Blackjack Counting Cards

The discussion on how to count cards in blackjack is quite intriguing, as most people do not really know what it entails. It comes off as cheating when you don’t know much, but when you listen to experts, you realize it takes as much skill and thought as any game of skill. In blackjack counting cards, a player takes some time and commitment to get it right, and it all starts with understanding the basic strategy. South African players who are just getting started may want to take their time to grasp the full concept of the game before delving deeper into counting cards on online blackjack.

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What is Card Counting in Blackjack?

Counting cards in blackjack is based on the knowledge of cards and their values, which you get by assigning known values to the cards in an ordinary deck. 2-6 is for low cards, 10, J, K, Q, and A are high-valued. 7-9 are the neutrals considered to be valued at 0. Knowing these values helps you track what is still in the shoe and how much it is worth.

Players who learn how to count cards blackjack often know which steps to take since they know when the odds are against or for them. If you are practicing it, the next player might be too, and you will need to be smart with your swift moves to take advantage of your knowledge.

How to Count Cards in Blackjack

Blackjack card counting begins with assigning values to all cards to determine how they benefit the player. You want to track your cards, other players, and even the dealer’s. The point to remember here is that you want to check after the second one is dealt onwards. You want to keep at it until all the cards in the shoe are exhausted. The Hi-Lo System or method helps you keep a running count of your cards: they are broken down into three, with 2-6 being the low-value cards. These will be valued at +1. You will add 1 to your running count each time you see any of these numbers. 10, J, K, Q, and Ace are the high-value where a player will subtract 1 each time they get any of these. 7-9 are neutral at 0, so they will not impact your running count.

Assign A Value to Every Card

As we mentioned, blackjack card counting starts with you assigning the numbers.

  • 2-6 = +1
  • 7-9 = 0
  • 10, K, J, Q, A = -1

These values will help you determine your running count as they are dealt as the game continues.

The Running Count

Now that you know the value of each card coming from the shoe, you can start assigning them values as they are dealt. Ideally, you should wait for the second one to be dealt with before starting and keep updating this number as the game progresses. If the results are heavily negative as the game progresses, the player will know that the high-value ones have been dealt with and what is left in the shoe is undesirable. They may want to fold as they wait for the game.

Calculate A “True Count” Or Count Per Deck

This is another method players use to track their blackjack cards. You need to know the running count, then divide this by the remaining number of decks. So, if you have 15 as your running count, used one deck, and have 5 remaining out of the total 6, your magic number is 3, which you’ll use to determine your next gameplay. You don’t have to get an exact number when card counting in blackjack, as fractions are usually rounded to the nearest whole number. How do you use this information? A true 1 evens out the game by erasing the house edge, while a true 2 ups the player’s advantage by 0.5%. True 3 takes it all the way to 1%, while negative values will have you losing your advantage.

Change Your Bets as the True Count Rises and Falls

The numbers will change with every deck played, so you will need to watch as the game progresses and make the right move. Too many negatives or neutrals indicate a loss of advantage to the player as it shows those left are not of the highest value, so the right move would be to lower your bet size. As the true count rises in blackjack card counting, you will want to raise your bet sizes to take advantage of the value cards still in the shoe.

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Advanced Blackjack Card Counting Strategies

Other popular strategies in card counting in blackjack, Omega II System and Wong Halves System, are favored by players who have mastered the methods mentioned above. They are simple for players who already know about running and true counts.

Omega II System: This takes the basic Hi-Lo to the next level and uses 0 as its base.

These are the values for this strategy:

  • 2, 3, or 7 = 1
  • 4, 5, and 6 = 2
  • 9 = -1
  • 10, J, K, and Q = -2
  • 8 and Ace = 0

The results differ from Hi-Lo, and True Count in that many negatives show more high-value numbers in the shoe, and too many positives mean more low values.

Wong Halves: The values for this strategy, named for its creator, Stanford Wong, are in fractions.

  • 3, 4, and 6 are 1
  • 2 and 7 are at 0.5
  • 5 is 1.5
  • 8 is 0
  • 9 is -0.5
  • 10, J, K, Q, and Ace are -1

Wong’s interpretation is that when the deck is dealt with completely, the balance is 0.

Advantages of BlackJack Card Counting

Before proceeding, you will need to have the game’s basic skills, so you are only improving on skills you already have. Some consider black jack online a game of chance, but these strategies change it to make it a game of some level of skill, which takes some guesswork away. Your chances of winning increase marginally, which is good enough with any casino game.

  • You increase your chances of winning.
  • Reduce the house edge by 1 or even it out
  • It allows you to know when to leave the game or when to raise the stakes
  • It makes the game more enjoyable

Casino Countermeasures to Make Card Counting Useless

When dealing with a few decks, blackjack card counting is much easier to follow and work with, so blackjack real money casinos prefer more decks to confuse players. Keeping track of the running count becomes hard, so a player loses track of the whole exercise. Land-based and live casinos will use dealers to shuffle so that players can track what’s left, but online sites make it hard for this to happen through automatic shuffling.

Authorities also keenly watch players and can tell when your decision is influenced by something other than the game’s flow. Doubling up or down suddenly alerts them, and they start paying more attention, so a smart counter will be as discreet as possible.

Does Card Counting Work Online Too?

No, it does not work with all the new shuffling machines being introduced, so players have to rely on luck and strategy here. They are luckier at live casinos that use live dealers to shuffle but not so on regular online gaming.

Basic Blackjack Card Counting Tips

  • Learn the basic blackjack strategy
  • Master Hi-Lo and Per Deck methods as they are the most popular
  • Learn and memorize card values, as they will be handy
  • Keep track of all of them as they are dealt, including those held by fellow players
  • Act accordingly – raise or lower your bets based on your results

Is Blackjack Card Counting Legal?

While it is not outrightly illegal, casinos take it as an upper hand against other players and the house, and anyone suspected of doing it will be kicked out and their winnings confiscated. You want to practice it discreetly and leave quietly if you notice any undue attention on you.


If you want to learn how to count cards in blackjack, start with the basic strategy, then carry on from there. You will learn the values of each card and what they represent as you strive for 21, and this knowledge only enriches your experience. While counting cards on online blackjack is impossible due to the industry’s digitalization, you can get away with it with live dealer blackjack.

FAQ: Blackjack Card Counting

Not really, since most casinos use a shuffling machine that makes it harder to predict what’s left in the shoe than with live dealers.
Hi-Lo is quite popular since it’s also the easiest for most players.
The amount you are comfortable losing, as that is the mantra for responsible gambling. You can always double up and down, depending on the odds.
Yes, you can. The Hi-Lo method would be your best bet for a running count.
You will want to work with the True Count method, where you divide the running count with the remaining number of decks to get the True Count. High positives indicate many high-value options left in the decks yet to be dealt.
While there’s no law against it, casino authorities do not take kindly to blackjack card counting. You will want to exercise caution as it is considered cheating.
True Count, Hi-Lo, Wong Halves, and Omega II.