Blackjack Card Counting System-Hi-Lo Count

This is probably the most popular card counting system used in blackjack.    It was introduced by Harvey Dubner in 1963, as a remake of Edward Thorp’s Ten-Count card counting system.

It is also known as the Plus/Minus system and is widely used by recreational players because it’s easy to learn and one can be ready to use it at a blackjack table after only a couple hours of practice.

System Classification

The Hi-Low system is classified as a balanced system because if you count out a full deck of cards, you will end at 0.  It is basically a way to keep track of the high cards left in the deck.

How it Works

Once a shuffle has been completed and the game starts with a new deck, the count starts at 0.  Each card is assigned a value of either -1, 0, or +1.

The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1+1+1+1+1000-1-1-1-1-1

A running count is kept as the cards are dealt.  As each card is dealt, you either add 1, subtract 1 or do nothing to the count. That establishes the running count, which then needs to be converted to the true count.

A true count is a more accurate representation of the card values in a shoe. The true count is used when you’re dealing with more than one deck of cards, as in a game using a shoe to deal cards. It is calculated by the running count divided by the estimated decks remaining in the shoe.

A true count conversion is not necessary with a single deck game, because the running count is pretty accurate with one deck, when using a balanced counting system.

Figuring out the true count is what beginners fear, but it really isn’t that hard because you only have to estimate the number of remaining decks.  At most, casinos are going to use an 8 deck shoe, so if it looks like you’ve played halfway through the shoe, there are approximately 4 decks remaining and you would divide your running count by 4.

When your true count is at 2, you can think about increasing your bet.  When it increases more than that, continue increasing your bet upwards because the deck is very favorable. 

However, don’t make huge increases in your bets if the count keeps going up or you will draw unwanted attention as a card counter. 

With this system, and a true count of +1 or lower, it is suggested that minimum bets should be made.

Why Card Counting Helps

Once you get comfortable with this system and are able to keep an accurate true count, you can change your basic strategy moves because of the added knowledge you have about the remaining cards.  You are able to turn losing decisions into profitable ones.  For instance, if you have a ten/2 against the dealer’s 2, if the true count is +3, it would be better to stand, instead of hitting it, as basic strategy instructs.  With that +3 count, you know that there are many more high cards than low cards, meaning you have a better chance of busting.

Decisions like that can be made because of a table of “index numbers,” developed by the blackjack expert Stanford Wong.  The index numbers dictate the point at which basic strategy play for a specific decision changes.  There are several different index number tables, but the 2 mostly used with the Hi-Lo system are the Illustrious 18 and the Fab 4, which you can find the full index number tables here.

Even the simplest card counting system makes basic strategy more effective because basic strategy assumes the next card drawn will be a 10.  If you know for sure the deck is rich in 10’s, you know the play determined by basic strategy will definitely be the optimal play.

If you bet in line with the true count, you can raise your bet at times win the cards are in your favor and just bet the minimum when you know the cards are unfavorable.  As mentioned earlier though, you have to control your raised bets in order to not draw the attention of casino staff.  You do want to greedy real quick.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Basic strategy must be perfected first before using any card counting system. This Hi-Lo system is popular because the basics are easy.  The challenge comes from adding the true count and the index numbers. There are players who use it without considering the index numbers, and doing that is better than not card counting at all.  Others stay away because they have a hard time calculating the true count, an important part of the system.  Fortunately, there are other card counting systems that don’t require a true count.  If you take the time to learn it and practice it, it’s an effective system.

Blackjack Card Counting System-CANFIELD MASTER

The Canfield Master card counting system is the harder counterpart to the Canfield Expert system.  It was also introduced by Richard Canfield in 1977, in his book titled Blackjack Your Way to Riches.

What makes this system harder is that the indexes range from -2 to +2, so there is more memorizing to be done.

How it Works

It is considered a balanced system so the count is going to start at 0 and end at 0 if you count through an entire deck.

