Card Counting Vs. Sports Betting

Card Counting Vs. Sports Betting

Gina Fiore
Professional Gambling
August 11, 2023

An ace and a jack on a bed of $100 bills representing card counting vs. sports betting


Whether I’m talking to other parents, neighbors, or the blonde woman with the poodle at the dog park who seeks me out to discuss local news, I don’t ask people what they do for a living. I don’t want to face the question myself.

If jobs come up and I admit that I gamble for a living, I’m usually asked what I play. My canned answer is: “I used to play a lot of blackjack but now I mostly bet sports.”

Their responses to blackjack and card counting are universal: 

“Oh I could never do that.” 

“You must be really good at math.” 

“That’s so hard.”

When I tell the person that card counting is not really that hard they never believe me. With card counting the player keeps track of the high cards and the low cards in the deck by assigning each card a value of one, negative one, or zero. If you can add by one, you can count cards.

Before I get out half of that explanation, the listener’s eyes have glazed over.

On the other hand, people have a basic understanding of sports betting. You bet Team A, or you bet Team B. There are only two options to choose from.

Sports betting is easier for people to relate to because sports are a form of entertainment. Blackjack is not. It’s no fluke that baseball games have been televised for more than 80 years but the television show Ultimate Blackjack Tour was canceled after a season and a half.

Card counters have less variables to consider than sports bettors. A game played with six decks gives the player 312 pieces of simple information to evaluate. 

When the count is high – indicating that the remaining cards are mostly high-valued – the player has an edge. If the count is low and the deck is composed of small cards, the casino has the edge. When the deck is done being dealt, everything resets to zero.


Card Counting Vs. Sports Betting Is Algebra Vs. Calculus

Sports betting is harder to beat because unlike the card counter, sports bettors who employ either a bottom-up or top-down approach have to assess more information, and from multiple sources. Past performance, future performance, and the effect that other sports bettors have on odds are factors that all hold weight when predicting outcomes. 

A simple top-down approach to sports betting is line shopping – looking for differences in prices between sportsbooks. Successful line shopping requires the bettor to know what the true odds of a wager should be. Without a source of truth, line shopping is unreliable. A top-down bettor gets their true odds from a market-making sportsbook or a combination of multiple market-making sportsbooks.

Once they have a feel for the true odds of a bet, the sports bettor must successfully calculate the edge gained from taking a better price. Line shopping requires the sports bettor to understand the value in the difference in odds. A discrepancy in prices may not be significant enough to create an edge. More than that, differences in odds in different sports don’t hold the same significance.

Card counting is not static – the edge changes based on the cards dealt. Similarly sports betting prices are not static – the odds change based on developing information about players and conditions and the action of other sports bettors. Line shoppers have to determine whether differences in prices are true edges or created from other sports bettors manipulating lines.

There is no comparison between a sports bettor taking a bottom-up approach and a card counter. Sports bettors who employ a bottom-up approach create their own source of truth, or true odds. Bettors analyze past and present information on players, teams, game conditions, game rules and more to form opinions. Unlike card counting, the opinions are just that, whereas with card counting the player can know their exact edge with every card dealt.

Card counting vs. sports betting is night and day when it comes to math. Bottom-up sports bettors require higher level math skills than a card counter. A sports bettor cannot use their fingers to do statistical analysis like a card counter can to keep track of the count.

The average house edge of a standard blackjack game is 1 to 2 percent. The average edge the sportsbook has over an uneducated bettor in a major sport like basketball or football is twice that. Whether playing on the square or using advanced techniques to beat the game, card counters have an easier time gaining an advantage over the house.

The Reward Is Worth the Effort

When I learned to play blackjack the only software publicly available was related to card counting. I couldn’t use it to create strategies or calculate edges for sequencing aces or counting side bets on baccarat. With Unabated, sports bettors have tools available to beat sports in a dozen different ways. It’s an unparalleled experience to what’s ever been available to blackjack players. 

More good news for the aspiring sports bettor is their potential upside. The edge of a card counter typically reaches around 2 percent, whereas a winning sports bettor can often identify edges two to three times higher. 

With the right tools, education, and accounts at multiple sportsbooks, it’s not rare for sports bettors to find double-digit edges. Even Rainman counting down a six-deck shoe at Caesars Palace couldn’t compete with that.

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