How to Count Cards in Poker

Poker is one of the most popular card games on the planet.  It also happens to be one of the trickiest to master over time!  As such, plenty of players will start looking into how to count cards in poker, which means that they can get an inside advantage against others at the table.

Card-counting generally means you keep track of which cards are left in the deal, or which are likely to be in other hands.  As poker can involve many other players at any one time, it is perhaps a little trickier to count the cards in this game than it is to count in, say, blackjack.

However, in this brief guide, we aim to help break things down a little for you before you get started.

Poker Card Counting

Poker card counting is different from blackjack as shuffling is significantly different.  In poker, the deck is shuffled at the end of each hand – meaning that things are likely to change fairly quickly.

  • In order to successfully count cards in poker, you must count ‘outs’, or those hands you could stand to feasibly win with.
  • However, you are still going to need to try and keep track of any cards left in the deck. Therefore, you’re going to need to familiarise yourself with all of the possible winning combinations available.
  • For example – if you draw two clubs, you are going to likely want to count for any remaining clubs left in the deck. Depending upon the number value of your cards, too, you may be able to build an even better hand.
  • With this in mind, you need to count how many cards are feasibly left to help build you a winning hand.

However, knowing how many outs to count is only half the battle.  How do you apply this to your game in progress?

What is Card Counting in Poker

Plenty of people will ask this question, and the short answer is that it is a process of working out the probability of you being able to make winning hands.  This is sometimes referred to as ‘pot equity’.

Pot equity will effectively help you work out your chances of laying down a winning hand.  Here’s how to work out a simple calculation to make this work for you:

  • If your play is on the turn, take your number of outs calculated and multiply them by 2.
  • If your play is on the flop, take your number of outs calculated and multiply them by 4.
  • The number you get will work as a percentage probability of you being able to seize the winning hand you need. For example, if you find a total of 32, you have a roughly 32% chance of hitting the hand you need on the river.
  • The nature of the game, however, dictates that there may sometimes be tainted hands – meaning that while this process can work well in practice, it is by no means a winning guarantee.

Is Card Counting Legal?

Is card counting legal?  Yes – in fact, in the US, it is seen as a strategy which can take genuine skill and practice to hone.  While learning how to count cards, it is important to understand that it is a practice many different players make use of, and as such it is rarely seen as cheating.

If you are playing cards at a casino table, however, counting may not be taken too lightly by casino officials – it really will vary from establishment to establishment.

Playing poker online, especially in live poker formats, should offer you no obstructions with regard to card-counting.  Why not use some of the tips we’ve offered here to your advantage?

Poker Card Counting Techniques

There are plenty of poker card counting techniques out there, and while the methods we have offered here are perhaps the most basic for beginners, no card-counting method will ever guarantee you a win.

Rather, it is a good way to ensure you have enough power over the game probability to take advantage from one moment to the next.  Plenty of players count cards – and there’s no reason you can’t get good at it over time.

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James has almost a decade of experience in the Online Casino Industry. Winning several awards including "UK Casino Affiliate of the Year" he uses his experience to research the UK market to source the best bingo welcome bonuses, highest casino slots real money payouts and free spins sign up offers.