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Blackjack Card Counting

Did you know that a small percentage of blackjack players know how to reverse the house edge and win more money than they lose over time?

While many players aren’t aware of this, some don’t believe it’s true. On this page you’re going to learn the basics of card counting, why it works, and how you can get started. Don’t make the mistake of thinking only math geniuses can learn how to count cards. It’s easier than you think and almost anyone can learn how to do it if they’re willing to give it a try.

The basic premise is that when the deck has more high cards it’s advantageous for the player because you get paid extra for natural blackjacks. The more high cards in the deck the better your chances of getting a blackjack.

How to Count Cards

Exactly how you count cards depends on the system you choose to use. We go over two systems in the next section, but the basics work the same way.

The first thing you do is pick a number to start your count. Most players start at zero, but some players don’t like working with negative numbers so they start at 10 instead.

Your system assigns a value to add or subtract from your count to each card as it’s played. High cards are usually subtracted from your count and low cards are added to the count.

Here’s an example:

If your counting system uses a plus one for all cards six and below and a minus one for all aces down to tens you do the following.
Starting your count at zero, the following cards are played on the first round. Ace, king, three, 10, four, seven, two, three, jack, eight, nine, two. This leaves you with a count of plus one.

Starting at zero you subtract one for the ace and another one for the king, moving your count to minus two. Then you add one for the three, subtract one for the 10, add one for the four, and ignore the seven because it doesn’t have a value in the count. This leaves your count at minus one. Now you add one for the two, add another for the three, subtract one for the jack, ignore the eight and nine and add one for the two. This is how you reach a plus one count.

Every system is set up to work this way. By adding and subtracting small numbers, usually one, you track the average value of the remaining cards in the deck.

A Simple System

The high low system is one of the most popular systems used by blackjack players. The values listed above are the ones used in the high low system. When you see any two thru six played you add one and any 10 valued card or ace subtracts one from your count. Divide the running count by the number of remaining decks to get your true count. As the true count goes up you should bet more and as it goes down you should bet less.

How to Practice

The best way to practice is by using cards at home. Turn them over one at a time while keeping count based on your system. Do this until you can keep up while flipping them over as fast as possible. Then start doing two at a time and then do three at a time sometimes mixed in.

Your First Live Counting Experience

Most players are nervous the first time they try counting cards in a live casino. The good news is if you follow the advice about how to practice listed above you’ll quickly learn that the live game is much slower than your practice sessions.

Take a seat at the lowest minimum bet tables and try to relax. Don’t worry about altering your bets based on the count; simply keep the count in your head. Remember not to move your lips while you count and don’t stare at the cards.

Practice for 15 to 30 minutes and then take a break to evaluate how you did. Then follow this up with another short session until you get comfortable. Only when you reach a comfortable area should you start altering your wagers based on the count.