Card counting is one of those skills that have a kind of legendary status, right? You see it romanticised in the movies, you read about it in books, you dream about being able to master it and make an absolute fortune.
Well, the fact is that when it comes to playing Blackjack in the online casinos, card counting isn’t going to get you anywhere. This technique really doesn’t work in the iGaming world and in this guide we’re going to explain why.
Let’s kick this off by getting clear on what card counting actually is….
Anyone who has watched Dustin Hoffman’s performance in the film Rainman will probably have all sorts of exciting and slightly wild ideas about card counting. Don’t get us wrong—it’s a great movie, but it’s not the best way to understand what card counting really is and how it actually works.
What do card counters hope to gain?
At its most basic, Blackjack is a card game that is about making bets on the basis of the value of the cards that are coming up next. Of course, nobody knows which cards are going to come up next—neither the players nor the dealer. The value of the next card in the pack is totally unknown to everybody involved and that’s what makes the game so exciting.
You’re all there sat trying to hit that special value of 21, but you really don’t know if you’re going to overshoot or undershoot. So how much money do you risk? Do you feel lucky? Do you feel confident? Or are you feeling cautious and veering towards playing it safe? These decisions, this thrill and this suspense are exactly what the game of Blackjack is all about! That’s true if you’re playing with a few friends on holiday and some plastic tokens with no real monetary value, or if you’re playing in a grand casino with eye-watering sums of money.
Now, if you could know the value of the cards coming up next then this would change everything. The fun of the game would be removed because without that unknown factor it wouldn’t really be much of a game at all. However, the possibility to win big would obviously be great. You could bet high if you knew that the next card to be dealt would put you in a strong position. Alternatively, you could make the decision not to commit if you knew that the next card would not help your current hand. This advantage is what card counters in Blackjack hope to gain.
How does card counting work?
Card counting works by keeping track of the cards that get dealt as the game progresses and then using this information to make decisions about what is most likely to get dealt next. If, for example, you recall that the queen of hearts was dealt three hands ago then you know it won’t be coming up again any time soon. That’s a very simple sort of example but it illustrates the principle that is used in card counting.
It goes without saying that a big memory helps in this endeavour; however, there are systems that are used to simplify the process too, such as assigning a value to each card and then keeping a running total in your head.
By the way, if this is all starting to sound appealing then you’d do well to remember that counting cards is something that casinos are extremely vigilant about. Getting caught doing it can lead to being banned. And bear in mind that rival casinos communicate with one another in matters like this. In spite of being in business against each other, all trying to get more customers, when it comes to something like card counting the casinos work together to crack down on it.
The principle of card counting sounds simple enough, so why doesn’t it work for online Blackjack? Well, it’s because the online casinos operate differently. The technology that’s used to create that virtual casino experience is not modelled completely on a human dealer—it uses a random number generator.
What is a random number generator?
Behind the glamorous, polished exterior of online casinos is some very advanced technology. The games work using a random number generator, which is a bit like the engine of a car—it’s what powers and controls everything.
A random number generator is a fair way to create randomness in computerised games. Whilst a human being can simply toss a coin or roll dice, a computer will only do what it’s programmed to do. To achieve the effect of random results in games that rely on chance, random number generators are used. The computer comes up with a random number and this corresponds to a particular card in Blackjack or, say, a particular reel in an online slot game. Overall, it means that the iGaming companies can’t ever control which cards get dealt to which players—it’s out of their hands as, of course, it should be.
Why doesn’t card counting work against a random number generator?
Counting cards is about what’s in the deck and what’s come up already. It’s based on real cards and the way they work, not virtual cards, which work differently. With a random number generator, you could technically have the same number coming up time and time again.
Let’s say, for example, that I create a simple game consisting of three rounds of guessing which card in the pack will turn up next. If I assign the number 3 to the ace of clubs and then my random number random generator comes up with the number 3 for every round, then it’ll mean that the ace of clubs comes up every time. If I played the same game using a deck of cards and placed the ace of clubs at the bottom of the deck after it had come up, then it couldn’t come up again in the second and third round. As above, this is only a simple example; but it’s supposed to try and show you the principle. If each hand is, in effect, dealt out of a fresh deck then card counting provides no advantage.
So now that you have the low-down on why card counting doesn’t work for online Blackjack, you’ll be able to play with a better understanding of the game—always a major advantage for players. Remember that we have a whole range of guides like this one, here at Gambling Metropolis, so check them out for more professional gaming insights. Play well, good luck and have fun!