Blackjack Card Counting: Legal or Illegal?

It seems that blackjack card counting exists as long as blackjack itself. Anyone interested in the thrilling game of blackjack has heard the term card counting at least once. Many have no idea what it represents or why is it so popular. Well, simply put, card counting is a game strategy that helps players calculate their possible advantage or disadvantage. Those that practice card counting often consider themselves advantage players who manage to decrease the game’s house edge.

However, it’s silly to believe that casino operators worldwide approve of such a game strategy. On the contrary, blackjack card counting often results with banning players from blackjack tables and even entire gambling facilities. Nonetheless, this doesn’t seem to decrease the popularity of the card counting strategy. Quite the opposite, many players are using it as well as lots of funny stories related to it.

Blackjack Card Counting Explained

Regardless of how much you enjoy blackjack, the house will always have the statistical advantage over you. Well, this changes with the use of a card counting strategy, which helps players beat the dealer using their memory. Card counting works best on single-deck blackjack games and often results in players generating profit in the long run.

The term itself reveals a lot of this game strategy. Namely, players count the cards, i.e. remember what cards appeared during the game. This enables them to know what cards are still in the deck and calculate their odds of scoring winning hands. Naturally, the knowledge helps you decide when to place large bets and when to wait for a better hand.

Does Card Counting Work?

Experts believe that blackjack card counting strategy increases your odds by around 1%. This pays off on the long term. However, card counting is not a fool-proof concept and doesn’t guarantee payouts. So, if you practice it smartly, you can improve your performance in the long run. Yet, card counting won’t make you a winner in every single game. Keep in mind though, if you use it at brick-and-mortar casinos you risk operators banning you from their premises.

Is Card Counting Illegal?

Naturally, most people wonder whether card counting is legal or not. Well, the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no”. Namely, certain countries allow it, while other countries forbid it. Also, some casinos prohibit visitors from using card counting strategy or devices on their premises. To give you a better idea, let’s try and explain the legal status of blackjack card counting in popular markets.


Under British law, card counting is not illegal. Nevertheless, UK casino operators try to keep it out of their facilities and prevent its practice. Therefore, if casinos catch you card counting, they will probably ban you from visiting them in the future. They go as far as prohibiting players for card counting even for a suspicion only. So, card counting in the UK is not illegal, but you can’t use it, nonetheless.


The situation with blackjack card counting in the USA is similar. Namely, using your mind for the strategy is not illegal, while using card counting devices is illegal. In 2009, the Nevada Gaming Control Board warned players that using iPhone apps for card counting was illegal in Nevada. However, the situation is more interesting in New Jersey and its Atlantic City casinos. After a court ruling back in 1979, New Jersey operators cannot ban skilled players. Therefore, even if they have proof of blackjack card counting, operators are unable to take any countermeasures against players.

bjcMIT Blackjack Team Strategy

Possibly the most interesting story related to blackjack card counting is the one about the MIT blackjack team strategy. Namely, between 1979 and 1990 a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made this technique famous. The “team” discovered that using card counting can help them beat the game. They used it in their favour to play and generate profit at casinos worldwide.

According to sources, they managed to scoop more than $400,000 in a single weekend in Las Vegas. Moreover, the membership rotated over the years as the word spread throughout the world. Supposedly, they would assign one person for card counting and giving signals to those playing at the blackjack tables. Their tactics proved highly profitable, and they amassed lots of cash over the years. However, casinos eventually discovered their scheme and banned them from all gambling facilities.

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