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Card counting: what is blackjack card counting and how do casinos know a player is counting cards?

Today we’ll take a look at card counting and answer this question: what is blackjack card counting and how can a casino know a player is counting cards?


Blackjack is unique among casino table games in that it is possible to change the odds of the game. The player has the possibility to change the odds depending on how they choose to play but this is only one side of the story. So what is blackjack card counting and how can a player use it to their advantage?


Well, the fact that the players have a choice of different decisions after having placed a bet is only part of the reason players can reverse the built-in house edge in blackjack. The other factor is the fact that once a specific card has been dealt, it is out of future games until the next shuffle. So by memorising what cards have been dealt, the player can then work out which cards are left in the shoe and bet accordingly. This means that a player can, in theory, remove the house edge completely and even reverse it. Someone using basic strategy can expect to face a house edge of around 0.4% but if that player can count cards effectively, the can reverse this and actually have a slight advantage over the casino.


So what is blackjack basic strategy? It is simply a method of playing that gives the player the best possible chance of winning the hand. This is done by taking into account what the dealer has been dealt and acting accordingly. But when this strategy is combined with card counting, it can become quite a headache for casinos. In the past, casinos have struggled to identify card counters but these days, things are a little different. Casino surveillance officers have figured out how players count cards and can quite easily recognise signs of card counting.


When a card counter sits at a table, they need to play it quite cool to begin with by placing small bets. They cannot take advantage of their counting until towards the end of the shoe because it is only then that their count becomes accurate enough to take advantage of it. So the first thing that will give a card counter away is usually the fact that they have little or no interaction with other players. Instead they need to hold their concentration on the cards. This alone is not enough for a casino to be sure that a player is counting cards though.


At a certain point, a card counter will feel that their count is accurate enough to strike and by strike we mean that they raise the stakes. Raising the stakes dramatically at this point in the game is a dead give-away. Another give-away is that sometimes knowledge of what cards are left in the shoe will lead a player to temporarily abandon basic strategy.


Card counting is not actually illegal but casinos don’t take too kindly to players using this method and will ask any player they suspect of counting cards to leave.