While most of us have heard of card counting, not everyone knows what card counting is and whether it really works. This article provides a short introduction to card counting. In particular, it shows that as a strategy used by Blackjack players, card counting certainly works to reduce the house edge and allow players to bet with less risk.
In order to understand card counting, a basic description of the game of Blackjack is necessary. The aim of the game of Blackjack is not to exceed 21 points, or to reach the highest score under 21 sufficient to beat the dealer. At the beginning of the game, the players and the dealer are dealt a two card hand. Face cards (Kings, Queens, and Jacks) are counted as ten points. The player and dealer can count an ace as 1 point or 11 points. All other cards are counted as the numeric value shown on the card. After the first round is dealt, players have the option of staying with the two initial cards (“Stand”), or taking an additional card (“Hit”). The winner is the player or dealer having a score of 21 or having the highest score that is less than 21. For more information, read our article on How to Play Blackjack.
The strategy of card counting is based on the assumption that high value cards (especially aces and 10s) benefit the player at the expense of the dealer, and low cards, (especially 4s, 5s, and 6s) help the dealer more than the player. Therefore, a high concentration of aces and 10s in the shoe, increases the player’s chances of hitting a high score, up to 21 point. Similarly, a high concentration of cards with a low numeric value increases the dealer’s chances of winning.
While many different techniques of card counting exist, the basic idea behind all of them is identical. The player pays attention to the cards which have already been dealt and are out of the shoe, and keeps a count of high and low cards. This gives a rough idea with regards to the composition of the cards remaining in the shoe and whether they give a probable advantage to the payer or the dealer. The player can then make playing decisions based on the composition of the cards remaining in the shoe, reducing the player’s risk when the count gives an advantage, and reducing losses when the count is unfavorable to the player. For example, a high concentration of aces and 10s in the deck increases the player’s chances of hitting a natural Blackjack. Also, when the shoe has a high concentration of 10s, players have a better chance of winning when doubling.