Is Card Counting Cheating?

Many wonders, "is card counting cheating," but card counting is not illegal in blackjack games. In fact, it is considered one of the best optimal strategies you can employ to lower the house in your favor. Using your brain to win big is perfectly legal in the US.

Blackjack has been one of the most popular games since the old days of brick-and-mortar casinos. This card game has significantly spread in the United States and globally. Unlike other table games, blackjack doesn't have a big house edge. Players reduce the house to their advantage if a perfect strategy is applied. Back in the 60s, professional blackjack players and mathematicians made a breakthrough by beating the house. They realized that you could count cards and determine when to raise or lower your stake. However, the card counting technique left many people wondering whether it's a form of cheating or not. We've gathered every bit of relevant information to help you understand whether counting cards is illegal or not.

What is Card Counting in Blackjack, and How Does it Work?

Card counting is a basic strategy used in blackjack games to increase the odds of a player winning. This technique doesn't require any advanced tools but your brain and knowledge of the game. Many players have been able to beat the casino house edge using card counting, which is not illegal to use in casinos. Applying this strategy is quite straightforward. The first thing is to know the different cards and their value. You must be able to determine the number of small and big cards remaining in the shoe or deck. The fundamental card counting method is based on positives and negatives. The secret to this strategy is based on the rules of blackjack. Mathematically, having big cards in the deck favors the player more than the house. When done properly, counting cards can lower the edge to 1.5%. This percentage is bigger than what the casino has over players in blackjack.

Is Card Counting Illegal in Casinos?

Card counting has always been misunderstood; no wonder some people and operators consider it a form of cheating. As a fact, many casinos in the US have tried numerous times to outlaw card counting, but with no success. Many courts have failed to prove that this technique is a form of cheating since it involves using eyes and the brain. Regardless, some casinos deem card counting a way of violating unwritten laws.

The only point where this technique is considered cheating in casinos is when players use external card counting devices. It's completely illegal to write down numbers, use a calculator, or other electronic devices to count cards.

Successful card counting is done in teams, but this can get you banned if the casino finds out. Pro-blackjack players have used a card counting strategy to beat the edge single-handedly. This is legal, and no court will prosecute you for that. However, casinos have imposed rules restricting players from benefiting from the skill. Many casinos in Las Vegas, like Atlantic City Casino, ask players to leave once they determine they are counting cards.

How to Count Cards the Right Way in Blackjack

The only illegal way of counting cards is using an external device. Nonetheless, the whole process of card counting is legal. Many casinos may not allow you to use this approach for a long time or ban you completely. This is why the first rule of a card counter is not to be found. If you are a beginner, we've shared steps you can follow to start counting cards.

The first step is to assign a point value to each card in the deck. Aces cards and 10s have a value of -1 each, and 7s, 8s, and 9s are worth zero points. The low-value cards 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s, are worth +1.

Whenever a card is dealt, you add its value to your running count. You raise your stake when the count is positive and reduce your stake when the count is negative. This method is able to get you to a point where the house does not have the edge over you. However, this system has its downsides, and you must make sure you have mastered it before applying it to any game.

How Casinos Prevent Card Counting in Blackjack

Since casinos cannot report card counters to police, they set up measures to prevent customers from using this technique. Many operators employ security personnel and install advanced technology to detect any form of card counting. So, the following are the most common measures casinos use to curb counting cards at blackjack tables:

Set Unfavorable Rules

Casinos come up with new rules to limit players from practicing card counting by all possible means. Nowadays, many casinos offer blackjack games with multiple decks and not the traditional single-deck games.

Lowering Payouts

Many casinos have been using this technique to prevent card counters from making huge profits. At many times, the payouts are reduced from 3:2 to 6:5. This gives the casino an advantage of around 1.39% over players.

Lesser Deck Penetration

Deck penetration in blackjack involves the amount of shoe a dealer has to go through before cards are shuffled. For instance, a dealer allows a 50% penetration every time he is dealt four out of eight cards. This concept is very helpful to card counters, especially when playing multi-deck games. Most casinos increase the penetration amount to take advantage of newbies.

Regulate the Bet Size

Limiting the bet size is one of the most popular measures casino operators take to prevent counting cards. Capping the amount a player can wager limits them from raising the stake during the positive count.

Keeping Track of Advantage Players

Many successful blackjack players automatically enter the records of casinos. This way, casinos are able to know the technique and any other trick the player might have applied to win over the house.

Using Continuous Shuffling Machine (CSM)

Many online casinos use a continuous shuffling machine (CSM) that enables them to return all used cards in the shoe. This means that there is no point where a player can start counting cards.

Focus on Unusual Strategy

Many skilled card counters make unusual moves when they detect a favorable count. In this case, they raise their stakes instantly to take advantage of the profits. Casinos are keen to notice any slight change in strategy to ensure players don't make enormous profits.

Using RFID Chips in Blackjack Cards

Modern technology is employed to keep off card counters from making huge profits. Many casinos insert RFID Chips in playing cards to try and determine the player's edge in blackjack. Also, these chips are used to track players' wagers.

How to Avoid Getting Caught Counting Cards

Card counting is not illegal, but many casinos limit this strategy because it gives players an advantage of winning big. Though casinos have set measures to reduce players from counting, there are simple tricks to help you to stay off the casino's radar.

  • Avoid making suspicious facial expressions.
  • Play at blackjack tables with a 3:2 natural payout.
  • Try to keep card counting as private as possible.
  • Find casinos that do not restrict card counting.
  • Tip dealers if you are playing at offline casinos.


At this point, you understand that card counting is not cheating. Many casinos have created this notion because it reduces the house edge to favor players. You can freely count cards at some casinos without anybody asking you to leave. Knowing the different techniques casinos use to stop card counting is a plus to your success. As long as a third-party electronic device is not involved, you can count cards and boost your winning opportunities at any time.

FAQ Is Card Counting Cheating

Best Online Casinos - Jun 2024