Blackjack is different from most casino games for one big reason. It is a game that can be beaten. To beat the house at blackjack, you really do need to be able to count cards perfectly, but what does that really mean? Card counting is something that has shown up in popular culture from time to time, but most people really do not understand what it is.
Before you could even think about counting cards, you need to have a good foundation. This goes well beyond mastering the rules of the game, and extends to basic strategy. Basic strategy tells you the ideal play for every single situation. Before you can count cards, you’ll need to have mastered basic blackjack strategy or you won’t have a hope.
Card counting does not require you to track every single card in the deck. That would be nearly impossible at the normal casino blackjack pace. Instead, you need to look at the average value of cards that remain in the deck. By keeping a running count in your head, you can keep track of the high or low cards remaining in the deck.
In general, high cards are good for players and bad for the house. This is because dealers will be hitting on seventeens (or at least hard seventeens). At casino blackjack, if there are a lot of high cards in the deck, the dealer is much more likely to bust. As a player maintaining a count on the deck, you can defend against such mistakes. As a side note, when playing online blackjack, the deck is shuffled after every round, so card counting is not a useful strategy.
While card counting is completely legal in the United States, it is frowned upon by most casinos. If they believe you are successfully card counting, they will most likely escort you off of the property and ban you for life. For this reason, card counting might not be suitable for casual casino blackjack players.
By Sean Terrel
Sean Terrel is a professional gambling coach.