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Despite what appears in movies, blackjack skills do not require one to be like Rain Man. While the infamous «counting cards» are portrayed as genius math savants, even average people can learn them. Just like learning how to drive with a stick, it may seem intimidating at first, but with good enough amount of practice, it will eventually become second nature.

Counting cards, though, is one of the more advanced main poker skills. In fact, casinos make money from blackjack mostly from people who think they can count cards. Any player looking to strengthen his blackjack skills should, just like every other skill, start with the basics.

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Experience is key, and is only obtained through playing lots of games. The player options of «stand», «hit», «double down» and «split» may seem simple in theory. However, knowing what to do differs a whole lot from knowing when to do it. Remember, in a blackjack game all the players’ cards are dealt face up and the dealer has initially one face-up card. While hunches may win a player some games, a skilled blackjack player knows how to exploit the available player options to the best of what he sees.

Another one of the essential blackjack skills is a quick, albeit rough, calculation of probabilities. Seeing which cards have been dealt and knowing how many deck of cards are being used, a player can roughly guess the probability of being dealt the card the player needs, or the probability of a dealer blackjack or bust. This, coupled with experience, comprises the basic blackjack skills a player must have before moving up to counting cards.

Counting cards is the bread and butter of every skilled main poker player. A common misconception is that this practice is illegal. Fact is, as long as a player only uses his brain and not the aid of any mechanical device, counting cards are perfectly acceptable.

Basically, card counting is a strategy that helps determine if a player would win or lose the round. This then gives the player an edge since the player knows when to bet low or when to bet high. Cards are given a value of +1, -1 or 0 depending on their face value. Since players’ cards are dealt face up and the dealer has one face-up card, a player who knows how to count cards can then quickly calculate the «card count». In the simplest card counting strategy, cards 2-6 are given a value of +1, 7-9 a value of 0, and the remaining a value of -1. The higher the card count, the higher a player can bet.

Counting cards is the most sought after main poker skills, and rightly so. Some players expand card values to +2 and -2, and some even have 0. 5’s. Others keep a side count of specific cards. Most casinos nowadays have several ways to counter card counters. However, with enough practice and the right attitude, a player can eventually profit from playing this most popular card game in the world.