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Counting Cards

Counting cards is an advanced blackjack strategy that might not appeal to the average gambler. The basics what happens when you're counting cards is that you look at a deck of cards, you look at the cards that have already been revealed from that deck of cards and then you try to look at the odds of a particular outcome based on what's remaining or unknown from that same deck of cards.

Short History
Counting cards really began with the publication of Edward Thorp's "Beat the Dealer" in 1962. In it, he laid out specific ways by which a player could make money off casino blackjack. This caused many casinos to implement rules that were unfavorable to the player, which in turned caused a backlash in the form of players who refused to go to casinos with rules. Alas, better rules were implemented, along with certain changes that have remained in place to this day. Thorp's system was refined and even replaced by improved counting systems that continue to be developed even now.

The Logic
The logic of counting cards is based wholly around the composition of the deck of cards. There are 52 cards in a full deck. This means for example that you have a 4 out of 52 chance of being dealt a Queen from this full deck. So if all the Queens have been drawn from the deck already, it's pretty logically that you have absolutely no chance of drawing a Queen. So cards that have already been played or draw clearly have an effect on the future cards that will be dealt your way. Card counters use this information about cards that have already been played to try to assess how favorable the remaining cards are.

A simple system for counting cards
The hi-lo card counting system is often recommended for rookies. Using the hi-lo system, you simply keep track of the number of high, low and neutral cards remaining in the pack. The cards are assigned a value as follows:
2,3,4,5,6 (low cards) = +1
7,8,9 (neutral cards) = 0
10,jack,queen,king,ace (high cards) = -1
Players try to keep a mental total or running count of all the cards that have been dealt or exposed by adding and subtracting the values of the cards. For example, a sequence of 3,queen,king,jack,8,4,3,king,9,10 results in a total of -2. When the count is negative, the deck is said to be rich in low cards and thus favoring the dealer. When the count is positive, the deck is said to be rich in high cards and favoring the player. To capitalize on a favorable count, the card counter will then make large bets when the deck is "positive" and small bets when it's "negative".

Why counting cards is not such a good prospect these days

  • Casinos have long sought to prevent card counters playing at their tables, despite the fact that it's not illegal. Suspected or identified counters are usually asked to leave or to play a game other than blackjack
  • Casinos have also made it harder for counters to count properly. Using several decks, shuffling the deck early or continuously reshuffling the decks are methods of deterring card counters
  • If you can bypass those two obstacles above, then you're faced with the fact that counting is really a 'win some, lose some' technique that usually sees the counter suffering wild fluctuations in his/her bankroll. One minute he could be up hundreds, the next minute he's down by thousands. There's nothing guaranteed thus counters have to ante up and make sure they've got enough money to weather the losing streaks that may come.

Counting cards online
Is it possible? No! Why not? It's impossible to count simply because the online casinos almost always use multiple decks and continuous shuffling in their blackjack games.

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