Made famous by films such as 21, card counting in blackjack is a learned skill that intrigues casino players and has done so for many years.
Some of the best card counters in the world have managed to win millions of dollars by tracking the high and low cards left in a dealer’s deck. It may sound too simple to be effective but learning the art of card counting can take years to perfect.
Card counting is an online gambling technique that requires tracking the cards that are dealt at a blackjack table. Having the ability to track the number of high and low cards left in a deck can swing the outcome in your favour, should you place a smart bet.
For those who manage to count cards successfully, knowing when to place the perfect bet could mean more significant wins can be landed. However, it should be noted that card counting on its own is not the key to winning (or cheating) when playing a game of blackjack – it is simply a skill that can be learned and honed.
You may be wondering if card counting is legal. It may feel illegal, but there are no laws against card counting. This is only the case if you’re counting in your head and not attempting to use a physical machine or app to do the counting for you. This can be seen as an unfair advantage that casinos frown upon.
While there are no laws against card counting, casinos are generally not okay with it, and they may ask you to leave if you’re a suspected card counter. But when you’re playing online, it’s a whole other matter…
The short answer is yes – you can count cards when playing blackjack online, but it may not be as easy as doing so at your favourite brick and mortar establishment. One of the main reasons that counting cards when playing online is tough is that the game software automatically shuffles the deck after each hand is dealt.
Quick fact: A typical card counter who ranges bets appropriately in a game with 6 decks will have an advantage of approximately 1% over the casino. This is up from the usual 0.5% house edge that is usually available.
While the shuffling of the deck may make it harder to keep track, it’s not impossible. One of the most significant advantages of playing online from your home is that you can count cards openly by making notes or talking out loud without the risk of being scrutinised or being asked to leave the casino.
Playing free blackjack online casino games is the perfect way to practice and experience the possible difficulties of counting cards online. You can learn more about blackjack in our online blackjack basics guide.
It doesn’t matter if you choose to play blackjack online or while seated at a table in the middle of a land-based casino, counting cards have a certain rhythm and strategy to it that must be mastered to succeed.
You’ll start by assigning each of the cards that are dealt by the dealer a specific number. All of the 2 to 6 numbered cards are given a value of +1. If numbered cards ranging from 7 to 9 are dealt, they receive a value of 0. And finally, any card that is a 10 card or a face card will receive a value of -1.
Now that you’ve assigned the cards a value, it’s vital to keep track of the score that remains in the deck. A running tally of the cards that are dealt will help. If you’re playing at a land-based casino, you’ll need to keep this tally running in your head. However, play at an online casino from home, and you can easily keep track of the numbers by writing them down or typing them into your phone.
We have already prepared a comprehensive guide for you to learn more what is the difference between land-based casinos and online casinos.
Top tip: There are apps and software that exist which will do the card counting for you, but these are frowned upon and often seen as cheating – even when playing from home.
As soon as you’re comfortable with how the numbers are leaning in the deck, you can adjust your betting to match. If the count you have for the remaining cards is negative, it may be a good idea to increase your bet size. This is due to the fact that many low-value cards are left in the deck. The opposite applies too. If the remaining deck is in the positive (and is therefore filled with a majority of high-value cards), decrease the size of your bet accordingly.
This basic strategy used for counting cards is referred to as a Hi-Lo strategy.
There are many skills involved when counting cards, but starting at the very beginning is the simplest way to learn. These are the most straightforward steps to keep in mind, and they will help you on your way to learning more about card counting in no time at all.
These steps may be straightforward, but they are the base for every card counting strategy worth its salt. You could even develop your own strategy to help you on your way as you learn and better understand the card values.
If you feel that you’ve mastered (or are on your way to mastering) the Hi-Lo strategy, learn more about the more advanced card counting strategies that exist too. While these strategies may be slightly more involved or intricate, they could suit your playing style more than the standard Hi-Lo version.
If you’re not sure which strategy would suit you best, it’s possible to test each one for the pros and cons based on your way of playing. Use free versions of blackjack online before betting with real money to ensure that you’re playing responsibly.
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