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +1   +2   +2   +2   +10-1-2-2-2-20

A running count is kept as the cards are dealt.  The count does start at 0. When the count gets to at least +2, you would increase your bet and when the counts falls to +1 or lower, you would bring your bet back to the table minimum.  There is a suggested bet spread chart as follows:

Running CountUnits Bet
+1 or lower1
+2, +32
+4, +53
+6, +74
> +75

For example, if you’re playing a $5 minimum table and your running count was +5, your bet would be $15 ($5 x 3).  What’s good about this table is that your bets won’t get outrageous enough to bring suspicion of card counting, yet you could still make a decent profit.  At a $5 table, your maximum bet should be only $35.

As with almost any card counting system, you want to be able to immediately “cancel” out cards as they hit the table, and then count those that are left on the table.

Of course the idea is the higher the count, the more high cards are left in the deck, so better for the player.  A lower count means the exact opposite, so bad for the player and therefore keep your bet lower.

Aces are not counted but being able to do that will enhance the effectiveness.  Ace-reckoning can give you a better idea on the chances of hitting a blackjack.  If you haven’t seen any aces, there’s a better chance of being able to hit a blackjack in the near future.

As with the Expert version, this Master system was designed to work best with a single deck game, but players have said it can work well with multi-deck games also.

System Classification

This is considered an advanced, Level 2, Balanced Count System, which means it is a bit more complicated with more to memorize and the count begins with 0 and ends with 0, with a newly shuffled deck.  A balanced count system is easy to practice as well, because once you’ve gone through the entire deck, your count should be 0. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you can master the Canfield Master card counting system, you will not be far from mastering regular profits at the blackjack table.  This will take a little more time to learn than the expert version, but it is a bit more exacting on the count and therefore a bit more effective.

Blackjack Card Counting System-CANFIELD EXPERT

The Canfield Expert card counting system is known for it’s simplicity.  It was first introduced by Richard Canfield in 1977, in his book titled Blackjack Your Way to Riches.

While being known for it’s simplicity, it is deceptively effective when used properly.

How it Works

It starts with the basic rule of card counting, assigning point values to each card in the deck.  A running count is kept as the cards are dealt.  The count does start at 0. When the count gets to +3 or more, you would increase your bet and when the counts falls to -1 or worse, you would bring your bet back to the table minimum.

The values you assign to cards are: -1, 0, and +1.  With this system, the cards are valued as:

2345678910JQKA
0   +1   +1   +1   +1   +10-1-1-1-1-10


Because there are only 3 indexes (-1, 0, +1) to think about, it makes keeping the count easier.

When you first try it, it will probably seem difficult, but as you practice and are able to “cancel” cards out as they hit the table (like 4 and 10) you can simply count the cards left on the table.

What additionally keeps this simple is the fact that you don’t count aces.  In many card counting systems, keeping count of aces, known as Ace-Reckoning, is an important detail.  As you become an expert with the Canfield Expert system, try adding ace-reckoning to improve the effectiveness.

The one drawback of this system is that was designed to work for a single deck only, and unfortunately it can be hard to find a single deck game at a casino.

System Classification

This is considered a Level 1 Balanced Count System, which means it’s easy to learn and the count begins with 0 and ends with 0, with a newly shuffled deck.  A balanced count system is easy to practice as well, because once you’ve gone through the entire deck, your count should be 0. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s a fact that if you can count cards, you’re going to be much more successful at the blackjack tables.  If you’re looking to become a regular blackjack player, learn a card counting system.  There aren’t many more tried and true systems than this one.  It’s still around because it works.

CARD COUNTING-Is It Worth It?

With the stories of card counters being kicked out of casinos, you have to wonder if you should learn card counting.

Why should you take the time to learn card counting if it’s just going to get you kicked out of the casino?

First of all, card counting will surely give you an advantage when it comes to playing blackjack, so it is worth it.  The casino’s term is an “advantage player”.  This means you have found a way to decrease the house edge (you can’t totally eliminate the house edge in any game) and the house doesn’t like that. 

