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In many games, it can be extremely helpful to know what cards have already been played and/or the number left in any given suit.

What are good ways to learn to count the cards played (especially in a game such as pinochle where you cannot inspect your taken-trick pile to see at least what you've claimed out of the hand)?

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3 Answers

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There are many different systems for card counting.

All of them involve adding a number to the count if a card you don't like(e.g., a low card) is played(since that increases the amount of high cards left in the deck) and you subtract a number from the count when a high card is played (since this decreases the number of high cards in the deck). The systems vary however in how much is added/subtracted for each cards. Depending on what are the most profitable cards in the deck you might want to choose one system over another. The system that only involve adding/subtracting 1 from the count are much easier to learn and to apply in games since it is less information to keep track of.

Important to note is of course that most of these systems are originally developed for Blackjack, and might or might not work very well on other card games.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on card-counting. I'd suggest reading this. To practice card counting, the most easy way is just to go through a few decks multiple times a day looking at the top card, saying the new count out loud, and then drawing the next top card. You have to be able to do this as fast as possible without making mistakes.

Also, if you like entertaining stories: Bringing Down the House is a story(which really happened) about people winning HUGE amounts of money from card counting in Blackjack, and the troubles they faced.(There also is a movie adaption called 21, but the book is much better.)

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When I used to play Bridge regularly, I started out simply by keeping track of suit counts. How many have been played from each suit. I then added counts for Aces and Kings, keeping track of those on top of the suit counts. I then expanded into tracking all of the trump suit, and followed by tracking the remaining suits. If you play regularly and take a gradual approach, it will eventually become second nature, but it does require regular play.

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TL;DR For euchre, memorize the suits in the same order every time and remember the boss cards in each suit plus all trump cards.

For counting in Euchre, which I think is pretty easy to get started with, I started by making sure that I could count down the maximum number of trump that could be available as the tricks progress. I only subtract cards played and don't deduct the cards in my hand until I play them. It's too easy to subtract them twice unless you get in to that habit right from the start.

Then I started keeping track of which trump are potentially available. I started by keeping track of the highest (boss) trump that could be out there. Even at the hardest, 7 out there and I have none (though I usually just ride these out and don't worry about counting) left-right-ace-king-queen-10-9 can rattle around in my head pretty easily and now I can forget about counting the 7 because I have the list that I can count if I need to.

I started expanding this once I got good at it, to the suits with aces outstanding. At worst, now I'm thinking suit-suit-suit-left-right-ace-king-queen-10-9.

Once I got really good at keeping this in my head, through practice, I noticed that I keep track of the suits in my head in the same order every time. Now, instead of tracking the suits with aces left, I switched to tracking the boss for each suit and all the trump ending up at boss-left-right-ace-king-queen-10-9-boss-boss (where the trump drifts around in position based on suit). It's easy to lose track of the off suit boss because they could be thrown out of order, off suit. (ie if the boss was King and the queen was thrown off suit, then the king was played in the next trick you could be waiting for the queen to come out ...)

10 cards out of the 24 available tracked helps a lot. I suppose I could shoot for more, but this is usually more than enough.

Depending on your memory, you could try tracking A-K-Q-J of each suit plus all the trump (watch where you count the bowers) ... this would give you 18 of the 24 cards, but I haven't gotten to this level myself.

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