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Card Counting in Blackjack

This guide will provide comprehensive information on the card counting strategy, what it is, how to use it, the various methods available, its applications in various blackjack decks, its legality, FAQs about the strategies, and more.

Card counting is somewhat a mystery to gamblers who have never counted cards. Perhaps this is because those who count seem more courageous than most other players who couldn’t. It captivates and entices the latter to educate themselves on the distinctive and strategic notion.

In some cases, gamblers are curious about this blackjack strategy because there are tales of tenacious individuals who were able to turn a basic technique into a very lucrative source of income. So, they want to discover a strategy to win the most money possible while gambling in casinos. 

Whichever it may be, it is undeniable that card counting changes your approach to the game in several ways. When counting, you give each card a value, which you add to the “tally” when the cards are dealt. You will often wager more when the “count” is high and less when it is low.

What is Card Counting?

Card counting is the strategy of keeping a record of how many high and low cards are left in the dealer’s deck. If you can effectively count cards, you may boost your stake when the chances are in your favor, increasing your probability of winning big.

Remember, however, that card counting is not for learning how to win blackjack regularly or how to cheat at blackjack. It’s only an additional set of skills designed to give you a better understanding of what the deck comprises.

How do You Count Cards?

To correctly count cards in blackjack, whether online or at a casino, you must maintain a running total based on the face value of any cards shown.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Assign card values of +1 (cards 2-6), 0 (cards 7-9), or -1 (cards 10-Ace).
  2. Keep a running tally while the dealer draws cards from the deck, using the abovementioned values.
  3. Provided you maintain an accurate count when the cards are dealt, you will be able to track the worth of the remaining cards.
  4. If the count is negative after each round, raise your wager quantity. This is because there will be a significant number of low-value cards left. If the count is positive, reduce your wager.

Card Counting Methods

Hi-Lo System

High cards benefit players; however, they are given a value of -1 since a player’s advantage decreases as fewer high cards remain in the deck. Because low cards benefit the dealer, they are valued at +1. 7s, 8s, and 9s have no value since neither the dealer nor the player can profit from them.

Because the total of the High, Neutral, and Low cards in a deck equals zero, the Hi-Lo method is considered a ‘balanced’ counting strategy. The Hi-Lo technique necessitates keeping a tally of all cards used in the game and those possessed by the dealer and other gamers. This is known as the “running count.”

VALUE COUNT
2, 3, 4, 5, 6 +1
7, 8, 9 0
10, J, Q, K, A -1
Example of Hi-Lo system card counting strategy

KISS

KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) is a card counting system with three formats: KISS I, II & III. The latest versions of KISS provide players with an edge over the casino. This method is straightforward to grasp and doesn’t need complicated calculations.

Its simplicity makes it ideal for beginner players. The rationale is that the algorithm ignores half of the deck’s cards. This makes counting and keeping track of the cards easier and reduces the likelihood of mistakes.

*(KISS III)

VALUE COUNT
3, 4, 5, 6, 7 +1
2 Black +1
2 Red 0
8, 9 0
10, J, Q, K, A -1
Example of KISS card counting strategy

Wong Halves

“Wonging” is a card counting (back counting) method named after John Ferguson’s alias Stanford Wong. “Wonging” refers to his approach of studying blackjack tables, counting the deck, and entering only when the count favored the player.

This strategy reduces “operation costs” since you don’t pay until you sit at a “hot” table. This approach lets players avoid playing every hand they count. In essence, it minimizes bankroll volatility, boosting the player’s edge.

VALUE COUNT
2, 7 +0.5
3, 4, 6 +1
5 +1.5
8 0
9 -1.5
10, J, Q, K, A -1
Example of Wong Halves card counting strategy

Red Seven

Red Seven is a level-one system that’s straightforward to understand. This approach covers card counting basics, so players may easily learn it. Since it is easy to memorize, it creates a dependable and precise strategy that offers players a chance to win.

The mechanism assigns cards a value by counting. As the name suggests, the number seven is key. That’s because a red seven receives +1 while a black seven gets -0.

