how to count cards

How To Count Cards in Blackjack and Bring Down the House

Counting cards is a skill. Start mastering it today with this brief guide.

Blackjack is one of the synonyms for casino experience. Not only that this game is among the most potentially profitable ones but is also easy to learn. Naturally, it has its own secrets. Luckily for you, we are here to reveal them and light a fire under your fingers to start playing. Blackjack is the casino game with by far the best player-odds. The best part of is that your skills can further improve the odds. And if you know how to count cards in blackjack, you are off to a phenomenal winning.

Blackjack Overview

We wrote extensively about the blackjack and invite you to check out some of the previous Blackjack posts on our blog.

For the purpose of this text and better understanding of card counting, allow us to remind you briefly about the very core of Blackjack rules. In this game, it is all about beating the dealer. While doing so, a player should make sure not to go over 21 when the dealer does and to go for the total bigger than the dealer’s. This balancing is way easier once you know how to count cards in Blackjack. So, here we go.

Assign Value to Cards

Counting cards basically refers to keeping track of the cards coming out of the shoe. The rule of thumb says that the more aces and face cards are left in a shoe, the better for the player. In order to make counting easier, you should assign value to cards.

So, how to count cards in Blackjack? For start, you should adopt the habit to either add 0 or 1,  or to subtract 1 every time the card comes out of the shoe. This is called the Hi-Lo system:

  • Zero value goes for cards 7-9.
  • We assign the value of 1 to cards 2-6.
  • Tens and 11s get the value of -1.

How to Count Cards – The Running Count

By now, you have noticed that counting cards in this way is easy when you play with one deck of cards. We call this a “running count”.

Right upon shuffling, the “running Count is 0, while the dealer’s edge is 0.5%.

Each time a card is dealt (between 2 shuffling), the player should “update” the count, as explained above. Players gain advantage when the “running count” increases. Contrary, the casino gains the edge if the “running count” goes down towards negative numbers.

The plot thickens when you play Blackjack with multiple decks. In these situations, a player needs to translate the “running count” into “true count”. What’s a “true count “, you may be asking. Scroll to the next paragraph to find out.

Multiple Decks – The True Count

It may sound complicated, but it is not. “True count “is simply the “running count“ divided by the number of the remaining decks.

For example, imagine you are playing with 6 decks of cards and at this moment the „running count“ is 10 with 5 decks remaining. Once you divide the „running count“ (10) with the number of remaining decks (5) you get the „true count“ (2). At that moment, your edge raises by 0.5%. With 6 decks, every “true count“ is actually in a player’s favour.

For purpose of card counting, revise the basic division including negative numbers, because you will get in touch with these, that’s for sure. For instance, the running count may be a negative number (-10). Once you divide it with 5 remaining decks, what you get is -2, which leans towards the dealer ’s advantage.

Applying the Count to Bets

Now that you know how to count cards in blackjack, the question is how to put this count into motion. Why? Because you want to see the skills pay off. And because you are about to become the master of the game, that’s why.

In short, the secret is to raise your bets as the true count increases. In other words, players should bet more when the cards favour them and cut down on the bet amount when the true count goes below zero.  For example:

  • If the “true count” is up to +1, your bet should meet the base amount.
  • Once the “true count” goes up to +2, +3 and so forth, it is recommendable to bet 2x the bet amount.
  • As the “true count” increases to +4, and +5, the bet amount should match 3x the base amount.

Keep following these unwritten rules to stay on the safer side and manage your bets properly.

What About the Bankroll & Betting Units?

Planning your bets raises the question of managing your bankroll. We will try to provide a few essential tips here.

The truth is you know best how much money you can set aside for gambling purposes. But when it comes to planning your bets, we can certainly help out.

As for the size of your units, you decide. As a quick reminder, the unit represents the amount according to which you place your bets. Let us imagine that you raise your bets by $1. This would be considered your betting unit. Now, the number of units is an interesting question.

Your odds can greatly depend on the number of units you decide to bet. According to the generally accepted view, the more units you bet, the odds increase. It is logical when you think it through. When you opt for just 1 unit, your chances are 50%. On the other hand, when you split your bankroll and allocate parts of it to more units, you will have more chances to win.

Still here? Start practicing! Hit the casino and try playing!

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