Quick overview: How to count cards
- How many decks of cards are played with? 1, 2, 4, 6 or 8?
- Count all cards from the shuffle = Running Count
- low cards (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) count +1
- high cards (10, J, Q, K and Ace) count -1
- 7, 8 and 9 are neutral and can be ignored
- Always know how many decks have not yet been played.
- Divide Running Count by remaining deck count = true count
- The higher the True Count, the higher the stake
What's the point of counting cards?
When you're in a casino and you want something win you should definitely be able to count cards, otherwise you will have to rely on your luck. And luck is always on the side of the casino sooner or later.
However, successful card counting is only possible if the casino no mixers used and the casino player-friendly rules offers. This means: only play at blackjack tables where the payout for a Blackjack 6:5 is.
Ideally as few decks as possible used. The fewer decks used, the lower the casino's house edge and the greater the player's chances of winning.
- Online casinos: 8 decks of cards
- many Vegas casinos & Czech Republic: 6 decks of cards
- Some casinos in Las Vegas Downtown or in the High-Roller area: 2 decks of cards
- El Cortez in Las Vegas Downtown: Single Deck
However, if you are good at counting cards and win a lot, the casino will either forbid you to place high bets or ask you to leave the casino.
Until it is so far, however, you have to practice a lot and also play with high stakes from 100 dollars per hand.
What is counting cards?
Counting cards is a special StrategyThis is a method used in blackjack to determine when a player has an advantage. Card counting is based on mathematical probability (stochastic). Each card played changes the expected value for the cards to come. Based on the cards played, you can draw conclusions about the cards still to be expected in a continuous draw.
We will illustrate this with an example using the most important card: the Ace.
In a simple 52 card blackjack deck, each card value is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. There are four suits of hearts, clubs, spades and clubs. So each card value exists four times.
The probability for each single card is therefore 1/52, which corresponds to about 2%.
However, since the suit of the card does not matter, the probability for a given card is 4/52 (around 8%).
For example, if two aces are played at the beginning, the probability of an ace is only 2/50, 4%, instead of 8%.
Since you need aces for a blackjack, the probability of a blackjack also decreases. This generally reduces the player's chances of winning.
Conversely, the fewer aces that are played, the better the player's chances of winning.
Besides the aces, you also keep track of the number of ten-value cards and low cards.
Mathematicians have developed various systems for blackjack according to this principle, as some cards have a greater influence on winning or losing than others. A single card played does not have much significance. The more cards are dealt, the more accurately you can calculate the chances of winning.
The best known counting system is called "Hi-Lo„. The system offers the perfect blend of simplicity and accuracy. Thus, beginners have the greatest chances of winning. A number easier, but also not quite as accurate (and therefore profitable) is the "Red 7 Count" by blackjack author Arnold Snyder. There are also more complicated counts like the one by "Ken Uston".
How does card counting work in blackjack?
Most card counting system have in common that you divide all card value into two groups. In the following the card counting with the Hi-Lo Count explained.
The "running count" is the "running counter".
You start counting after the dealer has shuffled.
Each card is assigned a corresponding value depending on the counting system used.
At Hi-Lo Count one distinguishes, as the name says, between high (High) and low (Low) cards.
Low cards (2 - 6) are good cards and get +1
With low cards you are happy when they are played. You don't want to get these cards if you're betting big. Good cards include the values 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. So the five low card values. Whenever one of these cards is played, one counts +1.
High cards (10, J, Q, K, A) are bad card and get -1
The counterpart is the high cards. When these are played it is bad because it gives you high point values like a blackjack (ace & ten value card). When a high card of value 10, J, Q, K or Ace is played, you count every time -1.
Tip: Always count cards in pairs
To avoid having to count each card individually, wait until each player has received two cards. Starting hands with one high and one low card result in 0, so you can ignore this hand. This saves a lot of time and concentration, because you don't have to count +1 and then -1 again, but simply do nothing at all.
True Count depending on the number of decks
Unfortunately, the running count is not yet of much use. With the Hi-Lo-Count you always convert the Running Count into the "True Count". To do this, you divide the running count by the number of remaining decks.
How are you supposed to know how many decks are left?
To do this, you first need to know how many decks of cards are played with at all. As a rule, 6 decks of cards from a card slide (shoe) are played with. That is 312 cards. The cards played are placed in a transparent collection box to the right of the dealer. From this you can see how many cards have already been played. A deck of cards is about as thick as a thumb. When two decks have been played, there are four decks left. So you divide the running count by 4.
When three decks have been dealt, there are only three more decks left and you divide by three.
With a Running Count of +8 and only two decks remaining, you get a True Count of +4. That would be a very good situation, for example.
ADAPTING THE SET: Bankroll & Money Management
The following is needed to calculate the deployment:
- An TotalBankroll (BR) as basis (e.g. 1000 Euro / better 10.000 Euro)
- Kelly Criterion: variable stake depending on bankroll.
- true count
The higher the True Count, the higher the stake.
The True Count tells you how high the bet should be.
In the case of a negative True Count you only ever set the Minimum stake or doesn't play at all.
If more low cards (+1) are played, the True Count rises into the posivite range.
In order to maximize profit, one should use the Kelly Criterion use. With "Kelly" bets as much as you have a percentage advantage.
To calculate the advantage, subtract -1.5 from the True Count. The result is the advantage.
