Rules and Strategy

How to Count Cards in Blackjack: It All Adds Up to Winning Results

blackjack card counting

As part of our Blackjack guide we have created a guide on how to count cards in blackjack. Learn all about the tactic and skill that has helped many people to win many millions from the casinos out there. Now, it is your turn and it is very much your time.

1. What is counting cards in blackjack and is it illegal?

To begin our guide on how to count cards in blackjack with a complete clarification on the legal and moral aspects of this practice.

When it comes to playing against the dealer at one of the casinos you are 100% going to want to hit the table with your best strategies to gain a distinct advantage over the house. In what form this advantage takes shape can come in a number of ways, a true don would, of course, be the card counter. To count cards in blackjack is common practice on the strips of Vegas, it’s undeniable that millions have been won through card counting, taking all the casino has through a very profitable player tactic.

1.1 Facts On the Law

Firstly, the strategy is not an illegal act under any law. No state, federal or local laws deem card counting in casinos as an illegal system. There has never been a prosecution of all the players which have done this and even been caught. The issue only comes in the form of casino rules. Those that play the game are under the rules of the house, therefore, no deck counting will be tolerated as you bet against the dealer at the table.

If caught by the casino, there is a high chance you will be evicted from the premises. So how does this translate to online casinos? Well, there frankly is no way a person could catch you out.

2. Is it hard to count cards?

The process is relative to a player’s mindset and determination. If you put enough practice and dedication into any field, you’ll succeed. The card counting technique is certainly a craft, those beginning will start with a single deck game, for players online, the issue is that there is no clarification of how many decks are actually used.

So, let us first look at the pros and cons of the technique which give users a high advantage over the dealer and the casinos they play in.

2.1 Pros of Counting

1. It is a hard skill to learn, though everyone can do it, not everyone has the determination to practice.

2. To do it in casinos, card counters are now finding it increasingly difficult to get away with it whilst playing their games. The number caught has more than doubled since the 80s.

3. If caught by the staff running the table, you will be banned from returning to the casino.

4. Players online will have no idea of the number of decks being used, so a budding card counter may struggle at first until they can suss out a working method.

There are a number of things to weigh up, is it good, bad, worth the time, worth the rewards? Yes, it is hard at first, but what isn’t when it comes to learning a new skill. Is it easy once you know it? Well, the results speak for themselves.

3. How does card counting work in blackjack?

The principle of the counting system is, of course, to gauge what cards remain within a deck whilst the game is played. The strategy of High-Low is a system which looks to subtract high cards from the lower ones through a points-based system.

Let’s discuss how the steps work for you to be able to become a true don of this deck counting system.

3.1 Step One: Points System

The Hi-Lo method is the easiest of all systems to practice. To start, the rule is to designate scores to the cards.

+1 point for cards 2 to 6

0 points for cards 7 to 9

-1 point for 10 to Ace

This is the simplicity of the rules and as each one is dealt you will then begin to add the points or subtract to help know what is left in the deck’s shoe.

3.2 Step Two: Keeping Count

Examples of keeping count as the cards begin to be dealt from the shoe.

Game 1:

Player 1: 2 of Hearts and an Ace = 0 points

Player 2: Jack of Clubs and 10 of Clubs = -2 points

Player 3: 7 of Hearts and 3 of Spades = +1 point

Dealer: 6 of Diamonds = +1 point

The total of this round would be a score of zero points.

Game 2:

Player 1: Ace and 3 of Hearts = 0 points

Player 2: King of Diamonds and 5 of Diamonds = 0 points

Player 3: 7 of Hearts and 2 of Spades = +1 point

Dealer: 8 of Clubs = 0 point

The total of this round would be a score of +1 point

Game 3: With players hitting

Player 1: Ace and 3 of Hearts and a 9 of Clubs = 0 points

Player 2: King of Diamonds and 5 of Diamonds and 6 of Diamonds = +1 point

Player 3: 7 of Hearts and 2 of Spades and a 10 of Spades = 0 point

Dealer: 8 of Clubs and a Jack of Spades and a 6 of Spades = 0 point

The total of this round would be a score of +1 point

The pattern of play does this for every round and for every game until the cards are shuffled. This is why many will play and bet through single deck games if the option of the table is clear that 52 cards will be used.

3.3 Step Three: Calculations

In order for casinos to stop counter for playing games like this, they add multiple decks, which as you can imagine, would require a longer time to learn and therefore pick up a more difficult technique.

In order to retain an edge over the house, the counter can use the ‘True Count’ approach. Having a score of +5 with 6 decks remaining in a game poses something totally different if there was only 1 deck remaining.

There are two instances for the ‘True Count’ to become a necessity.

1. If there was 1 less high card per deck, there would be no advantage, the number of high cards bears no importance but it’s the concentration of them in relation to the low numbers.

2. If in a game your count is +5 and only a single deck remained, we’d know that there are going to be five 10’s and Aces, this gives the player the edge.

