While it’s undoubtedly true that all casinos have the edge over players — they wouldn’t stay in business if they didn’t — there are certain steps that you can take to tip the balance slightly back in your favor. In some games, like roulette and craps, this isn’t an option, but when it comes to blackjack it very much is.
That’s because there’s a technique called card counting that, while not strictly against the rules, is very much looked down upon by casinos. That should give you a clue as to how successful it can be.
For the uninitiated, blackjack is one of the simpler card games in which the object is to get cards whose total values are closer to 21 than the dealer’s, ideally by getting 21 itself.
The Overall Objective
When you count cards, it helps you work out the likelihood of how many high-value cards remain in the pack and are yet to be dealt. The topic is quite an involved one and, rather than going into its intricacies right now, you’ll find that there is great advice here. As with many parts of life, it’s yet more evidence of the power that numbers can have when you use them to your advantage.
For now, all you need to know about the practice is that, when you’re playing blackjack, it’s a question of concentrating hard as the cards are dealt and ascribing each one with a number that is different to the one shown on the card. Low cards like 2, 3 and 4 are given a higher number, picture cards and aces a lower one, and the total that the dealt cards add up to helps you to decide your next move.
In addition to card counting, another part of becoming successful at blackjack is being able to master something called the basic strategy. This is presented as a series of tables that define whether you should stick or take another card in any specific situation. Most blackjack experts would recommend mastering this first before moving on to card counting.
Card Counting on Screen
It may be that you’ve already come across card counting in the movies. Perhaps the most famous example comes in “21,” a fictionalized account of an actual team of MIT mathematicians who used it extensively in casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
It also features prominently in “Rain Man” in which the manipulative (at first) Charlie Babbett, played by Tom Cruise, exploits his autistic brother’s ability to count cards to help get him out of debt. Although some people felt that this misrepresented autism, unlike the more realistic portrayal in contemporary TV shows like “The Good Doctor,” it certainly made for compelling viewing and helped Dustin Hoffman on his way to the year’s Oscar for best actor.
Card counting has also caused controversy in real life, with perhaps the most famous example being when Ben Affleck was caught and banned from a Vegas casino in 2014.
But, if you contain the practice to playing online blackjack, preferably in a “live” casino for it to work most effectively, this is a fate that shouldn’t befall you. But, first, it’s a question of learning how to do it.