Before we talk about the various card counting strategies, an important point must be made about the legality of card counting.
Many, if not most, serious gamblers regard card counting as simply another skill. The letter of the law regards card counting as perfectly legal. Casinos hate card counting with a passion, and will do everything (up to and including breaking the law themselves) to stop someone they suspect of counting cards.
Casinos have devoted a lot of time and trouble to battle card counters (this alone may explain why single-deck blackjack is fairly rare these days), and most of them still reserve the right to expel or blackball anybody, for any reason they see fit (if you are very interested in more of the historical and legal side of the subject, do a little search on a man named Ken Uston).
Remember, however, that all of the above applies to unaided card counting strategies; anything that relies upon the person’s mind alone is perfectly legal. Bringing anything with you to a blackjack game to help you win (aside from a lucky rabbit’s foot) is probably a big mistake. However, the contents of your own mind are still your own personal business — so it simply makes sense for you to fill that mind with the best techniques and skills you can master to beat the house on a consistent basis.
Of course, none of this applies to online casino blackjack; until webcams are mandatory (a dark day indeed), nothing can keep you from having all the tables, charts, and electronic gadgets you like as you play. Just remember that these things will be a crutch if you don’t learn the theory and uses behind them…and you’ll certainly be at a disadvantage if you decide to take your skills to a traditional brick-and-mortar casino. On the other hand, testing your skills at an online casino is a fine way to see if you’ve absorbed anything from your studies…
Basic Card Counting Strategy
Card counting strategies in blackjack consist of assigning a number value to each card as it is played. Basically, you give a card either a +1 or a -1 depending on how much you want to see it leave the deck.
For the most basic strategy, there are only two cards to get a number: Ace and 5. Aces get a -1 (because you don’t want anyone else but you to get them!) and 5’s get a +1 (because you’re happy when anyone but you has them). Simple, right? This is the card counting strategy known as Wizard (and/or Ace – 5)
This will help your odds a little, but why don’t you graduate to the Hi/ Lo strategy, arguably the most well-known card counting strategy in blackjack. In this card counting strategy, high cards (10, J, Q, K, A) get a -1, Low cards (2 – 6) get a +1. Consistently utilizing this card counting strategy can noticeably increase your odds.
(add 7 to the low cards getting a +1, and you’ve got what is known as the KO strategy, also quite well-known).
Advanced Card Counting Strategy
If one value is good, two must be better, right? So, in more advanced card counting strategies, such as the legendary Wong Halves and Zen Count strategies, some cards get another 1 added or subtracted. So some cards retain their +1 and -1 value, but others are at +2 or -2. Depending on the exact strategy, this can be fiendishly accurate and have a significant effect on your odds…in best-case scenarios, up to 1% better than the house!