How to Count Cards in Blackjack – Full Online Guide

Counting cards in blackjack allows the player to keep a “running count” of the cards remaining in the deck. This, in turn, increases the player’s odds at winning, giving the player an edge over the house. In fact, some may even consider counting cards to be downright cheating. The truth of the matter is that card counting has been around for decades and does not alter or interfere with the rules of a game of blackjack. Professional card counters that have been doing it for years have turned it into a lucrative career and raked in tens of millions of dollars in the process. In the following, we reveal how to count cards in blackjack in its most simplistic form, to get you off to a flying start on your blackjack card counting quest.

How to Count Cards in Blackjack

The skill in card counting lies in the ability to keep a running count, and this depends on being consistent at counting the assigned values of the cards that are on the playing field. You can learn to count cards right now in the four steps we have listed below.

1. Start by assigning a theoretical value to each card ( +1 for cards numbered from 2-6, 0 for cards numbered 7-9, and -1 for cards numbered 10-A)

2. Each time a card is dealt by the dealer, subtract or add where necessary. This is solely to keep tabs of the running count off each dealt card.

3. As long as you can keep a running count, you will know the remaining card values that are left in the deck.

4. If the running count runs into a negative when the round ends, decrease your bet size, as you will have less chance of getting a blackjack. Increase your bet the higher the running count goes. The higher the count, the higher your odds of hitting a blackjack.

How Does Counting Cards Work?

The most common misconception in blackjack card counting is that you would need to be some mathematical genius or savant to count cards, when in fact the exact opposite is true. Card counting goes as far back as the early 1950’s. The initial principles of card counting can be found in the book, “Beat the Dealer” which was released in 1962 by Edward O Thorp, also considered to be the father of card counting. The card counting movie, Rain Man, shows an autistic character played by Dustin Hoffman counting cards at a multi deck blackjack table in Caesars Palace, exaggerating the qualities needed to count cards.

To date, there are many versions of the blackjack card counting strategy, with the Hi-Lo strategy at the apex and being the most basic form. Also referred to as the Blackjack Basic Strategy, you will find this method widely available on the internet. At the point you are being dealt you first card by the dealer, make a mental note of its assigned value. For example, if the card you have been dealt is an Ace, the assigned value or count will be -1. If the next card dealt is a number 5 card, you continue to count it’s assigned value which is +1, bringing your accumulative total count to 0.

Continue in this motion for each new card dealt, while keeping the tally going right up to the point where the

cards are shuffled. The amount you are left with at the end of each round is referred to as the “running count”. Suffice it to say, as long as the running count keeps its value positive, the advantage will stay on the player’s side. Furthermore, the art of card counting is a sound and balanced system which means that after all cards in a deck of 52 have been dealt; the count will always be at 0.

Is Counting Cards Illegal in Canada?

So, you may be asking yourself, “is counting cards illegal?” or “why is counting cards illegal?”. Although card counting may be frowned upon by many land-based casinos, the act of card counting cannot be deemed illegal by any Provincial or Federal State law in Canada. There is however certain Canadian Provincial laws, such as in Windsor, that prohibits the use of electronic card counting devices such as mobile phone apps. You could be imprisoned or receive a hefty fine if caught in the act.

Making use of your own arithmetic skills at any casino table to keep track of the cards in play is not illegal. However, do not expect any hospitality by the house as they are well-versed in spotting a potential card counter. Though they may not have any grounds to prosecute you on, they will insure a most unpleasant experience there, or at worst, make you leave the premises.

There are some US based law firms that have adapted special legal terms and defense attorneys who have been assigned to deal with Las Vegas casino arrests. In turn, land-based casinos have also adapted special security measures to counter the act of card counting. Besides monitoring the floor via surveillance cameras, dealers are also constantly being switched around when the pit-boss deems a table “hot”. Another counter measure used by casinos is forced shuffles during a game of blackjack, sanctioned at the start of the next playing round.

Can You Count Cards in Online Blackjack?

It is possible to use the card counting technique when playing Blackjack online. This will however, only hold true for free-to-play blackjack games on the internet. Real money online blackjack games featured at online casinos have been integrated with card-shuffling software which automatically activates each time a new hand is dealt.

If you would however, like to brush up on your card counting skills, there are several free-to-play blackjack leisure games which use the standard card shuffling process. You are able to play in the comfort of your home or in any location from your mobile device, free from the risk of being called out or caught. Practicing on these types of blackjack games also poses no risk to your wallet. Once you have honed in your skills and have become one with the technique of card counting, you can attempt using them at the physical venue.

Card Counting Tips

  • Start with the basics. The Hi-Lo and KO are sound card counting systems that are the easiest to learn.
  • Start with small bets. It is best to place low stakes when learning to count cards.
  • Be inconspicuous. Try acting like a tourist or general beginner while at the table. Some card counters have been known to sit for hours at the blackjack table.
  • Team up with a partner. Working in groups can deter suspicion even more. Players already seated at the table can let their by-standing partners know when to join the game and whether to bet big or not.
Last Updated: June 27, 2022
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