Gamified online tools teach gamblers how to count cards
Black-Jack.com, a popular destination for blackjack enthusiasts, has developed a simple, “gamified” tool that can teach players of all skill levels how to count cards at blackjack in only a few minutes
Blackjack has always been unique among all casino games in that it relies significantly more on skill than virtually any other casino game. Barring the unexpected use of psychic abilities, the average player can’t control where the ball of roulette lands, or where the reels of a slot stop, or how the dice roll in a game of craps. They can, however, absolutely decide when to be dealt another card at blackjack, and also when to double down in order to increase their revenue once success seems certain.
This, in turn, has led to the creation of numerous strategies meant to help players make the right calls. While it’s impossible for a player to win every single game (after all, skill or not there’s still luck to factor into the equation), it’s possible for them to use a strategy that all but guarantees that they will leave the casino with more money that they came up with. One of the more popular approaches to this is the “basic strategy”, but there’s one that’s even more famous, to the point where it has found its way into popular culture: card counting.
What is Card Counting?
At its core, card counting boils down to keeping track of what cards have been dealt already and what remain still in the deck in order to determine the probability of getting a good hand. Of course, keeping track of all 52 cards in the deck sounds unbelievably difficult, especially when several decks are involved and the number of individual cards that you need to count is multiplied. British mentalist Derren Brown has wowed audiences during his live shows by counting the cards of four decks shuffled together, and Hollywood movies such as Rain Man or The Hangover depict it as an act of near-impossible mathematical prowess that you can only ever be capable of if you’re nothing short of a savant.
As usual, however, the reality is quite different from from what’s depicted in Hollywood, and while being a mentalist who can keep track of over 200 cards as they get dealt and shuffled is very impressive, it’s ultimately unnecessary. Over the last few decades, a far more effective counting strategy has been developed which allows players to very easily knowing whether they are at an advantage or not (and if so, how big their advantage actually is). Learning that method does not take a genius, nor does it require years of practice and memorization. Believe it or not, it only takes about fifteen minutes online.
The Card Counting Tool
Black-Jack.com is a site dedicated to simplifying blackjack and leading its readers through every step of learning blackjack, from the most basic ruleset all the way down to odds and strategies. It reasons that card counting would be one of the most essential skills a site like that can teach its players, and while many similar pages have resorted to walls of text explaining techniques and steps, Black-Jack.com’s approach is a little more modern. By creating an interactive card counting tool, they have managed to “gamify” card counting to the point where learning it requires little to no reading. Beat the game, and you have acquired the skill.
At the end of the day, card counting can be as simple as knowing whether there are more cards in the deck that benefit you or that benefit the dealer. Cards of higher value will benefit you (more likely to get a 20 with face cards and tens), cards of lower value will benefit the dealer (more likely for the player, who is dealt first, to go bust). As long as the player can keep track of whether there are more cards in the deck which benefit them or the dealer they will have almost the same advantage as when memorizing and keeping track of individual cards. In the tool, this is done by a simple matter of addition and subtraction. Add 1 for every weak card, subtract 1 for every strong one. The farther the number is from 0 (in either direction), the higher or lower the chance is of getting a strong card.
Can Casinos Counteract Card Counting?
The unfortunate thing about a strategy this simple is that it’s actually very difficult to counteract. In the past, casinos have accounted for counting by using multiple decks at once, with most modern land-based casinos using 4 to 8 decks for blackjack. However, this approach can be counteracted by simply taking the true count of the cards in the deck into account. There is no simple mathematical formula around it, and yet testing has shown that even knowing the difference between having a score of 5 in a game with 1 deck versus a game with 4 decks can be all it takes to correctly predict the rough value of the cards that will be dealt next.
Online casinos have a built-in method to counter card counting, as those decks are shuffled automatically after each hand – making the count worthless. But that’s not always possible in a live casino or land-based casino setting, where shuffling 4-8 decks’ worth of cards takes valuable time during which players could be placing bets instead. Ultimately, the best strategy is to have a vigilant dealer who shuffles the decks a bit more often when they notice that someone seems to be shifting the value of their bets a bit too often. It’s an unreliable method, but then again, that’s the price to pay when hosting skill-based games: at the end of the day, when a player has skills, no amount of legal interference can keep them from beating the odds.
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