If the True Count is 5, the advantage in this case is +3.5, so you should get 3.5% of your Bankroll bet. With a bankroll of 1000, the bet would be $35.
Simplified deployment strategy
An Rule of thumb formula for the operation could be:
TRUE COUNT - 1 * UNIT
This means that the stake is always one unit less than the True Count. If the True Count is +5, the bet is 4 units. A unit can be either the table minimum (5 dollars) or another amount corresponding to the bankroll (10 dollars / 15 dollars / 20 dollars / 25 dollars etc).
Who with 1000 Euro Bankroll and 10 Dollar units could bring the following stakes:
- TC +1 or less: Minimum bet
- TC +2: $10
- TC +3: $20
- TC +4: $30
- TC +5: $40
- TC +6: $50
- TC +7: $60
- TC +8: $70
- TC +9: $80
The most important questions about counting cards
Counting cards in the movie
In the movie "21" and other movies, the impression is often given that counting cards at the Always win blackjack can. But that's not true. You win almost as rarely as without counting cards.
The difference is that in the cases where you win, you will have bet more. You know what I mean? With card counting, you can recognize such good situations beforehand. So then you can increase the bet.
The risk increases that you will lose more with it. But you have to think of all the bets in your life as one sum. You're going to lose every now and then. But, if you always make the same (right!) decisions in the crucial situations, sooner or later you will win more than you lose with counting cards.
The prerequisite is that you have Blackjack rules in perfection and in every situation exactly the right action out of the optimal Blackjack strategy at the ready. There are different systems for counting cards. We focus here on the Hi-Lo count.
Can you always win with card counting?
You can't use it to predict which card will come next.
Nor does it automatically make you a winner, as many movies or series suggest.
Card counters lose almost as many rounds as other players who cannot count cards.
The difference is that card counters bet more in advantageous situations and thus win more, while a normal blackjack player doesn't know when he himself has an advantage and when it's better not to play.
With card counting you can recognize advantageous situations in the low percent or per mille range.
So to make a profit from it, you need high stakes.
An advantage of 1% per spin means that on a bet of €10 per spin. you can expect around 10 cents profit in the long run.
With approx. 100 rounds per hour this would be an average profit of 10€ with a total turnover of 1000€.
Blackjack pros play with high stakes of €100 or more per round and thus increase their winnings.
Since the odds of winning at blackjack depend on luck in the short term, there can be wide fluctuations in the amount of profit and loss.
You can compare this to the coin toss example. You have a 50% chance of heads or tails on every toss.
If you toss a coin in the air ten times can also come up heads ten times in a row. It would be on this short term period as 100% heads and 0% tails.
This is unusual, but not unlikely.
The more often you flip the coin, the more accurately the distribution approaches the expected value of 50%.
This is important to understand when you are blinded to a short-term streak of luck while playing blackjack or any other game of chance.
The longer you play, the more certain you are of losing.
Because the bank always wins in the long run, because every game has unfair rules that put the player at a disadvantage. Unless you can count cards.
Is counting cards illegal?
Counting cards is NOT ILLEGAL!
Counting cards should ideally only take place in your head and is nothing more than mental arithmetic. Therefore it is always possible and you may of course always count cards. It is also definitely not forbidden and also not punishable!
The question, however, will be whether you are allowed to use the knowledge you have gained from counting cards and whether it is worth it at all!
When counting cards you only use all visible information to gain an advantage. So it is nothing else than mental arithmetic and abstract "thinking". So in a democratic country it should be allowed to think and count cards accordingly.
However, since card counting is an advanced form of gambling, it is not welcomed in casinos. At least not if the players win a lot of money with it. Therefore, the casino can prohibit a player from counting cards.
Counting cards alone is not enough. You also have to implement the information gained from this by changing the way you play. This works by raising the stakes in good situations.
For the casinos, the easiest way to protect themselves against card counters is to ban betting increases. If the dealer or his pit boss gets wind that a player is gaining an advantage by counting cards and adjusting the bet accordingly, they can either ban the player from playing or prohibit him from varying his bets.
The player must then "flatbetting". This means that every bet must be the same. Thus, one can no longer take advantage of higher stakes.
Can you count cards in online blackjack?
Online casinos with their Live Blackjack Tables with real dealers offer a perfect opportunity to practice counting cards. However, here you should not hope for a big win. The online casinos all use eight decks of cards of which only 50% are dealt. Thus, you have too inaccurate information and rarely a real advantage with which you could justify a larger bet.
However, an online casino is the perfect place to practice. With relatively low stakes and a realistic environment, you can count cards as often and as long as you want.
- make all decisions of the Basic Strategy perfectly
- never lose the running count
- always convert to the correct True Count
- apply the correct deviations from the basic strategy depending on the index number
- Adapt the correct use to the situation
- are bored with the pace of the online casino
THEN you are ready for a real casino!
Practice counting cards
Before you risk money on blackjack in a real casino, you should practice counting cards. To do this, you take a deck of cards and draw one card after the other. For each high card you count -1 and for each low card +1.
Keep an eye on the time as well. Good "counters" count through a deck of 52 cards in 10-20 seconds. When you reach this speed, deal two cards at a time. You will find that this is even faster, as pairs of a high and a low number cancel each other out and you can immediately move on to the next two cards.
CARD COUNTING APP
There are some apps for the smartphone with which you can practice counting cards. To do this, search for "Card Counting" or "Blackjack" in the iTunes store or the Google Play shop.