Secondly, card counting is absolutely legal, but highly frowned upon by casinos and they can’t arrest you.  It’s actually a very rare occurrence to be kicked out of a casino, more likely, you’ll be asked not to play blackjack any more.  You would be welcome to play any other game in the casino.

In casino lingo, you will kindly be “backed off” the blackjack tables.

How Does a Back Off Happen?

If you have been suspected of counting cards, the casino will find a way to stop you from playing.

They want to be careful about it though, because not everybody suspected of card counting is actually card counting.  You don’t want to alienate a good customer by making him stop playing because he’s on a winning streak.

In many instances, the pit boss will just stop by and have you stop playing by talking with you.  He will be looking to interrupt your game enough that you lose your advantage count. You won’t be asked to leave, but they hope your count will be disrupted.

Outcomes of a Pit Boss Talk:

  • Allowed to remain playing, but don’t make the wide ranging bets, you’ll be asked to make the same size bets for the remainder of the shoe
  • Says you can’t play blackjack, but you can remain in the casino and enjoy any other game
  • May ask for your ID and ban you from the casino
  • May ask for your ID and permanently ban you from that casino, as well as an associated casinos

While you’re not legally to bound to show your ID to a casino employee, they can ask to see it.  If you refuse to show your ID, they can ask you to leave their private property.  You will probably also be asked to never come come back and be warned that you will be charged with trespass if you do.

Is a Back Off Headed Your Way?

Each pit boss is different, but in general, if they come and ask your name, after some increased betting, you’re probably under suspicion.  Just saying hello is not a clear sign, but if they’re staying in your general area, you might want to adjust your play.

Pit bosses probably know how to count cards, so they will watch and count to notice if your bets increase markedly when they figure the shoe is player favorable.

Card Counting without getting Caught

  • Don’t get greedy! Don’t make your card counting obvious with large bet variances.  You don’t want to be making the minimum bets and once you know the cards are in your favor, jump to the table maximum bet.  That is an obvious sign that you count cards.
  • The professional card counters try to stay within a 1-15 spread, meaning $10-$150 bet range.  If you’re new to card counting, stay within a 1-4 spread, or $10-$40 bet range.  That bet range will still give you a better than average profit advantage from knowing when to increase your bet.
  • Don’t play at one table for more than a couple of shoes. If you stay at one table, you give the pit boss a better chance of watching you play.  That works vice-versa as well, in that if you see he watches where you move to, you’re probably under scrutiny
  • If you have the ability to easily go to different casinos, do so.  While casinos like regulars, it gives them more reason to watch your play.  If you don’t have a wide variety of casinos to choose from, be sure to play at different times and/or shifts.
  • As a last resort, consider wearing a disguise.  It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just maybe a hat and sunglasses.  You basically want to alter your appearance.
  • Consider a playing partner or team.  The first player will sit and play minimum bets and when the count becomes favorable, signals a nearby partner to come and make bigger bets while in the favorable period.

Card Counter Fate

Most books will tell you that as a card counter, you will eventually be backed off or caught. I don’t believe all card counters will be caught.  If you’re a smart card counter, you shouldn’t be caught.  If you can play by the outlines above, you should not get caught.

Pit bosses are good at spotting counters, but they won’t look your way unless you give them a reason to look your way. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

If blackjack is going to be your casino game of choice, learning to count cards is something you should do.  It’s not illegal, so you shouldn’t be afraid to do it, and it will make a big difference in your profits.

The question should be if you can be content with just doubling or tripling your bet, with a favorable count, so you’re not suspected of card counting.  If you’re not looking to become a professional blackjack player, I think you can effectively use card counting to make it a comfortable hobby.  Play smart and don’t give the casino a reason to watch you play, they have many more patrons than can be looking at.

