Whats the difference between counting cards and just being really good at a card game?

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I understand why casinos kick out card counters, the casino wants to make money and card counting is “cheating”. But if you are able to do it all in your head, is that not the same as being really good at poker? Knowing whats left in the deck and estimating your opponents cards based of that info and by reading your opponent. How do you prove counting vs skill? Is it just a way for casinos to weed out people who would take a lot of money?

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They kick them out because the casino is a private business trying to make money. Though in practice, kicking people out for card counting is rare. A lot of casinos now just changed the rules slightly for games like blackjack that increase the house edge to the point that card counting doesn’t help much. And at ones that haven’t, they really don’t care if you’re just betting $50 in every hand.

I never understood this either.

If it’s all done in someone’s head isn’t that just their skill level ? Can’t really see it as cheating in my opinion.

Good question

Card counting is indeed a skill and is just being really good at the game. The reason card counting is made illegal by the casinos is indeed just because they are losing money on it. All the casino games are designed so that the casino is on average making a small profit from every bet. The best example is roulette where betting on red or black would give you double your bet if you win. However the casino have added one or two green numbers where the casino always wins no matter if you bet on black or red. Blackjack is also designed to give the casino a slight advantage although it is less obvious. However it turns out that there was an error in their calculations and they did not consider that players could count the cards and know the distribution of the cards remaining in the deck to get a slight advantage of their own. This is just players being good at the game. There were some attempts at fixing the game but to no avail. But since casinos are private property they can just throw out anyone who is good at blackjack. In places with legislation that does not allow them to throw out people without any reasonable cause they will not have blackjack at all.

Counting cards is, indeed, just being very good at a game. It is not “cheating” in the sense of violating the rules.

Casinos kick out card counter not because they are cheating or doing something illegal, but because the casino is losing money on them as so has decided to decline their custom. Think “we reserve the right to refuse service.” The casinos, which are private businesses, are using that right.

Casino’s only run games if the expected return of the game favors the casino. “The House Always Wins” means in the long run, every game makes the casino money.

For a game like blackjack, you can actually develop a betting strategy where the expected return favors the gambler. But the strategy requires you to track whether or not cards have been used by “counting cards.”

But since it’s private property, casinos can remove you for any reason whatsoever. So if they suspect you using this strategy, they will usually kick you off the casino floor because they only care about money.

By counting cards casino lose their house edge meaning they become beatable and every casino game is unbeatable except for blackjack.

Counting cards is not cheating its actually the only way you can win in a blackjack game, and all casino games are scams and they don’t like that you can win therefore they can kick you out if you count.

But the thing is counting cards is so easy to counter there’s no point in kicking you out at all, all they got to do is shuffle the deck after every 10 hands and the game becomes impossible to count, therefore impossible to beat like every other table game.

Casinos very rarely kick out card counters.Card counting is not considered cheating if you can do it in your head and don’t use an outside device. Even with card counting, you are very likely to lose money, albeit less than the average joe. Casinos rely on reputation, so they don’t wanna be kicking people out left and right.

In Blackjack, there’s a standard technique where like if you have a 4 and a 10 and the dealer is showing a five, you stay. If you have 14 and the dealer is showing a ten, you hit. Your loss rate with standard technique is like. 2%. A 2% loss rate on casino games means if you bet $1, 100 times, you’d end up with $98 dollars. *And that’s really good for a casino game*

If you add in card counting you could profit maybe 2% (so, $1 x 100 instances of betting = $102, $2 profit). (It should be noted most people aren’t savants and don’t actually memorize every single card that comes out). Blackjack is the game where you are least likely to lose money. Craps is second and I believe the loss rate is like 12%.

But, 2% is really not a huge deal. If you had a pot of 100,000, you would make 2,000 a day *if* you played perfectly, never had bad luck, and played for hours and hours and hours. And you aren’t getting comped drinks or food. Pros who are making a slim profit on the casino make suckers think they can do it too.

With poker, the casinos have a system which guarantees a profit. With blackjack, the same thing is true with the exception of card counters. Blackjack with card counting is a game that the casino isn’t willing to play.

A better comparison game for card counting is Hearts. You absolutely have to count cards to be good at Hearts. That also applies to Spades, Bridge, Whist, and no doubt many other card games.

Poker is not a good analog because being good at poker involves many skills besides understanding the odds of a particular card coming out. In BJ, the dealer is playing by a fixed set of rules and does not make decisions, whereas in poker, it is all about understanding what your individual opponents may or may not do.

