Counting cards is a way of keeping track of which cards that are still in the shoe. (The shoe is the container where the dealer keeps the cards that have not yet been dealt.) In movies and tv-series card counting is sometimes depicted as a way to get filthy rich in no time with hardly any effort, but in reality card counting requires skills, dedication and time. Counting cards will not make you immune to loss; it is simply a way of increasing your chances of being profitable in the long run.
Another common misunderstanding regarding card counting is that you need to be a genius and/or professor of mathematics to become successful at counting cards. This notion has been fueled by the fact that one of the most notorious card counting teams in the world was comprised of students from MIT, Harvard and other prestigious universities in the United States. In reality, most card counting techniques will work as long as you can add, subtract and count to ten.
If you're interested in learning how to count cards at the black jack table, ideally start by learning blackjack odds because it is the odds that form the foundation of any working card counting method. Once you understand the odds of blackjack, it will be much easier for you to understand and evaluate various methods for card counting.
Counting cards at the blackjack table
Counting cards at the blackjack table is a way of keeping track of how good the shoe is from the player's perspective and how bad it is for the dealer. Regardless of how well you count, you can for various reasons never be sure about exactly which card that will appear next. Counting cards will only give you a general indication that can be used to adjust bet size and strategy.
By keeping track of which cards that have been removed from the shoe you find out which cards that are still left in there. When blackjack is played with eight decks, there is a total of 32 aces. So, if you have counted since the decks were shuffled and put in the shoe and a total of 30 aces have appeared on the table since then, you know that the chances of getting a black jack are slim since there are just two aces left in the entire shoe.
In blackjack, some cards are considered good for the player while others are considered good for the dealer. High cards like aces and face cards are normally considered good for the player while small cards, such as fours and fives and sixes, are considered good for the dealer. Basic methods for card counting will therefore focus on the best and the worst cards for the player, e.g. aces and fives. There are many different systems to chose among if you wish to learn card counting.
How to avoid detection during card counting
Most casinos will toss you out if they suspect you of counting cards, and the security staff will not be interested in listening to your protests about how card counting is perfectly legal. To avoid detection it is best to mix up your game and not be overly predictable at the blackjack table. If you sit at a table playing basic blackjack with minimum bets one hand after the other and then suddenly change both strategy and betting size, the dealer will be suspicious. Try to mix up your game while counting cards, or provide the dealer with a plausible reason for the sudden changes - such as you getting a bit inebriated. Another popular way of avoiding detection when counting cards is to work in teams. One person will be responsible for counting cards at a particular table, and when the shoe is beneficial for the player he or she will signal to a team mate who will stroll over to the table and start playing. This team mate does not have an established betting pattern at the table and is therefore free to employ any strategy without raising suspicion.