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Intro: Learn about the finer art of Card Counting
Written on Monday 29th of October 2012

Card dealerBlackjack card counting

Card counting is a Blackjack strategy that was devised to obtain a probability advantage over the house. At its most basic level, counting cards can help determine where the high cards (tens and aces) are in a deck during a game blackjack. With this knowledge a player can increase their stake to coincide with higher valued cards being dealt and potentially win more.

The roots of card counting are hard to trace, but it was made popular in 1962 when American mathematician Dr Edward Thorp wrote the book “Beat the Dealer”. Thorp’s book uncovered several strategies including card counting that prompted casinos to radically change their dealing systems. Back in 1993 Six MIT students, nicknamed the MIT Blackjack team used variations of card counting techniques to take Las Vegas casinos for millions.

The plus-minus card count

The most common form of card counting in the plus-minus count, where a +1, 0 or -1 is added to the value of each card during a game. As the cards are dealt the card counter will add +1 to cards two through to six, -1 to cards ten and above and 0 to cards seven through to nine. This technique is known as a balancing card counting system, therefore if it is applied to all 52 cards you would end up with a count of 0. The counter knows to increase their stake when they have positive totals, as this gives them a greater chance of a win.

Advanced card counting techniques

As card counting became more popular more strategies were developed. Some like the Zen Count or Wang Halves took the basic plus-minus card count and modified it to give the player a higher probability of winning. Rather than adding +1, 0 or -1 an advanced technique may involve +2 or -2, with a side count on specific cards such as Aces. By doing this the card counters can gain a higher level of accuracy on higher valued cards, especially Aces and Tens.

These advanced card counting techniques require a special type of person, who can maintain knowledge of multiple variables of cards.

Does card counting work?
Card counting can give a player a house edge of between 0.5% and 1.5% depending on the number of decks being used during a game. Therefore in theory it works, however in reality casinos are now wise to card counting and most now have systems in place to prevent it.

If you were hoping to go online and use card counting at a casino on the net, forget it, as all online casinos regularly shuffle the decks during the games.