Think of someone who counts cards. You’ll probably imagine a bearded, haggard genius with numbers running through their head. Most people imagine people who count cards as human computers, capable of doing more math in their heads than you ever learned in school.
Yet, winning blackjack games by counting cards isn’t hard. It doesn’t take a genius to do it, all it takes is a basic understanding of statistics. Yet, most people are still reluctant to do it, and that’s a good thing.
Not only does counting cards anger the house you’re playing in, but some also consider it cheating. If a pit boss catches you counting cards, you may never be able to play in the same place again.
So, even though it’s easy and can make you a few quick bucks, keep reading below to learn some of the reasons why you should try to win big the old-fashioned way. It may pay off better down the line.
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1. Counting Cards Is Legal But It’ll Piss Off the House
Since counting cards is just a matter of understanding basic statistics, there aren’t any laws banning it. In fact, the only laws on the books about counting cards are ones against using a device to help you. That includes your phone–if you try to keep track of a deck with your phone you may end up in a lawsuit.
But that’s not the worst of it. If you’re caught counting cards, you’re going to piss off the house. That means they will kick you out, and you’ll probably never be able to go back. So all the friends you got to know at the tables and all the dealers you spoke to wonder why you’re not there anymore.
When you count cards, you’re betting your relationship with the house, and that isn’t worth any pot.
2. Acting and Playing Dress Up Won’t Help
Some experienced card counters think that their appearance matters when they sit down at a table. They usually want to look like a businessperson trying to lose some money, or a grizzled, veteran gambler. The last thing they want to do is look like a smart grad-student looking to make a few quick bucks.
Yet, that trick is old and overplayed. Most casinos know now to expect anything out of anyone, and that it doesn’t matter how they look. Casinos look out for card counting from businesspeople and students alike.
So just show up at the table dressed in whatever’s comfortable. Pretending to be a successful businessperson won’t help you, and it’ll only make the game harder for you.
3. It’s One Thing to Count Cards, It’s Another to Just Be Smart
It’s easy to be intimidated away from the table if you’re worried somebody might think you’re counting cards. It’s important to remember the house won’t kick you out if you’re just a good player. Knowing when it’s a good time to fold is different from memorizing statistics and the cards that have been used.
If you’re just a good player with a keen sense of when it’s a good time to bet, that’s fine. You should just go sit down at a table and have fun. But if you’re sitting down rehearsing statistical formulas and watching other people’s hands, then you may want to reconsider your game.
4. Pit Bosses Will Count Cards Too, Just Backwards
One of the tricks pit bosses do if somebody is counting cards is to just take the discard tray. They simply take the cards that have been used before and compare them to the bets you’ve made through the game. If your bets correlate with the cards that were played, they may ask you to stop playing and leave.
All they need to do is pull security footage of your table and use that to view your bets. Then, they can cross-compare the cards in the discard tray and your bets in the footage to see if you’re counting or not. It may take a bit of time, but if you’re counting cards you’re going to be at the table for a while anyway.
5. If You’re Caught Once, You’re in the System Forever
The worst thing about counting cards is that once you’re kicked out, you may not be able to return. Once you violate the house’s trust once, they will never be able to trust you again. After you’re kicked out, the house can pull your picture from the footage and tell dealers and pit bosses to be on the lookout for you.
That means if you ever try to play another hand in the same casino, you may be asked to leave before the cards are even dealt. Granted, they may not recognize you immediately. But it only takes one person to recognize you before you’re kicked out, and possibly sued for trespassing.
Even if nobody recognizes you, they may pull security footage if you start acting suspiciously. Then, they may run your face with their records to see if there is a match. If there is, expect the same treatment as before.
6. Cutting the Deck to Cut Counting Cards
A simple trick pit bosses and dealers may do to cut counting cards is to just cut the deck. For people to be able to count cards, there needs to be a certain level of consistency with how they’re dealt. So when a pit boss decides to randomly split the deck, people who count cards will need to start over.
Once they need to start over, card-counters may be encouraged to leave the table. They may even give up and instead of scouting for another table, may leave the casino altogether. By cutting the deck, the pit boss sends people counting cards a gentle message that it’s time for them to leave.
7. Automatically Stop Card Counting with Automatic Deck Shufflers
One of the ways the casino as a whole may try to curtail card counting is by using automatic deck shufflers. These machines help to limit card counting in two ways.
First, they can be set to sort cards in a certain way and can sort them quickly. This helps to prevent card-counters potentially getting an edge against the dealer by watching how much a deck is shuffled.
Secondly, deck shufflers also allow decks to be shuffled much easier, which encourages dealers to shuffle them more frequently. All they need to do is place the deck in a slot and let the machine do the work. This way, shuffling is more frequent because it’s easier, and that means it’s harder to count cards.
8. Pushing Bets to the Limit Will Not Earn You Much
Pit bosses have a third, more effective way to discourage counting cards. Although it may not be fair, they can tell dealers to limit how much an individual can bet. Sometimes, they may make ad hoc bet limits on entire tables, but setting them on a person sends a clearer message.
If someone counting cards can’t win as much as they would like, they are naturally discouraged to do so. That means instead of sitting at a table for a few hours and making a couple thousand dollars, card counters may leave the table entirely. Since they will make less money in a longer amount of time, card counters may just give up.
9. Are You Ready to Play Thousands of Hands?
While rumors may fly about the exceptional amount of wealth to be made counting cards, the work behind it is never mentioned. That’s because the amount of work that goes into effective card counting is more than most people want to put in. Professional gamblers put in a lot of work, and it’s more work to count cards.
To actually be able to count cards, people need to watch hundreds or thousands of hands. They need to get a sense for how a table is performing, and that is only done by playing at it for a while. Since it’s suspicious to sit down and just watch a game go for a few hours, people usually decide to play normally in the beginning instead.
This means that since they don’t have an edge through counting cards, they risk losing money. So most of the game starts being about making up initial losses rather than winning big, once they get a sense for the table. And it’ll take longer to make any real winnings.
10. You Never Know When You May Play Your Last Hand
Finally, the best reason not to count cards is that you never know which casinos talk to each other. After one casino kicks you out, you don’t know if you’ll be able to just go to another casino. Your image may be shared throughout local casinos, and a BOLO (Be-On-The-Lookout) alert may be sent out about you.
If that happens, other casinos may start kicking you out too. Just like that, you may not be able to gamble in the area again.
Counting Cards Is Just Statistics–You Can Do It, But Should You?
Counting cards is just a matter of understanding statistics. If you passed your basic math classes, you’ll be able to count cards. But that doesn’t mean that you should.
It’s alluring because counting cards promise a lot of quick winnings. But the reality is that counting cards takes time, work, and may not pay off as much as you think. Not only that, but it costs a lot too.
You risk losing the trust that the house invested in you. Worse, you can spoil the game for everyone around you if you keep taking the part and make enemies out of fellow gamblers. It goes against casino etiquette.
It’s a lot better to just play the game and have fun. Half of gambling isn’t just about winning–it’s about having fun with the potential to win. And if you want some tips to refine your game and be a better player, just keep reading here. We’ll give you tips that will make you a better player, and won’t get you kicked out!