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We all have seen the movie “21” and we have wished to be in Ben Campbell shoes! Who doesn’t like money, women and power? However, let’s not forget that this is a movie and even if it was based on a true story, card counting is not as easy as it looks.

Before we start talking about how to learn card counting in blackjack, let’s make one thing very clear: Card counting is very difficult and needs a lot of practice. You need to be very good at maths, have an excellent memory and a huge bankroll. Imagine that it needed 5 MIT students to pull this off! But first things first:

What is card counting in blackjack?

In simple words, card counting is a blackjack strategy that tries to calculate whether the next card on the deck will favor the player or the dealer. In order to succeed, very experienced and advanced players use a counting card system to calculate the probabilities for the next card, based on the cards that have been passed on the previous hands.

Ηow does card counting work?

There are several blackjack card counting strategies, although one is considered to be the most popular and most effective. It’s called the Hi-Low card counting, and yes it’s the one in the movie! Let’s see how it works.

STEP #1 👉 First you assign value to each card of the deck as above:

STEP #2 👉 You start counting from 0
It is very important to keep count from the very first card of the deck. For any card shown, you have to add or subtract its value from the “running count” without missing a card.

STEP #3 👉 Calculate the “True count”
The running count itself will not give you the exact information you want. What you need is called the “true count”. In order to calculate this, all you have to do is divide the running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. It sounds difficult we know, but don’t worry, you don’t need to be exact. For example, if the running count is +10 and there are 5 decks remaining in the shoe, the true count is 10/5=2. This number represents the units of your bet.

STEP #4 👉 Bet based on “True count”
The betting strategy is very simple. The higher the true count is the higher the bet is. Just remember, that after dividing your bankroll into units, your biggest bet should not exceed 4 units. Furthermore, note that the card counting strategy is also known to people who work in casinos, so try to be more district and careful not to get caught. Card counting might not be illegal but it is not welcome either.

Other blackjack card counting systems

Although the above strategy is the most popular, there are several blackjack card counting tips and tricks that have been developed over the years from experienced blackjack players and mathematicians. To be honest, most of them are not very popular but it is our duty to mention them, so you can make your own research in case you are interested:

Canfield Expert – Blackjack Your Way to Riches by Richard Canfield
Hi-Lo – Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Hi-Opt I – The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book by Lance Humble and Carl Cooper
Hi-Opt II – HiOpt II Report by Lance Humble and Julian Braun
Kiss 2 – Blackjack Bluebook II by Fred Renzey
Kiss 3 – Blackjack Bluebook II by Fred Renzey
K-O – Knock-Out Blackjack by Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs
Mentor – Blackjack Bluebook II by Fred Renzey
Omega II – Blackjack for Blood by Bryce Carlson
Red Seven – Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder
Revere Plus-Minus – Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lyle Stuart
Revere Point Count – Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lyle Stuart
Revere RAPC – Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lyle Stuart
Revere 14 Count – Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lyle Stuart
Silver Fox – The Silver Fox Blackjack System by Ralph Stricker
Uston Adv. Plus-Minus – Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston
Uston APC – Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston
Uston SS – Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston
Wong Halves – Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Zen Count – Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder

Can you count cards in blackjack tournaments?

Card counting in blackjack tournaments is completely useless. A very common excuse from beginners is that they cannot count cards while other, more experienced players, can, so they have an edge. This is really stupid. The reason is very simple. The duration of each round is so short that the information you get from card counting has no meaning whatsoever.

In addition, card counters can be quite predictable while playing in a tournament. A tournament is all about betting and position. Therefore, you actually have an advantage when you know how they are going to bet on a positive/negative count and bet the opposite way. If you want to be a tournament winner there are some very crucial factors you need to pay attention to rather than waste your time counting cards!

Can you count cards in online live blackjack?

As we mentioned earlier, card counting in blackjack is not illegal. So, if you want, you are free to do so. However, you might wanna ask yourself if this strategy actually works in online casinos. Don’t you think that casinos already know you have this option? Do you think that they are willing to give you any advantage you might get, just like that? Always remember that casinos are not charity institutions.

Blackjack is the game with the highest payout if played correctly. And by correctly, we mean, by implementing the basic strategy. In this case, the house edge can reach 0.72%. If you think card counting will reduce it even more, it might, but the difference would be inconsiderable. If you notice very carefully, when dealers are shuffling and preparing the new shoe, they always cut in the 60% of the shoe. That’s because they acknowledge that any information you got at this point, cannot determine, in a realistic way, your correct prediction of the next card.


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Card Counting In Blackjack FAQ's

It is said that, depending on the blackjack variation, it can give you 1-2% edge. However, there must be certain circumstances (6 decks or less, strict bankroll management, rules that favor the player, etc) in order to get this advantage.

Card counting is not illegal. However, card counters are not welcome in casinos. So, you might not get arrested, but since they are private companies, they have the right to ban you from their casino and share your personal information with other casinos, giving you the profile of a card counter.

No you cannot. The automatic shufflers were not only made to make the game faster but also to prevent card counting, as the cards that were just being used, go back in the shuffler after each hand making impossible any attempt to count cards.

Card counting is not cheating. It gives you a 1-2% advantage, if you are able to do it, and casinos don’t like that. As we said above, card counting is not illegal, but is not welcome either.

Certainly, you won't get arrested. Also, forget what you have seen in the movies. They are not going to beat you in a dark, wet, dungeon. Probably, if they conclude that you are indeed a “threat” for them, they will ban you gently from their casino.

Always keep in mind that casinos are more clever than you. With that being said, casinos hire former card counters to be able to spot new card counters. So when you count cards, the casino counts cards as well. And since card counters are betting in a certain way, they can spot you from that. If you bet high when the count is high and the minimum when the count is low, as you suppose to, believe us, it's very easy to get busted!

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