The True Count is, therefore, the Running Count divided by the Decks Remaining.

Example:

The Running Count is 10 and Decks Remaining is 5, the True Count score is 2 because 10 ÷ 5 = 2.

If the Running Count is at -7 and Deck Remaining is 2, the True Count score is -3 because -7 ÷ 2 = -3.

This is a good way to keep on top of the scores as decks clear round after round. This is the most basic online technique, which will take time to master as each hand is dealt over a long game.

3.4 Step Three: Bet Changes

There are now two areas the player has to keep count of in order for them to gain advantages over the house. The bet changes come with the score of the True Count, the higher the score rises, the more you increase your blackjack bets. So, if the scores in the negative and the casino has the edge, perform low bets.

Card counting in a casino is by no means an easy task, but your time playing online can work if you simply use this method and start to practice the systems with a pen and paper to hand.

4. How can I practice counting cards by myself?

We now come to the section on how to practice card counting. The requirements include;

✅ Time!

✅ Knowledge of the basic rules.

✅ A positive approach when you start.

Here we breakdown what is a very basic, yet effective card counting trainer guide. Knowing what the shoe contains would be a good start, but alas, we must approach this blind as we would in the casino.

4.1 Part One: The Basics

This one is simple! Click here to access the Player’s Chart. Recite the movements indicated on the chart every day you play blackjack. Practice with Splits first and if you get an Ace, you always split, if you get a 10 never split. With 9s, you split up through 9, except with there is a 7. Run through the chart like this and over time, you’ll master the movements of the game.

You can use the chart whilst playing free games, this way there are no risks involved whilst teaching yourself the chart.

blackjack strategy

4.2 Part Two: Running Count

Focus on counting through a deck of cards with their points, you should read the end of the deck with a score of zero. If this is not the case, then something has gone wrong and try again. You need to start familiarizing yourself to how the cards become a whole new language, by this, you need to start reading cards not as their number or suit but as their points value.

4.3 Part Three: True Count

The old-school approach of this is to write numbers down on scrap pieces of paper and to draw them from a hat and learn to start dividing the results by six, assuming we are practicing for a 6 deck game, you can alternate relative to the number of decks you wish to learn.

5. Is the movie 21 based on a true story?

Before you take on the house and have your cards dealt, you may want to watch the movie 21. One of the best blackjack related movies made with the game being the central focus.

Starring Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth, the movie is actually based on a novel called Binging Down the House by Ben Mezrich. It is a true story of the MIT blackjack team which played during the 90s. The team consisted of five players who were trained in becoming experts in card counting. With the skills acquired, they took millions from Vegas casinos.

If there was evidence enough that you can count the cards that are dealt and profit from the changes in bets as more hands land on the table, one after another, then this single story points the finger at the theory and confirmed it to be one that works and works effectively and efficiently.

6. How do casinos know when someone is counting cards?

So, what are the signs the casino picks up that someone is using a card counting strategy against the house?

Well, in a game that is not online, it is very easy to tell when someone is trying to use this strategy. Because of the signs in how players place their bets with the hands received. Because the best technique to bet high or low relative to the True Count the signs are there. Plus, casinos hire the best former card counters to spot another. Another big single indicator is that the bets placed will be more frequently higher towards the end of the shoe, rather than the beginning.

Other signs of a card counter include:

✅ Splitting 10s, which, in a ‘normal’ game, is a big no-no.

✅ Insurance betting, which hardly anyone takes, so this means they are unsure of their count but have a good idea.

✅ Surrendering on a 15 when the dealer has a 10.

7.Counting Summary: Concluding our guide with some final tips to help you with online blackjack games

We end with a roundup of tips and commonly asked questions on the subject. This will be the perfect fresher before you head off to test the theory and system yourself.

7.1 FAQ

  • Q: Is Card Counting Illegal? A: Short Answer is No.
  • Q: Can you Make a Living as a Pro Card Counter? A: Depends on the success of the person, but it has been done and those which had been caught before, continue to do the same to this day.
  • Q: Which is the Best System? A: Hi-Lo is the best because of its practical nature. There are many other systems which reduce the edge, lowers and increases when you bet and so on, but they are more mathematically driven and become less practical in a live gaming situation.
  • Q: What Way is the Best Way to Train? A: Time, patience and practice. You can have friends help, you can do this alone, but without the three factors, you won’t get very far.
  • Q: Does this really work online? A: The theory would allow it to work, in practice, it should be a lot easier, the only downside is you have no idea of how many decks are being used.

7.2 Top Tips

☆ Practice the basic rules of Hi-Lo.

☆ Start with smaller stakes as you develop your skills.

☆ Increase your bets when the score is at +2 or higher.

☆ Don’t play into the casino’s hands, take a hit and lose so you’re not caught out.

☆ Take a break if you play long games at the same table, just so the dealer doesn’t get suspicious.


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