BLACKJACK after CORONAVIRUS

It’s almost that time where the casinos can open up to us gamblers again.  Woohoo! I can hardly wait…what about you?

The real question should be, have you kept your game up by at least playing online?

I hope so, but let’s take a look at how you can come back to the land based casinos and return to your winning ways.

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Simple Card Counting

As we all know, card counting is not illegal, only highly frowned upon.  The casino heads know that card counting provides a distinct advantage to the player.  It doesn’t totally take away the house edge, but severely decreases that house advantage.

There aren’t many competitive activities where if you take the time to make it easier for you, you’re actually penalized.  It hardly seems fair that, card counting is not against the rules, yet you’re asked not to use that skill you have worked hard to acquire.

I’m going to present a very simple method of card counting that will make your win percentage slightly higher than just going with basic strategy and no card counting.  A slight advantage is always better than no advantage.

Simple Mathematical Analysis

First of all, you have to be alert at the table, and clearly aware of all the cards of all the players.

Also realize that most casinos use a 6-deck shoe, meaning there are 312 cards, with 96 of those cards valued at 10.

Why does that matter? You can make the assumption that the dealer will cut 1.5 decks (78 cards) out of play after the shuffle, with 24 of them being 10-value cards.  That leaves 72, 10-value cards among the 234 cards left in play.

Because of the Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing, we can assume only 3 players, plus a dealer are at the table.  Not a bad thing in my mind! So, let’s estimate 12 cards dealt per hand, therefore 20 hands dealt before a shuffle is required.  If 10-value cards come out proportionally, you should see 3, 10-value cards dealt per hand.

How It Works

You start with the premise that you should see at least three 10-value cards each hand.  If you see 3, 10-value cards, your count is zero. if you see 2, 10-value cards, your count is -1. (one short of the expected 3)  After each hand, you add or subtract that round’s total from the previous running total.

For example, the first hand had 3, 10-value cards, running count total 0, the next hand had 2, 10-value cards, total -1, running count total -1, and the next hand had 2, 10-value cards, total -1, running count total -2.

As you keep your running count, a plus number indicates a shoe with more 10-value cards, meaning advantage player, so bet bigger. A negative number indicates a shoe with fewer 10-value cards, meaning advantage house, so bet smaller.

Since that is such a simple counting method, you can also try to track Aces, noticing how many have been played. If it seems like a large number have been dealt the first half of the shoe, you should keep your bets smaller during the second half because the chance of hitting a blackjack is definitely smaller.  If you haven’t seen many Aces, then increase your bet, hoping to hit a blackjack and payoff of 3:2.

One more card to consider tracking are fives. A five is considered dealer friendly because it allows him to draw to a stronger hand.  If you think there are plenty of 5’s still in the shoe, bet small because it’s advantage dealer, if it’s vice versa, bet bigger.

BONUS TIP: If you have a hard time keeping track of the count, a good tip is to use an extra stack of chips, to add to when the count is plus and subtract from when the count is negative.  As the dealer is running out of cards and you notice your extra stack is high, time to bet bigger!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Remember, there are many different card counting methods, and it doesn’t have to be complex.  With blackjack, knowing when it would be more likely to hit a blackjack, for a 3:2 payout, is what can make the game exciting.  Card counting gives you that advantage and it doesn’t have to be hard.

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ACE to FIVE CARD COUNTING SYSTEM – Modified

Most people think that card counting is difficult learn.  There are many different systems that have been devised, from simple to more complex.  A more complex system will give a more accurate count, so  it would be better, but even the simplest of systems will drop the house edge.

As a casino player, you want to reduce the house edge in any game you play.  With blackjack having the lowest house edge in all casino games, if you’re able to reduce that even a little bit more, the better the chance of having a profitable gambling session.

The true system was developed by Michael Shackleford, better known as the Wizard of Odds, and for astute mathematical analysis of casino games.

HOW IT WORKS

The reason the system is based on aces and fives, is because those two cards have the biggest influence on house edge when they are removed from the deck.

