Card Counting Guide

Card counting may seem incredibly easy if you are looking to make quick wins when playing blackjack. However, there is a certain level of skill that is required when it comes to actually be able to effectively count cards. It can take time and patience to master. Many people believe that this skill solely relies on one’s abilities in being able to memorise lots of numbers. This is entirely false and a definite positive for those of us with terrible memories! 

Card counting relies on a system that keeps track of the ratio of high cards to low cards. In this, the more Aces and 10 value cards that there are, the more favourable the system is to the player. Simply broken down, card counting can be defined as 4 simple steps:

  1. Assign a single value to every single card
  2. Ensure that you maintain a “running count” of the values of the card dealt
  3. Use the “Running Count” to work out the true count (count per deck)
  4. Alter your bets as your true count rises

So, let’s break this down…

Stage 1

When you use the most common system for counting cards, the values are as listed here:

  • 2 – 6 = +1
  • 7 – 9 = 0
  • 10 – Ace = -1

The way in which the values work is that you either subtract 1, add 1, or you may actually do nothing. This is based on the value of each card.

Stage 2

This step will focus on the running count. You must keep a running count by paying attention to the game and ensuring that you add or subtract every card that is in the shoe. We have shown an example for you below. As each card comes out of the shoe, you must maintain the true count. As the player, you must do this for every card and round until the cards are shuffled by the dealer again. Once your running count has increased, this signifies that the advantage is in your favour. Once the running count goes into the negative numbers, the casino regains the advantage over you.

Stage 3

After the popularity of card counting increased in the world of blackjack, casinos began to use multiple decks. However, blackjack pros like us have managed to combat that by using the system of a “True Count”. Otherwise known as a count per deck. The way in which you calculate a true count is outlined below:

True Count = Running Count / Decks Remaining

So, for example, having a +4 running count and 5 decks remaining is a very different situation for you, as a player, in comparison to a +4 running count and 1 deck remaining. This is because the player will not have the advantage in the first instance as there is less than 1 additional high card per each deck remaining. This is not the only thing that makes a difference, however. The advantage also depends on the concentration of low cards to high cards. 

Therefore, if the running count was 4 with only 1 deck remaining, this would mean that there are 4 extra Aces and 10’s in the remaining 52 cards. This also means that the edge is in the hands of the player! This is why the true count is actually so important. This is how to calculate it:

True Count = Running Count / Decks Remaining

So, if you had a running count of 8 and 4 decks remaining, the True count is 2 as 8 / 4 = 2.

Stage 4

Maintaining your running count and true count can only take you so far in a game of blackjack by alerting you to the times that you have the edge over the house. There would be no point in keeping count if you didn’t do anything with the information. Therefore, you need to change your bets as the game continues. This means that when the true count rises, you must raise the bet that you have made as there is more chance of you winning. Then, when your count is either negative or neutral, you must lower your bets to limit the damage to your bankroll. 

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