Card Counting in Blackjack. What is it and How Do I Do it?

Posted on June 10th, 2009

Blackjack card counting is perhaps one of the most widespread techniques used by blackjack players to improve their odds at 21. This is not a technique that is popular with the casinos, so don´t get caught doing it, but it´s an interesting exercise to study. There´s even an iPhone app out now that will help you do it. Obviously this is easier done when playing online blackjack, as you won´t have anyone looking over your shoulder.

Blackjack card counters do not have superhuman memories- rather they use tricks to help them to better predict the type of card that is likely to come out of the shoe.

The theory behind card counting is that in a card deck of 52 (or multiples of 52 for multiple deck games)  a deck that has a high percentage of face cards and aces gives the player an edge over the casino. This is because, among other reasons, a ‘natural’, (ace and a 10-value card), pays out 3-2,  whereas the casino only wins the bet with a blackjack.

If the casino deals itself a low hand first off (1st 2 cards) with a score of between 12 and 16, they must draw and are more likely to go bust if there are lots of high value cards about. Basically a deck with lots of face cards gives you, the player, an edge. A deck with lots of low value cards, gives the dealer an edge.

Generally speaking, you should be betting cautiously if you think there are lots of low cards left and betting aggressively if you think there are lots of faces, 10s and aces left.
So how do you count the cards easily without being a total egg-head? There are many different card counting methods – Here´s one of the simpler ones called the Hi-Lo Method

You attach a point value of +1, 0, or -1 to every card dealt to everyone playing, including the dealer. Aces, face cards and 10s are counted -1. 7, 8, 9 have a value of zero. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 each count as +1.

As the game progresses, you keep a running total of the score (it´s much easier to do this in a relative fashion like this). The higher the score, the better for you so up you bets. if the score is around nill points, the deck neither favours the player or the casino. The lower the score (ie the higher the negative value), the worse for you – in this case bet timidly.

Continue to try and play to a perfect strategy (ie the points at which you double down, hit, stay etc). The card counting score should only affect your betting level (or whether you actually bet at all).

The other thing you need to be aware of (particularly when playing online) is the number of decks used in the game and when the pack is shuffled. (At which point you have to reset your count).

If your card counting score is +2 or higher in a single deck game, you should up your bets. For multiple deck games your bet should be moved up when the REAL COUNT (or TRUE COUNT) is +2 or more.

To get to the TRUE COUNT, divide your score by the number of decks that are yet to be played (so you need to keep a track of the overall number of cards that have been dealt between shuffling. If you are playing online, read the smallprint and make sure you understand when the cards are shuffled.

So that´s the most basic system. Give it a go, and keep posted as we´ll be featuring some more complex systems in the future. Happy counting!

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