APRIL 2024

Blackjack Card Counting - Guide by Professional Card Player

Card counting in your blackjack games is not illegal

How to Count Cards in Blackjack in 2024

Card counting in your blackjack games is not illegal

Written by: Kim Birch | The review was last updated: 12 August 2022 | Fact-check by: Jasmin Williams

Kim Birch has won and lost against the best poker pros worldwide. In addition to being an expert in poker and blackjack, Kim has also published 3 books. About Kim Birch

We all want to be like that genius kid from the movies who got loads of money out of casinos using mathematical formulas to predict the outcome of the games. If you are also intrigued by that, then keep reading this article where we will tell you how to win big at blackjack using simple ways.

You might not know this, but there is a way in which you can get a little edge over the casino when it comes to blackjack games. It is a trick called card counting. Many blackjack players know about this, but it is a common misconception that you need to be a math expert to be able to count cards successfully, but it is not like that, and you can easily count cards regardless of your mathematical proficiency, keep reading this article to understand how to do that. It is not a guarantee that you will surely win, or you will get a guaranteed edge over the house, but one thing which is sure is that your game will definitely improve, and your money will last longer.

Blackjack is a very old card game, and it has been entertaining gamblers all over the world for a long time. This game has its own unique fan following. You would have seen this game in many movies, it is a classic game, and directors prefer it for gambling scenes. It is also the preferred choice for elite gamblers. This game has been featured in different movies like Ocean’s Eleven, Rainman, and 21.

There is no doubt regarding the popularity of blackjack, and just like every other casino-game, blackjack also has some risks. You can never know which cards will be given to you and what will the other players get. However, there is a way to mitigate that risk, and you just need to be good with numbers to do that.

To mitigate the risk in a blackjack game, you should have a little knowledge about the patterns and rules that will help you to get under the skin of the game, and you will get an advantage over others. Keep reading the article, and you will understand the way to work on these numbers to become a pro blackjack player.


Basic Card Counting Strategy - What is Blackjack Card Counting?

An external card counting device in the casino is illegal.

An external card counting device in the casino is illegal.

You won't find many games in the casino that you can beat and get an edge over, that too, legally. Blackjack is one of those only games.

How to count the cards

When we think practically, there is no way to predict which card will be drawn next, but if you know the art of counting cards, you can get a rough idea of what card it is likely to be. If you have an idea about the coming card, you can easily adjust your move according to that prediction, and your chances of winning will significantly increase.

Balanced Card Counting System

In Blackjack, cards are dealt from the shoe, and you know that only a finite number of cards can be dealt, and you know about the cards that are already dealt. For Example, when you see that a King of Hearts is drawn, you are sure that there isn't a chance of any King of Hearts being drawn until the current card shoe is finished.

You can keep this kind of track about the cards, and you can use various strategies to predict the outcome of the coming moves.


Card Counters - Playing Strategy and Online Gambling Myths

Before discussing the card counting method in detail, it is very important for you to understand what card counting really is, and you shouldn't have any myths and misconceptions about the method. Here are a few common myths regarding card counting in blackjack:

1. You can't count cards when there is a multi-deck shoe.

A popular myth regarding card counting is that You can't count cards in a multi-deck shoe, but it is not at all true. It is just that the system becomes a bit more complex and less effective. The biggest challenge for card counters is the continuous shuffling machines used in some casino games.

2. Card Counting Systems are difficult to use myth

It is completely wrong to think that it is difficult to read cards. Most people think you need to be a human calculator to count cards in a blackjack successfully. Actually, the technique of counting cards is extremely simple, and you can count cards just in your mind without any stress. If you can remember a number and subtract and add numbers as the game proceeds, you won't have any issues while counting cards as you need to do just this. Learning Omega II system and other card counting systems could help to elevate your winnings and skill level.

3. Counting Cards illegal in a Blackjack Game Myth

Is counting cards illegal in Blackjack? The answer is NO. Many people think that counting cards is banned in blackjack games, and you can go to jail if you try card counting in a game. This is completely untrue, and you will not get into any issue. However, you shouldn't use any electronic device or blackjack card counting apps to count cards, as it is illegal.

Card counting is an effective way to improve your blackjack game, there is no doubt regarding that, but we still want to restate the fact that you won't be guaranteed any wins in the game just because you are counting the cards. Counting cards gives you only a small advantage in the card game.

As the trend of online casinos has become very popular these days, you should know that you can use the card counting method in digital format as well.


Video: Blackjack Card Counting - Guide by Professional Card Player

Use card counting when playing blackjack in online casinos to lower the house edge.

Player's Advantage - How does card counting actually work?

