The first thing many people think of when counting cards is mentioned is the Rainman (movie). However, counting cards is not about knowing what exact card is coming out and is not that difficult. When a player counts cards, that player is trying to utilize math to determine the value range of the remaining cards. By knowing this, your probability of knowing, or guessing, the next card increases dramatically. Counting cards in single-deck blackjack is very easy and it becomes more of a challenge as the number of decks increase.
When you are counting cards, your counting does not become particularly effective until you have tested a good sample size – half of the deck is a good meter. For this reason, it´s important to monitor when a dealer shuffles the cards. If you are at a table where the dealer shuffles mid-deck, your counting will not help much and can hurt you. Ideally, you want to be at a table where the dealer doesn´t shuffle until 80-90% of the deck or shoe has been used.
The actual count patter is very simple – just pluses and minuses. Here´s how to do it:
*Start count at zero
2,3,4,5, or 6 = + 1
Aces, faces and tens = -1
7,8 or 9 = 0
There are some variations, such as making 2:s and 3:s plus two, but this is a general way to do it. When you see a card, you simply modify the running count by the required number. For example, if your count was 4 and you see a two and a three, your count is now +6. The higher the count, to the positive, the better your odds of drawing high cards is, thus your probability is higher – it´s time to place a larger bet. If your math ability permits, you would try to get the true count by taking your running count and dividing it by the percent of the deck that remains. For example, your running count is 9 and there´s 25% of the deck left. For the next hand, the true count is 36, which is 9 divided by .25.
Counting cards is not illegal, but a casino might throw you out if they see you doing it and you are winning. It´s not too difficult to count cards and win, provided that you practice and don´t run out making $100 bets instead of your usual $2 bet. Counting cards in blackjack does not mean you will win, it simply allows you to formulate a better guess. If you are a solid blackjack player, counting cards can help tilt the advantage in your favor. Look for more articles on blackjack and counting cards in the future!