Because you focus on only two cards, it’s easier to learn.  The more complex systems have you thinking about more cards, making them more reliable.  However, if you can learn this easier system, it makes learning more complex systems easier.

This modified version starts with a count of 10 (as opposed to 0), done this way so you won’t have to work with negative numbers.  That can actually work with most systems, if you don’t like to work with negative numbers.

Each time you see a 5, add 1 to your count, each time you see an ace, subtract 1 from your count.  You use this count to determine how much your bet should be.  If the count is 11 or less, you stay with the minimum bet

When the count reaches 12 or 13, you want to double your bet. If the count gets to 14 or 15, you double your bet again. If the count reaches 16 or more, you again double the bet.

So, if thinking in terms of bet units and the minimum bet is 1 unit, as the count increases, you’re betting 1unit, 2units, 4units or 8units. It looks like this:

  • Count is 11 or less – bet 1 unit
  • Count is 12 or 13 – bet 2 units
  • Count is 14 or 15 – bet 4 units
  • Count is 16 or more – bet 8 units

Should the count get to 6 or lower, consider getting up from that table, as the house edge is probably higher than normal at that point.

FINAL THOUGHTS

That is the short and sweet of the system. The system should not take long to learn because it is quite simple.  If you can learn it, and use it while applying perfect basic blackjack strategy, you will probably do better than break even in the long run. 

Take the time to practice at home before trying it at a casino.  You have to be able to count, without looking like you’re counting. As your skills improve with this simple system, don’t be afraid to move up to a more advanced system.  Because you now understand the concept of card counting, it won’t be as difficult to learn more advanced techniques.  Good luck!

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BLACKJACK CARD COUNTING

Team Card Counting

As an individual player, you are limited to the number of hands you can play at one time.  However, if you have a group of players looking to beat the house, your odds will go up dramatically.

Probably the most famous blackjack team to be discovered, was the M.I.T. blackjack students, who became the inspiration for the movie “21.”

Common team card counting strategies consist of having different players in the group, playing at different tables, or signaling the team players when to move in with the bigger bets. One advantage with team play is that it allows you to move in with a big bet only when the table is extremely favorable to the player.  As a team player, you can hold back the big bets every now and then, although the table is favorable, because you know your other team players should be making money.

Of course, there are also downfalls to team play.  With many players involved, there is a risk of getting caught, and winnings have to be split many ways.

CLASSIC TEAM STRUCTURE

The Back-Spotter

This is the person who isn’t necessarily seated at a table.  This person watches the tables from a distance and then will signal “The Gorilla” when to sit down at a table.

The Spotter

This person will actually be a player at a table, responsible for keeping an accurate card count at that table.  Because the casinos are constantly looking for betting irregularities, The Spotter maintains minimum betting, but looks to signal The Gorilla or team manager when the deck becomes favorable.

The Gorilla

This person moves from table to table, making maximum bets when the tables are extremely favorable for the player.  Often The Gorilla will be quite boisterous and loud, acting like a high-roller who is willy-nilly throwing his money around.

The Big Player

This person has the job of keeping the rest of the team from getting detected.  He will be a high roller, seated at a table, displaying expert blackjack strategy.  This will attract casino personnel attention. Though it’s not illegal to employ perfect blackjack strategy, a person with a hefty bankroll (like The Gorilla) and game knowledge, will hopefully pull attention away from the rest of the team.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL TEAM

  1. Dedication – Each member should be quite proficient in the art of card counting.  One weak link can destroy a whole hour’s worth of profit. 
  2. Trust – You want to be able to trust each member you’re working with. You want to know they won’t steal from you, as well as trust that they will play the game correctly.
  3. Sufficient Bankroll – Pooled resources allow you to generate more profits in a shorter period of time.
  4. Strong Management/Leadership –  Any size team needs leadership people to make the many decisions and to keep the records.
  5. Fairness – As with almost any team, there will be times of divisiveness where fairness will be questioned.  With a blackjack team, questions about how the bankroll will be split, how often each member will play, how profits will be split and so on.  You don’t have to worry about fairness when you play by yourself, you get exactly what you played for.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Card counting as a team is not easy per se, it takes a lot of practice and dedication. However, if done correctly, as your team starts beating the house, it becomes worth it! 

