Card counting has been practised for many years, with the first successful method created by Edward Thorp in 1962. After Thorp created an initial way to count cards, he created a path for others to follow with their techniques. Card counting is used in the game of Blackjack also known as Twenty-One, by card counting you can mathematically figure out when to raise or lower your bets in order to win more money – making your day at the casino much more successful.
Card counting has been portrayed in many different books and films, such as 21 where we see the MIT Blackjack Team take on the casinos – which is based on a true story. You’ll find many stories of different Blackjack teams beating the casinos; naturally, the casinos had to change a few things to keep the odds in their favour. But how are card counters doing it? What methods do they use? Here you’ll find out the many different techniques used in card counting.
One of the most basic strategies is known by many different names. The High-Lo technique is its most common name. The strategy is fairly simple, it doesn’t require much skill, you just need to remember a rolling number total and consider it before making a bet.
It’s really simple to grasp the concept of counting cards using this method, each card is assigned into a value group, for example; cards from 2-6 are worth +1, the cards 7 8 and 9 are worth 0, and the cards 10, 11, J Q K and A are worth -1 point. After each card that is dealt you need to add or subtract the value of the card to your rolling number (which starts on 0). After a few rounds, your number will become more factual and you can start betting depending on its value. If your number is high, the chances of you receiving a high card are high – meaning your chances of getting a Blackjack are increased, the lower the number, the lower your chances – it’s as simple as that!
The best time to start placing bets using this strategy is after you have counted a few rounds. This is because your number will become more accurate the further down deck you go, although the number is a pretty good predictor from the start. Although you may not know what card is coming out of the deck next, having a rough idea of the value can massively increase your chance of winning. Why not employ basic strategy if you enjoy casino live?
The True Count
By using the same methods spoken about previously, you can advance these into the technique known as a True Count. A game of Blackjack is typically played with multiple decks, the lowest amount of decks is two while the highest is eight, although six is most common – each deck contains the standard 52 playing cards.
True counting involves guessing how many decks are left in the dealer’s deck as well as keeping a running count number which we mentioned in basic strategy. This can be slightly trickier but is much more accurate. If you play regularly with several decks then you’ll find it easier to determine how many are left. Using the running count method here is an example: your current running count is at +9, your chances are very high, but there are still roughly three decks in the dealer’s deck which dilutes your chances. Take your running total number of +9 and divide it by the number of decks left, in this case, three, your true count number is now +3. A true count will be more accurate the further you get down the dealer’s deck because the number of each card is concentrated. You may have turned over five 3s in a row, improving your chances, but in six decks, there would still be another 19 more to reveal!
Back-Counting or ‘Wonging’
The term ‘Wonging’ originally comes from the famous card counter, Stanford Wong. Whereby a player will create their running number total before taking a seat, by standing over the table and not sitting, you can wait for the best moment to join the table at a time where your chances are high. A great advantage to have although some casinos don’t let you join or leave throughout a deck. The disadvantage of doing this could be that it will raise suspicion of casino staff members and they could brand you as a card counter which could see you being removed from the casino floor.
Although the films and media portray card counting as a ‘genius brains only’ area, it’s clear that anybody can card count in its simplest forms. Of course, some people can specifically remember what card came after the last, but for six whole decks, the probability of ever being that person is very low. If you’re going to card count, at least make it easier for yourself so you can also focus on having a good time!