If you’ve been around casinos and you’re up-to-date with all the terms used and thrown about, you’re very likely to have come across something called ‘Card Counting.’ This phrase is thrown around more towards the Blackjack tables. The chances are that you’ve come across movies such as 21 (2008) and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), whose plot revolves around Card Counting. Even the popular comedy movie, The Hangover (2009) had a scene in which card counting took place.
So, What Is Card Counting?
While it may sound overwhelming based on the term itself, card counting has nothing to do with actually counting cards. Players who know how to count cards learn to notice patterns through which they can determine if the hand that is being dealt is beneficial to either the player or the dealer. Based on statistical evidence, high-value cards (such as aces, 10s, and 9s) benefit the player, while low-value cards (such as 2s, 3s, 4s, 5, and 6s) do not.
High-value cards are beneficial to players in the following ways –
- High-value cards increase the player’s chances of coming across a ‘natural,’ which increases the payout at a 3 to 2 odds.
- Doubling down during these times helps increase the expected value. The increased influx of 10s and aces improves the chances of doubling down to succeed.
- High-value cards also give players the additional opportunity of splitting.
- This also ensures the player is being backed by their insurance bet. This is because of the increased possibility of dealer blackjack.
- High-value cards also increase the chance of both sides busting (i.e., getting over 21 points worth of cards) – dealer and player. However, players have the advantage of standing over lower totals based on the count.
How Does Card Counting Work?
Players who partake in the activity of card counting are simply keeping a tally of certain cards that the dealer hands out through a session of gameplay. In doing so, players who are experienced enough have an idea of which card is about to be dealt next for both the player and the dealer in the next hand. When done correctly, card counting can increase the odds in the favour of the player by about 1 percent. While this may seem low, long and repetitive sessions of playing will eventually lean towards the advantage of the player.
One method used by many card counting players is a strategy called the High-Low. The method of this strategy is as follows –
- To keep a watch on three groups of cards.
- High values cards are 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces; low-value cards are 2s to 6s; mid-value cards are 7s to 9s.
- The mid-value cards are generally ignored.
- Whenever a player sees a high-value card being dealt, they are to subtract a value of 1 from their tally count. Likewise, whenever the player sees a low-value card, they are to add a value of 1 to their tally count. For example, if the tally count is at +3, the next hand few hands are very likely to be high-value cards, and it would benefit the player to place higher wagers. However, if the tally count is at -2, then the odds are in favour of the dealer, and it would benefit the player to wager lower amounts.
- Once the deck is shuffled, the tally count is reset at 0.
Players who count cards generally practice not to lose their bearings and remain focused in order not to forget the tally count. This is because to maintain the 1 percent odds and increase it, card counting demands players to sit for multiple sessions for long periods. It is easy to get distracted by all the hustle and bustle, fast-paced action taking place in the casino.
As a Player, Here’s What You Can Do
There are a few things as a card counter that players can do.
- Don’t play at a table for too long.
- Don’t make it obvious. Dress casually, talk to others, chat with the dealer and play at a steady and slow pace.
- Don’t place bets that vary in drastic amounts. This will alert the casino house. Place small differentiating bets.
Remember, casinos have the right to deny service to anyone they see as an anomaly that might cause them significant monetary loss.
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