PostHeaderIcon Card Counting & How Casinos Are Cracking Down on it

Card counting is something which unfortunately for casinos is a regular feature with the game of Blackjack. However, card counting has a much longer history than people think. It was way back in the 1950’s when a few sharp minds started to figure out that when the composition of the remaining deck/decks changed then so did the players’ chances of winning.

It wasn’t however until the mid-60’s that the concept of card counting really took off. It took a mathematics genius by the name of Edward Thorp to do that. Thorp wrote perhaps the most influential blackjack book that has ever been written….. “Beat the Dealer”. This book created an absolute avalanche of card counters. In fact, the effect was so pronounced that numerous casinos actually changed the rules of the game to combat the counters.

What is Card Counting?

There are many myths surrounding card counting but the biggest one is that card counters memorise every single card that has been dealt. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be anywhere near the number of card counters that there have been. Remembering every single card that has been dealt is a feat of memory that is so extraordinary that it is probably only achievable by one in several hundred thousand people at best.

Card counting is much simpler than that. It involves using a counting system where groups of cards are assigned a total and the counter merely keeps track of that total. For example, the simple high-low count classes all cards 2-6 as +1, 7,8,9’s are 0 while all tens and aces are -1. The player then keeps the running total. It is the very fabric of blackjack that creates these totals.

For example, the rules of blackjack dictate that the player gets paid 3/2 for a natural (a ten and an ace) which is also known as a “blackjack”. The player may also double their original stake on two card totals of 9,10 and 11. So this means that tens and aces are more valuable than the other cards and this is why these totals exist.

Famous Card Counters

Down the years there have been many famous card counters. I myself ran my own blackjack teams between 1998-2002 so I like to think that I know a little about this subject. Some of the best card counters are ones that were never caught and so it is impossible to write about them. However, when it comes to money earned and success at the blackjack tables along with the theoretical evolution of the game then the following names act as a roll of honour within blackjack.

People like Ken Uston, Stanford Wong, Bryce Carlson, Donald Schlesinger, Arnold Snyder, Lance Humble, Lawrence Revere and Peter Griffin stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, we could go on and on and mention Edward Thorp himself along with the famous MIT blackjack team that led to the movie “21” with Kevin Spacey in the lead role.

Blackjack Countermeasures

Basically, casinos don’t mind card counters on the whole. They know that the average counter isn’t skilled enough or subtle enough to get away with it. Knowledge of how to card count isn’t enough by itself. The gaming industry has made more money out of the fact that blackjack is a game of skill and card counting is possible than any money that was lost to actual card counters.

However, if you were a card counter and you were betting and winning big then the casino would certainly take action. Tactics like only playing half the shoe and shuffling after dealing say two decks of a four-deck shoe are common. This is because the biggest advantages that card counters have come at the back end of the shoe when the ratio of tens and aces to other cards is at its greatest. Before we expand on this topic, clearly then card counting is very difficult and if not impossible at an online casino.

Another classic casino countermeasure comes in the form of CCTV surveillance along with training dealers in how to spot card counters. Many casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have taken this route. Other casinos don’t allow mid-shoe entry. Many card counters stand behind the table and card count without playing and then bet big when the count goes in their favour. To combat this tactic, many casinos only allow players to bet if they were present at the start of the shoe and placing bets.

The final nail in the coffin for card counters came a few years ago with the implementation of electronic shuffling machines. The cards were re-inserted into the automatic shuffler after every round of play thus denying the card counter the valuable knowledge that they need in order to track the cards.

Author bio

Carl Sampson is a fulltime poker player, coach and author. He is also the author of a book on playing professional level blackjack and he ran two separate blackjack teams between 1998-2002.

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