How To Count Cards in Blackjack

Content Team 1 year ago
How To Count Cards in Blackjack

Whether you’ve been around gambling for a long time or you’ve seen the casino movie “21”, you’re sure to have heard of card counting by now. There have been many players over the years who have used this blackjack strategy.

This article will explain the ins and outs of blackjack card counting and how you can use it to your advantage to beat the house.

There are, of course, some restrictions that apply to the use of this technique, and I will go over them as well. However, as soon as you finish this course, you will understand how card counting works and the basic skills you need to start with card counting.

After that, you must get a deck of cards and a couple of friends and start practicing with them. It is possible that you will win a large sum of money if you get good enough and find the right place to start card counting.

What Is Card Counting?

In blackjack, card counting is a method for determining whether the next hand will be advantageous to the player or the dealer. It is the objective and intention of the card counters to keep a count of the high and low-value cards that appear in the game, as is evident from the game, and by doing so, minimize the house edge of the casino as much as possible. By counting cards, players can determine the composition of the remaining cards before they are dealt and played, thereby minimizing their losses.

Card counting is also known as card reading in trick-taking games such as spades and contract bridge. In addition, certain poker variants may also benefit from card counting.

How does Card Counting Works?

Card counting helps players maximize their wins and minimize losses in real money blackjack games.

Advantage players (also known as card counters) change their play based on the composition of the cards left in the dealer’s shoe. Combining these factors, blackjack players can reverse the casino’s edge. Essentially, card counting works as follows:

  1. 1. A player assigns a value to each card based on its face and number, either negative, positive, or zero.
  2. 2. Based on the cards dealt in the game, they keep a ‘running count.’
  3. 3. When a player is confident of the ‘true count,’ they can alter their bets according to their advantage.
  4. 4. With fewer cards left in the shoe, the player makes more decisive wagers and improves their true count.

Anyone with patience, practice, and attention to detail can learn this blackjack strategy. However, learning card counting is worth your time and effort since it is one of the most effective strategies for winning at blackjack.

How To Count Cards in Blackjack Conclusion

In blackjack, players can count cards by following three simple steps:

The first step is to assign a value to each card based on its plus-minus count. For example, there is a +1 count for cards 2 through 6, a 0 or neutral count for cards 7 to 9, and a -1 count for cards 10 through Ace.

Counting begins at 0. Players will add value to the count as each card is dealt. Accordingly, if an Ace, King, 2, 7, 6, 4, and 5 are dealt, the count is +2. Face-down cards are not counted until they are flipped.

As cards are dealt out of the deck, the counting continues. It is based on the count that betting decisions are made. It is ideal for a player to place a higher bet if the count is negative and a lower bet if it is positive.

In online blackjack, card counting can also be performed using the same steps. As soon as the cards have been shuffled and dealt, players would start counting. As soon as the running count reaches a positive number and the undealt cards are mostly high cards, the players must increase their bet. In the case of the opposite scenario, reducing the bet is the best option.

Card Counting Systems In Blackjack

Blackjack players use various card counting systems, some of which are more distinctive than others. The level of difficulty of these varies from straightforward to advanced.

Hi-Lo System

In a deck with fewer high cards left, a player’s advantage decreases as the number of high cards decreases. The dealer benefits from low cards, which is why they get a +1 value. 7s, 8s, and 9s don’t benefit the player or the dealer, so they receive a value of 0.

As a result of the combination of Neutral, High, and Low cards in a deck equal to zero, the Hi-Lo strategy is called a ‘balanced’ counting strategy.

According to these metrics, the Hi-Lo system requires you to calculate a running total of all cards played in the game, including those held by the dealer and other players. ‘Running count’ refers to this. To explain Classic Blackjack, let’s look at an example:

Once the dealer introduces a new shoe to the table, the Hi-Lo strategy begins. Since no cards have been dealt with, the running count is 0. It depends on the blackjack game that the cards are dealt around the table in a certain order. To calculate the ‘running count’ based on the cards dealt.

Omega II System

Bruce Carlson developed the Omega II card counting system for intermediate-level players. A multi-level system is also used, where some cards are worth two points and some are worth one point. Cards 2, 3, and 7 have a value of +1, while cards 4, 5, and 6 have a value of +2. The 9 is marked with a -1, while the 10 and the face cards King, Queen, and Jack are marked with a -2. Aces and eights are counted as zero.

In a balanced card counting system, the player reaches 0 when all cards are dealt if they keep track correctly.

