A lot of blackjack players – even people who have been playing the game for a while – are intimidated by the idea of counting cards. They think that you have to be too smart or you have to be a mathematician or something.
I blame it on Rain Man. That is the movie that introduced the concept of counting cards to most people. There are many great things about that Academy Award-winning film. However, like most Hollywood movies, it’s not terribly accurate. For one thing, it wasn’t an accurate depiction of autism. More to our point, though, it was not an accurate depiction of card counting. In the movie, Raymond Babbit was a savant, with one of his areas of expertise being counting. His brother then takes him to the casino to take advantage of his skill. The truth is that Charlie could learn to count cards himself, if he takes the time to learn.
Savantism is not required for card counting. If you use the simplest method, you only need to be able to count to one. Pretty easy, right?
Before going forward, here are two disclaimers. First, card counting doesn’t work with online blackjack. The use of a random number generator makes the strategy useless, so don’t waste your time trying to count online. Secondly, casinos do not like card counters. If you use nothing but your brain to help you, it is perfectly legal (even something as simple as a rubber band or a pen helping you would make it illegal). Still, legal or not, if a casino catches you counting cards you will be asked to leave and may be banned permanently from that resort. Make sure you understand the risks before engaging in an activity that will draw the ire of casinos.
Having said that, let’s look at the easiest way to count cards, the Hi-Lo Count. The simplest hi-lo count has only three values: -1, 0 and +1. Each card is assigned a value, with 2-6 having a +1 value, 7-9 having a value of 0 and 10-ace having a value of -1.
The object of counting cards is to determine when the deck is rich in tens. A lot of tens remaining is beneficial to the player, so in that case you would increase your bet. Start with a count of zero whenever the table begins a new deck or shoe. As each card is revealed, keep a running count, adding the point value of the card that is drawn. Remember that you are not only counting your cards, but also the cards given to every other player and the dealer. That is the only complicated thing about card counting. You have to do it fast.
Once you have a running count, you now have to find the “true count,” which takes into account the number of decks in play. All you have to do is divide the running count by the number of decks remaining. For example, if you have a true count of +8 and the dealer has used two of the six decks, you would do 8/4 to get a true count of +2. If you get a fraction, feel free to round up to make it simple. Once you have the true count, try to take advantage of a game with a lot of tens remaining. Remember, however, that the dealers are trained to pick up on the betting patters of card counters, so be discrete.