Card counting is known to spark a heated discussion, often leaving players wondering whether or not this math-based strategy is even allowed. So today, we will show you how to count cards in Blackjack and have a valuable ace up your sleeve while playing one of the most popular casino games.
Blackjack card counting can be tricky; it's not a method that can be picked up in a few minutes and takes a lot of practice and patience. You'll need to learn a strategy, but that's where we come in! We can explain what it is and how it works.
We have some expert tips for beginners through to pros, and we're going to clear up some common misconceptions on the most talked-about Blackjack strategy. So, by the time you've finished learning how to count cards at Blackjack, you can visit your favourite online casino to put it into practice.
Although frowned upon by casinos, card-counting is perfectly legal as long as you use your memory and refrain from using any kind of software, which we will go over a bit later.
Now let's start, shall we?
What Is Card Counting In Blackjack?
Counting cards in Blackjack is a mathematical strategy that can help you gain a probable advantage on the next hand to beat the dealer. Card-counting Blackjack players will keep a count of the high and low-value cards used in the game to gain the edge over the casino.
When you learn how to count cards in Blackjack, you'll see that it comes with difficulty levels. To become an advanced card counter, you'll need precise calculations, which you can learn over time.
If you are an experienced player in card counting online Blackjack, you will often know when to raise your bets. After all, you're gaining an advantage, so you'd want to make maximum profit from it. Vice versa, if you know the dealer has the advantage, as a card counter, you would probably decrease your bet or not bet at all.
How Does Card Counting in Blackjack Work?
Learning how to count cards in Blackjack helps you pick the most opportune times to increase or decrease your bet, should your budget allow it.
When the game starts, there will always be an equal amount of high and low-value cards in the deck.
In Blackjack, how to count cards is a strategic process whereby you assign a positive, negative, or zero value to every card like so:
- Cards 2-6: +1
- Cards 7-9: 0
- Cards 10- Ace: -1
You will use these values to count cards instead of using their face values as they are dealt, so either add one, take one away or do nothing for high-value cards for each new card that gets dealt; this is called keeping a running count. It is a vital stage in the strategic process and takes patience to master.
If the running count increases, you will start to gain an advantage, and you could consider raising your bets at this time if your budget permits. However, if the running count decreases, it means the casino is gaining an advantage, and it would not be wise to raise your bet.
Now, let's look at the differences when you're playing with one deck versus multiple decks of cards:
How to count cards in Blackjack with a single deck? With one deck, this simple strategy works well and allows you to know when it's advantageous to adjust your bet sizes; however, online casinos began to figure out what players were doing. So they started using multiple decks to try and prevent players from counting cards.
How to count cards in Blackjack with several decks? With multiple decks, you need to gain what is called a True Count, and it'll prove to be very valuable to you; we'll talk in more detail about it later.
How to count cards in Blackjack with 6 decks left? This is different to counting cards with one deck left. To help master what a True Count is you can use the running count divided by how many decks are left. As the count gets higher and more cards are played, the better your advantage will be.
Basic Blackjack Card Counting Strategy
You can use a card counting online Blackjack strategy and it doesn't need to be complicated at all! In fact, one of the most straightforward strategies is the Hi-Lo system which we'll take a look at now.
Hi-Lo Card Counting Strategy
This is one of the most popular strategies that is used because it's perfect for beginners, it's not too hard to master, and it is a balanced system. We already briefly touched on it above, whereby you assign each card a value.
High cards are great in a game of Blackjack, but they get assigned a -1 value in card counting, which means your advantage decreases. Whereas low-value cards get a +1 value, and since 7's, 8's, and 9's don't benefit either yourself or the dealer, they're assigned a 0 value.
When applying a Hi-Lo strategy, you will always start at zero before the dealer deals a card. The cards will then be dealt in a particular order, and you must start the running count. When more moves are made, you should be adding these values to your running count, including the dealer's cards.
When your running count increases, it's time to increase your bet according to your budget. When your running count decreases, it's time to lower your bet to minimise your losses.
Advanced Blackjack Card Counting Strategies
How hard is card counting in Blackjack? As hard as you make it! You can go with basic strategies, or you can up your game with some of these more advanced strategies:
Omega Ii Strategy
This advanced strategy works slightly differently from the Hi-Lo, which assigns values +/-1 because Omega Ii has a broader value scale as follows:
- Cards 4,5,6: 2 Points
- Cards 2, 3, 7: 1 Point
- Cards 8, A: 0 Value
- Card 9: -1 Points
- Cards 10, J, Q, K: -2 Points
You keep the same running count as you would with Hi-Lo, and the formula remains the same! Divide your running count by how many decks are left in the game. This overall strategy will give you a more precise advantage on the actual count.
If you want to become a more experienced card counter, this strategy can help, but you have to master it down to a tea. If you get this wrong, it's going to cost you! It would help if you also kept a separate side count of the Aces. Your ultimate goal is to get Blackjack, so counting the Aces can give you the upper hand.
Hi-Opt I & II Strategy
This strategy gives you two different options, which we have already discussed above. It remains a balanced system, and you will keep the same running count to allow you to decide when you should be changing your bets.
Here is how they differ:
Hi-Opt I Values:
- Cards 3, 4, 5, 6: +1 Value
- Cards K, Q, J, 10: -1 Value
- Cards Ace, 2, 7, 8, 9: 0 Value
Hi-Opt II Values:
- Cards: 2, 3, 6, 7: +1 Value
- Cards 4, 5: +2 Value
- Cards 10, J, Q, K: - 2 Value
- Cards Ace, 8, 9: 0 Value
Wong Halves Strategy
If you have a lot of patience and are determined to master card counting at a pro-level, the Wong Halves strategy is one of the more difficult ones to learn. It has more values to remember as follows:
- Card 5: 1.5 points
- Cards 3, 4, 5: 1 point
- Cards 2, 7: 0.5 points
- Card 8: 0 points
- Card 9: -0.5 points
- Cards 10, J, 1, K, A: 0 points
One of the reasons this strategy is so tricky is that it uses fractions, making it very difficult to master. However, if you think you have what it takes to crack this one, your card counting accuracy levels will improve. When it comes to predicting bets, it's near perfect!