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Is Wonging in Blackjack Effective?

Wonging

This is a technique named after Standford Wong, the pen name for the legendary author of “Professional Blackjack” and other gambling books.   It’s not that Stanford invented the technique, but many of the users were Wong’s students.

It is when you stand beside or behind a blackjack table and count the cards and then decide to sit down at the table when the deck is favorable to you as the player.  It is also called “back-counting,” because you’re counting cards from behind the players. 

It is mostly used when there are several decks in play because it allows the wonger to spend some time counting cards.  If only a couple of decks are being used, the wonger doesn’t have a chance to get a good count on the deck before it’s shuffled.

By sitting down when the deck has become favorable, you can make relatively larger bets at once, hopefully without drawing suspicion.  If you’ve been at a table a while and suddenly start making bigger bets, the pit boss may consider that a sign that you’re counting cards and know the deck is suddenly favorable.

Some casinos try to negate wonging by having a “no mid-shoe entry” policy.  However, that can be difficult to enforce, so it still can be done effectively.

There is also a technique called Semi-wonging, where you actually leave the table at a predetermined point in the count.  For instance, you may have sat down when the count was +8, but decide to leave the table if the count falls to +4.

Wonging Advantages

The most obvious advantage is that you only play when the deck is favorable to you.  You don’t have to make minimum bets because you’re only playing when the count is highly favorable, allowing for maximum bets for you.

With bankroll management a vital concern, not having to waste time and money with minimal bets when the deck is not favorable, is a huge advantage.  The bigger you can bet, the more you can win, in a shorter period of time.

Wonging Disadvantages

Though standing around and counting cards can be relatively simple, it can also be noticed by casino surveillance. The casino will eventually realize that you observe tables for a bit and then sit down and make relatively large bets.

Despite sitting down when the deck is favorable, there’s no telling how long the deck will remain this way.  You will of course want to get up when the deck starts cooling down.  Casinos become wary of card counting when a player sits down for only a couple of hands, gets up and perhaps watches a few hands and then sits down again.  You don’t want to be that obvious.

Final Thoughts

Wonging has been around since probably the 1970s.  It can still be done effectively today if it is thoroughly understood and practiced.

In terms of doing it effectively, you need to be able to count cards from a distance, without drawing attention to yourself.

As a wonger, you probably won’t have your table mates happy with you because you sit down and start winning, while they have suffered through all the bad hands!  Just tell them you’ve brought them luck, since the deck is now favorable for all players!

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Card Counting Practice

As with anything you want to be proficient at, it requires practice.  Card counting is no exception.  While it is definitely not illegal, casinos don’t like it to be used because it absolutely allows the player to win more and lose less.

To use it effectively, you have to make sure your usage is not detectable!  Card counters have to be cool, calm and collected, so the pit bosses don’t start keying on your activities.  You want to practice until the process becomes second nature to you.

How To Practice

Fortunately, it’s as simple as grabbing a deck of cards and counting through the entire deck, one card at a time.  Using the simple Hi-Lo method, as you count through the 52 cards (jokers removed), your final count should be 0. 

Your goal should be to get faster each time through.  The expert card counters are able to get through a deck in less than 30 seconds.

Speed Counting

The difference between professional card counters and beginners, is the expert’s ability to count cards in groups, as opposed to counting each card individually. 

