Blackjack - How to Count Cards?

4 Ways to Count Cards

Image titled Count Cards Step 1First things first, you can't really be an effective card counter if you don't know the ins and outs of basic blackjack strategy. Sure, you could count the cards, but it wouldn't result in you winning anything. Try to walk before you run.
  • It's in your favor to practice in casinos, if you plan on counting cards at casinos. Unlike at your kitchen table, there are a ton of other factors going on that must be considered - like hiding the fact that you're hustling everyone.
  • When you play blackjack with a well-practiced strategy, you get the house's advantage to relatively 0. All casino games are in favor of the house, so this 0 is pretty good!
Get so good at blackjack it's like breathing. You should be a machine when it comes to this game, spitting out the best thing to do in split seconds. You shouldn't need a book open, you shouldn't need a second to think, and you should be able to do it with one eye closed and both arms tied behind your back.
  • Knowing this game like the back of your hand is the only way you'll make money. Counting cards gives you a one percent edge. If you're betting $100, that's $1 you make per hand. The only way this 1% will result in you banking millions is if you have it down to a legitimate art.
Familiarize yourself with the concept of counting cards. General strategy for card counting uses the Hi-Lo strategy. High cards are given a specific value (-1) and low cards are given a specific value (+1). When added up, they total the running count. That's it. The simpler you can keep it, the less your brain will want to explode - so think of this simplicity as a good thing.
  • Understand why card counting works. It works because high cards (tens) improve a player's chances of hitting a blackjack, which pays out at 3:2. They also increase the dealer's chances of going "bust." Low cards, on the other hand, are bad for the player (who wants a blackjack and to beat the house) but good for the dealer (they prevent them from busting on 16 or lower).

Image titled Count Cards Step 2Method 2

Using Hi-Lo Strategy
  1. Understand how it works. If the ratio of high cards to low cards is higher than normal (that is, there are lots of high cards still in the shoe), the player can make bigger bets to increase the amount he/she can win when the deck is favorable. They keep a number in their heads that tells them when to bet and how much to bet - or not to bet at all!
    • A deck with a positive number is good. The higher the number, the more you want to bet. The higher the number, the more high cards are left to be played.
  2. Learn the values. To track the ratio of high cards to low cards (thus knowing whether the deck is in your favor or not), you'll need to assign the cards a value. Start at 0 and as each card comes up, add it to your tally.
    • Cards 2-6 have a value of +1.
    • Cards 7-9 have no value.
    • Cards worth 10 have a value of -1.
    • Aces also have a value of -1.
  3. Learn how to bet accordingly. Increase your bets when the count is running positive (that is, about +2 and above). The higher the count, the more you should bet, but keep in mind that if you range your bets too much, you might draw some heat from the casino.
    • Generally speaking, you want to increase your bet by a unit of 1 for each point that the tally goes up. If you do it any more drastically than that, those eyes in the skies will be on you like a hawk.
  4. Test yourself. Grab a complete deck (sans the jokers) and rifle through it, keeping track. You should end up at a very round 0 if you've counted the cards accurately. Aim to get through the deck in under 25 seconds. That way, even Dealer McSpeedy won't get by you.
    • Start timing yourself when you can get through the deck and end up at 0 every time. Even though the math is very simple, it's easy to get side tracked. Don't be surprised if you end up with a different number consistently in the beginning stages.
    • Take a card out and leave it face down.Image titled Count Cards Step 3 Run through the deck and get your tally - what's the unturned card?
  5. Take in pairs. If you look at a jack and a 4, your thought process should not be, "-1 and +1 = 0." It should simply be, "0." When you see a low card and a high card, they cancel each other out. Keeping this in mind will make it much easier as the cards fly by you at lightning speeds.
    • Counting cards is about remembering a tally. Counting cards well is about accuracy and speed. To be a good card counter, it has to be like riding a bike - you can go on autopilot at the drop of a hat. Taking in pairs gives you a lot less to worry about, making it easier for you to be accurate.
  6. Get the true count. Long gone are the days when casinos work with just one deck (mostly, at least). It's a lot more common to run into a game that is working with 5 or 6 (in what's called the shoe). Because of this, your running count may not be the true count.
    • To find the true count, divide the running count by the number of decks waiting to be dealt. If your running count is +4 and there are 4 decks left, the true count is actually +1.
      • To know how many decks are left, you're gonna have to take a covert look at the discard tray. Do this between hands, when you have the extra bit of time.
    • If you are working with a single deck, you invert and multiply. Say you have 3/4 of a deck left and the count is +4. You would then multiply 4 x 4 to get 16 and divide it by 3 (a little over 5). Some people choose just to go with the running count in a single deck, but know that the true count is always a little bit different (higher, regardless).
  7. Practice with distractions. It's all well and good if you can count cards in the comfort of your own home, door locked, curtains drawn, and telephone off the hook. But when you do it at a casino? There will be a thousand and one distractions taking place at the same time. Doesn't matter how simple the math is - if you get off by 1, you're shooting yourself in the foot.
    • Start by turning the TV on. Then add the radio. Throw in a dog and a few kids and you'll almost be at the level you'll be dealing with at any hopping casino. Not to mention you'll have several sets of eyes watching you at all times - you've got to be accurate and low-key.
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