Learning how to count cards in blackjack is fairly easy. There are numerous counting systems that you can learn with a little practice. Take the time to study a method, pair it with perfect blackjack strategy and you have the basics. You don’t have to be a genius to get this far.
In that sense, card counting is easy. Actually putting it to use is another story entirely. Card counting isn’t illegal if you use only the power of your mind (you cannot use devices to assist you). However, casinos can legally ask you to leave if they catch you card counting.
This is where it gets tricky. Casinos know all about card counting and they know how to spot it. If you’re the guy that suddenly places big bets when the deck is rich in Aces, the casino will likely notice and ask you to leave.
Being able to make money at the tables without drawing attention to yourself is difficult. Suddenly increasing your bets, jumping in when the count is right and playing every hand with perfect strategy will draw attention to you. Soon, you’ll find yourself escorted away from the blackjack table and/or the casino.
In some places, casinos can’t even ask you to leave. But even then, casinos have their methods. They can send security people down to give you dirty looks or talk to you and ruin your concentration. Casinos can also just shuffle the deck more often or limit when people can join the table. Casinos can change certain rules that make it more difficult for the advantage player to grind out a profit.
There are lots of little things casinos do to undermine card counters. There are stories abound of card counters even wearing disguises to avoid notice. But even then, there are difficulties. Some casinos can even count cards themselves and monitor betting patterns to detect likely card counters.
On the other hand, casinos have to watch how far they are willing to go to deter card counters. If a casino changes the rules and uses constant shuffling machines, it may deter regular gamblers from playing. Thus, casinos have to walk the line between deterring card counters and annoying everyone else.
If a casino opts to shuffle the deck more often, it slows the game down. Slower games result in less profit from the regular gamblers. Each casino must compare the money lost to card counters to the money lost by shuffling more often.
Even a decision as simple as hiring additional security personnel has to be weighed in terms of cost-benefit. If an extra security guy in the back room costs the casino $50,000 a year, is it really worth hiring him to look out for a few card counters?
This constant game of balance creates opportunities for the advantage player. For example, some small casino might offer single deck blackjack in order to drum up business. Even non-card-counting blackjack players know that single deck blackjack is better than 8 deck blackjack. This creates an opening for savvy card counters.
In the end, card counting is still a viable profession. However, it is not as easy as it was in the glory days of blackjack. It can be done, but very few people have the knowledge and discipline to make it happen.
Card counting is easy but hard.
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