Are you trying to beat the house?
You can increase your chances of winning at the casino by betting small and avoiding alcohol. But, an even better way of gaining an edge over the casino is learning how to count cards.
Card counting has always fascinated the general public – not least because it’s a modern version of David and Goliath, where a gifted nobody takes on the big guys at the casino and wins.
But, if we’re to believe films like ‘Rain Man’ and ’21’, card counters are mathematical geniuses who can amass bags of cash in a few rounds of Blackjack. That is if they’re not thrown out of the casino for their illegal behaviour.
Unfortunately, these kinds of myths about counting cards can stop players from learning this skill. This is why we’re here to set the record straight.
Read on to find out the truth behind some of the most common myths about counting cards.
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1. Myth: Counting Cards is Illegal
For many people, one of the best-known gambling facts is that counting cards is illegal. But, who do you think is responsible for propagating this myth? Casinos can take a lot of the blame for this, since it serves them well for people to think that counting cards is illegal.
The truth is, counting cards is legal in most, if not all, the world. That includes Australia, the UK and the US. What is illegal, however, is using an electronic device during casino card games to help you count cards.
Although some casinos frown on counting cards during a game of Blackjack, it is just a way of using your brain when playing cards. As such, it falls under the larger category of ‘advantage play’ (AP).
AP isn’t cheating. It just means that you’re keeping track of information gathered throughout the game to evaluate what bet will get you the best reward.
That said, try to be discreet when counting cards. Some casinos may ask you to leave if you make your methods too obvious.
2. Myth: You Need a Brain Like a Computer
Okay, so counting cards isn’t illegal, but you have to be some kind of mathematical genius or have a photographic memory to do it, right?
Wrong. In the film ’21’, counting cards was portrayed as a difficult task that only top-level students with high IQs could master. The truth is, if you can read, write, add and subtract then you can learn how to count cards.
And, since it’s doubtful that photographic memory even exists, you don’t need one of those for counting cards either. Yes, Rain Man might have memorised every card in the deck, but that’s not how counters operate.
What counters actually do is assign a ‘tag’ to specific cards, such as +1 for a small card and -1 for an ace or face card. They then add or subtract the tags as the playing cards appear. So, with some simple mental maths, you can learn to card count too.
3. Myth: Anyone Can be a Card Counter
Counting cards might be easier than many people think. But, not just anyone can be a card counter. As well as mastering the skill of counting cards, you need to possess the discipline to gauge your bet according to the count.
That means a thorough knowledge of casino card games like Blackjack isn’t enough. An even temperament is crucial to ensure you don’t get carried away when you win. And you also need to be able to handle inevitable bad hands.
That means learning when to reel it in to minimise drawing attention to yourself. And it means you have the ability to not get greedy if you’re enjoying a winning streak.
4. Myth: Counting Cards Takes Months to Learn
Some traditional card-counting systems, such as Hi-Lo are very difficult to learn. But, there are also more modern card-counting systems which are a lot simpler for casual players to master.
For example, the Speed Count method can be learnt in around the same amount of time it takes to learn the basic playing strategy for casino card games like Blackjack. But, with that, you’ll have a slight edge over the casino.
5. Myth: Card Counters Win Every Time
Rain Man and the students in ’21’ might have won every time. But, you wouldn’t believe everything Hollywood tells you as fact, and the same applies here.
Counting cards simply helps you reduce the edge the casino has over you. For an inexperienced Blackjack player, the house edge is around 2 to 3 per cent. This means that the casino is more likely to win, although not every time.
If done well, counting cards can help you lower the house edge to around 0.5 per cent, in turn increasing your chance of winning compared to a non-counter by as much as 2.5 per cent. Expert card counters may even be able to tip the odds in their favour, giving them an edge over the casino.
But, just as the house doesn’t win every time, nor do counters. Over time, counters do win more than they lose. But, they definitely can’t, and won’t, win every time they play.
Of course, since we now know that counting cards is legal, this makes perfect sense. If counters were guaranteed to win 100 per cent of the time, casinos wouldn’t let them anywhere near a Blackjack table!
6. Myth: Card Counters Need a Huge Bankroll
Knowing that even the most experienced counters can’t win every time they play might make you think that you need big money to succeed as a card counter.
But, this isn’t the case. If you have less money to play with, you just need to lower your bets. However, you do have to play your money out ahead of time to ensure that you have enough to withstand a losing streak here and there.
7. Myth: You Can’t Card Count with Six or Eight Decks
Again, this myth comes from ‘Rain Man’, where the casino security guard states, “You know there’s no one in the world that can count into a 6-deck shoe.”
Of course, Rain Man’s photographic memory made this supposedly impossible feat possible, but surely, your average counter couldn’t manage it?
Not true. Counting cards involves mentally adding plus cards and minus cards. And, it’s just as easy to do that with six or eight decks of cards as it is with a single deck of cards.
8. Myth: Card Counters Often Make Weird Plays
Counting cards requires discretion, skill and a cool head. Making strange plays that draw attention to yourself are unlikely to be the work of an intelligent player.
Counters may occasionally deviate from their standard strategy when the count is somewhere in the middle. But, these kinds of ‘situational Blackjack’ plays don’t differ much from what lots of non-counters do regularly.
For example, when the deck has a lot of face cards, a counter might sit on an 11 compared to a dealer’s three. When the count is negative enough, a counter may know that their odds are good for hitting on a 11 compared to a dealer’s four or five.
And, with only two choices to make in situations like these, neither is particularly strange. It’s only that with counting cards, you have more of an idea of how the game will play out before that final draw.
9. Myth: Counting Cards Is a Drain on Casino Profits
It’s true that some gifted counters may have made big profits thanks to their counting skills.
But, for every good counter, there are a whole host of lesser-skilled counters who has helped casinos grow their profits more. After all, who better to have at your Blackjack table than a player who thinks they’re better than they are?
10. Myth: Counting Cards Will Get You Kicked Out of the Casino
Many people believe that, while you might not end up in prison for counting cards, it could lead you to get kicked out of the casino.
It is true that some casinos will ask a card counter to stop playing or may ask that they leave the premises. But, as long as you’re not greedy when it comes to winning and you keep your counting subtle, there’s only a slim chance of being kicked out.
Busting the Top Card Counting Myths
Card counting is surrounded by myths which make it seem like counters are mathematical geniuses and criminal masterminds rolled into one.
But, as we’ve shown, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is counting cards not illegal, if you limit your wins and play it cool, you’re unlikely to even be kicked out of the casino.
And, since it’s a skill that anyone with basic maths skills can learn, we’re sure that you’re intrigued to see if you could give it a go at one of the best casinos in Australia. Good luck!