A Beginner’s Manual to Blackjack Card Counting


What is Card Counting 

Card counting is a blackjack strategy used to determine whether the player or the dealer has an advantage on the next hand. It is a simple mathematical trick used to find whether the remaining cards in the deck favour the player or the dealer. It involves assigning numerical values to each card and keeping a running count as cards are dealt.

The goal of card counting is to bet more when the deck is player-favourable and optimise winnings long-term. 

Are you a beginner in blackjack? Read the rules of blackjack before you understand card counting –  

Rules Of Blackjack 


Are Counting Cards in Blackjack Difficult?

There is a common misconception that card counting involves memorising every card that is played. But this is not true. In fact, card counting in blackjack can be learned by anyone with average intelligence. It just involves basic addition skills for each card that is dealt.


Is Card Counting Illegal 

No, as many of the blackjack players fear, card counting is in fact not illegal. However, you cannot use any tools or apps to help you in black jack card counting. However, many casinos are against card counting and it is better to avoid drawing attention to yourself when you are using card counting topics. 

Some casinos may expel you for using card counting. Hence, check the rules of the casino before you use card counting strategy.


How to Count Cards in Blackjack

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  • Assign a tag of (+1) to every 2- 6 ranked cards and a tag of (–1) to every 10-A.
  • Start your count after the shuffle and add the tags to each card that is pulled from the deck.
  • When the running count is positive after any round, the undealt cards are richer in large cards; you should increase your bet size. 
  • When the running count is negative after any round, the undealt cards are richer in small cards; you should decrease your bet size. 
  • You will bet more money on positive counts, and less money on negative counts.


How Does Black Jack Card Counting Work? 

Black jack card counting works on the principle of probability. At the beginning of the game, there are an equal number of high and low cards in the deck. Card counting works on the principle that undealt high cards favour the player more, because the dealer has a higher chance of busting.

The dealer always stands at 17 or higher. With more low cards, the dealer has a better chance of hitting a hand like 17-20 that they will stand on, limiting the player’s chances to win.

Hi-Lo Card Counting Strategy 

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Depending on which cards are dealt in the early rounds, the ratio of high to low cards in the remaining undealt cards most likely will change.

If more high cards were played in the earlier rounds, it means that there is a greater probability of low cards in the undealt cards, which favours the dealer. Hence the players reduce their bets.

If, however, more low cards were played, there is a greater probability for high cards in the deck increasing the chances for the player to win. The players thus increase their bets accordingly.

Black Jack Card Counting Strategy 


2,3,4,5,6 +1
7,8,9 0
10, J, Q, K, A -1


Add a tag of +1 to each low card and a tag of -1 to each high card as shown in the table above. The card values 7,8,9 carry neutral scores as they benefit both the player and the dealer equally. 

If there is a positive score at the end of the round, it means more high-value cards are left in the deck and hence the players increase their bets.

What is ‘True Count’ in Blackjack? How Does it Affect Card Counting?

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Card counting sounds really easy so far. However, some casinos add multiple decks to the game. When this happens, the probability of high-low cards are skewed and the same basic principle will not work.

In this case, we introduce an additional variable to black jack card counting called the ‘true count’. Simply divide your actual count by the number of decks remaining in the game to get your true count.

Thus, True Count = Actual count /Decks Remaining

For example, in a 8-deck blackjack game:

 if your running count is +7 with 4 decks remaining,

True count = 7/4 = 1.75 or roughly 2

Then we proceed as per our usual strategy by replacing count with true count. If true count is positive, the players increase their bets proportionate to the value of the true count and vice versa.

Card Counting in Blackjack: A Simple Guide

Here is a simple step-by step guide to recap the strategies explained in card counting and use it to win blackjack games.


Assign a value to every card 

With Hi-Lo, the most common card counting system, the card values are as follows:

2-6 = +1

7-9 = 0

10-Ace= -1

As each card is dealt, you will either add 1, subtract 1, or do nothing based on each card’s value.

Keep a Running Card Based on the Card Values 

Keep A Running Count By Adding Or Subtracting Every Card That You See In Each Shoe.

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In this example, the running count is zero.

Calculate Count per Deck or True Count 

Calculating the True Count, which is the Running Count divided by the number of decks remaining, gives a much better gauge of the player advantage in multiple decks. It normalizes the running count based on deck penetration.

With 6 decks remaining, a +5 running count only indicates less than 1 extra high card per deck. Hardly an advantage.

But with 1 deck remaining, that +5 running count means 5 extra high cards in the single remaining deck, giving the player a significant edge.

Change Your Bets As the True Count Rises 

As the True Count rises, bet progressively more. A True Count of +3 would warrant a small bet increase. +5 would warrant a more substantial increase. +7 or more allows large bet increases. 

The higher the True Count, the more you can bet as a percentage of your bankroll. 

How to Tell if the Other Players Are Counting Cards in Blackjack 

The key thing to understand is that card counters adjust their bets and sometimes alter basic strategy depending on the running count – their estimate of how many high or low cards remain in the deck.

When a lot of low cards have already been dealt, the running count will be high, indicating there are more high value cards left in the deck, which favors the player. This is when a counter will bet more.

Conversely, when many high cards have been dealt, the running count will be low, indicating the remaining deck favors the dealer. A card counter will bet less in negative counts.

So the first signs are fluctuations in a player’s bet size. If they consistently bet more late in the shoe compared to early on, it indicates they are likely tracking the count and betting accordingly.

Additionally, counters will sometimes stray from basic strategy at higher bets to capitalize on a positive count. For example, splitting 10s goes against basic strategy but can be advantageous when the deck is rich in face cards.

Thus, Deviating from the norms in a way that aligns with the probable running count is a giveaway that players are using card counting in blackjack.

While card counting can shift the odds, it’s not a miracle strategy. Watching for bet variation, unusual plays, and convenient coordination provides clues if other players are leveraging it to gain an advantage. 

Common Myths about Black Jack Card Counting

  • Card Counting Is illegal – Card counting is not illegal, but casinos can ban players they suspect of counting cards. 
  • You Must Have Good Memory Skills – Keeping the running count does not require a photographic memory. 
  • Counting cards guarantees big wins – Counting cards only adds a 1% probability to you winning blackjack.  Chance still plays a major role and counters can have long losing streaks.
  • Counting is easy – Mastering card counting requires intensive practice, concentration, speed and accuracy. It takes significant time and effort to count cards at casino speed.
  • You can win millions – Huge windfalls are rare even for professional counters. More modest but consistent gains with good bankroll management is the reality.



Card counting can seem daunting at first, but with practice, anyone can learn this useful blackjack strategy. By assigning simple point values to cards and keeping a running count, players can determine when the deck favours them and place bigger bets accordingly.

While casinos employ countermeasures, card counting remains legal. Mastering the techniques requires dedication, but the payoff is a statistical edge to enhance win rates over time. Players should be discreet and properly manage their bankroll.

Thus, with a bit of time invested, card counting can be a valuable weapon in the blackjack player’s arsenal. But results require patience, discipline and realistic expectations. When implemented strategically with other advantage techniques, card counting offers a proven way of tilting the house edge in your favour.

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