Hole carding vs. Card counting – what’s better?

Casinos are more accessible than ever nowadays. Now, playing your favorite games such as blackjack is incredibly easy thanks to the immense number of online casinos you can find. However, there are still some things that are only possible in real-life casinos, such as hole carding and card counting.

Hole carding and card counting are methods that gamblers use to gain an edge over the casino when playing dealer-based card games. These methods are popularly used in blackjack and have proven to be effective in raising the win rates of players who actually take the time to learn how these methods work. 

But which of these methods is actually better for you to use? First, let’s take a look at what hole carding and card counting really are and how they work in the casino. 

What is Hole Carding?

Hole carding, as the name implies, is used in games where the dealer has hole cards that your cards have to beat. By using hole carding, you’re essentially trying to take a peek at the dealer’s hole cards in order to compare the dealer’s cards to yours and make the correct decision.

How Does Hole Carding Work?

Unfortunately, hole carding isn’t something you can do in every blackjack table you sit in. The first step you need to do when hole carding is finding a “flasher.” A flasher, in simple terms, is an inexperienced dealer who flashes his or her cards, allowing others to take a peek for a split second before the hole cards are fully facedown.

Finding a flasher can become a grueling process, as you’d have to go table after table to find a dealer whose technique is just not up to par with others. 

Once you’ve found a flasher, the next thing you have to do is figure out where you should sit so that you have the best view of the cards that the dealer accidentally flashes. A simple rule of thumb is if the dealer is right-handed, you should sit to the dealer’s left, while if the dealer is left-handed, you should sit to the dealer’s right. As much as possible, you should be sitting in the first seat next to the dealer so that you have the best possible view.

The next thing you need to do is to sit in a way that doesn’t give away that you’re hole carding. You want to be playing as naturally as possible as not to arouse any suspicion. For example, you may slightly slouch so that it wouldn’t appear as if you’re up to something.

Once you’ve had that in place, you simply spot the times the dealer flashes and use the information you have to your advantage. Make the right decision based on whether or not the dealer has better cards than you. 

What is Card Counting?

Card counting is a system that involves keeping track of the cards in order to keep a running count which will dictate whether or not you should be betting big or betting conservatively. Simply put, card counters try to gain an advantage by ascertaining whether or not the cards that will be dealt are more or less likely to help them. 

How Does Card Counting Work?

There is a variety of card counting systems that seasoned blackjack players implement. But the common theme in virtually all blackjack systems is assigning values to each set of cards, with low cards for instance having a value of +1, and high cards having a value of -1, while cards in the middle have a value of 0.

As cards are dealt throughout each round, you will either add or subtract 1 or do nothing based on the cards you see. Each card that is dealt is used to update your running count.

The running count you have dictates whether or not you have the advantage. If the running count increases, it means that there are less low cards and more high cards that could help your hand. 

Based on your running count, you could either bet conservatively if you have the disadvantage, or double down if you have the advantage. In summary, your running count will serve as the signal for what moves you have to make in any given round. 

Bottom Line

Hole carding, although it involves relatively less mental effort, can become a painstaking process of running through hundreds of dealers before finding one flasher. Although once you’ve found one, everything becomes a relative breeze and there’s less room for error as opposed to card counting.

On the other hand, card counting, although anyone can learn it, takes a long time to master. However, once you’ve mastered card counting, you can basically use it in any blackjack table you play in.

Both techniques generally take a long amount of time before they can be fully implemented, but card counting is the safer option. Card counting is a much more guaranteed technique to raise your edge because it can be learned, unlike hole carding which takes some luck until you find a flasher.