Counting Trainer Game & Guide:
How To Count Cards in Blackjack
Want to take your blackjack game to the next level? Guarantee the odds are stacked in your favor ? Then you need to learn how to count cards in blackjack like a professional gambler. Like all great things, it's an easy skill to learn but a difficult one to master. Fortunately, we've got you covered with our card counting training simulator.
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Casino.org's Blackjack Card Counting Guide
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So Exactly What Does It Mean To Count Cards?
Put simply, to count cards, means to keep track of the number of high and low cards left in the dealers' deck. Do this successfully and you'll be able to raise your bet when you know the odds are stacked in your favor , making you much more likely to win.
But Isn't That Illegal?
Well technically no, counting cards isn't considered a criminal act, providing you're doing it in your head and not using a card counting device or mobile app, but it is widely regarded as cheating, and casinos don't take too kindly to losing money this way. If you are going to attempt to count cards in a casino we'd strongly advise you to act on the side of caution. Casinos have been known to come down heavy on those they suspect of counting cards at their tables, so be aware that your behavior will be closely monitored at all times and even the best card counters occasionally get rumbled.
So Why Do It?
In a word: winning. Do it right and you can strike gold just with one simple and strategic game. Yeah. You read that right. Playing Blackjack can help you win big. Really big. Blackjack has become a casino game phenomenon worldwide because, apart from being fun to play, you also get a great chance at pocketing whatever you win. Plus, here's where it gets even better: you can actually flip the odds in your favor , giving you more chances of winning.
Ok, You've Convinced Me. So How Does It Work?
To card count properly, whether in an online blackjack game or live, you'll need to keep a running tally based on the face value of any cards revealed. Cards are assigned a value of either +1, 0, or -1, according to their face value, with higher cards attributed -1 status and lower cards +1.
What this does, providing you keep an accurate count as the cards are dealt, is allow you to monitor the running value of the cards left remaining in the deck. Which in turn dictates when you should bet high (when the value of the cards remaining in the deck is low) and when you should bet low or not at all (when the value of the cards remaining in the deck is high).
So how does this add up to an advantage over the casino? Well, if you're playing blackjack perfectly, then the house edge is around 0.5%. If you play perfectly AND master card counting then YOU actually have a 1% advantage over the casino. That is huge. So it literally pays to get learning!
In this strategy, high cards (10-Ace including face cards) are assigned a specific value of -1. Low cards (2-6 in any suit) are assigned a +1 value. The remaining cards (7-9) count as 0.
As the dealer deals a card you make a note of its assigned value. If the card is a 10 for example its assigned value is -1. If the next card dealt is a three its assigned value is +1 so your cumulative total adds up to 0. The idea is that you do this continuously for every new card dealt. The total is considered the "running count"
That's all there is to it. Remember the mantra, "keep it simple, silly"? Well, it applies here best. When you keep it simple, your brain does not go into over drive.
Advances In Strategy
Obviously, once you've mastered the art of basic card counting and are probably past counting off cards on your digits (not advisable to do in a casino), you should move up the ladder.
You could wet your feet staling with the Omega II system developed by the brilliant Bryce Carlson. The Omega II technique is a "balanced" system, where we have 0 as base. A positive count reflects that more low cards are present in the deck being dealt while a negative count means a large number of high cards. Plus, the count is also a bit sophisticated than the classic +1,0 and -1 values.
If you have a card numbering 2, 3 or 7 you will assign it 1. For 4, 5 and 6 the value is 2. The card 9 is considered -1. Face cards and 10s are -2, while 8 and Ace cards become 0 in value. You might find the counting slightly difficult in Omega II, however, it will definitely be worth your while once you get a hold of it.
The name for this strategy comes from its wonderfully skilled creator Stanford Wong. It's considered a fairly advanced strategy on account of its assigned values, some of which are fractions instead of whole numbers. In Wong Halves, cards 3, 4 and 6 are valued as 1. Cards 2 and 7 are valued at 0.5. The card 5 is worth 1.5 in value. Card 8 is 0 while 9 is -0.5 The 10, Ace and face cards are assigned -1.
The Wong Halves techn que is also a "balanced" system, which means that when a deck is dealt completely, your count should be 0. Some players, choose to simplify the strategy by doubling up all the values to avoid using fractions altogether.
21 Movie Poster Some card counters have found it an advantage to approach counting as a team effort. The advantage of doing this is that multiple decks, on multiple tables, can be counted simultaneously. Signals are usually devised so as the members of the team can secretly communicate with one another while avoiding detection. Thus signaling to the hovering players when to join in a hand, and whether or not to bet big. This strategy was famously employed by a team of students and alumni at MIT who used it to win millions of dollars from multiple casinos for almost a decade. Once uncovered, their escapades later became the subject of a best selling book and eventually a high grossing Hollywood movie.
