How Do You Count Cards in Blackjack?

Posted on July 8th, 2013

This is the skill that everyone wants to know how to do when they hit the casino. The casinos don’t like it (don’t get caught), but if you keep it in your head, how are they going to find out? We look at card counting in this blackjack tips article, and we discuss how to do it.

Counting cards in blackjack doesn’t mean that you have to memorise every single card as it comes out of the shoe. If card counting was that much of a mind bender, few people would do it, even in the good old days when casinos played with single-decks  with all the cards. Start playing 4 or even 8-deck games, and that would be impossible. Or at least an incredible feat.

People who count cards in blackjack take advantage of changing odds in blackjack as the game progresses. In roulette or on slot machines, the odds or payout are fixed to be the same day in, day out. In blackjack, the odds ashift as the game progresses and become more favorable to the player when the deck contains alot of 10s and picture cards (also worth 10). With a ten rich deck, your odds of getting a blackjack are higher. The dealer’s are too, of course, blackjack pays out 3:2 to the player and nothing to the dealer.

And if you are doubled-down, the % of 10-value cards available to hit is greater: if the dealer’s face up card is 2 through to 6, there’s a good chance that the dealer will go bust.

So card counters try and monitor this 10s %, not by remembering every card in the deck, but by monitoring the richness of 10 value cards and aces. When the deck is hot for the player, they ramp up their bets. When the deck is unfavorable, they water down their bets.

Counting is done with a plus-and-minus system. The best card counting systems track aces as well as 10 value cards, but we suggest you start by monitoring the tens only

The most popular card counting system is hi-lo. All you so is add one for 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s and take one away for 10s, jacks, queens, kings and aces. All other cards are 0. Then you keep track of the running total, called the running count.

You can also factor in the amount of decks in the shoe (the more decks, the more dilution). So, in an eight-deck game, if the running count is +8 and about 4 decks are left in the shoe (roughly), your true count is +2. Just divide the 2 numbers.

Then, all you do, is to vary your bet based on the running count. Say you are betting  $10 a hand. When the true count hits +2, bet $20. If it hits -2, bet $5. This is kind of a positive progression system where you hope to acccelerate your wins and pare down your losses- bear in mind that you’ll need more budget to cope with any swings in luck if your betting increases.

Remember, even on big positive running counts, you can lose. It’s just that your odds are better.

Be careful! Is card counting legal? Well, yes, but if the casino spots you counting cards, it can take action. Casinos will ban card counters. Keep your sessions relatively short (max 1 hour) and practise at home first. Good luck.

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