JeffBet by Matthew Gover |
Date of Publishing: 8 November 2022

5/5 - (7 votes)

How To Count Cards


Every gambler has wondered if it is possible to beat the house. Strategies on how to beat casino games are not uncommon, but most of them won’t improve your results. Card counting is different though and has been proven to give players an edge. Something that is widely considered impossible to do in casinos. 

When counting cards, you track how many high and low cards are still in the dealer’s deck. Although card counting isn’t the easiest thing to learn, once you successfully do it, you can increase your chances of winning big when the odds are on your side. Remember, though, that learning how to count cards won’t teach you how to win at blackjack consistently. It’s just an additional skill set to add to your regular gameplay that will help you better understand the deck’s contents. It won’t necessarily have a positive impact on the next game of blackjack you play but it should have a positive impact in the long run. 

If you have ever wanted to know how to count cards in blackjack, this guide will teach you everything you need to know. 

Card Counting Basic Strategy

Once the dealer shuffles, there are an equal number of high and low cards in the deck. The mix of high and low cards yet to be dealt is likely to alter depending on what cards are dealt in the initial rounds.

In these early rounds, if more low cards than high cards were played, the cards yet to be dealt must have a higher ratio of high cards to low cards. This means the chances of hitting a 10, J, Q, K or Ace is higher than hitting one of those lower cards.

Card counters will raise their bets in this scenario because they have a better chance of scoring a high total close to 21. The chances of the players hitting a blackjack also increase. Players may choose to double down (which pays 3-to-2) in an attempt to capitalise on this. 

The statistics also show that the dealer has a higher likelihood of going bust if their first card is a low one. According to casino rules, dealers must “hit” when they have a hand between 12 and 16. From a dealer’s point of view, if they have a low card, they are more likely to win the hand if there are more low cards left in the pack. 

From a card counters’ point of view, they are not just focusing on the cards they are likely to get, they are also focusing on the cards the dealer is likely to get.

Card counters place a tag on each undealt card so they can determine if the pack is heavier on high cards, benefiting the player, or low cards, benefiting the dealer. The tags on each card in the well-known hi lo card counting system are as follows:

A, K, J, Q, 10-1
9, 8, 70
6, 5, 4, 3, 2+1

You can memorise the content of the table above as you learn card counting. Card counters must observe every card dealt who must then add the tags to each card mathematically. The count always begins at zero after a shuffle. Suppose the first player has a 3, 6, and 10 for a total of 19 and decides to stand. Here, the counter adds one for the three cards, another one for the six cards, and minus one for the 10 cards. His or her running count is currently “plus-one” (+1) + (+1) + (-1) = +1).

Up until the end of the game, the counter keeps adding tags to each card in every hand, including the dealers. According to how many cards have been dealt, the counter may have an advantage in the following round and will bet more if the running count is positive.

The player will wager more money the higher the positive count and the more cards that have been played, as these factors will reduce the house edge. In contrast, if the count is negative, the counter is aware that there is no advantage and should place a small wager in the subsequent round. From one round to the next, the counter keeps track of each card’s tag count and adjusts his or her wagers based on whether the running count is negative or positive.

Is Card Counting Illegal?

As long as you’re counting cards mentally and not with a gadget or app, there are no laws that forbid card counting. Whether it is viewed as cheating, though is open to interpretation. One thing that we know for sure is that casinos don’t like it. If you were to try card counting in a casino, you need to be confident that you have mastered card counting so well that your actions look completely random and not a result of information.

Suspected card counters are likely to be asked to leave the casino or in some cases, given a ban. Your behaviour is likely to be monitored heavily if you display what could be viewed as suspicious behaviour. Even the most skilled card counters sometimes lose their cover.

It can be very profitable to learn how to count cards when playing blackjack online and learning how to do it discreetly is also another skill that would be great to have. Since casinos are very aware of card counters this is something that you need to consider.

Online Blackjack Card Counting

Counting cards is possible, even in online blackjack. However, it can be difficult because most online casinos like utilise software that reshuffles the cards before each new hand. Still, some computer programs can count cards automatically, but most people don’t like to use them.

The main advantage of online casinos is that you can count cards without leaving your house. Playing behind a desk means you can get a pen and paper out, and you don’t have to be concerned about looking suspicious. Until you have practised and are confident in card counting online, you shouldn’t join a land-based blackjack table to try out your new skillset. 

Advanced Card Counting Strategies


Once you’ve learned the fundamentals of Hi-Lo card counting, after a while, the process will become like second nature. There are, however various choices available when you want to go for more sophisticated procedures. Below are some of the options you can explore and how they work:

Omega II

The Omega II blackjack strategy card counting uses a “balanced” approach with zero as the base. This was created by Bryce Carlson, who also published a book on card counting in 1992. It is more complicated than the conventional values of +1, 0 and -1. The table below shows cards and their tags when using the Omega II system.

2, 3, 71
4, 5, 62
10 and all face cards-2
Ace cards and 80

There are more low cards in the deck being dealt when the count is positive. If the count is negative, there are still a lot of high cards in the deck.

Wong Halves

This system’s moniker is a tribute to its founder, Stanford Wong. Its set values, some of which are fractions, are what make it a sophisticated strategy.

3, 4, and 61
2, 70.5

Since Wong Halves is a “balanced” system, your count ought to be 0 when the entire deck is dealt. By doubling the values and avoiding using fractions completely, you can make the blackjack card counting strategy simpler.

Group Play

Some card counters work in groups. This has the advantage of allowing for the simultaneous counting of several decks on multiple tables. Players in the group can inform players who are hovering when to join a hand or whether to place a large stake. Players who decide to do this have to make it very clear that they are doing nothing suspicious.

Card Counting – Multiple Decks

Casinos use numerous decks as one strategy to combat card counting. In theory, this makes it harder for people who count cards to keep track of the running count. Even if the dealer is dealing from more than one deck, you can still use the Hi-Lo strategy. Simply divide the running count by the number of decks still in play. You will receive a “true count” after doing this.

When there are many decks present, your advantage is determined by your true count figure rather than your running count. To calculate the true count value, you must maintain an accurate running total. For instance, if you have 2 decks left and your running total is 5, your true count will be 2.5.

Which Card-counting Strategy is the Best?

The Hi-Lo technique is the simplest to grasp. If you are new to card counting, this is the best place to start. If you feel it’s essential, you might choose to move on to a different blackjack strategy when your skill level rises, in addition to your ability to count cards. Before you even begin card counting, you must, of course, be certain that you have perfected the game itself. You can use a variety of additional blackjack playing strategies to improve your game.

If you are maximising blackjack strategy, your skill in counting cards will be more effective. Therefore you must combine a solid blackjack strategy with the ability to count cards well.

Final Thoughts

The time it takes to master card counting is entirely relative to the individual. In general, it’s safe to assume that you won’t suddenly be able to count cards immediately and feel at ease with the system. 

The time it could take is best estimated by first thinking about how quickly and accurately you do maths. Also, in traditional land-based casinos and their virtual counterparts, the dealers have no incentive to count cards. They could, technically, try to influence player actions, but they don’t because it would be counterproductive. Once you’re good at counting cards in blackjack, you can use it to your advantage as often as luck allows.

About the Author

Author: Matthew Gover.

After graduating, Matthew began working as an English teacher abroad, initially in Spain and then Vietnam before finally coming back to the UK to settle. Matthew has always had a love for writing and an even bigger love for the igaming industry... Read More

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