One of the ways casinos try to counteract card counting is by using multiple decks, in theory making it harder for anyone counting cards to keep track of the running total. However, this is easily thwarted. If you come up against a dealer using multiple decks in a black jack game, you can still enlist the same Hi-Lo strategy; all you need to do is divide the running count by the number of decks remaining to give you what is commonly called a 'True Count'. It's your true count figure, rather than your running count, that will dictate the advantage when multiple decks are involved, so it's imperative you still keep an accurate running total to enable you to work out the True Count value. For example, if your running total is 5 and there are 2 decks remaining, your true count will be 2.5 (5 divided by 2=2.5)
So Which Strategy Should I Choose?
The Count Far and away the easiest strategy to master is the Hi-Lo approach. For first time card counters it's advisable to start here and see how you get on. As your ability increases you can choose to advance to an alternative strategy should you feel it necessary. No one strategy is superior over another and each one gives you the same advantage over the house, so it really is a case of weighing up the different systems and adopting the approach you feel most comfortable with. Take a look at our blackjack tips for more info on house edge and how to improve your winning chances. A great way to practice is by using one of our free blackjack games here at Casino.org, which will enable you to play without having to gamble real money. An advantage of practicing card counting for blackjack online is that you are in the safety and comfort of your own home, although be aware that if you do decide to bet for real money some online casino sites do employ software that shuffles cards almost every time a new hand is dealt, making it increasingly difficult to count cards effectively.
The World's 5 Greatest Card Counters
The MIT Blackjack Team
- Team: Members ranged from college students to Alumni
- Biggest win: unspecified but the cumulative total won amounted to millions.
- Interesting fact: Several members of the MIT card counting team, including Bill Kaplan (photo) all make cameo appearances in the 2008 film 21 starring Kevin Spacy, which is loosely based on the teams story.
- Biggest win:As part of the MIT team Jeff helped to cheat casinos out of millions.
- Interesting fact:Jeff was one of the most notorious members of the MIT Blackjack team, and is played by Jim Sturgess in the 2008 film 21. Post his card counting success, he went on to develop a tech start-up, which he later sold to Twitter for a reported $50 million.
- Biggest win:N/A
- Interesting fact:Peter was a mathematician and one of the original seven members inducted into the blackjack hall of fame. He authored the book The Theory of Blackjack: The Complete Card Counters Guide to the Casino Game of 21, and was one of the first people to calculate the percentage disadvantage of a blackjack player, which is what earns him a place in our top 5.
- Biggest win:Kens winnings amassed to millions, and he was known to bet as much as $12,000 in a single hand.
- Interesting fact:Ken became famous for being banned from multiple casinos around the world. This didn't deter him however and he frequently adopted disguises in order to gain entry.
- Biggest win:$2000
- Interesting fact:Erica earned the name 'Blackjack Babe' owing to the fact she bucked the typical stereotype of a blackjack player because of her career as a model. She learned to count cards from a member of the infamous MIT team.
A Word Of Advice
At Casino.org, we want to let you know all the details on gambling, therefore, here's something we need to discuss. Although the legal situation for card counting is still undetermined, it is definitely not a practice welcomed with open arms when at a physical casino.
Although a casino and its operator cannot prosecute a card counting player, they can definitely make a situation and matters very unpleasant for someone caught counting cards.
Since casino operators are well aware of the practice of cards being counted, they take quite a few measures to keep you from doing so. You will find cameras for surveillance whenever you look up. Dealers are often switched when a table is considered "hot" by a pit boss. Sometimes, the pit boss will get the dealer to force a shuffle once the hand being dealt is over.
Remember, counting cards can be and is a lucrative strategy that works in your favor. But it is important to be responsible and to respect the rules of the house when you decide to walk into a casino.
Is It Illegal To Count Cards?
It's one of the most widely spread myths in the world of gambling, but for the record, it is not illegal to count cards. There is a grey area surrounding card counting at land-based casinos with the assistance of a mechanical device, but the same does not apply online. On top of that, card counting is a skill and a playing strategy above all else. For these reasons, we can happily tell you that card counting falls firmly within the boundaries of the law.
How Does Card Counting Work?
Card counting is a system for tracking the probability of the player receiving cards that are favourable to them during the course of a blackjack game.
During a game, a dealer largely makes winning hands based off of low-value cards when he has a 16, 15, 14, 13, or 12 total on his first two cards – with such hands also being labelled as stiffs. Casino rules state that the dealer the dealer cannot stand on a stiff hand, thus it’s a case of hitting in attempt to secure low-value cards in order to solidify the hand. The opposite applies for the player in a sense, as while blackjacks (Aces and 10s) are consistently distributed between the player and dealer, a player gets paid more (3:2) when they get a blackjack hand.
With card counting, the idea is not to count the numbers of each individual card in order to know when we have an advantage over the house. The idea is actually to know when the deck is poor or rich in high cards, the types of cards that are obviously favourable to the player.
Is It Hard To Count Cards?
TV shows and movies depict card counting as something that a gambler can pick up in a flash and win huge sums of cash through. The reality is that there is a learning curve when it comes to card counting, and while it’s manageable it isn’t always straightforward. That being said, anyone can learn how to count cards given enough time. You just need to get a grasp on blackjack as a game and understand the required counting system each time you sit down and play.
How Long Does It Take To Learn How To Count Cards?