A game of Blackjack is played with a finite number of cards, but there can be single or multiple decks. To use the card counting method, you have to remember which cards have already been dealt from the deck and which are left. You will do this in a game by keeping a Mental log of the cards in your mind. This way, you can know which cards can be given to you and what will be the dealer's actions. By knowing this system, you will be able to build a system to value cards as good cards or bad cards.

You can use simple lingo to remember the cards. The good cards include the high cards, like aces and the face cards, and the bad cards (the numerical cards) are low-value cards. This good and bad lingo is the basic foundation of the card counting strategy in Blackjack.

Card counting is based on the use of conditional probability, and you should understand two main things:

  • If bad cards have been removed from the deck, you should bet higher, as it means that many good cards remain in the deck.
  • If good cards are removed from the bank, it means that the deck has bad cards, and there is no benefit in betting more.

So, we can say that high-powered cards are more sought-after and more valuable in Blackjack, which is logical as they make it easier to achieve a result closer to 21. When you are in a situation where the proportion of high-numbered cards are more than low-numbered cards, it is called that the shoe is "running hot", and you will want to increase the size of your bets. Similarly, if there are more low-numbered cards in comparison to high-numbered cards, this situation will be called "running cold", and it is likely that the dealer will draw a bad hand, so we should decrease our bet size.

So, to keep track of the cards that have been dealt, this method can be used. This is the actual card counting method that the pro card counters use, and if you think about it closely, it is easier than one would think; you just need to do a bit of practice.


Hi-Lo System for Counting Cards in Live and Online Blackjack

The Hi-Lo system of counting cards is a popular variant of the technique introduced in 1963 by Harvey Dubner, which is very common among blackjack players. This strategy of card counting is based on simple addition, and it is used to determine which card is likely to come next, a high card or a low card. This system method is simply a mathematical method based on analyzing the cards that have passed, which gives us an idea about the cards remaining in the deck.

Each card is given points in the Hi-Lo system. A card is given the three following points: -1, 0, and 1. Overall the method is pretty straightforward, and you put all the cards in the game into these three groups. You will assign all the cards like this:

  • Numbers 2 to 6:+1
  • Numbers 7 to 9: 0
  • Numbers 10 to Ace: -1


High Value Cards in Blackjack - High Cards mechanics of Card Counting

The main thing in the whole counting process is to keep a tally of the cards as they are flipped over on the table. The Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and the numerical 10 have a count of -1 (negative one).

Counting high and low cards is done by professional card counters like MIT blackjack team.

Counting high and low cards is done by professional card counters like MIT blackjack team.

The main reason why these cards hold a negative sign is that you will see them a lot on the table, which means that there is less quantity of them in the deck, and it is bad news for you, the player.

Cards with "ZERO" count: Numerical 7, 8, 9

The MIT card counting team used Neutral cards in their actual counting in Blackjack.

The MIT card counting team used Neutral cards in their actual counting in Blackjack.

When you see these neutral cards on the table, don't do anything, don't add or subtract anything.

Cards with a +1 Count: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Accurate count and Positive count in the Hi-Lo blackjack system

Accurate count and Positive count in the Hi-Lo blackjack system

These cards have a positive count because if you see many of these cards on the gaming table, it means that there are fewer of these in the deck, which is very good for you as a player. So, basically, as the dealer flips the hands, you will be keeping a tally of the card values that you saw, based on the above-mentioned assessment technique.

Sounds easy, right? It does because it is, the Hi-Lo system of card counting is a rather simple process, and the credit for its simplicity goes to the fact that this system is based purely on probability. However, there are still two points of complexity in this system.

  1. A standard blackjack game is played with up to 6 decks.
  2. Blackjack is usually never a two-handed game (Only the player and the dealer)

So, when you start playing the game with a few other players, this system becomes a little complicated, and you need to subtract and add numbers on your mind rapidly, and the card counting system becomes a system of precise and quick numbers tallying. We can conclude that the Hi-Lo card counting system of blackjack is a simple system that just needs elementary numbers knowledge, a good memory, and a clear mind with no unnecessary pressure during the game.


How to use Card Counting system in blackjack

To make sure that you understand the card counting system completely, read the following examples.

Keep a Running Count

As the game progresses, cards will be passed rapidly during the game, and you will calculate the sum of the assigned values. For Example, see the following hand:

  • Dealer: 6 (+1); 5 (+1).
  • Player 1: Ace (-1); Ace (-1).
  • Player 2: King (-1); 9 (0).
  • The total sum of the mentioned values = -1

Below is the illustration of another example from a blackjack game. Consider that the current tally of the game is 0, and a player at your table is busted with the following cards:

A real blackjack game example for counting cards. Play responsibly.

A real blackjack game example for counting cards. Play responsibly.

  • Add 1 for the five
  • Don't do anything, as there is a seven
  • Add 1 for the 2
  • Subtract 1 for the Queen card
  • In the end, you have a total of +1.

