Counting cards in Blackjack 101

The most frequent question about card counting is how legal it is. Everyone has seen a movie episode where a mathematical genius decides to bring down the almighty casino House and practices card counting. As soon as he appears on a casino floor and starts doing it, a brawny gaming surveillance soldier throws him out from the establishment.

As long as we understand, card counting is not rated as an illegal activity by law unless you use an external device for that. On the other hand, most casinos ‘reserve the right’ to refuse their service to anyone they find suspicious. Continuous winnings and insane increases in bets may draw the attention of a pit boss who doesn’t usually just watch the table but also keeps the count himself.

Even if a floor manager asks you to leave the hall politely and without being Hollywood-style brutal, he (or she) will make sure that your name and photo get into the security base marked as an undesirable guest. Betting moderately and playing it cool might actually help.

What is the Hi-Lo Count in Blackjack?

The main principle of the Hi-Lo (Plus-Minus) strategy is the more cards left in the deck we know, the more accurately we can predict the odds of the card coming up next.

All the cards are divided into 3 groups, and each of the groups has an assigned value:

  • ‘+1’ – for the cards from 2 to 6, aka ‘Low-valued’ cards;
  • ‘0’ – for the cards from 7 to 9, aka ‘Average-valued’ cards;
  • ‘-1’ – for 10s, Aces, and Face cards, aka ‘High-valued’ cards.

Imagine a player receives 6 and 8, and the Dealer gets two 10s. The deck count will be: +1 + 0 -1 -1 = -1.

According to this system, the overall value of all the cards in a standard deck starts at zero. The same rule will work for games with six or eight decks. With each card being dealt, a player has to keep the count during the game, adding or subtracting the 0s (which, in other words, is doing nothing) and 1s.

When the total deck count is positive, the odds of ‘High’ cards coming up increase (together with the mathematical expectation of winning). In contrast, when the total deck count is negative, the winning odds decrease.

To put it simply, the higher the total deck count is, the more High cards are left in the deck, the better the combinations are going to be. Therefore, the player can raise the bets. The lower the total count is, the smaller the winning chances are. The player should stick to smaller-sized bets.

This approach allows gamblers to ‘weigh’ the deck and get an idea of which card the Dealer is going to take from the shoe more probably: High, Low, or Average.

How to put the strategy into practice?

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

A 52-card deck is being dealt. After a few rounds, all the ‘Low’ cards from 2 to 5 have been played. The player and the dealer get the same combinations: 6 and 10. The player wants to take another card and to know the probability of busting if he goes for it. We understand that he will bust with any card except an Ace. There are 4 Aces out of 36 cards left in the deck. So, the odds of him busting with the next draw are 4 to 32 (12.5%).

Imagine that, at the very beginning, all the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces have been played. The overall picture will change drastically. Not to bust, the player will need any card from 2 to 5. There are 16 of them out of 32 cards left in the deck. The odds of the player not busting with the next draw look much more promising: they will be 1 to 2, or 50%.

Of course, the Hi-Lo count strategy doesn’t ensure 100% accurate predictions; and yet, it provides at least some clarity on where the game is going. And, as always, practice makes perfect. Before trying to keep the count at a noisy, overcrowded casino under the watchful eyes of pit bosses, give it a go at home and play for a while with your friends.

Counting cards in online Blackjack

We consider gambling online a great way of getting to know any casino game, be it Blackjack or Roulette. Most online casinos include demo versions of the most popular games in their collection. So, you can play pokies online real money Australia for free and have a go at Blackjack without experiencing any financial risks. Just remember: counting cards at Blackjack will not work for online gambling. Virtual casino games are based on computerized algorithms that ensure continuous card shuffling.

Haven’t we forgotten about Live Blackjack? No! And you?

Those who dare face off against a Live dealer at a round of Blackjack can use any strategy listed above and count cards with a light heart. Card decks and the dealing process at Live casinos don’t differ from playing at a physical table in one of Vegas flashy halls. The only two things you will need to know are how many card decks are going to be dealt and when they will be shuffled. For example, if there are 8 decks, and after the Dealer shuffles them after the 4th deck, it means that when 208 cards out of 416 have been played, you have to start a new count.

Written by Monella