As long as people have been gambling, they’ve been on the lookout for quick fix ways to strike it lucky without having to risk too much. For some games which are luck-based and have unpredictable outcomes, no strategy no matter how well-crafted it may be is going to increase a player’s chances of winning.
But then there are games, like blackjack, which have a low house edge and rely mostly on the skill of the player as well as strategy. Players who know what they’re doing can leave a blackjack table with some impressive winnings.
When it comes to playing blackjack many players use what is known as card counting to get the upper hand. Card counting is often viewed negatively by casinos as skilled card counters have used it to win breath-taking sums. Having said that, despite the negative associations with this approach to blackjack, it’s not illegal to card count.
Casinos view it unfavourably largely because successful card counting can yield a return of about 99.5%. In an attempt to minimize the damage experienced players have caused, many casinos have implemented a host of measures to stop card counting.
Players who card count are paying attention to all the cards which have been dealt in order to see if they notice any patterns. Card counters are ultimately trying to determine whether the card that still needs to be dealt will be advantageous to the dealer or the player. If the card counter thinks the card will be in the player’s favour, the player will then increase his/her bet.
If, however, the player guesses that the card will help the dealer the player will decrease his/her bet. It is in this way that card counters are able to take advantage of any patterns and use them to his/her advantage.
There are two ways players can count cards. The first involves the use of some sort of electronic device. The device would be strapped to the player’s body and would help the player track any patterns. The other way in which players count cards is far trickier and involves more skill.
A player who decides not to use a device will keep note of any patterns that emerge and track them by making a mental note of all the cards dealt. This requires a sharp memory and the ability to track patterns.
In modern day casinos card counting using a device of any sort is illegal. A player who is caught doing so will be asked to leave the casino. This player could also face legal charges. On the other hand, a player who mentally card counts is allowed to do so. While many casinos may do their best to discourage players from doing so, they have no legal grounds for stopping a player.
It is for this reason that casinos have had to come up with creative ways to solve the issue of card counters. Initially many casinos simply made some changes to the average payout as a way of making up for what the casino was losing due to card counters. However casinos soon found that this wasn’t the most effective approach as it angered the many players who had relied on card counting as a blackjack strategy.
In attempt to retain the upper hand and reduce the efficacy of card counting while still keeping players happy, casinos were forced to look for other ways of dealing with card counters which didn’t affect the game’s payouts. Many casinos looked for ways to make the game harder while still ensuring it remained fair.
There are two options for casinos who want to stop card counters. The first, and most commonly adopted approach to card counting, would be for casinos to implement measures which make it almost impossible for a player to count cards. In order to do this, some casinos will increase the number of decks being used. The more desks used, the hard it is to notice patterns and thus to count cards.
Another thing casinos sometimes do to stop card counters is decrease penetration. Penetration refers to the number of cards which are dealt before the dealer will shuffle the cards. Most casinos have a penetration of 50% or less. It’s rare for casinos to exceed such a penetration rate as that would make it easier to count cards.
Another approach some casinos adopt is to identify potential card counters and to take action against them before they’re able to cause any damage. This approach often proves to be less effective. Some casinos will rely on sophisticated face recognition technology to help them identify potential card counters. This isn’t fail proof and after things like the poor lighting can make it hard to identify potential card counters.
But it doesn’t end there. Casinos will do whatever they can to prevent potential card counters from succeeding. For example, it is not unheard of for a casino to use special scanners at blackjack tables. These will not only help detect card counters but will enable the casino to identify which type of card counting device the player is using.
As a precautionary measure, some casinos will modify the rules of the game unexpectedly. The casino may decide to suddenly lower the stakes. In extreme cases, the casino may decide to place restrictions on certain actions such as doubling-down; splitting or even playing more than one hand simultaneously. The casino may decide to apply these restrictions to the entire blackjack table or just to those they suspect are card counting.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what measures a casino resorts to. Try as they might, casinos are unlikely to foil skilled card counters. It is especially difficult to stop card counters who don’t rely on special devices to count cards.
Oftentimes it can be near to impossible to detect a player who is able to count cards mentally. This doesn’t stop casinos that sometimes resort to extreme measure to clamp down on suspected card counters. Having an understanding of how casinos stop card counting can help improves a card counter’s chances of winning.