How to Count Cards in Blackjack: A Beginner’s Guide

Blackjack dealer dealing cards

Card counting is a strategy used in blackjack to determine whether the player or the dealer has an advantage on the next hand. By keeping track of the high and low cards dealt, players can adjust their bets and playing decisions to maximize their chances of winning.

How Does Card Counting Work?

Card counting works by assigning values to different cards and keeping a running count of these values as cards are dealt. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:

Step 1: Assign Values to Cards

Using the Hi-Lo system, the most common card counting method, assign the following values to each card:

  • Cards 2-6: +1
  • Cards 7-9: 0
  • Cards 10-Ace: -1

Step 2: Keep a Running Count

As each card is dealt, update your running count by adding or subtracting the card’s value. For example, if a 5 is dealt, add 1 to your count. If a King is dealt, subtract 1.

Step 3: Calculate the True Count

In games with multiple decks, you need to convert the running count to a “true count” to get an accurate measure of your advantage. Divide the running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. For example, if your running count is +6 and there are 3 decks left, your true count is +2.

Step 4: Adjust Your Bets

Increase your bets when the true count is positive, as this indicates a higher concentration of high cards, which is favorable for the player. Decrease your bets or stop playing when the true count is negative.

Why Does Card Counting Work?

Card counting works because high cards (10s, face cards, and Aces) benefit the player more than the dealer. High cards increase the chances of hitting a blackjack, which pays out at 3:2 odds, and they also increase the likelihood of the dealer busting. Conversely, low cards benefit the dealer by reducing the chances of busting.

Is Card Counting Legal?

Card counting is legal, but it is frowned upon by casinos. If a casino suspects you are counting cards, they may take measures to stop you, such as shuffling the deck more frequently or asking you to leave. This is why card counting is perfect for online blackjack, as no one can see whether you’re counting or not!

Tips for Successful Card Counting

  • Practice: Card counting requires practice to master. Use online tools or apps to practice keeping a running count.
  • Stay Under the Radar: Avoid drawing attention to yourself. Blend in with other players and avoid making large, sudden bets.
  • Be Consistent: Stick to your strategy and avoid making emotional decisions based on short-term results.

Final thoughts …

Card counting is a powerful strategy that can give you an edge in blackjack. By following these steps and practicing regularly, you can improve your chances of winning and enjoy the game even more. Remember, while card counting is legal, it’s important to stay discreet and avoid detection by casino staff.

Happy counting!

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