Now, if the dealer flips over the next player's cards like this:

Counting cards using the Hi-Lo. Suspected card counters can be asked to leave.

Counting cards using the Hi-Lo. Suspected card counters can be asked to leave.

As the current tally is +1, we will continue, we will subtract 1 for the Ace, add one for the 3, add another 1 for the five, and the new count will be +2. As we have mentioned many times earlier as well, you will have to be very swift while counting the cards, as the dealer doesn't leave the cards on the table for very long. In starting, you might miss the cards sometimes, but with practice, you will keep getting better. You can practice it by yourself as well by using a basic card deck.

Another thing you should remember while counting cards is that it is always easier to cancel out positive cards with negative ones, rather than actually counting the cards, just pair off the positive and negative cards. So, as you see an Ace, a 3, and a 5, you take a look and think that the Ace will cancel out the 3, and the only remaining card is the 5, so the tally for the given group of cards will be +1. Just with this simple trick, you eliminated two-thirds of the cards in the deck, and you just have to consider a single card.

Betting with the Hi-Lo blackjack system

The main crux of this system is one thing, tally the cards, and if you get a very positive count, you should bet more and bet less if the count is negative. So, when the end count of the cards totals a +3 or a +4, you will be increasing the bets. However, the perfect betting strategy in a blackjack game will also depend on the number of decks remaining in the shoe and the number of cards remaining. If you see that the shoe is still full of cards, your count is not very important as there are a lot of cards remaining, and your total might change very quickly, but if there aren't a lot of cards left, you can trust your count strongly. One rule of thumb can be used in a situation like this, you just divide the total count by the number of decks remaining, and you will get a more realistic count value to rely on.

Basic strategy is required while counting cards and playing blackjack.

Basic strategy is required while counting cards and playing blackjack.


You need only a basic blackjack strategy to effectively count the cards

You will have to memorize the blackjack strategy to effectively count the cards, as it is even more important than counting cards. The basic blackjack strategy is to know when to hit, fold, split, double down, etc. If you are not familiar with the basic strategy, it doesn't matter how much you know about counting cards, and you will definitely lose money.

If you are someone who usually has trouble memorizing things, then this part might be even difficult than counting cards. But don't worry, we have something to make it a bit easier for you. There are certain rules of thumb that you can follow. For Example, you should always split aces and the 8s, and you should always assume the dealer has a ten as his down card.

It is almost a guarantee that using the basic blackjack strategy charts will make your money last longer, but it alone isn't sufficient to give you an edge over the house. It can only be given by counting cards.

Can I make money on this?

Yes, card counting does give you a small advantage over the house. You will surely notice this after playing the game for some time. However, you should note that this change will be practically visible when you play the game strictly according to rules, and you have a ton of money to bet for a long time. You should also keep in mind that casinos constantly find new ways of making techniques like card counting less effective, like reshuffling cards often, adding more decks to the shoe, etc.

Team Card Counting

Recently, a new innovation has been introduced in the card counting culture. It is called Team Card Counting, which has become famous through the gambling teams of MIT. This is very interesting and is very entertaining when players play on multiple tables. In Team Card Counting, players communicate with each other using subtle signals, and they indicate to other players when they get a very good count or a very bad one. When something like this happens, their team members head over to that table and play with big opening bets.

The best thing about this arrangement is that initially, this doesn't look like that the players are doing something, as the card-counters don't make huge bets. However, this was not a very detailed explanation of the Team Card Counting system, and we have just touched the basics here. And the main reason behind this article is to introduce you to the technique of card counting. If you want to read more about different aspects of blackjack, you can read different articles here at

You can also find blackjack games in an online format at several excellent online casinos, and there you can use your card counting skills to become an expert blackjack player.


Frequently Asked Questions about Counting Cards

Most Frequently Asked Questions about Counting Cards in live Blackjack games.

Can I count cards in blackjack by myself?

Yes, you can win blackjack games through card counting alone if you practice and polish your skills.

Is it really legal to count cards?

Yes, the practice of card counting is not illegal under the federal, state and local laws in the United States and in European countries if the players don't use any external electronic device for that.

Is it very hard to count cards in real life?

No, blackjack card counting is not at all a difficult job, and you can learn it quickly with a bit of practice.

What will happen if I get caught while counting cards in blackjack?

You should always remember that card counting is not an illegal practice, and you will face no consequences if you get caught while counting cards.

How do I get better at card counting?

The only way to get better at a skill is to practice it, and it is not any different with the case of card counting, just keep practising, and you will become an expert card counter in no time.

Is it possible to count cards in blackjack games when there are six or more card decks?

To calculate the true count, you simply need to divide the running count by the number of decks remaining. When the game contains only the standard 6 decks, each true count will give you an edge of half a per cent over the house.