card-counting-blackjack

HOW TO COUNT CARDS IN BLACKJACK

Whether you want to play blackjack in a regular casino or online casino, counting cards can be the difference between a winning and a losing streak.

Back in the days, card counting was considered cheating, which goes to prove just how efficient it can be. Now, in 2021, card counting is legal both in regular casinos and in online casinos.

In blackjack, probability plays a big part, and with card counting, you can predict when you have the advantage, and when the dealer has the advantage.

With some help from Mike Aponte, a former member of the infamous MIT Blackjack Team, we have created this guide on how to count cards in blackjack.

As with all guides from AllGambling, you don’t have to be a professional player, as we specialize in translating difficult strategies and terms into plain, understandable English.

Content Overview

THE THEORY BEHIND CARD COUNTING

We will start off this guide by looking at the theory behind card counting. By doing so, it will be easier to understand why it’s working, not only how it’s working.

As you may know already, the cards in blackjack have a face value. If you are uncertain of what this is or want to learn more basics before you try out advanced strategies, you can do so in our easy guide on how to play blackjack.

When counting cards, these values are divided into three categories and given a number indicating whether it’s good, bad or medium for you that these cards are gone from the deck.

It is considered a good thing when there are a lot of cards holding the face values 10 and 11 left in the deck. This is why these cards have a negative number.

Low cards can easily bust your hand, which is why it is positive that they are gone from the deck.

The theory behind card counting is that you will hit a winning streak when the total number counted is within a certain spread, after subtracting the negatives and adding the positive values.

theory-behind-card-counting

CARD COUNTING VALUES

As mentioned in the previous section, some cards are considered good and some bad when they are still left in the deck. In the following segment, we will cover which cards carry a negative value, and which cards carry a positive value when counting cards in blackjack.

card-value

NEGATIVE NUMBER CARDS

The cards considered good to be left in the deck are 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace. The reason is that if these cards pile up all at once, the probability of hitting a winning streak increases.

It is bad for the player when these cards are dealt a little after a little. This is why the cards have a negative number attached to them when counting cards. The exact number they carry is -1

Card (Face Value)Card Counting Value
Ten (10)-1
Jack (10)-1
Queen (10)-1
King (10)-1
Ace (11 / 1-1

POSITIVE NUMBER CARDS

Low cards are on the contrary considered bad for the player. This is because they can easily contribute to the player busting.

Numbers considered low in blackjack are 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Opposite to the high-value cards, these cards have a positive number in card counting.

As you want these cards to leave the remaining deck of cards, cards 2 to 6 get a -1 value when counting cards in blackjack.

Card (Face Value)Card Counting Value
Two (2)+1
Three (3)+1
Four (4)+1
Five (5)+1
Six (6)+1

NO IMPACT NUMBERS

Now that we know high cards carry a value of -1 and low cards carry a value of +1, you may wonder how you count cards from 7 through 9.

As these cards are neither considered bad or good for you, cards 7, 8, and 9 carries the value 0.

In plain English, one can say that these cards are not counted at all.

Card (Face Value)Card Counting Value
Seven (7)0
Eight (8)0
Nine (9)0

CONVERT RUNNING COUNT INTO TRUE COUNT

Now that you know the values and how to count the different kinds of cards in blackjack, it’s time to turn that knowledge into a winning strategy.

The first step towards creating a winning strategy is to learn the basic blackjack strategy. While card counting is about knowing when to strike, basic blackjack strategy is about what move to make in that situation. The combination of the two is considered the best way to play blackjack.

The second step towards winning in blackjack is to convert the running count into a true count. First, we will take a look at what a running count is.

true-count

WHAT IS A RUNNING COUNT?

When counting cards in blackjack it’s important to know the difference between a running count and a true count, as the running count alone won’t get you anywhere.

The running count is the count you do at the table with the values we discussed earlier. If a player is dealt the cards 2 + 4 + K, we know that this will mean +1, +1, -1 equalling +1. When adding up the numbers for all the cards dealt, this is c

The running count is the count you do when seated at the table. As the players are dealt cards, you count either -1, 0, or +1 depending on which cards are dealt. The total of this count is named the running count.

An example:

If a player is dealt the cards 2 + 4 + K, we know that this will mean +1, +1, -1 equalling +1. The other player at the table is dealt J + K which equals -2. The running count will consist of player 1 and player 2’s count, which means the running count is -1.

WHAT IS A TRUE COUNT?

The true count is a bit easier to explain than the running count, however, this is where your mathematical skills come in handy.

Although math is not difficult, you should practice using it as things move fast, and you will benefit from doing the math fast. If you are fast with a calculator and only stick to online blackjack, you can use that to help.

The true count in card counting is the sum of your running count divided by how many decks of cards are left in the shoe.

The normal number of starting decks in online blackjack is 6. As the cards are dealt, it can be tricky to keep track of how many cards have been dealt in addition to counting their value. This is why the true value is based on your estimate and rounded to the closest half-deck.

THE FORMULA

As mentioned above, you have to divide the running count with the number of decks left in the shoe to get the true count in blackjack.

Running Count / Number of Decks = True Count

To help you understand better, we have created a few examples. These examples are based on a running count of +10

Example 1:

With 3 decks left in the shoe, the true count in example 1 is 10 / 3 = 3.33

Example 2:

With 5 decks left in the shoe, the true count in example 2 is 10 / 5 = 2.00

KNOW WHEN THE PLAYER HAS THE ADVANTAGE

Now that you understand the theory behind card counting in blackjack, you know the values, how to count and how to convert it into the true count, you are probably eager to learn when you should use this knowledge to your advantage.

Knowing when to stake small and when to stake big is luckily easier than learning how to count cards. When the number is positive, it’s time to focus. The higher the number is, the better is your chances of a winning streak.

When there is a negative count, the dealer has the upper hand, which means you are less likely to win.

If you want to learn more about staking while counting cards in blackjack, we recommend that you check out this brilliant video on card counting by Mike Aponte himself.

Good luck!

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