Is Card Counting Legal?

September 7th, 2006 3:43 pm EST

is card counting legal?One of the most common myths surrounding the game of Blackjack is that card counting is illegal. Many people think this complicated system of valuing cards to keep track of what is left in the deck is against the law- and casinos do everything in their power to continue to make you think so. However, the truth of the matter is that counting cards is not illegal at all.

So the next question may be- why do casinos want you to think it is illegal? The answer is very simple. If you can count cards successfully, you increase your chance of winning a hand of Blackjack, and therefore reduce the house odds. Blackjack already has one of the lowest house odds of all the games in the casino- less than 2%. This means that the chance of the dealer (house) beating you is only 2% more than your chance of beating you. So if you do something to decrease the house odds, you may actually push the overall odds in your favor- meaning you will win more than you lose. This means the casino loses money, which they don't like one bit. So even though card counting is not illegal, the casinos do everything they can to discourage it.

But despite the fact that a casino may monitor you closely if they suspect you of counting cards, there are other reasons not to engage in the practice of counting cards. The biggest one of these reasons is that it is highly complicated. In movies, they always make it seem like no big deal, but the truth is, you must train for weeks or even months to actually be highly successful at counting cards. There is no easy way to do this besides weeks and weeks of practice. And we are taking several hours a day.

There are dozens of internet sites that promise to unlock the "secrets" to card counting and make you a big winner. They advertise how easy it is to get rich quick at the Blackjack tables and make a fortune just by reading their book or downloading their pamphlet. Buy buyer beware- like most things in life if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is!

There is no secret really to counting cards. Though there are a few different methods, the basic premise is to assign a value to all cards. For instance, cards that are on the low end like small number cards are assigned a certain value, while cards like tens and face cards are assigned other values. You simply memorize all the cards that have already been used and subtract it from the total of each of those values in a deck. Based on what is left over, you can then make educated decisions on whether to stand or hit on a hand because you know what the odds are of a card you need coming or a card busting you out.

Sound complicated? That's because it is. Not only do you have to memorize values and keep track of which cards have already been played, but you then must also use mathematical percentages while playing to determine if you should hit, stand or double down on a given hand. Like we already said, it's very complicated and only months of practice will help you get the hang of it.

But the biggest reason not to bother to learn to count cards is because casinos are already onto card counters. In order to thwart attempts at reducing their house edge, they are increasingly using multi-deck shoes at Blackjack tables, making it much harder to count cards. Some use what is called a plug- a randomly assigned place in the deck after which all discarded (used) cards are reshuffled into the deck. Random reshuffling or shuffling after each game play makes it impossible to successfully count cards- which is exactly what the casino wants.

At online casinos, the decks of cards are usually shuffled between each hand- meaning you should not even bother to try to count cards. You should be playing more for fun than profit anyways. Blackjack is a fun diversion- a form of entertainment. To try and make it more than that takes all the fun out of it. Treat it like going to the movies or a day in the park and instead of hard, grinding work- which is exactly what card counting is.