I’ve been beating casinos at blackjack (and teaching card counting to others) for over a decade. While my poker exploits are less impressive, I’ve had the privilege of running a blackjack team that took nearly $4M from casinos, registering a healthy upper 6-figure score myself. Being a professional gambler has given me the opportunity to meet plenty of poker pros, some of whom love beating both games for profit. While there are some distinct differences in either game, I wanted to share three reasons poker players should consider taking up card counting at blackjack as well.
Why Not Do Both?
The awesome thing about MacGyver was that he always found a way to use the tools available to him to solve the given problem. Trapped in a basement boiler room? No problem: MacGyver can free himself by making a torpedo out of sticks, rocks, rags, and a rusty pipe. Broken down car? No worries: egg whites and water can plug the hole in that cracked radiator.
Generating positive EV (expected value) is the problem we’re looking to solve. The same tool doesn’t work 100% of the time, so why wouldn’t you want several tools at your disposal? What do you need to beat poker? A bankroll and other poker players with inferior skills. But what if you end up at a table where you’re the inferior player? You certainly don’t want to give your bankroll to your competition! If that’s your only tool in a casino, you might as well go home or sit around waiting for some easy prey to show up.
I’d rather be the MacGyver of advantage players. And if you’re going to have poker in your bag of tricks, why not add another tool to your arsenal? For many advantage players, card counting is the most logical tool to add to their repertoire, as all you need is a casino with a beatable blackjack game (and your skills and bankroll, of course).
Have a Consistent Alternative to Your Poker Play
How do you know that someone is a winning poker player? They’ve won more money than they’ve lost. We’re not talking about the last week either. There are plenty poker players who have a losing year. How do you know if someone is a winning card counter? You evaluate their playing decisions. Card counting is so concrete, I can watch someone play for 30 minutes and I’ll know if they have a winning game or not. Heck, we even have blackjack training software that tells you if you make any mistakes, so you can evaluate yourself. (We card counters can even calculate our EV to the dollar!)
There’s something very reassuring that even when you’re losing at blackjack, you know with absolutely certainty that you’ve made the right playing decision. With poker, you can always second guess whether you should have folded, raised more, or slow played that one hand. With card counting, there is always one statistically correct decision to make every time. No second guessing. I have plenty of friends who are winning poker players and card counters, and though they may enjoy the thrill of beating the competition when playing poker, there is something very simple and tangible about implementing card counting perfectly. You play, let the cards fall as they may, knowing that if you keep playing, the system will work.
Card Counting Makes You a Better Poker Player
What’s the biggest concern for a poker player? I asked a professional poker player friend of mine, and he said “going on tilt.” Sure, you’re going to always bump into that drunk guy who continues to suck out on the river, but you can’t control him. What you can control is your game. Then again, that’s easier said than done. Learning to play with the same self-control when you’re getting out-drawn by inferior players is no small task.
The beauty of card counting is that you know the value of every playing decision. Whether you are up $20,000 or down $20,000, every playing decision should be the same for the card counter. If you’re not playing the same, you know you’re costing yourself money.
It’s very black and white in blackjack, while there’s a grey area with poker. Well, at least it can feel like it’s more of a grey area in poker. Every poker player I know, who also counts cards at blackjack, would say that the discipline and obsession with EV that we’ve learned from playing professional blackjack translates to how we approach the poker tables. Both games should be approached with an objective, emotionless approach that is obsessed with our bottom line. No amount of winning or losing should make you play tighter or looser at the table. This is just a much easier character trait to develop with the concrete nature of blackjack. But I guarantee you this trait will translate to your poker game.
If you’re interested in learning more about beating blackjack through card counting, we run Blackjack Apprenticeship: the premiere community for card counters and card counting trainees. We’d love to see you extracting more EV from the suckers: whether that’s poker players or the casinos!
Check it out by going to BlackjackApprenticeship.com