Card counting is one of the best skills a blackjack player can learn. While playing perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%, card counting makes it possible to even out the odds and even tip them in your favor. But first you have to learn how to count cards.
Card counting is a skill that players use to determine whether the remaining deck is rich in high card or in low cards. If it is rich in high cards you have a better chance at hitting 21, so you would raise the amount of your bet. Conversely, if the remaining deck is rich in low cards you will want to lower your bets as it means there are not a lot of high cards left to make up 21.
Learning this count cards takes time and patience. Because this is a skill that casinos frown on, you can get kicked out of and possibly barred from playing if you are caught. To avoid getting caught you must practice this skill until you are completely confident that you can count silently in your head with no outward appearance of what you are doing.
The easiest way to teach yourself to count is to start by learning one of the simplest systems: the Hi-Lo system. This is an easy system to learn and to use. And when you are just starting out learning this skill you need it to be simple so that you can master it to the point of being confident in your skill.
The first thing you need to learn is the value break down of the Hi-Lo system. The values assigned to cards is the core of any counting system.
– Card 2 through 6 are low cards and are worth +1
– Cards 7 through 9 are neutral and are worth 0
– 10 Cards, Face Cards and Aces are high cards and are worth -1
The way the system works is that you add up the values of the cards as they are played and discarded. If the total goes into the positives, such as +3, it means that a fair amount of low cards have been played and the remaining cards to be played are high cards-good for blackjack. This is when you would increase your bet. If your total turns negative it means that a fair amount of 10s, Face Cards and/or Aces have been played and it is time to reduce the amount of your bets.
To begin learning this skill, start with a single deck. Shuffle it and then count your way through it. Count slowly if you need to-this is only practice. When you are through the deck you should have a total of 0. This is because there is an equal number of +1 cards and -1 cards. If you arrive at 0 you have done it correctly.
You will need to keep practicing with a single deck until you can run through the cards quickly and in your head.
This means not stopping to try to calculate the addition. You need to be able to see a card and immediately add it to the total running in your head.
Once you can run through the deck continuously and quickly in your head, turn the TV or some music on. Casinos are filled with lights and sounds-things to grab your attention and distract you. You need to be able to count accurately and quickly in your head amidst all those distractions. So create some distractions and practice with those.
This skill is about focus-focusing on the cards in front and around you. You need to train yourself to block out the distractions so that you can have an accurate running total in your head and not give yourself away to the casino staff.
Once you are able to run through a deck with distractions, and maintain an accurate and quiet total it is time to go to the next step. Add a second deck. Shuffle them all together and start running through those cards. You will still have to end in 0. And you will still have to do this quietly in your head. Once you have that down add the distractions back in.
Once you are able to count through two decks accurately in your head you should have the confidence to give your skill a try in a casino.
But if you become uncomfortable while trying your skill out at a blackjack table in a casino, stop and just revert back to playing with only basic strategy. You do not want to get caught and thrown out of the casino the first time you try counting.
Above all, be patient with yourself while you are learning. Remember that this is a skill. And like any skill, it requires time, patience and practice to improve it.
Getting started learning to count is the first step to adding this skill to your blackjack strategy arsenal. Once you learn it and begin using it with basic strategy, you might be surprised just how much better your odds improve.