Counting cards has a bad name. Like everything else, once you start to understand what is truly meant by counting cards, you’ll wonder why the phrase “card counting” conjures such shady associations.

Of course, if you’re running a casino, the last thing you want to see is a card counter in the game of blackjack, because those guys can raise their odds to the point where the house no longer has the edge!

The game of blackjack is more about skill than luck…well, closer to half and half (which still beats most casinos’ games of chance). You get the cards you’re dealt, true…but, as in life, you get to decide what to do with them.

Card counting is not strictly illegal. In fact, it’s no more illegal than knowing the rules of blackjack (though I’m sure that many casinos would be perfectly happy to admit only people who never learned the rules of blackjack). Many serious gamblers consider card counting in blackjack to be nearly as essential as knowing when to hit, when to stand, and what to do with a split.

It absolutely IS illegal to use a device to count cards; most recently, an app on the iPhone was banned in Nevada, and that is only the latest twist on a long line of schemes to use card counting as a cheat rather than a legitimate tool.

All you need to do some pretty formidable card counting is your own brain, and that leads directly into the other misconception: that card counting is only for geniuses.

Card counting is actually one of the simplest forms of computation that you’ll ever see (easily simpler than a super jackpot party download, and that’s not even as hard as it sounds!). Even the more complex systems only require you to keep one number in your head, and simply add or subtract from it as the cards are dealt. It doesn’t take an autistic savant to handle that level of calculation.

Oh, and one other thing that I may have forgotten to mention: card counting with more than one person is a bad idea, even if you’re not using a device. The casinos hate to see meaningful nods and winks and other surreptitious gestures. And trust me, they are looking at you from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave. Boo!

Paranoid incitement aside, card counting in the game of blackjack is no more illegal than you make it. Trust your own mind and apply a little time and discipline to it, and you can push the odds in your favor without running afoul of the law. Whether you’re a mental midget or a Rain Man, you have enough brainpower to count cards…with some left over to count your money, if you do it right!

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