Nobody is “really good” at guessing, its all luck.

You can although, be good at counting cards.

To add to the other excellent answers, I would add:

Poker is normally played against other players, the casino doesn’t win – they only take a percentage of the pot (‘rake’). Basically, casinos don’t care if you count cards in poker as they don’t win or lose from it.

This is nearly a myth. Casinos almost never kick out card counters. Casinos will, on rare occasion, remove someone who they think is not a good customer – which includes *some* card counters.

Most people who try to do card counting will never make money with it, and will just boost the casino’s profits. Making money with card counting is wildly over-glamorized in popular media; it is not sitting down with $100 and walking away with $1000 after an hour. In order to make money at all, you have to pay close attention to the whole game and play in a very unusual way. You need to bring in a large bankroll to be able to weather the ups and downs, because you’re still gambling, you just have a tiny advantage. You need to not drink anything or get distracted by the casino’s plentiful distractions, or you’ll lose focus. And there’s a bunch of techniques the house can easily apply to cut off your advantage, ranging from increased decks (which reduce the edge) to continuous shuffling (which just makes card counting pointless).

Further, even if you pull it off and make a few hundred or thousand dollars on the blackjack table, you need to have the discipline to then leave the casino with that – and never get drawn into the other games that will just drain your money again.

So a lot of people think they can do card counting, and try to do it casually, and end up playing more & losing more money than they would otherwise. Overall, the concept of card counting is actually beneficial to casinos. I would not be surprised if some of them actively push the “we kick out card counters” concept in order to increase the feeling of “thrill” that people get from “getting away with it” – drawing more people to try it out and lose more money.

From what I understand when I was trying to learn to count cards in blackjack, casinos don’t kick people out for card counting. They kick people out for using a device to help them card count. Doing something in your head is just what people already do whether they’re good or bad at it. Plus counting cards only works with specific conditions. Like the more decks they use the better since they usually don’t shuffle until they’re near the end, but counting cards really isn’t possible with 1 or 2 decks due to the lack of time the counting of cards would actually benefit you.

The reason casinos even use multiple decks is so they have to shuffle less and get in more games, but for high stakes games or tournaments then they’ll just use one deck where counting cards won’t work.

The people that the movie “21” is based off of and have a course on how to do it with stories that seem to go against your assumption.

Another thing to consider that I didn’t see in the top 10 comments is, even under perfect conditions (playing with 1 or 2 decks, 6 players at the table, and you’re flawless at card counting), that still only moves your win rate from about 49.5% to 50.5%.

I think you’re making an assumption about what casino’s are allowed and not allowed to do. A casino can ban you for just being really good.

This discussion misses the most important part of counting cards that Casinos recognize. Changing bet size.

When counting cards and odds begin to swing in your favor you begin to bet much larger — naturally. You also make your bets as small as possible when odds favor the house.

This is the dead giveaway that you’re counting and taking full advantage of it.

If you counted cards and never varied your bet size you wouldn’t make any money because you’re not taking advantage of your advantage.

Example: Card counters literally know what cards are left in the deck.

Example: “Good” card players have an idea of the odds.

Example: Really “Good” card players know how to work the table while playing poker and other games of chance+skill by constantly talking. AKA, lying well.

My friend openly counts cards and nobody has ever said a word to him. Counting cards only gives you a slight advantage, but it’s a lot of work. You can’t even really make much money at it because of table maximum bets.

Sure, if you find a super high limits table and are doing too good, they might kick you out. But even more likely is they will get you a room and a drink.

TLDR: For the average person, there is nothing wrong with trying to count cards.

I count cards playing blackjack, started playing at 18 at native american casinos. I so far have a positive record, mainly because I try and find 3 deck shoes, with nobody on them, or if I’m the last person before the dealer.

I gamble very rarely, when I do I take in my same 60 dollars that I started with back at age 18 and gamble for a couple hours and usually walk out with around 120, I have never once been asked to leave a casino and I even split 5’s right in front of the pit boss, because I knew it was mostly number cards in the deck.

Counting cards only gives you knowledge of probabilities. If a lot of face cards have fallen, odds are if you hit a number card will come out, this makes it safer to hit on 13 or 14. Its still very easy to lose money counting cards.

Counting cards is illegal if someone else does it for you though.

The last time i played Black Jack at a casino (not vegas, much smaller), the used 6 decks and would usually shuffle after around the fourth deck. This mitigates one’s ability to effectively count cards pretty significantly.

Just my 2c