VALUE COUNT
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, +1
7 Red +1
7 Black 0
10, J, Q, K, A -1
Example of Red Seven card counting strategy

Omega II

Omega II is more sophisticated than any of the above card counting systems. Even if its layouts are harder to memorize, your efforts will pay off if you can get the hang of it. This approach enhances blackjack players’ chances of winning significantly.

It offers them crucial information so they can bet wisely. When players can acquire an edge over the casino and boost their profit, they should take it.

VALUE COUNT
2, 3, 7 +1
4, 5, 6 +2
8, A 0
9 -1
10, J, Q, K, -2
Example of Omega II card counting strategy

Zen Count

Zen Count is a level-2 card counting strategy that helps players beat the casino by employing simple point values. It’s quite challenging to master this strategy, so it’s not ideal for novices.

The Zen system includes intricacies; thus, players should practice well before executing it. You shouldn’t go to the casino if you can’t remember the system at home. Gambling via trial and error may lead to considerable losses.

VALUE COUNT
2, 3, 7 +1
4, 5, 6 +2
8, A 0
9 -1
10, J, Q, K, -2
Example of the Zen count card counting strategy

K-O 

(Knock Out) is a card counting approach similar to Hi-Lo and a level-one system. It assigns point values to the cards in the deck to assist players in keeping track of them more readily. In this method, the cards are tallied the same as in Hi-Lo. The only card with a changed value is the number seven, which receives +1 instead of 0.

This approach can be quickly learned. Therefore, novices may take advantage of its advantages if they implement it appropriately. Understanding the system’s reasons will assist them in remembering the allocated counting value and utilizing it when required.

VALUE COUNT
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 +1
8, 9 0
10, J, Q, K, A -1
Example of Knock Out card counting strategy

Hi-Opt I&II

Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II are card counting variants of Hi-Opt (Highly Optimum). The Hi-Opt II features new point values and is level 2. Hi-Opt I is level one, but less complex than the other. The new Hi-Opt systems are too sophisticated for novices.

Players require expertise and understanding of other systems and techniques to understand them. If players comprehend and use Hi-Opt methods properly, their odds of winning are considerably high.

HI-OPT I

VALUE COUNT
3, 4, 5, 6 +1
2, 7, 8, 9, A 0
10, J, Q, K, -1
Example of HI-OPT I card counting strategy

HI-OPT II

VALUE COUNT
4, 5 +2
2, 3, 6, 7 +1
8, 9, A 0
10, J, Q, K, -2
Example of HI-OPT II card counting strategy

Counting Cards with One Deck

Using the Hi-Lo method, players need just the current count in single-deck games to determine their advantage. The true count is not necessary. This lets you devote more time to applying fundamental strategies to counting your cards.

Blackjack games with a single deck are ideal for novice card counters. They provide tremendous odds for players, and it is simpler for novice counters to keep track of their advantage. In addition, the house advantage in single-deck blackjack is just 0.16%.

Online casinos may occasionally impose limits on single-deck blackjack games to tilt the odds in their favor. Restricting re-splits or allowing the dealer to hit on soft 17 are frequent regulations limiting a player’s actions and, subsequently, earnings.

Counting Cards with Multiple Decks

Players must change their running count to the true count when playing multi-deck blackjack games with any balanced counting system, such as Hi-Lo. The true count assures that any card counting strategy in blackjack may be employed, irrespective of the number of decks in play. This allows you to modify your wagers and determine how many high-value cards remain in the shoe.

Card counting primarily entails giving a numerical value to each card that has been dealt; however, there are other techniques for doing so.

  • Cards valued 2 through 6 = +1
  • Cards valued 7-9 = 0
  • Cards valued at ten and aces: -1

With each card handled, you add 1, deduct 1, or add zero according to the value of each recognizable card and keep a running total.

History of Card Counting

First, there is the 1956 Journal of the American Statistical Association article titled “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack.” Roger Baldwin postulated that mathematics might be used for blackjack and that employing probability and calculators may provide a significant advantage in the game.

Then, Edward Thorp authored the book Beat the Dealer in 1963. Thorp developed and polished Baldwin’s concepts in this smash bestseller while adding new methods, including “first card counting techniques” and the “ten count system.”

