Card Counting

So you want to learn how to count cards in Blackjack? As mentioned in the Basic Strategy section, Card Counting is a very effective strategy to increase your chances of winning. If you master the techniques you can even turn the tables and acquire an edge over the house! Of course… offline casinos don’t like card counters and will try to rid themselves of these successful players the moment they can identify them. If you play online, however, you are not timed and can practice all you want with free playmoney to see how well it goes and how large a profit you can expect to make.

card counting

The basics of a card counting system

There are many card counting systems, such as the world famous High Low Card Counting System and the relatively easy to learn KO Card counting system, but they all have the same underlying principles. Research has shown that the deck works in favour of the player when it contains a high proportion of high value cards (such as Jacks and Kings), while a high proportion of low value cards in the deck (such as 3’s and 5’s) works in the advantage of the house. High cards are beneficial to the player because it means Blackjacks will be dealt more often, which yield higher payouts, and the House is more likely to go bust. In addition, doubling is more effective, and getting insurance also becomes profitable.

Decks with a high proportion of high-value cards to low-value cards work hugely in favour of the player.

The idea of a card counting system is to start playing with low bets, observe which cards are being dealt, and wait for the table to become more favourable to the player. Using your Card Counting System you can then keep track of the Running Count which shows whether the deck has relatively more high or low value cards left. This may sound daunting but don’t worry, you don’t need to remember every card that has been played! The trick is to keep playing with low bets until the deck has a high proportion of high value cards. At this point you can begin to play more agressively, raising your bets because your chances to beat the dealer have increased. The MIT Blackjack Team has become world-famous (and infamous, from the casinos’ point of view) by applying this technique in casinos all over the world and winning millions in cash!

Three steps in card counting to beat the dealer

There are three steps to applying a Card Counting System:

  1. Keep track of the Running Count using a specific card counting system.
  2. Convert the Running Count to the True Count.
  3. Adjust your bets and strategy to beat the dealer.

Keeping track of the Running count with your Card Counting System

How you keep track of the running count depends on the specific card counting system you use. With each card that is dealt you will adjust the value of the running count. The higher the running count, the more favourable the deck is to you. Below, we will show you the Card Counting Systems that have been developed and extensively tested. Some card counting systems are more detailed and will therefore more accurately reflect how favourable the table is, but these are more difficult to master. We strongly advise you to start with the more simple systems first.

New to card counting? Do yourself a favour and start off with a simple system!
  • High Low Card Counting System

    This is the most basic of card counting systems. The High Low Card Counting System is relatively easy to learn and very effective, thus rendering it the card counting system of choice for most players as well as those new to card counting.

  • KO Card Counting System

    The KnockOut Card Counting Cystem is the most well-known example of an unbalanced system. The great advantage of the KO Card Counting System for players is that you don’t need to convert the running count to a true count, while sacrificing only very little accuracy. This is the easiest system to use.

  • Hi Opt 1 Card Counting System

    A more complicated card counting system, and more difficult to master than the basic Hi Lo or KO systems. The Hi Opt 1 Card Counting System is for experienced Blackjack card counters who want a true count that more precisely reflects their odds against the House.

  • Hi Opt 2 Card Counting System

    As one of the most demanding card counting systems the Hi Opt 2 Card Counting System will require your complete focus in Blackjack. The advantage is that this system more than any other will provide you with a true count that will precisely reflect your advantage. Only experienced players should attempt this system since it requires a great affinity with the game and long stretches of unwavering concentration.

Converting the Running Count to the True Count

You then need to convert the running count into the true count by dividing your running count by the number of decks not yet played. You do this because most card counting systems become more accurate when more cards have been played. So, for example, if your running count is +6 and only 1 of 4 decks have been played (three decks are still in the shoe and one deck is in the discarded cards tray) you divide +6 by 3 and the true count is +2.

Convert the Running Count into the True Count by dividing by the number of decks still left in the shoe.

So how do you gauge how many decks are still left? Most players look at the discarded cards tray and estimate how many decks those cards make up. You can also look at the cards still left in the shoe, but that is more likely to result in an unreliable estimate since they are not always packed stiff. You can also count all cards that have been played (or count the number of hands played and multipy those by 2.7 cards per hand on average). All these methods might distract you from keeping up your running count, however, and so by far most players decide to just look at the discarded cards tray.

The higher the true count is, the higher the proportion of high cards in the deck and the more likely you are to beat the dealer at blackjack. When that happens you should increase your bets, double more often, and win lots of money at that table. You should remember that the higher the true count in the High Low Card Counting System is, the more the deck is stacked in your favour.

Profitability vs the True Count: Beat the dealer when it’s high

So to what extent are the decks in your favour when you’ve reached a True Count of +5? After putting all that effort into counting the cards you ought to be be curious about how much you’ve actually improved your chances of winning. Take a look at the figure below showing the expected values of your bets at different True Counts based on simulations.

true count and profitability

This figure shows that the expected value of playing already turns positive when the table count reaches +1, and that a serious edge over the house presents itself at tables with table counts of +5 and higher. So the higher the positive count of the table, the more aggressive you can afford to be in betting and raising bets. When these opportunities present themselves you should adjust your strategy. You could stand more often, hoping for the house to go bust, or double more often and raise your bets. The more favourable the table is, the more you should raise your bets! Of course, card counting does not guarantee success, but it guarantees significantly increasing your chances of winning. And if you play by the system, you will always win in the long run.

Use a card counting system to identify favourable decks, so that you can play and bet more aggressively, and win big.

Note: Make sure you have a large enough bankroll and choose the right table

Players who engage in card counting blackjack strategies are advised to have a significant bankroll available to them. Make the most of that bankroll by choosing a table with the right stakes, stakes which will allow you to make a sufficient profit without being high enough to deplete your bankroll should you be dealt a couple of bad hands in a row. Most experts advise to have a bankroll of 100 times the maximum bet per hand. That may sound like a lot, but remember that your bankroll needs to last you long enough to make your strategy count. Choose a card counting system, learn it by heart, and beat the dealer every time the deck turns to your advantage!