Card counting isn’t as complicated as it may seem, but there is still a learning curve to the process. The amount of time it takes to learn how to count cards is always going to be subjective, but as a rule of thumb it’s fair to say that you won’t go from zero to pro overnight. Looking at the simple mathematics of the equation, many consider that it takes over a month and a half to become proficient in card counting, with this considered to be a minimum. For example, if someone were to practice card counting techniques 2 hours a day, 7 days a week, then in 50 days they could reach a knowledgeable level.
However, we fully understand that most don’t have the ability to commit two hours every single day to out and out card counting practice. For that reason, if you are looking to learn how to card count, it would be fair to give yourself anywhere between 3 to 6 months to really master the skill.
Can You Count Cards In Other Card Games?
Card counting has obvious links to the game of blackjack, but what may surprise you is that this method can be used within other card games as well. Looking at other specific games that can benefit from a card counting-based strategy, there are two that immediately spring to mind. Baccarat is a game that can certainly be controlled via card counting, even if it does require an impressive level of skill to implement the strategy. The seldom mentioned - but always fun - 3 card brag can also have card counting implications, as the deck is only shuffled during specific game scenarios.
How Can I Practice Counting Cards?
There are many ways to practice card counting outside of a live game environment, as you’ll find card counting trainers here, there, and everywhere these days. While most will offer you enough to grasp the basics, most won’t take you the whole way to becoming a card counting pro.
Our dedicated "Card Count Like a Pro" game. Crafted with both beginners and experienced blackjack players in mind, the basic tutorial will get you up to speed, while the demo play environment will let you put your new found skills to work. Lastly, you can track your progress through the active leader boards and on-screen prompts.
What's The Best Strategy For Counting Cards?
There are multiple strategies at hand, some of which will suit your way of play better than others. Those new to the world of card counting will need to stick by so-called “Level 1” strategies, largely as they prove to be the simplest to adopt. These strategies include KISS, Red Seven, Kick Out, and – of course – Hi-Lo. Of all “Level 1” strategies, Hi-Lo notoriously is the most balanced, adaptable, and accurate.
Those that have a firm grasp on the act of card counting can look to step up and try more advanced systems, specially those labelled as either “Level 2” or “Level 3”. For those who want to take baby steps to a more advanced level of card counting, Omega II represents the perfect way to bridge the gap between “Level 1” and “Level 3”. Standing at the top of the pile as the most accurate and – quite fittingly – the most complicated card counting strategy is Wong Halves. However, its nature means that a high-level of blackjack proficiency is required should you want to implement it effectively.
Are There Apps For Card Counting?
Blackjack has found a brand new home in the realm of mobile casino gaming; as such card counting has taken on a whole new dimension as well. If you have a modern iPhone or Android device then get ready to take your card counting on the go!
There are plenty of options out there currently, and fans of our own Card Counting game will be pleased to know that we'll soon be releasing both Android & iPhone compatible app options.
Is There An Advanced Blackjack Card Counting System?
Advanced card counting systems come in a number of different forms, but there are two in particular worth noting – Omega II and Wong Halves. Omega II is a well-balanced system and is one of the most popular “Level 2” card counting systems around. What you will find is that most “Level 1” systems keep card values to -1, 0, and +1, things are different within the Omega II system, as it assigns a value of -2 and +2 to some cards within the deck. Wong Halves is considered to be the crème de la crème of blackjack card counting systems. More complicated it may be, but it is extremely accurate, largely because it employs fractions.
Some Interesting Facts About Blackjack
- Blackjack was actually banned in the USA in the nineteenth century and only became legalized again in 1930.
- The famous MIT card counting team was actually pretty unsuccessful until Bill Kaplan came on board. His recruitment was the subject of a chance encounter at a Chinese restaurant, which subsequently transformed the fortunes of all involved.
- Contrary to common misconception counting cards isn't actually an illegal activity. The seats at a Blackjack table are commonly referred to as bases. The seat closest to the dealer is considered first base and the furthest one away is third base. Because of the order of play, a player sitting at third base has the best advantage.
- Your chances of being dealt Blackjack (21) are 4.8%
- When card counters work as part of a team it's estimated that the advantage gained over the casino rises to between 2-4%.
- If you're offered a side bet in a casino don't take it. These only exist to give a significant advantage to the house.
- When the dealer has between a 2 and a 6 in Blackjack there's a 35-42% change they'll go bust.
- After 21 and 20, 11 is considered the next best hand to have in Blackjack. This is because you can draw once without the risk of going bust.
- 16 is widely considered the worst hand to be dealt because statistically it's hard to take another hit without going bust but it's also unlikely to be high enough to be the winning hand.
- Players inducted into the blackjack hall of fame, at the Barona Casino in San Diego, aren't permitted to play at the casino.
- The longest Blackjack hand in recorded history happened in August 2011 at The Oracle Casino in Malta, when the dealer spent 51 hours and 33 minutes dealing a single hand.
- Blackjack tables in casinos are commonly fitted with a 'peeper', a small mirror that allows the dealer to see the next card when it's face down.
- The fewer decks of cards used during a game, the better it is for players as you will get Blackjack more often. Sadly casinos are aware of this which is why most land based casinos now use multiple decks.