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Is Counting Cards in Blackjack Illegal?

Updated on April 22, 2015


I just recently started playing blackjack while counting cards. I know, I know this seems like a strange way to make money but I saw this movie called “Holy Rollers” about a Christian card counting team who went on to make a great deal of money counting cards playing Blackjack. One of the first things I learned was that counting cards is NOT illegal! I, like many people out there, thought that it was illegal to count cards. But, I found out that they cannot make something illegal that you do in your head (which is what counting cards is..a mental exercise). However, just because it's not illegal doesn't mean that the casinos have to let you play. Just as a restaurateur can refuse service to anyone so can a casino and if they think that you are counting cards that is exactly what they will do...they will throw you out. So, stealth is key!


At first I thought the movie was a joke. But, after watching the movie not only was I convinced that it was real, I was convinced that I could count cards and possibly make a bit of money myself. So the first thing I did was to go out and buy 6 decks of cards, read all I could get my hands on and I started to practice, practice, practice. And, the first thing I learned was that you can LOSE big counting cards! Yes, that's right you can lose all your money even if you count cards perfectly and the count is really high! I didn't know that but I was sure grateful to find out while practicing rather than by losing all my real money! This little known fact caused me to change the way I bet when I was playing blackjack. I started to bet a lot more conservatively. I kept practicing. I kept a running total of how much I bet, what the count was and at 20 games I closed that session. I did this for a long time, not only so that I could practice but I also wanted to make dead sure that this whole crazy endeavor would work before I actually used real money in a casino. You see, I'm not much of a gambler at all and I sure didn't want to lose what little money I had betting money in a casino. The idea was crazy enough without humiliating myself further by actually losing money! What I found out by practicing is that ..yes, in the long run you win money but it's not easy and there is risk. As with any investment there is risk so unless you plan on stashing your money under your mattress (an idea I have toyed with to be sure :) you will be taking a calculated risk.


  1. Know Basic Strategy (the chart is below)

  2. Know when to deviate from basic strategy depending on the count.

  3. Know how to count cards: this is the simplest part, you simply add plus 1 to any card between 2 and 6 and add negative one to any card between 10 and an ace, 7, 8, and 9 are 0 and keep a running total in your head. Oh, you also have to divide that number by the amount of cards that are left. (see the videos below for more details on how to do this).

  4. Know how much to bet: this depends on your own bankroll, the more you risk the more you win or ...LOSE.

The truth is that statistically if you know these 4 things you will win money playing blackjack because blackjack, unlike other casino games has history. What does that mean? I'll tell you! In other casino games it doesn't matter how many times a certain number comes up the odds of that number coming up again are exactly the same. But, with blackjack, every card that is removed from the deck affects the rest of the game. The reason why counting cards works is that when you know that the deck is chock full of high cards you are statistically at an advantage over the house, that is why when you count cards you are not just throwing your money away in some haphazard gamble.

HOWEVER that doesn't mean that you will ALWAYS win money when playing blackjack as I mentioned before. This fact cannot be stressed enough and often goes ignored resulting in catastrophe. Odds are that if you play using basic strategy and know how to count cards that you will win 6 out of 10 games, however you must be prepared to lose those 4 games so having a sufficient amount of money to bankroll your investment is crucial. And, this is where the discipline comes in. If you lose all your money in those 4 games you are ruined, so keeping your losses at a minimum is very important if you plan on playing and winning at blackjack.


  1. Have a numeric goal in mind that is conservative: When you win a certain amount either reduce your bet considerably or leave altogether. Winning at blackjack means accumulating wins, every time you walk away from the table with a win that win contributes to your overall success, so don't let greed steal all your money away.

  2. Know that even when the count is high you can lose money! Yes that is true, some times luck is 2 sheets to the wind and you lose no matter what you do. So when that happens you have to lower your bet and/or call it a day. If the tide is against you try to minimize your losses.

  3. Expect to lose 4 out of 10 games and plan accordingly, it's all part of the investment.

If you practice these tips you will win more often than you lose and when you lose it wont be a devastating loss.


I think this is the most important question. Counting cards gives you the advantage therefore I consider it along the lines of investing in the stock market. If one invests in the stock market there is a chance that you will lose your money in spite of all the research you've done to make sure the stock is a good one and that you are investing your money wisely. It's the same thing with counting cards. You have the advantage and you are just seizing the opportunity, so I do not consider it gambling. Yes you could lose but the chances are that you will win over the long haul. Personally, I do not like to gamble (unless it's a friendly game with my family) because I don't like to lose money. Ultimately, it is up to you. If you think it is wrong then you must obey your conscience.

Finally, playing blackjack while counting cards is not's simple but it's not easy. You have to be covert, you have to keep track of a lot of things while pretending to be a casual gambler and you have to have nerves of steel as you are constantly being monitored by those big black cameras in the sky! It's not for the faint of heart but when you win it can be a lot of fun and if you do it right you can supplement your income nicely.

Have you ever won counting cards at Blackjack?

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