Edward’s book caused blackjack’s popularity to skyrocket as readers worldwide sought to replicate his strategies. Casinos had to be far above his tactics to maintain their earnings.

Card Counting Tips

Card counting methods may be easy, but it might be difficult for certain players to keep up when combined with basic strategy. To attain a certain level of success, you must practice card counting until it becomes instinctive. 

Work on the following exercises;

  • Take a single deck of playing cards and maintain a running tally of each card.
  • Remove one card from the deck and maintain a running tally; you should know the card’s worth at the end.
  • Time yourself; the more number of cards you can count precisely within that time frame, the greater your card counting abilities will advance.
  • Use a blackjack card counting app.

When you use a card counting app, you get to;

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice your bet spread before entering a casino.
  • Avoid the temptations of actual money and casinos.
  • Accumulate a virtual bankroll before wagering real money.
  • Explore the swings.
  • Acquire some practice with your bet spread before heading to the casino.

Here are some top card counting apps:

  • Blackjack Card Counter by Poulet Maison Ptd Ltd.
  • Blackjack 21 by Theotino
  • Card Counter Lite by TMSOFT
  • Blackjack Card Counting Practice by KBIC International Ltd
  • Blackjack Tracker by Rohn Media GmbH
  • Blackjack & Card Counting Pro by Blackjack Apprenticeship.

Card Counting Blackjack Myths

IF YOU’RE CAUGHT CARD COUNTING, YOU’LL BE SENT OUT BY THE CASINOS, OR YOU COULD EVEN BE ROUGH HANDLED.

Casinos are increasingly more cautious with card counters. Card counters may be asked to quit playing blackjack in particular (but not all) gambling jurisdictions (or tell him to leave the property). All card counters suffer this, but the risk is not as pronounced as claimed.

MASTERING CARD COUNTING TAKES A LIFETIME

Traditional card counting takes time to perfect (but certainly not a lifetime). Newer systems concentrate more on simplicity and ease of use. Although they may not have the exact potential as a sophisticated counting system, they take newbie players just hours to understand how to count cards in blackjack.

YOU NEED A RICH BANKROLL TO CARD COUNT

No, you don’t. The essential thing is having a sufficient bankroll regarding your wager amount to sustain short-term losing streaks (remember, you cannot win every time you play). You need to reduce the minimum bet amount if your bankroll is low.

CARD COUNTING IS ILLEGAL

Relying on your intellect and skills when you play blackjack is not illegal, and neither is blackjack card counting.

Conclusion

Card counting will be challenging, but it will become second nature with the proper practice. First, engage in a card counting practice at home or with friends, and be prepared for the distractions of a casino floor. 

Gathering a few pals is recommended. Let one deal and keep track of the count, one or two play with you, and one distract you. The distractor may attempt to converse with you, shout at you, run into you, give you a beverage, flare lights at you, blast loud songs, create distracting sounds or gestures, or be bothersome. But this is only how you get better.

Card Counting FAQs

How hard is it to count cards in blackjack?

Although some are more complicated, all card counting methods need practice. Hi-Lo is the simplest and easiest-to-learn method. Similarly, using the Wong Halves to learn how to count cards might prove challenging. But it gets better. 

Can I live off blackjack counting cards?

Making ends meet through card-counting is not impossible, but it demands time, steadfast bankroll management, substantial cash, good card counting skills, and an ideal blackjack strategy.

Is it possible to hit blackjack without card counting?

Blackjack players may win without card counting using advantage-play methods. Edge sorting, ace sequencing, hole carding, and shuffle tracking are vital methods you should consider. These tactics may provide players an edge against card counting, but they need specific circumstances to work and take more practice than card counting.

Herbert Hanson
Author Herb has spent years working in the gambling industry, helping to provide gambling entertainment. He started from the land-based casino and then moved to the iGaming industry and joined our team as an author with great knowledge of the Las Vegas casino industry. His unique approach is the key to our content creation strategy. Do you need the latest bonuses and promotions; Herbert Hanson is your man with great knowledge.