Card Counting and Deck Tracking

Today, Jester University offers a course on card counting and deck tracking in Doomtown: Reloaded. Greenhorns tend to overlook or miss many of the strategies that DTR’s top players use. DTR allows players open knowledge of all cards in your hand, plus those in play and discard piles (hereafter referred to as “revealed or known cards”). Observant players can therefore glean clues toward strong game play by analyzing the ongoing information available to players each turn.

Card Counting
By studying revealed cards, players can know what cards remain in their deck. Consider the Jokers. Knowing you have a joker or two left in your deck helps decide whether to engage in a shootout, especially if the decks few remaining cards increase the probability of drawing joker(s). Also beware of any yet unseen off value or pull-failing cards, which informs decision making for cards such as Legendary holster, Soul Blast, and/or Experimental cards.

A more extreme version of card counting predicts the reliability of your shootout hand. With few cards left in your deck, plus a thorough understanding of your deck’s composition, you can have a strong idea of your final draw hand. For example, if you have 10 cards left in your deck, and dudes granting 3 stud and 2 draw, you can deduce your hand composition (unless opponent changes your bullets). For most shootouts, card counting grants one key piece of information, what your goal hand should be. If all your cards of a S&V are revealed, barring a shuffle or joker, you won’t be getting a legal 4 of a kind, or might end up locked out of a Straight Flush or Dead Mans Hand.

Deck Tracking
Deck tracking uses your knowledge of revealed cards to make in-game decisions based upon a general knowledge of your deck’s remaining cards. Your choices depend upon the type of deck, e.g. skill/kung fu pulls, noon or shootout actions, or other possibilities. This often translates into choosing what order of actions to do in a turn. Some examples of cards for which deck tracking may help include Arnold Stewart, Pigging Out, Run Rabbit Run, and Laughing Crow.

Tracking your opponents deck can also provide useful information. It helps deduce your opponent’s deck archetype, and how they plan on winning. Watching recurring values or suits come up reveals your opponent’s draw structure along with knowing if your opponent’s jokers remain in their hand or deck. You can also sometimes know if your opponent will likely have a weak shootout hand, and play aggressively around it. For example, you notice that your opponent has revealed all 4 of one S&V in two suits, and thus unlikely to pull better than a full house, and certainly fail to hit a straight flush. Watching your opponents revealed cards also may provide clues as to what you might expect to see during a shootout. This is especially useful in letting you know if you can confidently cheat in a shootout. If you know all your opponent’s cheating resolutions lie in his discard pile, you can play aggressively with a large posse aiming to pull cheating five of a kinds.

In closing, players need to also consider and maintain awareness of game time length and remaining time. Deck track by paying attention during game play with occasional quick searches of discard piles. Take a more thorough analysis of deck compositions before critical shootouts, but respect the clock. These tips help inform important game decisions, but players need to respect opponents and exercise good sportsmanship.


Great article! It is a good overview of reasons to be aware of game state, as well as techniques particular to some cards and strategies.

I routinely track my discard pile, cards in play, and opponents discard. It tends to be a quick scan for cheatin’ resolutions, obvious concentrations (i.e of values in play) and jokers. In a decisive shootout, I might spend a little extra time counting up actual values in play/discard to get a good sense of odds. Of course, I am not likely to know an opponent’s draw structure, beyond a general sense for loose or tight, so in-depth card counting pertains mostly to me.

In regards to sportsmanship, I too think it is important to respect the clock. But I see nothing unsportsmanlike about utilizing perfectly legal behavior. I read some chatter on the public facebook (where I lurk without an account), about how some people consider it taboo or something, but to each their own I guess. One time when I do respect sportsmanlike boundaries is during shootouts, after draw bonuses are used. Since discard/draw happens simultaneously I consider it unethical to search my opponents discard pile after he has used his draw bonus, but before I’ve decided on my own draw hand. There may be some specific wording in the floor rules about this timing, but I haven’t looked.


I agree that @jayjester’s article was a fine addition to the site. Bravo. :ribbon:

@funtimeteddy - in tournament play I’m normally happy to search my opponent’s discard and have them search my discard pile. As you note, I think that the main (reasonable) issue people can have with it is that if it is done too frequently it can stall a game out.

I often like to play my cheatin’ punishment off value - it can catch people off guard, helps win lowball and is helpful for your draw structure, as these cards tend to sit in your hand waiting for the ideal moment to strike. :slight_smile:


Excellent article, short but poignant.

One common question that circles in my game group is “how many jokers do you have?” which to us means how many are in the discard and/or boothill (or as you say “known”), so that we can make informed decisions about the liklihood of the dreaded legal five of a kind - the veritable bane of all otherwise strategically sound plans.

For fun, recently a player in my group started using Dr. Dawn and Eve, so lately I have taken to searching his discard for the “other half” and reacting accordingly…


Good point @jordan_caldwell on the “Asking your opponent” angle. I find this a handy half-way house for jokers/checking on specific cards. Just ask how many are in graveyard/discard. It’s faster and avoids thumbing through opposing decks too much, which some dislike.

I should also throw in that card counting is important when playing with/against Kung-fu to check what they can combo with. It’s often best to wait for discard piles to cycle before taking on a kung-fu deck in a shootout, although this luxury isn’t always possible! I’ve not had as much practice playing against Kung-fu as I’d like, and failing to account for the discard pile almost did me in during an OP tournament against one of the Edinburgh players.