You will keep the same running count as you would in the other strategies, and you could also increase your bet as your true count increases if your budget permits. Naturally, when the dealer has the house edge, you should decrease.
Also known as the knock-out system to count cards Blackjack, and is suitable for beginners and intermediate levels. This strategy has some similarities to the HI-Lo one we mentioned above with the following values:
- Cards: 10, J, Q, K, Aces: -1 Value
- Cards 2 - 7: +1 Value
- Cards: 8, 9: 0 Value
The difference between these strategies is that this one is not balanced. Once the cards have been dealt, the final count will not be 0.
Team Card Counting
Finally, the strategy created by a bunch of students called the MIT Blackjack Team back in the 1980s. They used the strategy with the Hi-Lo system, assigning the same values but also used a three-person team with the following:
- One big value player
- One controller
- One spotter
The person counting the cards is the spotter and, once verified, they signal the big player to change their bet according to the count.
How To Count Cards With Multiple Decks
How do you count cards in Blackjack with multiple decks? You must convert your running count into a true count. To deter players from card counting, casinos started to use multiple decks, but a true count ensures that the card counting system can be used, regardless of how many decks there are.
The true count will help you decide who has the house edge, and determine how many high-value cards are left.
Tips For Mastering Card Counting
Card counting is time-consuming and requires patience at its finest. Here are some tips to help you master it:
Learn the Basic Strategy
Don't run before you can walk! Card counting sounds pretty lucrative, right? But there's no point going straight in at the deep end; instead, learn the basic strategy, and once you master that, you can move on to the more difficult ones.
You'll be playing with your hard-earned cash, and sometimes you will lose. If you go into the game without knowing the basic strategy, you might as well be throwing your money away.
The best card counters in the world did not reach that level overnight! Learning to count cards is going to take you some time, and before you start playing with real money, you need to get some practice first. You can refer to our recommended card counting apps below for more information.
If you're a complete newbie, we suggest that you start with our definite Blackjack guide first. It will walk you through the ins and outs of the game, before you proceed to master the art of card counting.
Remember, you don't want the casino to know that you are counting cards, so being able to do it fast is vital and will only come with practice.
Learn the Values
Memorise which cards have which value, depending on which strategy you are using. This is why, to start with, you should pick the easiest ones, not to confuse the values which could cost you in the long run.
Understanding the values will help you decide when it is most advantageous for you to increase or decrease your bets. If you're making wrong decisions here, you're going to lose more than you could ever win.
Blackjack Card Counting Apps
If by now you want to improve your Blackjack skills with card counting, it's time to start considering how to learn it. It is not by any means easy to master. After all, no casino is ever going to make it easy for you to gain the advantage!
It's not something you can pick up overnight, but if you have the patience to learn the skill of card counting, it could come in handy. Some Blackjack card counting apps can help you pick up all the tips and tricks needed when using iOS and Android.
When considering which app to use, take notice of the app rating first and check out any reviews. You may need to pay a fee to download these apps, so pick wisely. Here are a few you could choose from:
- Card Counter Lite
- Blackjack Card Counter
- Blackjack & Card Counting Pro
You don't have to use an app, but they are there to make the learning process easier and it allows you to practice without the pressure of playing in a real casino.
Note that using any kind of card-counting apps in a casino amounts to a fraud and may prompt a casino to ban you from visiting. The aforementioned apps are for practicing purposes only, so keep that in mind when downloading.
Is Counting Cards Illegal?
There are no laws that surround card counting; however, casinos do frown upon it and have come up with ways to counteract it. This includes using multiple decks, making it much more difficult, and reshuffling decks.
Whilst you cannot get in legal trouble for card counting, you could risk being banned from a casino if you are classified as a 'big winner'. You should check the casino's terms and conditions to see if there are any rules around card counting, as each casino is different.
However, you should not have the help of any card counting device as this could result in any winnings being forfeited, including card counting apps. They should be used solely for practicing.
Blackjack Card Counting Myths
Card counting has been around for years, so naturally, there are some myths around the strategy which we can hello crush now:
You'll Always Win
Do not allow yourself to be lured in under false pretenses. You will still lose sometimes, regardless of how good a card counter you are! The difference is that experienced card counters will be able to understand the variance and be able to bet when they have the advantage.
You Need a Mathematical Brain
As with any strategy, practice makes perfect. You don't need to be a mathematical genius to be able to count cards though. You will need to be able to memorise a running count in your head, and yes, at first, it's going to be tricky. But the more you practice, the more you'll get the hang of it.
You're Owed a Win
Remember, you're not owed anything from the cards. There is never a guarantee to win, even with card counting! If, after taking risks, you find yourself in a sticky situation, it is time to leave the table.
Others' Mistakes Make You Lose
Every player at the Blackjack table will have different levels of skill and strategy; yes, sometimes, this can give the dealer an edge. However, there is no evidence to suggest that it will affect you in the long run.
It's a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
It's not! There is no such thing when it comes to casino games! Card counting takes a lot of time to master, and it's not for everyone!
You should remember that however much you master card counting, there will always be a casino working twice as hard to discourage you from winning. It can be fun and help you win. But remember, ultimately, the casino will always have the house edge, and you should only bet what you can afford to lose.