Because cards are generally grouped in pairs as you look at a blackjack table, it should be your goal to look at a pair and immediately know that value.  For instance, if you see a Jack and a 3, you should automatically think “0” instead of “-1” and “+1”, = “0.”  Learn to recognize low cards (2’s-6’s) and 10-value cards cancel each other to 0.  In the same vein, with 2 low cards, immediately think “+2,” and with 2 10-value cards, think “-2.”  Being able to look at 2 cards at once and have a count, will dramatically increase your counting speed.

Distractions

You want to practice your card counting with as many distractions as you can possibly create, because casinos will have many distractions.  Just the noise alone in a casino can make card counting difficult. 

The casino atmosphere can work a little in your favor as well, because if you can maintain your cool and keep a running count of the cards on the table, without a pit boss becoming suspicious, more power to you!  You want to be focused, but not “look” focused on the cards dropping on the table. 

You want to be able to take only a second to look at cards and a get a count in your head.  If you can only count by intently staring and doing the math in your head, you will be caught by a pit boss and kindly asked to leave the table.  Learn to count with just a peek at the cards and do the math in your head while looking away from the table.

Online Practice

Finally, there are many online simulators that will help you increase your card counting speed and accuracy.  These are effective ways to truly test how fast you are at counting.  You may have gotten very good at challenging yourself with hand dealing to yourself, but rest assured, it’s more difficult with the online simulators and therefore great practice.

I like cardcountingtrainer.com and the free counter at casino.org just to name a couple of trainers.  All you need to do is a google search for card counting simulators to find one that you’ll like. 

Many people don’t try card counting because they feel it’s too difficult.  That’s not true!  All it takes is practice, practice, practice. 

It takes a lot of practice because the hardest part of card counting for blackjack, is doing it calmly enough so that you’re not caught doing it.  Remember, it’s not illegal, so you won’t get arrested, you’ll just be asked to not come back.

The best way to stay calm about it is to know it so well, that it’s like second nature to you and you can count without batting an eye.  That just takes practice!

Easy Card Counting

I mentioned in an earlier post that the easiest and most widely used method of card counting is one called the Hi-Lo method. The Hi-Lo is probably the most used but there are some other methods I discovered that are probably even easier to master.

The Easy OPP System

This was developed by Carlos Zilzer.  OPP is an ancronym for One Per Person.  Mr. Zilzer did thousands of simulated tests with the system and has documented the highly effective results he garnished with it. He has actually defined two different methods, with each being simple to understand and easy to master. Let’s go over them:

  • Method One – Number of Hands
    • First, make sure you start at the beginning of a shoe, so sit at a table that has just completed shuffling.  The running count is started at +6, so the count will rarely get to negative numbers, which can be confusing in keeping a running count of cards.  Immediately subtract the “number of hands” (thus the name) being played, including the dealer’s hand, from the running count.  With 2 players at the table, each playing one hand, the initial count would be +3. (+6-3=3) Remember to add a hand if a player is playing 2 spots.  Then, as the cards are dealt, simply add the total of low cards (2’s – 6’s) to your count, with each low card valued at +1.  At the end of the round, you have a running count.  Determine your next bet size based on the running count at the end of the round.  The higher the running count. the higher the advantage is to the player, the bigger your bet should be.
    • What’s great about this method is that the only subtracting you have to do is at the beginning of the next round, when subtracting the number of hands being played.  After that, you add 1 to the count for every low card that is dealt.  You can just look at the table and quickly count the total number of 2’s-6’s, you see. Take that total and add it to the running count number in your head.  Addition is so much easier than subtraction, which is the beauty of this system.
  • Method Two – Value of the Hands
    • First, wait for the first two cards to be dealt to all players, including the dealer, then determine the value of each hand by the following parameters:
      • A hand with no low cards (2’s-6’s) = -1
      • A hand with one low card = 0
      • A hand with two low cards = +1
      • A hand with 3 low cards = +2, and so forth, (4 low cards = +3)
      • Split hands are considered new hands (value of the original hand is not counted)
    • The total number of cards in a hand doesn’t matter.  For instance, the following hand of “Ace, Ace, 3, 4, Jack, 2” has a value of +2 because it has 3 low cards.
    • As with method 1, your running count should start at +6 when you sit down at the beginning of a shoe.  The only subtraction is if there are no low cards in a hand and that’s just a -1.

