Counting CardsCard counting has been around since the 1950’s but wasn’t popularised as a method of beating the Blackjack table until the 1960’s when a mathematics professor by the name of Dr. Edward O. Thorp published a book called ‘Beat the Dealer’.

The book highlighted that it was possible for a clever player to actually gain a greater advantage over the casino at blackjack. It is one of the most popular ways to win at the game and many people swear by it.

Simply put, card counting is a counting system used to keep track of the ratio of high to low cards in a deck. This is now used as the basis for most card counting strategies used in blackjack today. More recently the system was used and improved upon by the famous MIT blackjack card counting team who took many of the top Vegas casinos for millions and had their exploits turned into a major motion film (21) starring Kevin Spacey.

The player knows he has an advantage when a deck has a shortage of cards valued
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

The player is at a disadvantage when a deck has a shortage of cards valued
9, 10, Ace.

When you card count you can tell when the deck is rich in 9's, 10's, and Aces and you can do one of the following things: Bet more money when the deck is favorable to you. Alter your strategy play to account for the favorability which will increase the odds of winning a particular hand.

How does it work?
A deck of cards has 52 cards in total. The deck is then divided into four distinct sections, each section having a specific value attached to the cards in that section.

Card Value Total
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, +1 20 (5 cards, 4 of each in a deck)
7, 8, 9 0 0
10, J, Q, K -1 -16 (4 cards, 4 of each in a deck)
Ace -1 -4 (4 Aces in a deck)

The breakdown of the deck of cards above clearly shows the four sections and the value attached to the individual cards in each. If you added up all of the cards (-1, 0 or +1) they would balance perfectly to give you a starting point of 0.

When you count the cards in a hand and the cards out on the table end with a + value then you’re at an advantage, when you count them and you get minus value then you’re at a slight disadvantage.

The following cards are shown in the course of a hand

2 3 8 10 K Q 4 3 4 9

The first value is +1 for the 2 followed by +1 for the 3. You are now at +2. Next is the 8 which has 0 points, followed by -1 for the 10. You’re now at +1. Both the King and the Queen are worth -1 each. You’re now at -1. With the 4’s and 3 all worth +1 and the 9 at 0 you finish with +2.

Result: +2
This is a positive outcome for you, the player. You now have a greater advantage than the house which makes it more likely that you will win this hand. At this stage it would be recommended to increase your bet if you have the chance to do so.

The only way that you will get good at this is by practice. We recommend that you do this on a ‘play for fun’ table which won’t cost you anything. You can also use a deck of cards and count them one by one as you turn them over. Practice makes perfect!