What is card counting?

Card countingWhether you are new to the world of online gambling or are a seasoned veteran, card counting is something you need to know about. It’s used for strategy based games such as blackjack to try and get a slight advantage over the house. Card counting is a risky strategy that takes much practice and isn’t something new comers are likely to have much luck with in the beginning.

Using card counting skilled players try to determine whether or not the next hand will be advantageous to the dealer or player. It is for that reason that card counting players are also referred to as advantage players. There are people who also count cards in games like spades and contract bridge. But it is most commonly used in blackjack.

When a player card counts s/he keeps track of the high and low value cards. High value cards are beneficial to the player while the low value cards are what the dealer wants. This is because dealers are required to hit what is known as a stiff hand. In other words if a dealer’s hand is more than 17, there is no other option but for the dealer to go bust. For example if a dealer is holding cards with a total value of 16 and picks up a 10, the dealer will be bust. Based on the cards that have been played and the observations of the card counter, players can adjust their playing strategy accordingly.

Card counting has been credited to Edward O. Thorpe, a mathematician, who in 1962 wrote a book called Beat the Dealer in which he popularized this approach blackjack. It is believed, however, that people were counting cards even before Thorpe’s book. Many of the techniques discussed in the book are now outdated but the book’s main premise remains relevant and the basis of thought behind modern day card counting.

Other noteworthy names in the history of card counting include Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott, who were also known as The Four Horsemen. They were very skilled card counters and in 1957 they published what is considered the first basic blackjack strategy along with a simple card-counting strategy.

Card counting may increase a player’s chance of winning but it does not automatically guarantee a winning hand. It has been estimated that skilled card counters are likely to win 44% of their hands. However this is only after about 50 000 hands. Despite the statistical unlikelihood of winning every hand even as a card counter, there are some casinos who have adopted a hard-line approach to advantage players.

In Nevada, for example, a player can be kicked out if caught counting cards. On the other hand in places like Atlantic City most casinos have no problem with card counting as they have implemented measures to make it almost impossible to count cards. For example, they use 8-deck shoes prevent new players from joining mid-shoe. In the past, some casinos would backroom counters. Unless a player has broken the law in some way, such interrogation and detention is illegal.

The important thing players need to keep in mind about card counting is that contrary to the name of this particular strategy it does not involve counting all cards. Instead what a player does is assign a point to each card the sum of which the player tracks. This is why some people also refer to card counting as keeping a running count.

There are many different approaches to card counting and a player needs to choose a card counting system which is suitable for their skill level. Less experienced players should try a simpler system first as these leave less room for error. A good system for beginners to start with is known as Hi/Lo. In this counting system, a value is assigned to the Ace. Systems which fail to assign a value to the Ace require a side counting making it very complicated. The Hi/Lo system is easy to keep track of and is known as a single-level count as the total sum of the running count doesn’t increase or decrease more than one value. There are systems which rely on multi-level counts such as Zen Count or Wong Halves.

When choosing a card counting system that is right for you there are several factors you need to take into consideration.  Firstly, it’s important to decide on a balanced or unbalanced count. Balanced counts consist of points which total zero while with unbalanced counts the sum of all the card points is a positive number. The type of counting system depends on the individual player’s skills.  Balanced systems are seen be easier to keep track of while unbalanced systems are recommended for single or double deck games. Players also need to decide how they are going count the Ace. Systems which count the Ace as a negative number are called Ace-reckoned while systems which count the Ace as zero are called Ace-neutral. Most players prefer systems which employ an Ace-reckoned strategy.

Players also need to decide what the highest value assigned to cards will be. This is known as the level.  The most common and easy to use level strategy is a level 1 where cards with a high value are assigned a negative value (-1) while cards with a low value are assigned a positive value (+1). Side Counts is the last characteristic a player needs to consider when choosing a system. There are systems which rely on several side counts. These can become very complicated and difficult to keep track of. Generally, Aces are kept track of in these side counts. This kind of system is not ideal for a beginner.

Card counting is a strategy which is difficult to master and is something a new player should approach with a level-head. Players need to understand that this is not a get rich quick strategy but one which requires lots of hard work, persistence and concentration.

If you’re ready to show off your well thought-out card counting strategy, head over to Spin Palace Casino where the blackjack is too good to pass up on.

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