How to Keep the Count (with all the distractions of a casino)
It’s one thing to count through a deck of cards in the comfort of your own home. It’s a whole other thing to keep the running count in a casino while playing basic strategy, betting, dealing with other players and the dealers and all the other sights and sounds in a casino. If you’ve ever struggled with this in this video I’m gonna give you five tips to help you keep the running count in the casino while playing blackjack I’m Colin from blackjack apprenticeship where I teach people how to legally beat blackjack with card counting in casino games and one of the things I get to do at blackjack apprenticeship is test players out. So, someone has done all sorts of training and then they might fly up to me or I’ll fly to them and test out their skills. And I did this with a guy recently and first I dealt to him at home, it was actually at coffee shop, but I dealt to him for about an hour.
Three different shoes. Dealt to him and he played perfectly and I ran him through the gauntlet I gave him lots of high counts and all sorts of difficult decisions and he played perfectly then we drive to the casino and within one deck he had completely lost the count he had no idea what the running count was and I can actually relate to that because I remember the first time I went to casino and I’d spent quite a bit of time training at home practicing. I go into a casino within two rounds I had no idea what the running count is. So if you’ve ever had this problem I’m gonna give you some tips to help you overcome this so that what you can do at home you can accurately do also at the casino. My first tip is something you don’t want to do.
Which is don’t use your chips to keep track of the count. And I’ve talked to people that say “Oh I’ll just stack the number of chips for the running count” but there’s a couple problems with this. First off it looks really weird to surveillance. If they see someone stacking their chips after every round for the running count you just don’t want them seeing you doing that between every round it looks weird. Secondly, I don’t know a single professional card counter that has something like that, a shortcut, to keep the running count.
You have to get to a point where you know in your head the running count after every single round. My second tip and this is really an important one is that you need to be repeating the running count in your head over and over so if my running count is seven I’m saying in my head Seven. Seven. Seven. Seven.
then the running count changes to eight. Eight. Eight. Seven.
Six. Six. Six. That’s literally what I’m doing in my head as the running count is changing I don’t say six and then just pause and I’ve even found myself driving home from a casino fifteen or thirty minutes later and I’m still repeating the last running count that I had in my head because it’s so much of a habit and what that does is it keeps that running count moving in your head so you don’t say “wait what was it?” You’re constantly repeating it and then that number is changing every few seconds as the running count changes. My third tip is to make the running count the priority.
So, I find this all the time when I’m training players especially at a bootcamp or if someone’s doing private training with me. I’m dealing to them and I can tell when they’ve stopped updating the running count. They’ve gotten distracted by adding up their hand or by basic strategy or whatever and they’ve just stopped focusing on the running count. But we’re at the casino not to play blackjack. We’re at the casino to count cards to play positive rounds of blackjack. Let me tell you story about very early on in my career.
I was in this bowling alley casino here in Seattle and I get asked during a really high count. I get asked by the pit-boss “You look young how old are you?” and all I could think is 14 14 14 14. And I’m looking I’m thinking 14 14, because that’s my running count, and I had to say it so many times that I knew my running count was 14. I look up to her and say 22 then I’m thinking 14 14 14. That’s what I had to do to focus on the running count because that was why I was there I was there to count cards.
And so you know I’m sure I looked like an idiot to her but I didn’t care. I needed to nail down 14 as my running count, answer her question, get back to the running count. So here’s what I tell people.
Before you add up your hand update the running count. Before you celebrate $1000 blackjack, update the running count. Before you freak out because you busted and you just lost a whole bunch of money you update the running count. We’re there to update the running count. That’s the first thing we do and it’s the priority.
And honestly after 15 years of counting cards I still cannot let anything distract me from the running count. If the pit boss asks me a question now I make sure I’ve locked down the running before I even think about answering their question. Okay, my fourth tip is a little bit of a shortcut but I still think it’s valuable I still use it and that’s that you can actually use your fingers under the table to help you remember the running count so let’s say that the pit-boss brings in a fill and they’re gonna fill the chips and it’s gonna be five minutes before you’re playing again and you’re thinking three I got to keep this ranked count of three. You know, I’ll actually, under the table on my lap, be just repeating three in my head and also with my fingers or if the counts fourteen I can do one, four under the table with my fingers and you don’t want to become dependent on a shortcut but it’s just something that I’ve learned to do while I have a long period of time of trying to keep the running count in between rounds or when they bring in a fill or when something weird is going on they’re switching dealers and it’s the middle of the shoe you can do that to just help you remember don’t become dependent on it but you can use it. And my fifth tip and this is actually the best thing you can do to get really good at keeping the counting that casino. Get really good at each individual step as a card counter.
So, just the other day I was training a couple and they knew basic strategy and they knew how to count and they were working on putting it together but they occasionally made mistakes, either basic strategy or counting. And I was thinking to myself “what am I doing differently than them?” and in reality I’m not doing anything differently than them.
I’m just doing it faster and better. They know basic strategy and they know how to count. But I know basic strategy better than them and I can count faster than them. So, to me those mental processes are a lot faster than it is for them. And the fact that I’m better at the individual steps means I can put it together a lot faster than them.
So one of the most important things you can do is to step back and get really good at basic strategy mindlessly good at basic strategy. And get really good at counting mindlessly good at counting where you always can update the count you can count the table very quickly then it’s really not that difficult to put those two together. By the way that player who lost the count in the first deck of the shoe.
Don’t worry. He ended up getting it all figured out got it nailed down. Aced a test out with me. And he’s been a profitable card counter to date. For more on how to practice card counting watch our video how to practice card counting and for a lot more tips.