So, you’ve read about the MIT blackjack team and want to try your hand at card counting? In recent years, blackjack card counting has become one of the most famous methods that people can use to increase their chances of winning at casino games. The rules are easy to understand, and relatively quick to pick up. But since blackjack card counting is such a source of interest among professionals and amateurs alike, there is a lot of false information surrounding the culture. Read this article to find out more about 7 myths and facts of counting cards in blackjack, and you’ll play like a winner in no time!

Myth 1: Blackjack card counting is illegal

card counting at blackjackBecause of the way that mass media presents blackjack card counting, people are often led to believe that counting cards in blackjack is an illegal offense that will land you in the back room taking a few bloody punches for breaking the casino’s – and state’s – rules.

Fact: Blackjack card counting is a form of AP

The myth that counting cards at blackjack is illegal is just that: a myth. While some casinos frown upon blackjack card counting, the practice falls under the larger category of advantage play, otherwise known as AP. This is important to you, because advantage play isn’t a form of cheating. You are taking in information while playing the game, and then using that information to evaluate what kind of bet will yield the highest reward. When counting cards, you are effectively using the stats to improve your odds of winning, giving you an advantage. But try to keep your counting discreet because some casinos may ask you to leave the game, or even the premises.

Myth 2: Big brains are required

With the release of the blockbuster film, 21, card counting was popularized through the story of the MIT blackjack team. This group of Ivy League mathematicians used their natural-born talent and top tier education to ensure their success at the tables. To prove how smart these people actually were, the film tossed in a few extra scenes where the protagonist did some mental long-division and statistical analysis when helping customers pay. A lot of aspiring card counters may feel discouraged because they aren’t bona fide math geniuses. But counting cards in blackjack doesn’t require a deeper understanding of quantum physics, so have no fear.

Fact: Anyone with brainwaves can count cards

While you may need a little more than a vegetative brain, it doesn’t take a genius to count cards in blackjack. The whole process of counting cards requires easy mental math – all you have to do is add and subtract single digit numbers at a quick pace. If you can nail that without pulling out your calculator, you’ll have no problem mastering the skill of counting cards.

Myth 3: Winning is guaranteed

blackjack card counting illegalFor the same reason that blackjack card counting is legal, you are not going to win 100 percent of the time. In reality, counting cards in blackjack is a game of probability and likelihoods, not surefire winning methods. It may seem it’s not worth it, but on the off chance you get caught trying your hand at card counting, you won’t find yourself sitting in a jail cell. Some might say that’s a big win after all.

Fact: You can get lady luck (and lady house edge) on your side

If done correctly, this form of advantage play will help you lower the house edge. If you’re really good, you can even potentially tip the odds in your favor. For an inexperienced player, the house edge in a game of blackjack hovers around 2-3%. This means that the casino is more likely to win at any given hand. But if you utilize basic strategy and other methods, such as card counting, you can easily lower the edge to a measly 0.5%. Master card counters, like those on the MIT blackjack team, can sometimes engineer environments where the house edge tips in their own favor. If that doesn’t convince you to give counting cards a try, I don’t know what will!

Myth 4: Photographic memory is a must

It’s a part of common perception that the best card counters have photographic memory. By memorizing every card in the deck, they know what has been placed and what is left in the deck. Using this method, they can then determine the likelihood of the next deal providing a winning hand.

Fact: Card counters use tags

Because photographic memories are not that common, card counters often use a system called tagging. Each card is assigned a numerical value (-1, 0, +1), and as they are laid out on the table, counters simply add and subtract. This system is easier to keep track of, and when the total numerical value of the cards reaches a certain point, players know to start making bigger bets. Tagging is easy to learn and it gives players a solid grasp of what their odds of winning are.

Myth 5: You have to go for 21

blackjack 21It may be confusing, especially considering one of blackjack’s most well-known nicknames is none other than “21”. A hand worth 21 is the highest winning hand, and a guaranteed win. But only a novice would think that the game requires you to always go for 21. It’s one of the biggest and most damaging myths out there. If your hand is high enough, drawing yet another card will almost guarantee a bust.

Fact: Go for the win, not the bust

It may seem complicated at first, but the general truth behind standing and drawing is about staying in the game. No matter what, you want to avoid busting because it automatically disqualifies your hand. By always going for 21, you are effectively your own worst enemy. When making the decision to draw again, first consider your own hand, and then the dealer’s upward facing card. Remember, you’re playing against the dealer, not yourself!

Myth 6: A bigger bankroll means a better win

A common myth in the gambling community is that a bigger bankroll allows players to win more money. Often, it is believed that with more money to bet, a gambler can play more games, therefore having more opportunities to win. But this is a totally false myth. The richest player in the world could come in with money pouring out of his pockets. Without the proper strategy, he can lose it all in the blink of an eye. Don’t let the high rollers fool you, it’s not about the size… of your bankroll.

Fact: Brain vs. Brawn… and the winner is brain!

As a player walking on the casino floor, try not to get intimidated by high rollers flaunting their never-ending bankrolls. Money doesn’t make a player, strategy does. If you want to learn how to count cards, then go for it. Start with smaller bets and work your way up. If you’re good at card counting and you play it smart, then pretty soon, you’ll be the one rolling in dough!

Myth 7: Insurance is a good idea

One of the greatest injustices that blackjack myths have done for gamblers is glorifying insurance. Insurance is when the dealer has an Ace, and you place a bet on their hand as well as your own. In the case that the dealer gets a blackjack, or a hand worth 21, you win back your insurance with a payout of 2 to 1. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but the reality is that by taking insurance, the player puts the odds back in the casino’s favor.

Fact: Insurance is a bad bet

Despite its name, “insurance” isn’t meant to protect your hand in the case of a loss to the dealer. It’s a separate wager, and not a very good one. The odds of the dealer with an ace getting a blackjack are not in their favor. The dealer in this position has 9:4 odds of losing. And by wagering on insurance in this situation, which relies on the dealer’s success, you are making a bad bet.blackjack counting cards

Blackjack is easy to learn, and it’s one of the best casino games for advantage play. If you’re looking to pick up blackjack card counting, then use these myths and facts to get a leg up on your opponents. Don’t let the casino fool you with common misconceptions. If you play it smart and read up on some facts about blackjack, you’re sure to start winning in no time.

Until you’re ready to try to your hand at card counting at a land-based casino, head over to Planet 7. Online casino games like blackjack will help you brush up on your skills. And if you want to practice blackjack card counting without getting caught, check out Planet 7’s online blackjack. It’s the perfect environment to master your strategy without having to show your face. Escape to Planet 7, and start making the big bucks today!

Nick Johnson is a lover of game theory and mathematics. After years as a quant on Wall Street, Nick stepped out of the fast lane to become a stay at home dad and write. After chasing the kids around all day and tucking his little ones in bed, Nick loves to relax playing in online Casinos and is a life-long poker enthusiast.
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