Counting Cards in Blackjack

Counting Cards in Blackjack


Counting cards is not against the law. A casino once tried to prosecute someone for counting cards. The courts decided that merely educating yourself as to the odds is not illegal. The counter was set free. It is illegal to use a mechanical or electronic device to assist with counting cards.

Casinos are in business to make money. Every game on the casino floor has what are called “house odds” built into the game. House odds are the money-making potential of a game. 

A game that has 52% house odds means that on average, 52 cents of every dollar bet by players will be won by the house and the other 48 cents will be paid out to players. 

I once talked to a former blackjack dealer. He told me that the management didn't care if the dealer won or lost individual hands. They wanted the dealer to play a certain number of hands per hour because the more hands that were played meant more money for the casino.

Counting is not illegal. A good card counter can actually turn house odds in their favour. Obviously, casinos don't like this. Casinos want to be winning in the long run otherwise they lose money. 

The casino does reserve the right to refuse to let anybody play. If a casino believes someone is card counting, they can have security instruct the person to leave the casino. Failure to comply when instructed to leave means the person is now trespassing and can be arrested for that.

Casinos have also changed how cards are dealt to foil card counters. On my most recent trip to a casino, I noticed that there is no longer a shoe for cards on the table. Card counters can see what cards have been dealt from a shoe and figure the odds. 

Now, dealt cards go into a machine that keeps cycling cards at random onto the table. This system has two advantages for the house. One is that there are no longer stoppages of play while the dealer restocks the shoe. Second of all, with no starting point where the count is even, it makes it difficult for someone to count cards.

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