingly.
The Hi-Lo method
The easiest card counting method is the tried and tested Hi-Lo method.
This is not the most accurate card counting method, but it’s by far the easiest. In this Hi-Lo strategy, the cards are assigned a value.
Low cards from 2-6 are assigned the number +1, and high cards 10-Ace are -1, and all the middle cards are zero.
The idea here is that the higher the positive count, the more the cards are in your favor, and it means that you’ll be able to bet accordingly. It is important to start counting from the beginning of the shoe though.
Counting cards tricks
The tricky part to card counting is doing it on the spot, with distractions and without getting caught.
The actual counting itself is not hard, but doing it under casino conditions can pose a challenge.
One way to make the count easier is to group the cards together. When the dealer puts down the pairs, see which cards cancel. If you’re dealt a queen and a two, for example, this is a zero.
Quickly count the zeros, and thenyou can tie up the other numbers on top of it. However, the true secret to successful card counting is practice.
Practice makes perfect
You’ll want to make card counting an instinct, and it’s not about being a mathematical genius or having a photographic memory.
To get your skills up, carry a complete card deck with you and go through the deck and try to count the cards in your head – the final score should be zero.
You can also try to guess if the final card will be a high or a low card while doing so.
Other drills you can do, is to deal cards on the table while keeping the count and say the total of each hand.
Once you feel comfortable, have a friend deal to you as you try to count and play at the same time. To make it a little more challenging, play and count while your dealer states the face values of the cards.
Before putting your card counting skills into practice in a casino, try the stress test. Use 3 shoes in a row and try to count the cards.
If you only make three mistakes while your partner distracts you, then you should be ready to take on a casino.
Playing the decks
One thing to bear in mind when playing blackjack and using a card counting strategy, you’ll need to account for how many decks are being used.
To get the true count, take a look at how many decks are left and divide the current running count by the number of decks.
How much to bet?
A simple rule for betting while card counting is to scale it based to the running count.
A count of one, you’d bet $1, a count of two or three, $2 and so on. You would increase your bet based on how many tens are left in the shoe.
Playing using basic strategy could give you a few dollars back, but by using advantage play, you can place your high bets to strike when the iron is hot, as one may say.
While card counting on first impressions might seem daunting, you’re not adding or subtracting more than a single digit at a time. This means that even someone with basic math skills can count cards.
So stop with the excuses – if you want to play to your advantage, you most definitely can!