A Card Counting Guide to Blackjack

Counting cards in blackjack is a technique used to give the player an advantage over the casino. And unlike the card counters depicted in Hollywood movies, you do not need to be a math genius from MIT or the Rain Man to count cards. There are several systems of counting cards used by the pros, and they range from basic card counting to more advanced counting systems. Like any system, practice makes perfect.


Wait. Isn’t Counting Cards Illegal?


Card counting is not technically illegal unless you are using a card-counting device of some kind. However, card counting in blackjack is frowned upon by casino owners for the simple reason that the strategy leaves the casino with a very slim edge to win against the player, unlike casino games that rely on luck only, like slot games. Gamblers who play blackjack using card counting systems are known to win consistently at casinos and their success is attributed to this strategy. You can also practice counting cards by playing blackjack online.

The important thing to remember is that casinos have to the right to ask any player to leave the casino at any time, for any reason. They don’t have to tell you that they suspect you of counting cards, they will just ask you to leave. But don’t worry, you won’t get roughed up like you see in the movies. But don’t be obvious when counting cards if you do choose to do so, and politely leave the premises if the casino staff asks you to.

Also, it is not advised to engage in card counting in casinos where you do not have the same legal rights you normally would, like a tribal casino. Since a tribal casino is located on tribal land, it is not subject to the same laws as the state where it is located. Simply stated: you can’t sue them if, while being escorted out of the casino for suspected card counting, you “accidentally trip and fall into a hard object.”

So Why Doesn’t Everyone Count Cards While Playing Blackjack?


Even if people aren’t afraid of being bounced from the casino by muscular thugs, there are several reasons why blackjack card counting is not widespread. The reasons range from the obvious to the sublime:


  • The casino has methods of detecting card counters, including video surveillance.
  • Blackjack dealers often use multiple decks, making it more difficult to count cards.
  • A casino pit boss can order a change of dealers and a re-shuffling of the cards.
  • Most people don’t know enough about blackjack betting to grasp card counting.


Thanks. Show Me How to Count Cards, Please.


Before you begin learning how to count cards in blackjack, it’s best to review a good blackjack game guide to make sure you fully understand the game. Once you are confident in your blackjack skills, you can try some basic blackjack card counting.

Blackjack card counting systems range from the simple to the complex, and follow a system of ascribing a positive, negative or a null value to each card.

Players maintain a running count of the cards, adding or subtracting as they appear. The count keeps track of the cards that have been played. The running count also reflects the value of the cards that have not been played. A higher count denotes the presence of aces and the high value cards in the pack, and gives the player an advantage.

Conversely, a negative count reflects the presence of low value of cards yet to be played. This would be to the casino’s advantage.


The Hi-Lo Card Counting System


A number of blackjack card counting systems are in use, but the Hi-Lo system is most commonly adopted by players. It assigns all cards between 2 and 6 a value of +1, and face cards and 10 a value of -1. Cards 7, 8 and 9 are null, valued at 0. The idea of the Hi-Lo system is to keep track of each and every card dealt during a blackjack round and assign them a value.

You do not need to remember the value of each card; just add and subtract the values continuously to get the ‘running count.’ The idea behind this method of counting cards is to get the running value of the cards that remain in the deck. When you determine whether or not the dealer is holding high cards or low cards, this is when you bet high or low.


Advanced Card Counting Systems


More advanced blackjack card counting systems like the Zen Count are fine-tuned to give players a higher level of accuracy and you can try them here at CoolCat Casino. Values of +2, -2 are given instead, with a separate side count of the aces being maintained by seasoned players.

Blackjack card counting needs plenty of practice and an understanding of the technique. Devised by Dr. Edward O. Thorp in 1962, an American mathematician, blackjack card counting has ensured that blackjack players always have the upper hand!

Laura Barton

Laura Barton is a self-declared "adventurer". Highly energetic and unpredictable, you will never find her without something to read on her hands. She loves casinos, after all it's in her blood: her father was a Las Vegas mogul and a former owner of some of the largest casino entertainment chains in the US. Loves rock climbing, surfing and playing drums.