The Do’s and Don’ts of Card Counting

While everyone loves having a quick game of online blackjack, there are some benefits to playing the live table version as well; not least that you can utilise certain techniques for advantage play that don’t work with the online version. While basic strategy will work no matter how you play the game, you can’t put card counting into practice as the Pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) that powers the online game keeps the decks constantly shuffled. If you’re looking to master the art of card counting, you’re going to have to give your game a test at a real table (at the very least a game of live blackjack).

The core principle of card counting is simple – because there’s a set number of cards in the deck (even with four or five decks combined together), any time a card comes out the total number of cards left in the deck goes down. Or to put it another way, the hand that was just played will have a demonstratable effect on the hand you’re playing now. This makes blackjack unique among casino games as the one thing that keeps all the other games unified is that past events have no influence on future outcomes. If the roulette wheel lands on red three times in a row, the odds it’ll land on red next time is exactly the same. But with blackjack, if you see the King of Spades dealt three times and you’re playing with three decks, you know for a fact that there won’t be another one coming out.

Keeping track of each card individually is something that even the sharpest of minds is going to struggle with, and for that reason most systems of card counting will change the goal. You aren’t aiming to count every single card and its value, you instead get an estimate based on whether cards of a low or high value have come out. Each system will ascribe a different value to each card but one of the most popular ones, Hi-Lo, is a good example. For any card with a value between 2 and 6 you add 1 to the count, for any card with a value of 10 or over you subtract 1. Therefore, when the count is in the positive numbers you have more high value cards to come and if it’s negative then you have more low value cards to come.

For a quick primer of some of the do’s and don’ts in card counting, check out this infographic!

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