How to Count Cards in Poker

Count Cards in Poker

Poker, which began in the United States in the middle 19th century, has become a pastime around the world. It is estimated that poker players in the United States spend $230 million dollars a year on poker games and poker bets.

What Is a Running Count?

poker strategyA running count is how most people begin to develop a poker strategy. First used to excel at games like blackjack, keeping a running count helps you develop a sense of which cards are being used during a game. To keep a running count, cards 2-6 are always valued at +1. Cards 7-9 are neutral so they count as 0. Face cards and aces are counted as -1. In order for you to become proficient in keeping a running count, you need to practice – a lot. Begin by getting a deck of cards and flip the cards over one by one to practice keeping the count. Most experts say that you should be able to count down a deck of cards within 30 seconds.

If you are able to count down a deck of cards within 30 seconds, then it is time to move on to flipping over two cards at a time and accelerating the rate at which you can keep a running count. When you can do that quickly, you will need to work in a shortcut so you do not have to do a running card count. For example, you can concentrate on ignoring cards that cancel each other out. If you get a 4 and a king, you know they cancel each other out, so you can ignore them and not add them to your running count.

The Difference Between the Running Count and the True Count

poker cardsThe running count is the ranking and count of cards within a deck of cards. But in order to bet effectively in poker, you need to be able to convert the running count into a true count. For example, if you are playing a game with 6 decks, and running count is =10, then with 5 decks undealt, your true count would be +2.

Playing any game with a single deck is actually harder to count than through multiple decks. When you have to count using one deck, your true count will be a fraction, which can be more difficult to keep track of than a whole number.

Learning to Count Cards with Distractions

Count CardsOnce you have mastered the running count and the true count, it will be important to learn how to keep a true count with distractions. Casinos try to distract their customers with different sights and sounds. For example, many casinos have loud music playing. The machines are loud and have flashing lights to distract people. Alcohol is constantly served at casinos. In order to combat the constant distractions the casino can throw at you, practice counting cards and keeping track amid distractions. You could practice at restaurants and areas with constant lights and sounds. With practice, you can also learn how to count cards without letting others know that’s what you’re doing.

What Is A Bet Spread?

poker playerIn order to become a proficient poker player who counts cards, you need to practice bet spreads. In other words, you need to learn when to bet a lot of money and when to bet a little money. The difference between small bets you are willing to make and large bets is the bet spread.

The trick with a bet spread is to be sure that your spread does not tip off the dealer that you are counting cards. Dealers are more likely to be suspicious if your bet spread is larger than 8. For example, if you are willing to bet $100 on good hands and $10 on bad hands, your bet spread is 10-1 and that is a little high. Most gambling experts agree that if your bet spread is larger than 8, you may arouse suspicion. The larger the bet spread, the bigger your profit but the more suspicious the dealer might become. You can work on increasing your bet spread gradually as well, which would arouse less suspicion.

How to Select a Good Table for Game Play

poker playersAny game you pick to count cards in must have two important components. First, the bet spread at that particular table should be within 8, as discussed above. If it appears the bet spread is larger than 8, this table may not be the table you want to begin play at. Second, you need to check penetration of the decks of cards to make sure that a high percentage of cards are being dealt in each hand. Some casinos only allow a dealer to deal 3 or 4 out of 6 decks to ensure that the count doesn’t get very high. The higher the deck penetration, the better your odds are of winning.

Other Suggestions

poker playersCard counting means that your profit margin is small, so you must really watch the table you choose to play at before you begin play, to ensure that all of your possible criteria for counting cards has been met. Watch for other signs of the casino’s security system, and whether or not that security system will allow you to count cards. Many casinos have face recognition software, which allows them to both track people they think are suspicious as well as to save information on suspicious people in case they reappear.

Also, you need to watch the people playing at the table you are targeting as well.

Sometimes there are partners who are playing poker together. If partners playing together have decided to cheat together, you may notice the following signs:

  • If someone deliberately loses to a partner and appears to be unskilled at playing, they may be dumping chips.
  • Two people who are sitting next to each other might engage in hand-mucking, which means that they may be drawing a card from their pocket, sleeve, or altering their hand with help from their partner. Some casinos have software that allows them to watch the cards being dealt carefully while others don’t.
  • If you are invited to join a game by someone sitting at a table, use caution, as players may be working together, which puts you on the hot seat.
  • Two partners working together may have developed signals to tell each other how his or her hand is.
  • If you notice that one player is not raising a bet at the table, they may be playing with a friend or a romantic partner, which makes it difficult for them to be objective in the poker game. This makes it hard for other people to play the game, as it makes play all the more unpredictable.
  • If you are playing with people who continue to raise and re-raise each other, this may be an attempt to trap you in between two players and take your money (whipsawing)
    While preparation to count cards in poker appears to be very time-consuming, it will be worth it if you are able to play well enough to win several hands.

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Jean Carter is from Oakland, California and studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California. After graduation, and pining for a warmer climate, Jean relocated to the Tule Springs suburb of Las Vegas, where she owns and operates her own online jewelry boutique incorporating traditional native American styles with her own unique designs. A true fan of the sophistication and glamor of Las Vegas casino life, Jean is also a freelance blogger specializing in all things suave and fashionable surrounding the casino lifestyle.