Card counting in Blackjack has been a common practice for generations. It is not illegal, although, due to its effectiveness, it is heavily frowned upon by casino management. The rule of thumb is to practice a card counting strategy intensely before using it in a live casino so that the staff is unaware you are even doing it.
Blackjack has a low house edge to begin with, around 2-3%. When you implement strict following of a blackjack strategy chart, the house edge decreases to about 1%. A basic blackjack card counting strategy will further reduce the house edge by as much as 0.5% to 1%, making it possible to eliminate the house edge altogether.
Blackjack card counting is not as difficult as some people seem to think. You don’t need to keep track of every card as it is played. All you have to do is be able to keep a positive or negative count that generally ranges between -5 to +5. The count defines the likelihood of being dealt a Natural Blackjack, thus governs the size of the players next bet.
If the count is high, the player should bet higher. A low (negative) count should result in a lower bet, or no bet at all.
For the record, the use of card counting in online blackjack is generally restricted due to the reshuffling of the deck between each hand. In some cases, playing live online blackjack will give leeway for a card counting strategy.
Counting the Cards
Rather than keeping up with all of the cards, you are only required to give 3 group of cards a value, either -1, 0 or +1. This is known as the Hi-Lo Count. Anyone who can remember a number and can count by ones can do this, and with a little practice it becomes second nature. The card values are as follows:
2-6 = +1
7-9 = 0
10-A = -1
The count always begins at 0 when a newly shuffled deck is in use. If a card of 2-6 is played, the player adds 1 to the total. If a 7, 8 or 9 is played, the value is 0 so the player does nothing. If a 10, face card or Ace is played, the player subtracts 1. Once an entire deck of cards is played through, a proper count will result in a final sum of 0.
The rise and fall of the count relates directly to the number of 10s, face cards and Aces there are in the deck. The more of these cards that remain, the higher your chance of being dealt a black jack becomes. Most often the count will remain close to 0. When the count goes higher or lower (positive and negative), you are expected to bet more or less than your average bet.
How to Practice
Get a single deck of cards. Flip one card face up at a time and, starting with a count of 0. Keep a count of all the cards as they are turned up. When the deck runs dry, your count should be back to 0. Continue practicing, increasing the rate of speed at which you flip each card and adding in more decks. Finally, invite a friend or two over and attempt to count the cards while keeping up with a mild conversation.
If you can pull this off, you can easily count cards in blackjack at a casino without letting outside distractions slip you up. Once you’re a pro at it, try looking into advanced blackjack card counting strategies that can actually turn the house edge around and give you the advantage over the casino.