Betting with the OPP Method

As with any counting method, the higher your running count, the more you want to bet, because at that point, the shoe is deemed favorable to the player.

There is definitely a more detailed chart you can look at if you research this system, but basically:

  • Increase your bet under the following situations:
    • For a two-deck game – running count should be +8
    • For a six-deck game – running count should be +12
    • For an eight-deck game – running count should be +14

Remember this is a very simple system (either method), and your count may never get to the higher value, for several shoes, so be patient and stay conservative to stay profitable.  Play disciplined, play long!

The Red Seven Count Method

This system was developed by Arnold Snyder, a well-known professional gambler, author, and blackjack expert who has written numerous books on blackjack. In fact, I suggest checking out a couple of his books: “Blackbelt in Blackjack-Playing 21 as a Martial Art” and “The Big Book of Blackjack” for a thorough look into the ins and outs of playing blackjack for a profit and counting methods.

With this method, the high cards (10’s-Aces) are given a value of -1, and the low cards (2’s-6’s) are valued at +1.  The 8’s & 9’s are considered neutral and valued at zero (0). The red 7’s are valued at +1, like a low card, but the black 7’s are valued at zero (0), so considered neutral. Obviously this would create an imbalance in the count, which is what makes the count work. And of course, it really doesn’t matter if you switch it around and value the black 7’s at +1 and the red 7’s as neutral.  The developer of the system, Arnold Snyder, chose red, and therefore, The Red Seven Count. As a note, if you practice this method by running through a 52-card deck, your final count will always be +2

The running count starting number for this method is determined by multiplying the number of decks in play by -2.  So if you’re at a table using 6 decks, your start number is -12 (6 x -2).

Betting with the Red Seven Count Method

As always, the idea is to bet bigger when you have an advantage over the house, and if the advantage grows, bet even bigger.  When the house has the advantage, keep your bets to a minimum.

  • Increase your bet under the following situations:
    • for a 2 deck game – running count should be +4 before increasing from minimum
    • for a shoe game (4 or more decks) – running count should be +6 before increasing from minimum

The Red Seven Count system is considered to be a professional level system that is both powerful and easy to use.  Check out the book “Blackbelt in Blackjack” for a more in depth understanding of this system.

Mastering Card Counting – Practice

Being able to count fast is the secret to using card counting to beat the casino at blackjack. The best card counters actually count cards in groups of at least two cards at a time.  In many pairs of 2 cards, the values actually cancel each other out, so they can be tossed or disregarded.  Once you can quickly run through a deck of cards at a single card pace, practice, practice, practice even harder to become proficient at counting pairs of cards.  Being able to quickly recognize “cancelling pairs” will make the difference in counting at a professional level or not.  The top professional card counters can actually count in groups of 3 or 4 at a time. That’s my goal!

With that in mind, don’t work on speed of count until you’ve perfected your accuracy.  It won’t matter if you’re fast, if your count is wrong.  It’s a fact that most professional counters can easily count down a deck in less than 30 seconds.  You can imagine that a goal like that involves a lot of practice, but if you can get to 30 seconds or less, you should do just fine in most casino blackjack games.

When you feel ready to take your card counting skills to the casino for the first time, don’t actually sit down and play, practice counting while just watching.  This way you can get a feel of the speed of play and determine whether or not you can count at a pace that keeps up with the game play.

Conclusion

Of course there are many other counting methods to choose from, but these are definitely 2 of the easiest to learn.  You can absolutely use either one to make a nice profit at beating the casino at blackjack.  You can make more money with a simple system because you’ll make fewer mistakes. Mistakes in card counting can be costly very quickly. Pick a simple  card counting system and give it a go.  Card counting can be easy!