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Blackjack card counting is a mathematical system of keeping track of every card dealt from a blackjack deck to better understand which cards are still left in the deck to be played. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or expert mathematician to learn how to count cards!

Card Counting Systems

The following are detailed information about each individual card counting system:

How Does Card Counting Work?

It is extremely important to understand how card counting works, before you can successfully apply the strategy to your blackjack game. The entire basis of card counting is to keep track of every single card dealt, so you can adjust your betting pattern to fit how your particular blackjack shoe is going.

Most card counting systems start with a count of 0. This means that when you first sit down at a blackjack table, the count is 0. Depending on which counting system you are using, this count will fluctuate with every card that is dealt. You must keep track of not only the cards that you are being dealt, but every single card dealt to every player and to the dealer.

With most card counting systems you are looking for a positive count. When the card count is positive, this generally means there have been more smaller cards played and the deck now has a higher percentage of larger cards. When the deck has a high percentage of larger cards, the player has several different advantages:

  • Dealer Will Bust More Often
  • Player Will Be Dealt More Blackjacks
  • Player Will Be Dealt Stronger and Higher Starting Hands

When a card count is high, the player bets larger amounts of money because they have a higher mathematical advantage. The card counting doesn't stop here, though. Even when you are betting more and winning more, you still must focus and continue to count cards flawlessly. Once the high count starts to drop and gets either neutral or into the negative, you go back to betting smaller amounts because the casino now has the higher advantage.

How Can I Become Skilled at Card Counting?

The only way to become a skilled card counter is to practice, practice, practice. It can take several months if not several years to truly master several of the card counting systems mentioned above. You need to be constantly practicing your card counting techniques and skills until you can count flawlessly. Keep in mind you don't have to be playing blackjack to practice your counting techniques. You can practice your counting methods anywhere.

One very effective method of practicing card counting is to create practice counting charts. You can create a chart that show your hand and the dealer's up card, then you verbally or mentally recite the proper play. If you get stumped, simply refer to your basic strategy charts. Practice charts can be small enough to fit into your wallet so that you can practice card counting wherever you are.

Which Card Counting System Should I Use?

With several different card counting systems available, people often ask which card counting system they should try to learn, but it is often dependent upon each individual and their knowledge of the game. There is generally not a specific answer on where everyone should begin. Many factors determine which system you should use, such as what type of games you play, where you play, your skill level, and how many hours you are playing.

For beginning players, as a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you learn the most basic system first, either the Hi-Lo count or the KO count. These systems of card counting are generally the easiest to learn. Make sure to practice this system thoroughly before moving on to the more complex systems. It can often take months, if not years, to learn how to master blackjack card counting.

Generally, the advantages of the more complex card counting systems compared to the more basic systems are fairly slight, around 0.15%.

History of Card Counting

Card counting first originated when Professor Edward O. Thorp began revising basic strategy in 1962. Through mathematical computation, Thorp realized that whenever a deck was low in 5's, the player had more of an advantage than if the deck was low on any other cards. Card counting started when players would attempt to keep track of how many 5's had been dealt, so they would know how many 5's were still remaining in the deck.

This system was the first basic blackjack card counting strategy and it is known as the "Five Count." The strategy was later revised to also account for the number of 10 cards in the deck and was known as the "Ten Count."

Is Card Counting Legal?

The legality issue of card counting is a common topic around casinos and the game of blackjack. I'm definitely not a lawyer, so take this information in stride and make sure to do thorough research if investigating the full laws and regulations of card counting. The act of card counting at a physical blackjack table with your brain alone (without using any counting devices such as computers and electronics), is considered to be perfectly legal and is not considered cheating.

However, most casinos will not allow a known card counter into their blackjack games and will generally ask card counters to leave if they are caught counting during a game. Since casinos are private property, they have full authority to ask players to leave and to not return if they are caught counting cards in blackjack. They cannot take legal action, but they can force you off their premises and ask you not to return.

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Gambling online, including blackjack online for real money, is illegal in some jurisdictions, so be aware of the situation where you live before deciding to play.

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