Hi-Opt I & II Systems

There are two Hi-Opt systems, Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II. Let’s examine them separately.

Hi-Opt I consists of:

  • A +1 value is assigned to the 3, 4, 5, and 6 cards,
  • King, Queen, Jack, and Tens are all -1
  • The Ace, 2, 7, 8, or 9 are 0.

As with the Hi-Lo system, players must keep a running count to make informed bets.

There are different values assigned to each card in the Hi-Opt II system.

2, 3, 6, or 7 receive a +1 value. As soon as the players see cards 4 and 5, they must add 2 to their running count. In the case of 10 and the face cards, players need to subtract 2 from their running count. The value of an Ace, 8 or 9, is 0.

Wong Halves System

A three-level card counting system developed by Stanford Wong is the Wong Halves System. This system is also balanced, like the Omega II. After dealing with all the cards in the deck, your calculations should result in zero. After each deck has been dealt with, players are encouraged to calculate their true counts.

Wong’s system assigns the following values to the cards:

  • A value of -1 is assigned to 10’s, Jacks, Kings, Queens, and Aces;
  • The value of 8 is -1/2
  • A 9 has a neutral value of 0
  • 5’s are 1 ½,
  • 3’s, 4’s, and 6’s are valued at 1
  • The value of 2 and 7 is ½.

To avoid fractions, players can double the value of ½.

To determine the odds of winning, convert the running count to a true count. Calculating the final count after each deck would be a good idea. It’s easier to do this than to calculate a final count from several decks of cards.

Red 7 System

As a one-level system, the Red 7 system of counting cards in blackjack is simple and easy for beginners. The system works on the basis of high and low cards. A -1 value is assigned to higher value cards, while a +1 value is assigned to lower value cards. Neutral 8s and 9s are marked with 0. This system also takes color into account with regards to the 7s. Whenever the 7 is red, it is considered a low-value card (+1), while when it is black, it is considered neutral and is given a 0. It is better for the players if the final count is higher.

KO System

It is commonly known as the Knock-Out card counting system and is suitable for both beginners and intermediate players. In a book entitled Knock Out Blackjack, Fuchs and Vancura introduced the system.

Like the Hi-Lo method, tens, aces, queens, jacks, and kings are assigned a -1, whereas 2-7 are assigned a +1. On the other hand, 8’s and 9’s are marked as 0. When all cards have been dealt, the final count will not equal zero, indicating that the system is not balanced.

Zen Count

Another balanced system is the Zen Count, where the count decreases to 0 at the end of the game. It is also one of the simplest systems, and the cards are valued as follows:

  • 2, 3, 7 = +1
  • 4, 5, 6 = +2
  • 8, 9 = 0
  • 10, Jack, Queen, King = -2
  • Ace = -1

If the player’s true count is 0 or less, They will place the minimum bet, and you will increase your bets by 1 unit for each increase. Of course, players must also be aware of this steady increase to avoid catching the casino’s attention.

Team Card Counting

MIT’s blackjack team card counting system is largely based on the Hi-Lo system, which assigns the same values to each card. As a result, high cards are -1, low cards are +1, and the rest are 0. The team also used a three-person team strategy that included:

  • A big player,
  • A controller
  • A spotter.

After the spotter verified the count, they would signal the big player to place the bet. The team could beat several casinos and make millions of dollars within a short period.

True Count’ in Blackjack? How Does it Affect Card Counting?

Even though card counting sounds simple, online casinos complicate the process by adding more decks. Consequently, it is more difficult to identify the concentration of high and low cards left in the shoe. As a result, players’ advantage in six- or eight-deck blackjack games is skewed compared to single-deck 21.

The Hi-Lo system requires another step: the ‘true count.’ During a multi-deck blackjack game, this calculation tells the player their advantage. You can convert your running count into the true count by dividing it by the number of decks remaining in the game.

Here’s another example:

In an 8-deck blackjack game, you have a running count of +7. The shoe has roughly four decks left, giving you a true count of +1.75, or 2.

Your advantage increases as the true count increases. Therefore, when the house has an advantage, players should wager as little as possible and increase their wagers proportionally.

How to Count Cards with 1 Deck

Using the Hi-Lo system above, players in single-deck games only need the running count to assess their advantage. A true count isn’t necessary. As a result, you can spend more time applying basic strategy to your card counting.

New card counters will enjoy single-deck blackjack games. With fewer decks, players have the best odds, and beginner counters can easily track their advantage. Additionally, single-deck blackjack has a house edge of just 0.16%.

