Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Card Counter Mines Games Bonus
The road to becoming a card counter seems intimidating. After all, card counting is usually associated with skilled professional gamblers.
But laying the foundation for being a blackjack card counter is a simpler process than you may think. In fact, you can quickly learn the matter by breaking it down into simple steps.
Below, you’ll see seven steps on how to begin counting cards like a pro. This guide covers everything from learning a counting system to having a proper bankroll.
Step # 1 – Learn Basic Blackjack Strategy
The very first step towards becoming a card counter actually has nothing to do with counting at all. Instead, you need to nail down basic strategy before anything.
As the name implies,basic blackjack strategy involves learning how to make proper decisions without advantage play. Basic strategy helps you whittle the house edge down to its lowest point.
The house advantage depends upon the exact rules in play.
Generally speaking, though, you’ll face between a 0.5% and 1.5% house edge when playing perfectly.
The easiest way to learn is by using a “blackjack strategy chart.” These charts show you the correct moves to make in every situation based on your score and the dealer’s up card.
I suggest playing online blackjack and referring to your chart on every hand in the beginning. Internet blackjack doesn’t have a human dealer trying to push you along, which makes it the perfect environment to learn.
After playing long enough, you eventually won’t need the chart and can make correct strategy decisions in a land-based casino. Going further, you can keep the house edge at a minimum until figuring out when the deck favors you based on a positive count.
Step # 2 – Learn a Card Counting System
The blackjack world is filled with card counting systems that differ based on ease of use and how big of an advantage they offer. The general rule is that more complex systems allow you to gain a larger edge.
But as a beginning counter, you want to use a strategy that’s easy to learn and still provides a solid advantage. The Hi-Lo system offers this perfect mixture because it’s fairly simple and can give you between a 0.5% and 1.5% edge.
This strategy begins by tracking low, neutral, and high cards. You assign each card that comes out with the following values:
Low cards (2-6) = +1
Neutral cards (7-9) = 0
High cards (A-10) = -1
Your goal is to determine a high positive count, which indicates that the deck has more high than low cards. You have a better chance at getting a natural blackjack (3:2 payout) at this point and should bet more to capitalize.
The general count that you have throughout the course of play is called your “running count.” But given that modern blackjack games include multi-deck shoes, you want to convert your running count to a “true count.”
Here’s an example of how to do this:
Running count is +8
You estimate that four decks remain in the shoe
8 / 4 = +2 true count
The last matter involves deciding how much to increase your wagers by. You should bet the table minimum until determining a positive count.
At this point, you raise your wager based on a predetermined unit size to take advantage of a possible natural blackjack.
Here’s a common bet-sizing formula used by card counters:
Choose a unit size. $25 is generally a good amount
Determine your true count (e.g., +3)
Subtract 1 from the true count (3 – 1 = 2)
Multiply this number by your unit size (25 x 2 = 50)
You need to wager 2 units ($50) per hand
You should be somewhat conservative with your bet spread, which is the distance between your minimum and maximum wager.
Your bet spread is 1-15 in the above example because the table minimum is $5 while your max bet goes up to $75. Some casinos won’t even let you get away with this type of spread before they become suspicious.
That said, you should do some research ahead of time and figure out which casinos are more lenient with card counters and others. The friendlier gambling venues will allow a larger bet spread before giving you heat.
Step # 3 – Practice Your System at Home
You can thoroughly learn a card counting system backwards and forwards. But everything you’ve learned may go out the window if you haven’t practiced enough before hitting the casino.
You want to be so good with a system that no distractions will throw you off.
Dealing cards to yourself at home and keeping an accurate count is a good way to start practicing.
This offers a low-pressure environment to learn your system. It also allows you to go at your own pace before speeding up to simulate the dealer’s speed.
You might even try listening to loud music and/or watching TV to make things even tougher on yourself. These distractions will help emulate the noise in casinos, including chatting players and people coming and going.
An online blackjack trainer presents yet another good way to practice. These programs flash card values, and your goal is to keep an accurate count until the end of the shoe.
The best part is that you don’t have to pay anything to use blackjack trainers. You simply Google the term and visit the appropriate website.
Again, you might want to introduce additional distractions into the equation. YouTube videos at full volume are a good way to test your attention span.
Step # 4 – Practice Your Strategy at a Casino
Practicing basic blackjack strategy at home should help you immensely in maintaining an accurate count. But there’s nothing like an actual casino environment to give you a true practice experience.
You can visit a local casino and simply stand off to the side while card counting. This process is the best way to test your counting skills against the dealer’s speed.
