How Card Counting Works
Blackjack Forum Online 2005
By Arnold Snyder
Card counting works, and players who use correct blackjack strategy with a card counting system can beat the casinos, because low cards favor the dealer in blackjack and high cards favor the player. Essentially, card counting is a method for tracking the probability of the player receiving cards that are favorable to him.
Low cards favor the dealer because they help him make winning totals on his hands when he is stiff (has a 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 total on his first two cards). In casino blackjack, you can stand on your stiffs if you want to, but the dealer cannot. Casino rules require that he hit his stiffs no matter how rich the deck is in high cards that will bust him.
The high cards favor the player not only because they may bust the dealer when he hits his stiffs, but because the 10s and Aces create blackjacks. Although blackjacks are evenly distributed between the dealer and the player, the player gets paid more (3:2) when he gets a blackjack.
In card counting, we do not have to count the numbers of each of the individual card values in order to know when we have an advantage over the house. We only need to know when the deck is rich or poor in high cards, the cards that are favorable to us.
This is a highly simplified explanation of why valid card-counting systems work. Itís enough to get you started, but you should understand that, for professional players who make a living at card counting, there is a lot more to card counting and beating the casinos at blackjack. The professional card counters at this web site have been researching blackjack and making their livings at blackjack for decades, and yet every day we continue to learn new ways to beat this game.
To learn how to play your blackjack hands correctly with card counting, you need to learn basic strategy, because even with card counting, the overwhelming majority of your hands will be played according to basic strategy. For free information on blackjack basic strategy and complete strategy cards, see Learn Blackjack Basic Strategy at Blackjack Forum Online.
The Best Card Counting System
New players typically search anxiously for the “best" card counting system before learning their first count. And numerous card counting system sellers attempt to capitalize on new players' anxiety with phony claims about the over-priced card counting systems and seminars they are selling. They run simulations rigged to make their own card counting system look best, but the results they claim often have nothing to do with what you will earn from real life card counting play.
Other self-acclaimed card counting "experts" don't understand how to simulate card counting systems or techniques that are different from the standard, and they provide inaccurate information about card counting systems as a result.
For a discussion of the real issues involved in comparing card counting systems, see A Comparison of Three Counts, and How Best to Compare Card Counting Systems.
Recreational players should see the OPP count (you'll find a link at the left) for the easiest card counting system. For a simple professional-level blackjack card counting system, see the Red 7 card counting system (again, you'll find a link at the left) by Arnold Snyder. Players often make more money with simple card counting systems than with those purported to have higher win rates because players make fewer errors with simpler systems, and card counting errors are costly. Also, there is little to be gained from some complicated card counting systems, simply because they aren't significantly better at identifying profitable betting opportunities in today's blackjack games.
A number of professional card counters prefer the Zen Count, an advanced (but not too complicated) card counting system that more accurately pinpoints profitable betting opportunities, and thus earns a higher win rate than simpler card counting systems, if you can use it correctly. The hi-lo lite card counting system is well-suited to players who plan to use advanced gambling techniques like shuffle tracking. Complete information on both of these card counting systems is available for a few bucks in Blackbelt in Blackjack. This book will also teach you about bankroll requirements for card counting, optimal betting, game conditions that give you the biggest edge, casino surveillance and card counting camouflage, and other practical advice you need to know to make money at card counting.
And there are other excellent card counting systems available for free at Blackjack Forum Online, provided by the smart and creative card counters who developed them. These include three card counting systems for the visually-impaired, the Victor Advanced Point Count, the Over/Under card counting system for the Over/Under side bet, and the unbalanced over/under count.
Again, don't get too hung up on choosing a card counting system when you're just starting. That's not where the money is in gambling, and from the beginning we want you to start focusing on the money. Pick a simple and reputable card counting system and try it out. Even though it may be a challenge the first time you learn a card counting system, it will be much easier to learn a second system if you decide to switch later as you gain knowledge and better understand your gambling goals.
Card Counting Software and Other Gear
There's no need to spend a lot of money on expensive card counting gear. A lot of people will try to sell you a lot of stuff in your first days of excitement about card counting, but you can't buy what it takes to succeed as a professional gambler. All you really need to practice card counting and get good at it is some decks of cards. Although there is free card counting practice software available here at Blackjack Forum, I strongly recommend that you practice card counting with decks of cards rather than software, because the physical attributes of actual cards are the key to the real money in professional gambling, and I have noticed that players who practice with real cards are more likely to discover and move on to these professional techniques.
There is also professional card counting simulation software available free here at Blackjack Forum, and this fast, accurate PowerSim software will help you figure out your advantage, win rates, and optimal bets with card counting. Also, the PowerSim software will soon be adding features that are not available on any of the commercial card counting software, including capabilities for simulating advanced professional gambling techniques beyond card counting, to help you move your career along as quickly as possible.
Again, the important thing is to get your feet wet and see if you like this at all before you start putting a lot of money into it.
Card Counting Camouflage
Be sure to take time before your first live casino card counting play to learn about card counting camouflage. (See the Card Counting Camouflage and Heat sections of the Blackjack Forum Library for an introduction to this topic. For more information on card counting camouflage, see Blackbelt in Blackjack.) Casinos don't appreciate having winning players at their tables, and there is no sense in hurting your career and lifetime earnings by getting labelled as a card counter before you've ever really gotten started.
Professional Gambling Beyond Card Counting
And please be aware that professional gamblers use many techniques beyond card counting to beat casino blackjack and other games.
Card counting is a good entry point into the theory of professional gambling, because it will teach you the fundamentals of gambling with an advantage at blackjack. But today you can get a much bigger edge with professional gambling techniques other than card counting, like hole-card play, various types of shuffle tracking and steering, and online casino bonus play.
In fact, for new players living in a country where online casino gambling is still available, online casino bonus play is the easiest way available right now to get a big edge at blackjack and other games, and quickly build a big bankroll out of a small bankroll. Information on online gambling and other professional gambling techniques are available for free at this Web site as well. ♠
For complete information on card counting and other methods professional gamblers use to win at blackjack, see Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack
For more information at this web site on easy to professional level card counting, analysis of card counting systems, card counting research, card counting teams, online casino bonus hustling and information on advanced professional gambling techniques, see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library. ♠