Ever seen the movie “21”? Blackjack can be a lucrative money making venture, if you know what you are doing… or can it?
Card counting has been around for as long as the game itself. Surprisingly it’s actually not that hard to count cards in blackjack. The simplest method is called the “High-Low” method and all you have to do is keep count of pre-set value of cards that is either 1, 0 or-1. Implementing the actual count into an overall strategy is actually the tricky part. You can read more about card counting and blackjack history here or you can check out Card Games Planet Blackjack section to get more information.
So if it’s that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it?
Well there are two major problems that turn most people off making a living by playing blackjack.
1. Reason: It’ll get you thrown out of casinos
You might have heard that card counting is not illegal, but it’s not allowed either. So the thing is that you are actually not cheating, so you are not committing a crime, but casinos don’t like you doing it anyway… and they have the discretion to remove you from their blackjack table.
OK, so not a problem, just don’t get discovered! This is actually the tough part. You got down the card counting part and you practiced at home, but now you have to look natural doing it. That means you have to talk to other players at the table, have a drink, talk to the dealer etc.. All that while keeping count and thinking about the optimal move according to the strategy chart.
Doesn’t sound all that easy anymore, right? But there’s more! You should never stay at the table for too long, which will bum you out after reading about the next reason.
2. Reason: Small edge
Even if you play optimally (it also takes some playing at a table to get a legit count going… and you shouldn’t play too long as to not get discovered) you will not get a big edge. So let’s take a look at some simplified numbers… you have a 1% edge and an average bet of 100$.
Every hand you play you’ll get 1$ in the long run. To make 1000$ you then need to play 1000 hands. That’s actually not that bad, but combining that with the fact you shouldn’t play for too long at the same table and the fact that live play is always slow, it doesn’t sound all that good anymore.
But that’s actually not the biggest problem. With small edges comes big variance. To make 100$ bets you need a lot of money behind to actually achieve your long run win rate. It wouldn’t be unusual to lose 10.000$ or more playing with an average bet of 100$ even, if you are a long run winner. Sounds kinda scary, right?
Why not play online?
No hiding, fast play, lower possible bets, sounds perfect! Wrong! You can’t count cards online… well you can, but it won’t help you. The point of card counting (the thing that actually gives you the edge) is keeping track of cards that are already out of play, but online you start each hand with a fresh shoe (decks), so all the cards from the last hand are reshuffled into the shoe.
Something good about playing online, you can practice card counting on free applications without losing money before you hit your local casino.
Making money by counting cards in blackjack is not easy. It’s hard work, stressful and time consuming, You can also forget about online play, it doesn’t work. That being said, blackjack can be a fun game and, if you go to casinos frequently, you should definitely give card counting a try. Just remember to play and gamble responsibly and only with money you can afford to lose.