Online casinos sometimes add restrictions to single-deck blackjack games to tip the odds in their favor. For example, some rules restrict players’ moves and winnings, such as limiting re-splits and letting the dealer hit on a soft 17.

How to Count Cards with Multiple Decks

When playing multi-deck blackjack games, players must convert their running count into the true count using a balanced counting system like Hi-Lo. Using the true count, every card counting system can be used in blackjack, regardless of the number of decks. You can adjust your bets accordingly when you know how many high-value cards are left in the shoe.

Tips for Mastering Card Counting

Some players struggle to keep track of their cards when they combine card counting systems with basic strategy. Practicing until card counting becomes automatic is the key to success. Below are some exercises you can try.

  • Keep a running count of the cards in a single deck
  • Take one card out of the deck and keep a running count; you should know the value by the end
  • Time yourself – the more cards you can count within a certain period, the better your card counting skills will be
  • Live Online Blackjack Card Counting

Online searches for ‘card counting’ and ‘live blackjack’ generate passionate and often conflicting advice. Although card counting is possible in live blackjack, it is extremely difficult. Online casinos use the following methods to reduce or eliminate a card counter’s advantage in live blackjack:

CSMs (Continuous Shuffling Machines):

Players can’t count cards using these devices because decks are constantly shuffled.

Deck Penetration:

In some online casinos, 8-deck shoes are replaced after 50% of the cards have been played, so card counting is ineffective.

Rounds Per Hour:

The speed of live blackjack games limits the number of hands played and the overall winnings of card counters.

Blackjack Rules:

A 6:5 payout or the dealer hitting on soft 17 can increase the house edge so much that card counting becomes impossible.

Card Scanning:

Before adding cards to the table, dealers sometimes scan them. Then, the casino’s systems analyze players’ betting patterns and table cards to identify any counting.

Look for online casinos that pay 3:2 for live blackjack, like Betway or LeoVegas, if you want to play live blackjack. Choose a table where the dealer manually shuffles the cards or uses a batch shuffler. You can still count cards with these systems depending on deck penetration. Lastly, look for live blackjack games with favorable rules.

Card Counting Apps

Blackjack card counting can be explained as a technique, but it is a difficult skill to master. In addition to memorizing, card counters must be mathematically minded and able to process numbers very quickly in their minds. Apps can make learning card counting easier for blackjack players, however.

With Card Counter Lite, players can learn real blackjack card counting techniques through an app. Another app that blackjack players love is Blackjack & Card Counting Pro. ‘A Blackjack Card Counter’ is another iPhone card-counting app that assists players in determining when to bet in the game.

Additionally, there are a few gadgets that can assist players in the process of card counting while playing blackjack. However, these apps and gadgets are best used to learn the skill rather than in a real casino.

Is Card Counting Illegal?

The US and British laws do not prohibit card counting. The casinos, however, strictly prohibit players from using any external card counting device or person to assist them in counting cards. In general, casinos oppose card counting and try to prevent it. Often, they ban suspected card counters from playing in the casinos.

Even though many casinos do not have the legal right to ban players, but considering that a casino is a private property, they can kick card counters out. Some casinos, especially in Nevada, strictly prohibit the use of card counting apps and devices. The reason is that card counters can lower the house edge significantly, causing the casino to lose money.


Is blackjack card counting still possible?

Yes. However, the casinos have taken some countermeasures to prevent this practice. For example, many casinos use multiple decks of cards, CSMs, and even ban winners of large sums from playing.

Does card counting work in online blackjack?

Yes, it is possible to count cards in online blackjack as well. Some online casinos, however, use software that shuffles the cards after every hand, making card counting difficult.

How to practice card counting?

Counting cards involves assigning values to each card and keeping track of the count based on the dealt cards.

How do casinos prevent card counting?

Casinos use several methods to prevent card counting, including shuffling techniques, CSMs, and security measures to keep an eye on unusual betting patterns.

What is the potential income from card counting?

It might not always be profitable to count cards. However, in the long run, players who use the technique can expect to win 1% of their total action. For example, if they play 75 hands with an average bet of $25, that’s about $19 per hour.

How to count cards in blackjack?

Each card is assigned a value like +1, -1, or zero in card counting. The players need to keep track of their cards as they are dealt with based on these values. As the game progresses, bets are placed accordingly.

When should you bet in blackjack when counting cards?

It is generally advisable to increase the bet when the running count is positive and the undealt cards are mainly high. Conversely, the player should decrease their bet size when the running count is negative, and the undealt cards are low-card heavy.

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