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How to Win at Blackjack with Card Counting

Blackjack is one of the most popular games at online casinos in the Philippines. Of course, beating the house can be challenging. However, some players have managed to outsmart the dealer and walk away richer thanks to the art of card counting. 

Blackjack card counting is very important if you want to up your game and profit big. It is an easy to pick up skill, though difficult to master. With this guide, you’ll learn how to count the cards and get pro tips from the best players out there, so stick around.

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Blackjack Card Counting Explained

Card counting is an effective blackjack strategy used to determine who has an advantage on the next hand. Knowing whether the dealer or player has the advantage is how you can overcome the casino house edge. Simply put, card counting means keeping track of the number of high and low cards left in the dealer’s deck. Of course, knowing that you’ll bet less when the casino has an advantage. But when you have an advantage than betting more is the way to go.

The Origins of Card Counting

The first effective card counting strategy we know about can be found in Edward Thorp’s 1962 book “Beat the Dealer”. Though he wasn’t the first to come up with card counting, he is considered the father of it. But actually, it was Jess Marcum who first counted cards in 1949. In fact, it was his counting method that was a complete points-counting system. Of course, there are other notable contributions like the book “Playing Blackjack to Win” (1957) and Harold Smith Sr.’s strategies.

Blackjack Card Counting

Successful Blackjack Card Counting: Important Tips

As long as you know blackjack rules and how to play the game, then you also know that high cards profit the player. On the flip side, low cards befit the dealer. But if you are a beginner, the Hi-Lo strategy might be the best place to begin. Here is how to count cards successfully:

A Value for Every Card

Hi-Lo is the most common card counting system out there. The strategy stipulates that high cards (10s, 9s, and Aces) are assigned a value of -1. On the other hand, low cards (2 – 6) in any suit, have a value of +1. The remaining cards are worth 0 or you could say they are neutral. Naturally, the counting starts at 0. Then you simply add the card’s value to the total and keep track.

The Running Count vs. The True Count

When it comes to card counting, the main objective is to figure out the concentration of high cards. By counting the ones that have already been dealt, you can quickly find out the proportion of high cards in relation to the remaining decks.

However, it’s important to remember that the running count and the true count are two different things. The running count is the current total to which you add new information when cards are dealt. When the running count value increases, the advantage starts to shift to the player. But if the total goes into negatives, the dealer’s advantage increases.

On the other hand, the true count is the value obtained by dividing the running count by the remaining number of decks. For example, a +5 running count with six decks remaining means there is less than one additional high card per deck remaining. So in this case, the player has no advantage yet. But if you have a +5 running count and only one remaining deck, it means there are five extra 10’s and/or Aces in the remaining 52 cards. In other words – the player has the edge.

Adjust Your Wagers

To get the most out of this table game classic, you should be adjusting your wagers based on what you know from counting. So use the information you get from the true and running counts to keep track of when the house edge flips in your favor. Then, raise your stakes when the true count rises – the cards favor you, so place big bets. However, when the count is negative or neutral, bet small amounts as the odds are against you.

How to Improve Your Card Counting

Everyone can do card counting by following a few simple steps. However, if you want to up your game, here are some tricks to apply:

  • Know the basics. How well you learn and apply the basic strategy determines your ability to reduce the house edge. 
  • Memorize the card value points. Regardless of your counting strategy, there are always values assigned to the cards. Knowing them by heart will make counting much easier.
  • Have an eye for details. This helps count quickly regardless of the circumstances. 
  • Set your bankroll. Practice means investing money. You may lose or win in the course of practicing, so don’t bet more than what you’ve set aside. 
  • Practice leads to perfection. – The more you practice, the higher the chances of mastering card counting to make correct decisions.
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Effective Blackjack Card Counting Techniques

There are many blackjack strategies and just as many card counting techniques out there – from extremely simple to mindbogglingly complicated. Of course, some are more effective than others but the main concept is always the same. Here are the most common blackjack card counting systems you could opt for:

The Hi-Lo System

This strategy requires only memorizing three card values, making it the easiest strategy. It’s simple: for the low cards (2-6) add 1 to the total; for high cards (10s, aces, and face cards) subtract 1; for all other cards – do nothing, they’re worth 0. Use these values to calculate the running count – and take decisions accordingly. 

