Blackjack Card Counting Guide

Card counting is a tricky skill to master, but when you get the hang of it, it can be an effective strategy that can help you decrease the house edge in Blackjack.

Card counting works by keeping track of the high and low-value cards dealt during the game. In this article, we explain how it’s done and why it works.

What Is Card Counting?

Card counting is a technique used in card games like Blackjack that was created by the mathematician, Edward Thorp. He discovered that the player’s edge increases just by removing a single 2 from a deck of 52 cards. After testing his method, he devised a system that allowed players to have better odds which he subsequently published in the bestselling book Beat the Dealer.

Card counting helps players to estimate how likely the next card to be dealt will favour their hand or the dealer’s hand. To do this, players must keep a tally of the high and low value cards that are drawn during the game. If you think they’ll have the advantage over the house, you can increase their bets. Alternatively, if the casino stands a better chance, card counters will place smaller bets or none at all by opting out of playing.

While high-value cards (A, 10, J, Q, K) tend to favour the card counters, while the house stands a better chance with the low-value cards (2 – 6). It can go either way with the rest of the cards (7 – 9).

If you need a quick recap of the Blackjack hands and how best to play them, check out our How To Play Blackjack Hands blog now.

How Card Counting Works

There are four steps you need to follow if you want to incorporate the card counting technique in your game:

1. Assign a value to each card

2. The Running Count

3. The True Count

4. Increase/Decrease your bets depending on the True Count

Assign A Value to Every Card

The Hi-Low is the most commonly used system. With every card that is drawn you will either add 1, subtract 1 or do nothing at all as explained in the example below:

Cards 2 – 6 = value of 1

Cards 7 – 9 = 0

Cards 10 – Hard Ace (11) = -1

The Running Count

You will then need to keep tally of each card that comes out of the shoe. This step is also known as the running count. This method needs to be repeated for every card, every round, and until the dealer shuffles the cards again. Simply put, if the running count increases, the odds favour the player, if the it decreases, the house edge increases.

The True Count

To use the same running count in every deck, you have to calculate this in what is known as a True Count. This can be calculated by dividing the running count by the number of decks remaining.

For example, if you had a running count of 5 with just one deck remaining, there will be 5 extra 10’s and Aces in the remaining deck. In this case, the odds favour the player. If on the other hand you have a running count of 5 with 6 decks remaining, there is less than 1 high card left in a deck of 52 cards. Thus, the casino has the advantage.

Increase/Decrease Your Bets Depending On The True Count

Incorporating a good strategy is essential. By keeping track of both the running count and the true count, you’ll be able to know when you should increase or decrease your bets. For example, you must raise your bets if the true count rises, place big bets when the cards favour you and alternatively place small bets if the odds aren’t in your favour.

Does Card Counting Work?

If there are more 10s and Aces, automatically more Blackjacks will be dealt. Since Blackjacks pay 3:2, the likelihood that the dealer will lose is more common. On the other hand, if low-value cards are dealt, the dealer has a better chance to win.

Card Counting Online

You can certainly keep an eye on the Running Count and True Count during a game of online Blackjack, however, during an online game there’s not always a way to know if the deck has been reshuffled. Still you can practice your maths and basic card counting skills before you hit your local casino.

Card Counting Takes Time To Master, But It’s Worth It

It’s proven that card counting is an effective strategy that helps improve your chances of winning. Although it may take some time to fully master the skill of card counting, it’s not impossible either. We definitely recommend you to give it a go. And no, card counting is not illegal.