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Card counting is a skill that often gets showcased in the movies. Find out how card counting works in real life.

Does Card Counting Work Like in the Movies

Hollywood loves Las Vegas. It is the entertainment capital of the world. It is the city of lights and home to the most prestigious casinos in the world. Owing to that backdrop, Nevada is an excellent place to shoot movies.

Yet, for some reason, Hollywood directors never seem interested in depicting casino gaming like it works in real life. In all fairness, a story about a genius card counter using his craft to make millions sounds more intriguing than the daily struggles of most card counters.

So, how do things work in Las Vegas and at online casinos? What do movies get right and wrong about Blackjack card counting?

It Is Not Exciting

Many movies depict card counting as an exciting activity. Because most card counters are geniuses, they are depicted having fun and enjoying every bit of the card counting process. However, card counting is not as fun as it is made out to be in the movies!

Think about it. You are seated opposite a chatty dealer. In the background, there are people talking noisily and there’s music playing loudly. Still, you need to concentrate on the game to hit and stand at the right time.

Considering that information, counting cards can feel like a nightmare. You cannot jot down numbers on a piece of paper or take photos of cards. You must count all the cards in your heard. And if you forget, you need to start all over again.

Pro Tip: Assign values to different cards. Most counters assign -1 for 10 to ace, zero value for 7-9 and +1 for cards 2-6. Add and subtract these values. A positive value increases your chances of winning while the vice versa is true.

It Is Difficult

Besides taxing you, card counting is difficult to profit from. Sure, some experts make hundreds of thousands of dollars counting cards. But for most people, you are better off using a different strategy than counting cards.

 When you think about it, most card counters in films are geniuses because is the only way you can win millions using this strategy. If you do not have a photographic memory, you can still lower the house edge by counting cards. But there is no assurance of winning consistently.

You can find a detailed explanation on this page. But basically, casinos make it difficult for players by shuffling cards after every hand. They use multiple decks and payout at 6:5 instead of 3:2. 

That said, there’s no harm in giving card counting a shot. The fundamentals of card counting are simple anyway. Discipline is crucial to help you keep up with the dealer and get the correct figures every time.

The Table Matter

The MIT Blackjack Team, according to Kevin Spacey’s 21, had success with every table they picked. They could walk to any dealer, sign up for a game and come out with a profit. Sadly, blackjack tables aren’t created equal.

Your success in card counting depends on factors like the variant involved, the dealer, the environment and payout rates. Essentially, you need to pick a table carefully. First, you want a table that pays out 3:2. This helps maximize your profits.

Second, look for a blackjack variant with a low house edge. It goes without saying the secret of winning is to lower the house advantage as much as possible. Another rule is to join a table with a cold dealer. 

A cold dealer is one who keeps getting poor cards. That means the good cards go to players, which results in more wins. 

It Is Not Illegal

In many blackjack movies, including 21, card counters are constantly worried about the security team. Occasionally, they get caught and are thrown out of the casino. In real life, card counting is allowed.

Most casinos do not throw you out after realizing you are counting cards. They observe to find out whether you are winning. Most card counters lose money due to human error.

As such, even if a casino knows you are counting cards, but it does not seem to help you, they won’t need to kick you out. That said, the policy surrounding card counting varies from one casino to another. Most operators only ban you from their tables if they realize you’re beating them through card counting.

The movie Stacy Knights has a plotline where the house kills a successful card counter. It also features a team that bankrupts casinos through card counting. Neither of these things happen in real life. No operator can kill you for winning. And as mentioned, it’s impossible to bankrupt a casino through card counting.

Casinos Trade Information about Card Counters

Most casinos that are strict about card counting work together. If one company identifies an alarmingly successful counter, they share information about the player with their partners. In turn, it becomes difficult for the card counter to succeed.

In the past, most casinos, including online casinos, used to trade players’ data. They did so for marketing reasons or to protect their interests. But as players became vocal about data privacy, casinos began to honor their wishes.

Nowadays, many jurisdictions restrict casinos from sharing players’ data. This way, even if they discover you beat the house constantly, they are disallowed from sharing this information with any other company.

It’s Not a Necessity for Winning

For some reason, many casino movies make it look like there is no way to win other than to use card counting. On top of this, you need exceptional talent to win. However, you do not even need to count cards to win at blackjack.

Instead, all you need is a basic knowhow of the rules involved. According to many experts, knowing the basic blackjack strategy is also vital. It is an alternative strategy with guidelines on moves you should make at different strategies.

Unlike counting cards, the basic blackjack strategy is encouraged. You can carry a cheat sheet and use it in front of the dealer. That said, you can also use other strategies like Martingale and Reverse Martingale. Essentially, you can use what works for you.

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