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Card Counting

This is Part 1 in a series of articles which examine the myths and facts of counting cards during a real money casino blackjack game

Card Counting Part 1: Self Assessment and Basic Approach

Let’s start off by saying that while card counting systems are not against the law in the United States, the casino will still throw you out and ban you for life for some other reason if they suspect you of counting. Casinos are not fond of blackjack card counters, and have everything from custom analytical software to experts to detect anyone who may be counting.

This article only describes the learning process of becoming a professional card counter and is not suggesting, implying, advising, recommending or forcing the reader to count cards inside a casino or online.

Getting caught counting cards at blackjack card game at some remote casino on Native American tribal lands, or a casino in a far away country like Cambodia, may give you the most unpleasant or maybe even the last experience of your life.

Using any device other than you own brain to count cards during casino blackjack card games is cheating, illegal and a felony in all jurisdictions, punishable by 3-10 years in prison. Do not cheat; it’s not worth losing your freedom.

And on that bright note, let’s begin.

You play poker? Can you bluff? Do people tell you that your face is an open book? You work well under pressure? Have you ever been questioned by authorities and remained calm, collected and nonchalant, even though inside your head you were scared out of your wits?

Are you good at math? Start from zero and count with (+3) : 3, 6, 9, 12, 15… all the way to 100. Now count backwards from 100 to zero but with (-4) – 100, 96, 92, 88.

Now, from zero count to 100, but first (+4) and then (-2) in a cycle – 0, 4, 2, 6, 4, 8. Are you ok doing this without a single break for a few hours? Now do the same while watching a ball game.

If you have someone close, ask them to talk to you, tap you on the shoulder, sneeze, ask you for a lighter, for time, or tell you a long boring story while you practice. Are you ok after an hour? How many times did you lose count?

These are the same exercises that were used by a well known blackjack card counting team. The questions in the beginning are for meditation and self-reflection to decide if the person has ‘the right stuff’ to operate in a high stress environment while remaining calm and never losing the count.

I think by now 99% of you understand why memory, concentration and the ability to make quick decisions under pressure are traits shared by all experts card counters throughout the world.

After all, they call it the MIT Blackjack Team and not Bubkiss County Junior Community College Blackjack Team.

In the next part of this series on card counting, we will look at smart strategies, examine a few basic card counting systems and explore the benefits and drawbacks of forming a team.