How do you count cards at blackjack?

How do you count cards at blackjack?Card counting has been a controversial aspect of blackjack over many years. Most casinos do not like it because when used by the players, the casino house edge neutralizes while the player gains an edge over the house. Card counting is not as illegal as it may sound, it`s only that the casinos are strict on card counters because allowing them would mean financial damage to the casino. Despite the strictness, it is still important to know how to count cards at blackjack.

What you Need to be Able to Count Cards

Counting cards is not an easy thing hence needs a lot of practice in addition to a detailed understanding of how the blackjack game works. The things you need for you to be a skilled card counter include:

Extensive knowledge of the basic blackjack strategy.

A mastery of the blackjack game itself.

The ability to swiftly count down a deck.

Ability to easily make calculations in your head.

An ability to be calm and act normal when counting the cards.

Extensive practice sessions for skilled and accurate counting over time.

How Card Counting Works

In practice, it needs speed and skill. There is a lot of math involved – statistics and probability. When the dealer issues out cards from the shoe, you can use this technique to calculate the cards remaining in the deck. This way, you will be able to analyse your position. If you have an edge over the dealer, you can ride your hand and if the dealer is in a better position, you can play safe.

Card Counting Systems

The Hi-Lo

This system is the most popular and the easiest to learn. In this system, all the card values in the deck are assigned a number as follows.

Cards of value 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 each have a numbered score equivalent to +1. They are the low cards.

Cards of value 10, J, Q, K and the Aces all have a -1 number score. They are the high cards.

Card values 7, 8 and 9 have a score of 0 and are the middle card values.

While the cards are being dealt out, you have to do your calculations according to every card. If the series of cards are issued like this – 10, J, 3, 5, and Q then you determine the value as -1 – 1 + 1 + 1 and -1 and the total value is -1. You have to start counting the cards with the first card dealt after shuffling of the deck. In case you miss the cards and lose your count, shift your odds.

Red Seven

This system is good for beginners, but still requires knowledge of basic blackjack strategy. Here is how the cards are numbered:

Numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the RED 7 are given a count of +1.

The Jack, Queen, King, Ace and 10 are given a count of -1.

Numbers 8, 9 and BLACK 7 are given a count of 0.

This card counting system is unbalanced. If you count all cards in the standard 52-card deck, you will end up with an eventual count of +2 instead of 0. This, therefore, means that if you are playing blackjack with a single deck, you should be starting the count from -2. In the case of multi-deck games, you multiply the decks by -2 hence you will start the count at -12 in a 6-deck game.


This card counting system does not require a lot of practice and tough math. The word KISS here means “Keep it Short and Simple”. Kiss involves unbalanced strategies which include KISS I, KISS II and then KISS III. KISS I is the easiest to learn. It offers you an edge of +0.48% while KISS II an edge of +0.64% and KISS III an edge of +0.70%. This system makes things simple by excluding 50% of the total cards from the count.

Wong Halves

This is a multiplex Level three counting system and is not advisable for beginner card counters. For skilled card counters in various methods, this system offers a more accurate count. You should note that some cards are assigned fraction values, and that is what makes this system difficult. The card values are as follows:

The Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces and 10 have a value of -1.

Cards 2s and 7s have a value of ½.

Cards 3s, 4s and 6s have a value of 1.

Card 5s have a value of 1½.

Card 8s have a value of 0.

Card 9s have a value of -½.

Though using this method is hard, it can be made easier by doubling all those values in order to eliminate the fractions.

Omega II System

This is a level 2 card counting system, hence making it harder to learn as compared to other systems like the Hi-Lo and Knock Out. However, this system offers a betting effectiveness of up to 99% if used correctly. To make it even more effective, it’s better to maintain an extra count of Aces since the Aces do can`t affect the count and have a value of 0. If you count the number of Aces that have already been dealt and the ones that are remaining in the deck, you will be able to make a more educated decision regarding your next play.

This system is balanced, that is, it is based on a count of around 0 and a negative count. This means that there are high cards are more in the deck and there is a positive count hence more low cards. Cards have the following values:

Cards 2, 3 and 7 have a value of 1.

Cards 2, 5 and 6 have a value of 2.

Card 9s have a value of -1.

Jacks, Queens, Kings and 10s have a value of -2.

Card 8s and Aces have a value of 0.

Knock Out Blackjack

This method, AKA KO Blackjack method, is similar to Hi-Lo. It assigns points to every card value placed in the deck. As the cards are dealt out, you have to keep track of the count through addition or subtraction of the appropriate value. The value points are the same but for the Knock Out blackjack, the 7s are given a value of +1 while the 8s and 9s are given a value of 0.

The K-O system is also unbalanced; there are more +1 value cards in a deck than the -1 value cards. Additionally, K-O is based on a +2 count meaning that when your count reaches +2, you should begin to think about raising your bet. As the count goes higher over +2, it’s important to increase your bet more.

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