Author Archive

postheadericon Is Card Counting Even Worth The Hassle?

The father of modern card counting as we know it today is Edward O. Thorpe, a Mathematics Professor who, during the 60s, developed some unprecedented and industry-shaking work on variable change. Thorpe decided to apply his theories variable to the game of blackjack. He devised not only a way of overcoming the house’s seemingly impenetrable advantage, but packaged his method in a system that was thoroughly accessible to many individuals.

It must be remembered, however, that card counting still requires a lot of work and is certainly not as rewarding nor as immediately dramatic as Hollywood would make you believe. In order to be a successful card counter, you need to possess the capacity and the motivation to memorize enormous tables of numbers whilst appearing to the dealer and casino pit bosses to be playing casually. Remember, casinos have had to deal with the card counting demon for about half a century and as such they’ve become especially well-versed at spotting, and dealing with what they consider to be the worst card-counting offenders.

The basic premise of card counting is that a deck of high cards – specifically tens, face cards, and aces – is good for the player, while a deck full of smaller cards tends to advantage the dealer. Theoretically, a card counter makes money by varying his wagering amounts according to the state of the deck. If there on many high cards in the deck, then the player will wage higher; if the majority of high cards have been used already, however, then the player will wager minimally.

Card counters keep a “running count” or “running tab” of the table by using simple mathematical arithmetic. Low cards (6 and below) are assigned a value of +1. High cards (tens and aces) are assigned a -1 value. Everything else is considered neutral and is therefore assigned a 0 value. If the player finds that the deck is tending towards a high positive count, it means that a large portion of small cards have already been played, so logically there are ample high cards still to be played. Conversely, if the deck starts moving towards a very negative count, the card counter will probably just bet the table minimum and wait for his fortunes to change.

So is card counting worth it?

It depends on how keen you are to eke out every last fractional percentage point from house. With the plethora of counter-measures employed by casino (random shuffling machines, wary pit bosses, the “eye in the sky” that watches your every move), card counting is not as profitable as it once was. The days of Thorpe, Uston, Taft and the MIT blackjack mafia are over. With perfect card-counting strategy you could, using the very best play, even derive a 1.5% advantage over the house over a period of time. But there are a lot of variables here, and as soon as a casino suspects that you’re counting they will simply keep reshuffling the deck, making your card-counting efforts meaningless.

And finally, let’s be sensible…are the broken legs in the backroom by the bouncer with the “I LOVE MOM” tattoo really worth a few extra percentage points? We think not.

Is Blackjack Card Counting Even Worth The Hassle?