You may get some strange looks from casino staff members if you stand around too long counting. But as long as you’re not creeping any customers out, then you’re perfectly in the right to hang around the table at a distance.
The key is to avoid jumping into games when the count becomes positive. This practice is referred to as “wonging,” and it immediately draws suspicion from staff members.
Many casinos already have a rule against “no mid-shoe entry.” But if they don’t, you’ll stick out if you’ve been counting off to the side and suddenly jump into a game.
Step # 5 – Study How to Avoid Detection
One of the biggest card-counting skills is giving off the impression that you’re just a normal player. Pulling off this feat allows you to profit from card counting without drawing the casino’s suspicion.
The best thing you can do to avoid detection is switch up the casinos where you count cards. You don’t want to hit the same venue night after night because the staff members will quickly catch on.
Las Vegas is the top place to count cards if you’re serious about the matter.
After all, Sin City features well over 100 casinos.
You should center much of your play on downtown Vegas casinos because they’re not as quick to give card counters heat. You might also have some luck at casinos on the outskirts of town.
Besides switching up locations, the other big thing you should do is concentrate on your bet sizes. Casinos identify most counters based on their bet spreads.
Ideally, you’ll find a casino where you can comfortably use a 1-15 spread. This is a large enough margin to give you long-term profits. The last thing you want to do, though, is get greedy at such establishments and start increasing your max bet.
You might also consider joining/starting a card counting team. These teams consist of “spotters” who signal the “big player” when there’s a positive count at their table.
The big player can sit down and immediately start placing large wagers. They’ll simply look like a high roller, rather than somebody who’s suddenly going from the minimum table bet to $100.
Step # 6 – Count Cards at Low Stakes
By this point, you’ve practiced enough with your counting system and know some ways to avoid being made as a counter. The only problem is that you don’t have any hands-on experience yet.
I don’t suggest jumping onto tables right away and risking big money. I instead advise counting at low stakes with a small bet spread until you get the hang of things.
For Example: You could play at a $5 or $10 table and use anywhere from a 1-3 or 1-5 spread. These conditions won’t result in a long-term profit for you, but they offer a cheap way to train.
Considering that you’re counting cards, you’ll theoretically lose very little money by practicing this way. The big advantage is that you’re counting under real conditions before having to make larger bets during positive counts.
Step # 7 – Save Up a Bankroll
Perhaps the most underrated part of becoming a card counter is having the necessary funds. Many wannabe advantage gamblers start out with too small of a bankroll and quickly go bust.
The problem with having a tiny bankroll is that you don’t hold a big advantage as a card counter anyway. In the best-case scenario, you’ll have between a 1% and 1.5% edge.
This is essentially the same advantage that casinos have on gamblers. And yet many players win money from the casino on a nightly basis.
When luck isn’t on your side, you’ll lose lots of money in a given session. It’s these times where you need a larger bankroll to absorb the losses so that you’ll be able to eventually realize your advantage.
As a solo counter, you should aim to have around $10,000. You’ll ideally have even more, but $10k at least gives you a reasonable chance of succeeding.
Card counting teams should aim for anywhere between $20,000 and $25,000. The spotters need money to spread out to different tables and make minimum bets. Additionally, the big player needs enough money to come onto a table and start placing large wagers.
You aren’t obligated to have thousands of dollars to start counting cards. However, your chances of success increase greatly when you begin with a solid bankroll.
Becoming an expert card counter isn’t something that happens overnight. But at the same time, you can see that it’s not an insurmountable task.
Everything begins with learning basic blackjack strategy.
You must play well enough to minimize the house edge and avoid losing too much money when you don’t have an advantage.
Next, you need to begin the process of learning a counting system. The Hi-Lo is great for both beginners and experienced players because it’s easy to pick up and offers a solid advantage.
Just learning a system alone won’t get you very far. You also want to spend some hours mastering it so that counting becomes second nature in the casino.
You can get started by dealing yourself cards and using an online blackjack trainer. Actually visiting a casino and counting off to the side is another good drill.
It’s also important to study different ways to avoid being detected. The last thing you want to do is develop excellent counting skills, only to be thrown out of casino after casino.
Accumulating a sizable bankroll is perhaps the biggest barrier to becoming a counter. But you want a fairly large bankroll so that you can survive any potential bad luck along the way.
One more tip is to develop patience with card counting. A 1% or 1.5% advantage means that you’re only going to win money a little over half the time. But as long as you can be patient, then you stand to win quite a bit as a successful counter.