Gaming has been a hot topic over the past year. In recent months, that interest has naturally focused mostly on cyberspace, and the online casinos in particular have seen an explosion in membership numbers. These platforms typically offer hundreds of game choices, but despite the modern tech, casino gaming remains highly traditional at heart and the most popular game of them all is blackjack.

It appeals to both seasoned pros and complete newbies. Unlike poker, you don’t need to invest hours of your life in order to be competitive. But unlike roulette, you are not trusting completely to luck. There are numerous areas of blackjack strategy that casual players can explore and then experiment with by visiting sites like Mobilebet on their smartphones. But by far the most compelling, and the most misunderstood, is card counting. 

What is card counting?

It might be better to first explain what it isn’t. Card counting is a phrase we have all heard of, and you probably remember that scene in Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman’s character uses his “photographic memory” to remember which cards have been dealt and therefore what is left in the pack. When the security personnel at Caesar’s Palace wise up, he and his brother are ejected. Rain Man perpetuated the myth that counting cards is a shady, underhand activity that is tantamount to cheating. It also told us that the technique requires astonishing mental dexterity.

Rain Man is a great movie, and the blackjack scene is one of its classic moments. But the truth is that card counting is neither illegal nor unethical. What’s more, it doesn’t demand any great feats of memory.

Basic card counting technique

Here’s the theory: When you are playing blackjack, the high value cards, and in particular the aces and 10s, are of more benefit to you. Lower value cards benefit the dealer. This is because the dealer has no choice but to hit on 12 to16, whereas you have the option of standing. If there are a large number of 10s or face cards still in the shoe, that pushes the odds in your favour.

The easiest and most common way to count cards is to assign the low-value cards from 2-6 with a value of +1, the medium value cards from 7-9 with a value of zero and the high-value 10s and Aces with a value of -1. As each card is dealt, you simply keep a running total in your head. 

As this number fluctuates, you will know whether things are going your way, indicated by a positive number, or the dealer’s way if it is a negative number. This will guide your strategic thinking as to whether to be conservative or aggressive with decisions like doubling down.

Card counting in action

Suppose the following cards are dealt: 3,10, 8, 7, 10, 2. That equates to +1-1+0+0-1+1=0. So in this example, the odds have not moved either way and you would stick with your usual basic strategy.

Give it a try next time you play online, and you could even try it out in a real casino setting. Just remember not to count out loud – the technique might not be illegal, but it’s also not very James Bond. Be lucky!