Is Card Counting a Waste of Time? - The Evesham Observer

Is Card Counting a Waste of Time?

Evesham Editorial 25th Oct, 2023   0

Introduction: The Card Counting Conundrum

Card counting in blackjack has long been a strategy that’s attracted a plethora of players, movies, and controversies. Yet, as with any strategy, its effectiveness is often debated. This article delves into the intricacies of card counting, examining whether it’s still a viable method for players or if it’s become an obsolete strategy in the world of blackjack.

A Glimpse Into the Origins

The roots of card counting stretch back to the mid-20th century when mathematicians like Edward O. Thorp observed patterns and started devising mathematical ways to beat the dealer. Over the years, this became a famous strategy among professional gamblers, leading to both its romanticisation and vilification.




The Current State of Card Counting

Card counting, as declared by various experts, isn’t “dead.” Yet, it’s no longer the golden ticket it once was. Modern casinos, especially those with vast surveillance networks and multiple decks in play, have developed methods to spot and deter card counters. The shift


from physical casinos to online platforms also makes the art of counting harder to practise, with online games using continuous shuffle machines.

While card counting is not illegal, casinos are within their rights to refuse service to anyone. Over the years, casinos have grown wise to the strategies of card counters and have implemented several tactics to thwart their efforts.

1. Increasing the Number of Decks:

One of the primary methods employed by casinos is the use of multiple decks. Originally, blackjack was played with a single deck, making it easier for skilled counters to keep track. But by introducing multiple decks into the game, casinos made the card counting process far more complex.

2. Frequent Shuffling:

By shuffling the deck frequently, even before reaching the end of the deck, casinos disrupt the count of card counters. Continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) are particularly effective in this regard as they shuffle the cards after every round, rendering counting virtually ineffective.

3. Changing Betting Spreads:

Card counters often adjust their bets based on the count. By restricting the range of bet sizes (betting spreads), casinos can hinder a counter’s ability to capitalise on favourable counts.

4. Enhanced Surveillance:

Modern casinos are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems. Trained personnel monitor players, looking for patterns consistent with card counting strategies. Additionally, facial recognition technology can identify known card counters, even if they try to disguise their appearance.

5. Playing with Rules:

Casinos can introduce rules that inherently give the house a more significant edge, such as not allowing doubling after splitting or restricting the ability to resplit Aces. These rules diminish the edge that card counting can provide.

6. “Flat Betting” and Back-Offs:

If a player is suspected of card counting, a casino might ask them to stick to “flat betting” — placing the same bet every hand, negating the advantage of increasing bets on favourable counts. Alternatively, they may politely “back-off” the suspected counter, asking them to play other games besides blackjack or even leaving the casino.

7. Using Multiple Pit Bosses:

A single pit boss can oversee a few tables. By deploying multiple pit bosses, casinos can closely watch more tables, especially those with higher betting limits where card counters might operate.

The Challenges in Today’s Landscape

Yes, card counting is still possible. But is it worth it? The answer lies in the hurdles one has to cross. Multiple deck games, prevalent in many casinos, decrease the effectiveness of card counting. Plus, with the rise of technology, facial recognition software can identify potential card counters, making it even more challenging to sustain a counting strategy. The risk of being blacklisted or banned from a casino further looms large for those attempting to count cards.

As the landscape of gambling shifts, several new online casinos have made their debut in the UK. For those interested, here’s a list of new online casinos in the UK. These platforms often offer enticing bonuses, an array of games, and state-of-the-art technology, ensuring seamless gaming experiences. But the critical point to note for card counters is the usage of software that makes counting virtually impossible. So, while these platforms might be a haven for those looking for diverse gaming options, they might not be the best bet for card counting aficionados.

Peeling away from the mechanical and digital layers, there’s an ethical conundrum ensconced within the practice of card counting. The act, while not illegal per se, often dances on the fragile line of acceptability within the casino world, both virtual and terrestrial. Casinos, naturally aligned with their own fiscal interests, have been known to show card counters the exit, and on digital platforms, algorithms are perpetually vigilant to such activities. Thus, the ethical gamble isn’t solely about counting cards but also about navigating through a sea of legal and moral ambiguities.

The Verdict from Experts

Most experts, while acknowledging the theoretical advantage of card counting, believe its golden days are in the past. Casinos have caught up, and the risks associated with this strategy might outweigh the rewards. That said, in certain environments, especially in single or double-deck games, the method might still offer an edge. But the consensus leans towards the fact that card counting, as a consistent strategy, might be more hassle than it’s worth in today’s gambling landscape.

Alternative Strategies in Blackjack

With the challenges associated with card counting, players have started exploring alternative strategies. Basic blackjack strategy, which is based on mathematical probabilities, remains a popular choice. Others might focus on game selection, looking for games with favourable rules or fewer decks. The key is adaptability and understanding that no single strategy guarantees consistent success.

Conclusion: To Count or Not to Count?

So, is card counting a waste of time? The answer isn’t as straightforward as a yes or no. For the casual player, the efforts required to master card counting might outweigh the potential benefits. For the dedicated and those willing to navigate the ever-increasing challenges, there might still be opportunities, albeit limited. However, with a plethora of strategies available, it might be time for players to expand their horizons beyond just counting cards.

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