Then, calculate the true count by dividing the running count by the number of remaining decks. Use the true count to adjust the size of your wager. For a true count of 0, 1, or negative, -place a minimum bet. But for a value of 2 – bet 2x your minimum bet; for a total of 3 – bet 3x your minimum bet, etc.

Blackjack High Cards

Running Counts Vs. True Counts

The running count is achieved by counting cards during the game. Further, it is estimated using card values – positive, neutral, or negative. This way you can predict whether the upcoming card is favorable or not and also determine the true count. By contrast, the true count also gives information about the remaining decks. Here’s how to compute it:

  • True count = running count/decks yet to be dealt.

Proper application of this technique can give players a clear picture of what cards remain in the shoe. Thus, it’s a reliable technique. Besides, it helps you figure out if your position is advantageous or not. So, a true count can increase your winning chances as your decisions will be more informed.

Red 7 System

On one hand, calculating the true count is unnecessary for this system. However, you are going to have to memorize more card values. Here’s how it works:

  • A, K, Q, J, 10 are valued at -1
  • Cards from 2 to 6, plus red 7s are worth +1
  • Black 7s, and 8s and 9s have a value of 0

In this system, a start card count based on the deck number is used. Multiply the number of decks by two and then negate the number first. This gives you a starting count to build your running count to which you’ll add card values as cards are dealt. There isn’t a formula for calculating your bet size, but bet very little when the count is negative or low.

Knockout (KO) System

This is pretty similar to the Red 7 system as there’s an adjustment of the starting count. But in this case, there’s no dividing of values to get the true count. The main difference, however, relates to 7s as they are worth +1 in the KO system. 

  • For A, K, Q, J and 10s it’s -1
  • For 2 – 7 cards: +1
  • 8s & 9s = 0

The starting count depends on the amount of decks: for 1 deck: 0; for 2 decks: -4; for 6 decks: -20; and for 8 decks: -28. The current running count is the true count in the KO system.

How to Count Cards

Should You Count Cards?

Counting cards in blackjack has its pros and cons. We’ll let you decide, so here they are:

Pros

  • Increases winning chances and minimizes losses 
  • Improves a player’s ability to make beneficial decisions
  • It offers extra splitting opportunities to the player
  • A player can overturn the house edge to gain long term advantage 

Cons

  • Card counting requires high-level concentration, which is difficult to achieve in a casino environment. 
  • Many real money casinos do not allow card counting due to the huge advantage it offers to players.
  • It might be difficult to find decent conditions to play as many casinos set rules to thwart the advantage.

Summary

Beating the house consistently in blackjack requires mastering and following reliable strategies. While basic blackjack strategies work fairly well, card counting is extremely effective. In fact, it is so effective that some casinos won’t allow it, as it gives players too much leverage. But to count cards you need to familiarize yourself with the basic card counting principles. 

Even more importantly, understanding the patterns of the game itself and having confidence in your technique is crucial. And what better way to grow more confident in blackjack than to practice first? Check out our casino reviews to find just the right platform to perfect your blackjack skills.

FAQ

No, card counting isn't illegal. However, players should not use external card counting devices or get assistance from others to count.

Card counting is all about knowing when the advantage is yours. Based on that, you adjust your bet size and risk more when the odds are on your side.

No, dealers don't count cards.

Yes. Card counting, when done right, gives the players an advantage over the casino.

No, of course not. Blackjack is a game of both skill and chance. Not to mention, there are plenty of other strategies you can use that don’t involve counting.

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