Can You Count Cards in Poker?

A royal flush with poker chips

Card counting is a valuable tactic typically used to gain the edge at a blackjack table. It can also be an excellent tool for poker players, but learning how to count cards in poker means something slightly different given that you’re analyzing card values, odds and statistics.

If you’re playing online poker and want to learn how to count poker cards, it’s important to understand how card counting applies to poker. Traditionally, card counting is used in blackjack to keep track of how many cards have been played, making potential outcomes of future hands easier to predict.

In a game of blackjack, you can count cards to see if the player or the dealer is more likely to hold the advantage. Every card dealt is one less to worry about as the game progresses, provided there’s a fixed number of cards or decks. This may seem like it gives the player too much insight, but card counting is completely legal and you can’t be called a cheat when you’re simply using knowledge that’s available to you.

Card counting in poker won’t give you the same level of insight as it does in blackjack, mainly because poker decks are shuffled after each hand has been concluded. In other words, every round being dealt is a full reset of the odds and all cards remain relevant until the end of the game. But that doesn’t mean card counting doesn’t apply to poker.

Using card counting as a poker player

A royal flush next to poker chip stacks

In all forms of poker, you’re playing with limited information and every decision is based on odds. Unlike blackjack, the results of previous rounds don’t matter, so what does it mean to count cards in poker and in what sense is card counting a useful strategy? 

By keeping track of the cards visible to you during a poker game, you’re essentially using all revealed cards to assess the chance of unknown cards being in the hands of your opponents. For instance, if you have a pair of jacks in your hand, you know that you have 50% of all the jacks in a standard deck of cards. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say there’s also a jack on the table. The location of the fourth and final jack remains hidden, so it’s either going to be in the deck or in the hands of your opponents. 

From the example above, you can see that counting cards does still work for poker, but you have to keep in mind that there are two types of cards in all forms of poker, namely hole cards and community cards. Hole cards are the ones players keep to themselves, while community cards are visible to all players. 

When you’re counting cards, the aim is to figure out which hole cards your opponents hold based on your hand and the community cards on the table. Your opponents can’t have the cards you know about and with 52 cards in a standard deck and 13 cards per suit, your moves become decisions based on a percentage chance of success. 

Does counting cards still work if you’re playing online poker? Given that card counting in poker refers to odds analysis, the answer is a definitive yes. It’s useful in all forms of poker, including online poker and its most popular variation, Texas Hold’em.

How to count cards in Texas Hold’em

An ace card next to some poke chips

When you’re learning how to count cards in Texas Hold’em poker, the most important thing to keep in mind is that card counting helps you make informed decisions. Unlike controversial methods of analysis, such as edge sorting, for example, counting cards is a raw data tool. It’s based on objective facts and has nothing to do with trends or patterns.

If you don’t count cards at the poker table, you run the risk of having less information than other players. Decisions you make won’t be as beneficial as they could be and you might miss opportunities to bluff or block your opponents.

In Texas Hold’em, each round offers new odds despite player hands remaining the same. You have to adjust your tactics on the fly to walk away with the pot and you can only do that effectively when you’re looking at the game from all angles and adapting to shifting odds.  When you can tell the difference between a 10% and 70% chance of having the strongest hand, your betting choices gain a favorable balance of luck and probability.

Drawing false conclusions is the main habit to avoid. The outcome of any round of Texas Hold’em will always be impossible to predict and you can’t make assumptions when it comes to any game of chance. Counting cards should be used as a defense against poor decision-making, a guiding hand for your plays which might offer an advantage over less aware opponents.

Refine your card counting strategy with Borgata Online

Card counting takes time and experience to perfect. If you want the ability to play any game at any time, register with Borgata Online for unlimited access to all the latest and most popular casino games, from live dealer poker and blackjack to sports betting with real-time odds.