Blackjack Professor

Counting Cards & Card Counting Tutor

You've probably heard about counting cards, but you may not know the degree to which it is a source of ongoing conflict between casinos and professional gamblers. Card counting is perfectly legal, but it's very unpopular in the gaming business. Players who exhibit counting behavior for any reason will invariably find casino hospitality cut short. Many of these behaviors would seem quite innocent to the average player.

That's why you should understand how counting works even if you don't count cards. I'm not encouraging you to do it, nor discouraging you, but you're likely to find this information helpful either way.

Start counting cards today!If you're interested in training yourself on counting cards regardless of whether you're a novice card counter or advanced here at BlackjackProfessor.com we provide a blackjack tutor to help you with your counting. For some people it comes naturally and others need to work at it more. The program runs directly in your browser, however you have to be able to run Java Applets so if you can't for some reason view the program after the pop up window opens you'll have to download the Java Virtual Machine located here. Otherwise to open the blackjack counting tutor click here and start practicing.

The Origin of Card Counting

Blackjack was once like roulette, craps, and all the other casino games. It looked easy to beat, but it actually gave the house a nice edge. Then someone did the unthinkable. In 1962 Edward O. Thorp published Beat the Dealer, a Best-selling book that described a system for beating blackjack. For once it was true; the gambling system worked.

At first it was only a handful of professionals, who earned a tidy living playing blackjack, but numbers grew and the casinos realized they were losing money. Multiple decks, frequent shuffling, and other measures were put into place to discourage card counting. That helped, but the basic mathematics of blackjack couldn't be changed. Every measure brought a countermeasure. Every casino response was studied and new counting systems were invented.

How Counting Works

There are many methods to counting cards. Contrary to popular belief, none of them involves memorizing all the cards in the deck. I'm going to explain one of the simplest counting systems, called Hi-Lo. When a card leaves the deck it changes the probability of receiving any one of the remaining cards. You've probably noticed that tens favor players because they make nice pat hands and usually cause the dealer to bust when he hits. Small cards have the opposite effect.

A player using Hi-Lo simply scans the cards as they are revealed during play and assigns a number to each one. Cards with a value of two, three, four, five, and six become +1. Seven eight, and nine are zero. Tens, face cards, and aces are -1. The numbers are added and the result is a measure of how many tens and aces are left in the deck compared to smaller cards.

Let's say it's only you and the dealer playing with a freshly shuffled deck. At the end of the first hand you have two tens and the dealer busted with a ten, a three, and another ten. Great for you, but on a single deck the count is now -3. The cards remaining in the deck favor the dealer. You might win the next hand and the next one after that but those little cards will come back to haunt you. Conversely, if the count is positive, you can expect big fat tens to come out of the deck at some point, even if you're losing.

Card counters divide the running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe to get the "true count," so -4 is only -1 when playing a six-deck game with four decks left in the shoe. All this information is used to make decisions, including, when to deviate from basic strategy, when to take insurance, and how much to bet. Bets are raised when the count is up and lowered when the count is down.

That's how counting works. Casinos really hate it. A good card counter can turn a slim house edge into a plump 1.5 percent player advantage and (with luck) win thousands in a matter of minutes.

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