What is Card Counting and Why is it Illegal? - bwin

What is Card Counting and Why is it Illegal?

What Is Card Counting?

What Is Card Counting?

Card counting, as the name suggests, is a strategy that involves keeping track of the cards that have been dealt throughout each round. This allows the player to know whether they have an advantage in upcoming hands, or not. Card counting is commonly used in Blackjack games but is possible in other casino games, too.

In this article, we answer the question: What is card counting? We do this by looking at how it works, the benefits of card counting, and whether it's illegal or not!

How Does Card Counting Work?

So, how does card counting work? Well, the optimal counting strategy has two different aspects to it, a 'running count' and a 'true count'. In order to find out the 'running count', players must use a combination of maths and memory, while also avoiding distractions at the table. Each card represents a different value, all of which will affect the current 'running count'. These values are:

  • 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s are worth +1.
  • 7s, 8s, and 9s are worth 0.
  • 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces are worth -1.

The 'running count' must be kept until the shoe is finished, at which point it will reset to 0. At any point, players can divide the 'running count' by the number of decks left to be dealt, to find the 'true count'. It's this value that allows an advantage to be gained over the house.

The Benefits Of Card Counting?

Should players use the 'true count' in the correct way, they can gain various benefits over the casino. First up is swinging the house edge in their favour. With optimal play, the advantage can lean 1-2% towards the player, meaning that they can expect a 'positive expected value' while at the table.

Another potential advantage of counting cards is knowing when to take insurance. While, according to statistics, this bet should generally be avoided, it can actually be beneficial when the 'true count' sits at 3 or more.

Last but not least is the ability for players to adjust their bet size at opportune times. As high cards favour the player and lower cards tend to work to the advantage of the dealer, a high count means that the deck is 'rich'. This means that lots of 10s, jacks, queens, kings, and aces remain in the shoe. Experienced card counters will increase their bet size as the 'true count' gets higher.

Is Card Counting Illegal?

Now, a common misconception is that card counting is illegal. It's not, but while it is perfectly legal to count cards, casinos have tight monitoring procedures for spotting players that are using this strategy at the table. In casino terms, these individuals are referred to as 'advantaged players'.

As previously mentioned, blackjack card counting can flip the house edge in favour of the player. This is obviously a problem for casinos, so should they spot a card counter, they are perfectly within their rights to deny bets or remove the player from the building. They can also 'flat bet' a counter, meaning that they cannot adjust their bet size and thus, cannot gain an advantage.

However, the ejected person still has the legal right to redeem all of their chips, if they wish, before leaving. It's important to note that if the player refuses to leave the premises, they will be committing an offence, as they will be deemed a trespasser.

How Card Counters Avoid Getting Caught

It's no secret that some card counters don't mind being caught while at the tables. However, there are a variety of ways to fly under the radar. Standing back and watching the action could be a good idea, before playing when the count is high. Many counters will start with smaller bets before increasing them dramatically when the count is in their favour, which is incredibly easy to spot.

Another slightly more daring way of being undiscovered while card counting is to disguise each action. One of the most common ways this is done is by pretending to be drunk at the table. This way, changing the bet size frequently can just be blamed on intoxicated thinking.

Card Counting Strategies That Are Illegal

All blackjack card counting strategies are legal around the world, including the UK and America. This applies to all variations of Poker games and Baccarat too. However, counting cards in Baccarat will offer no advantage to the player. As a result of this, many casinos will offer small sheets to players that allow them to keep track of all cards during a Baccarat session.

The reason for card counting being legal is that players are simply using information to their advantage. It meets none of the traits of cheating, as it's a strategy that can be learned by anyone. With that being said, card counting does require a lot of practice, knowledge, and determination to perfect.

Conclusion: What Do We Think Of Card Counting?

Card counting is a challenging technique to master in practice, as casinos have introduced several measures to prevent it. These measures include using multiple decks and automatic shufflers. However, skilled players who practise card counting can use this technique in any of our live casino games where card counting is applicable.

Some casinos may prohibit card counting and ask players to leave if they are caught. Additionally, some casinos use facial recognition software to identify known card counters and prevent them from playing. As a result, attempting card counting on a Vegas blackjack table is not recommended unless you are prepared to be swiftly escorted out of the casino.

How effective is card counting?

In theory, card counting can be effective, but it's difficult to execute in practice. Card counting involves keeping a running tally of the cards that are dealt during a game, which requires intense focus and concentration.

Is card counting considered cheating?

No, card counting is not cheating. It's a skill that requires mental ability, like winning at chess, and it's perfectly legal.

Is card counting difficult?

Yes, card counting is challenging to learn. There are many card counting systems, and mastering even one can be more complicated than it seems. Counting cards under pressure also requires memory retention and concentration.

How do casinos identify card counters?

Casinos often employ former card counters to sit in security booths and monitor players via security cameras. If they observe a player raising and lowering their bets while counting cards, the casino may slow them down by offering more drinks or ask them to leave.

Will casinos ban you for counting cards?

Casinos typically won't ban players for counting cards, unless they are a well-known counter or have been warned before. Instead, players will be politely told that they cannot play 21 games. It's a common misconception that you need to be a mathematician to count cards.