When you think of counting cards, what do you think of? If you’re like most people, you think of math wizards running through complicated calculus equations in their head, calculating statistical odds, and having a working memory of every card that has come out (and likely the order and suit). The famous MIT students that took the casinos for millions added to the mystique and allure of card counting, as well as the myth that it’s only for, well, students from MIT. This simply isn’t the case. While it may be true that some people can have a working memory of the cards and do some basic statistical analysis on the fly, most people count cards very easily. One of the best things about card counting is that blackjack already has a pretty low house edge. In fact, it has one of the lowest in an entire casino. This means that the house doesn’t generally win that much off of the players as it is. Since the house edge is quite low, it’s easy to sway in your favor. There are some bad things about counting cards that you must be aware of before you hit the casinos. First and foremost, casinos can (and will) kick you out if they know that you’re counting cards. No, it’s not technically illegal to count cards, just like it’s not technically illegal for them to throw you out for being a nuisance. This has happened several times to hundreds of card counters and you won’t be the special one that gets off if you’re caught. Another thing to consider when looking at the downside of counting cards is how the casinos make the rules harder for card counters. While limiting your abilities to play a certain way won’t keep you from counting cards, it will keep you from winning money quickly. Two of the rules that they’ll use to their advantage are limiting splits and limiting double-downs. Again, you can still count cards, but your winnings will be a bit slimmer. The casinos will also take other measures to diminish the usefulness of card counting. Frequent shuffling by the dealer, auto-shuffling machines, and using multiple decks are three of their favorite strategies to beat card counting. Obviously shuffling is going to eliminate the usefulness of card counting but multiple decks will diminish the usefulness of the strategy with every deck added. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: the rules. Before you even begin you need to understand a few things. The first thing is that you’re eliminating the house edge and replacing it with your own edge. This means that your edge will be very small too. Don’t expect to win hundreds of thousands of dollars without a lot of work. Second, since casinos are on the lookout for people like you, you’ll want to take some hits in order to look like you’re not counting cards. It might hurt, but it’s better than not being able to count cards at all. Finally, combine card counting with the blackjack strategy of your choice to make it the most effective. Card counting can work alone, but not as well as a well-seasoned blackjack strategist who also counts cards. The main type of card counting is high-low card counting. The basic test to tell if you can count cards using this method is whether you can add and subtract by one quickly. If you’re able to add and subtract by one quickly (and I’m guessing if you can read the words on this page, you can manage that) then you’ll be able to use this method. It’s not an exact science, but it will give you the general idea of the ratio of low to high cards in the deck. In high-low card counting, you’re looking at the whole deck as simple numbers rather than individual cards. The deck is split up into three groups. Low cards, two through six, are one point. The mid-range cards, seven through nine, are worth zero points. And ten through ace are worth negative one point. If you can manage it, it might be worthwhile to keep track of aces separately, as they have a dual value of both one and eleven. If you find that the table has K, J, 3, 5, 6, 4, Q, 2, 8, 4 out then you know that the deck is +3. This means that an uneven number of low cards have been dealt and the dealer will likely bust if he or she hits. At this point, you should bet some somewhat decent money, but not a ton. If the deck gets heavily into the positives, then throw down some serious money. When the deck starts to creep into the negatives, be more conservative. There are some more additional forms of blackjack strategy, and some more intensive forms of card counting, available, but this small primer should give you a good idea of what the card counting basics are and open you up to some possibilities.