Card counting as a system or strategy in Blackjack is probably the most misunderstood and mysterious of all Blackjack game strategies. The art and mystery of card counting has been the subject of serious how-to books and guides and has been featured in many fictional stories and movies. Card counting is also quite complex and there is more than one system which one can employ.
Each has its own specific nuances as well as intrinsic advantages and disadvantages. In this article on card counting, we will take a look at a few of the more popular versions of card counting as well as their effectiveness and the inherent dangers associated with them and with card counting in general. Of course if you prefer not to use a card counting strategy, you can always refer to something more simple and easy to use like the double down Blackjack strategy.
Important card counting strategy facts:
- There are many different card counting systems available
- There are ideal card counting systems for beginners to advanced
- Card counting is not memorizing the deck/decks
- Card count essentially assigns numbers to card values
- Card counting can be applied to any type of blackjack game
- Beginner card counting techniques are easy to learn and to apply
The Basics of Blackjack Card Counting Strategy
Card counting can seem completely unfathomable to an outsider who has never actually examined the basics of the card counting techniques. The first wrong assumption regarding card counting is that card counters memorise the entire deck of cards. This is not only completely untrue (and inaccurate), it is also near-impossible for most of us to do!
Other strategies you might want to check out:
- Trend Strategy
- Trend Betting Strategy
- Paroli Strategy
- Parlay Strategy
- Martingale Strategy
- Labouchere Strategy
- Follow the Leader Strategy
- Dozen Grid Strategy
- D’Alembert Strategy
The foundation of card counting isn’t in memorizing all the cards in the deck or even knowing with certainty what the next card in the deck is going to be. The foundation is in knowing roughly when the deck is producing a run of low-value cards based on what count has been given, and when the deck is running a string of high-value cards. Card counting is about knowing when to bet high for a run of high-value cards, and when to be more restrained in your betting during a run of low-value cards.
An example of a simple card counting system
The Hi-Lo system
Card counting in its most basic form, for example the Hi-Lo technique simply assigns a specific number to card values. A perfect example of how the Hi-lo card counting technique works in the real world would be to:
- Assign the number +1 to cards with a value of 2, 3, 4, 5, and
- Assign the number -1 to cards with a value of 10, J, Q, K and
- Assign the number 0 to cards with a value of 7, 8 and 9.
- All cards with a +1 rating are considered to be low value cards
- All cards with a -1 rating are considered to be high value cards
- All cards with a 0 rating are considered to be middle value cards
As this quick video demonstrates, the Hi-Lo card counting system is very easy to learn. To reiterate the main points of the Hi-Lo card counting system, once you have sat down at the Blackjack table (figuratively if you’re playing online blackjack), begin to lay close attention to the cards that are coming out of the shoe and begin applying the number system in your head. As the dealer begins to deal cards to each player participating in the round, you will need to begin tallying in your head based on each card dealt. For example, if the cards that have been dealt read: 10, J, 3, 5 and Q the value in that string based on the numerical value system explained above will be -1, -1, +1, +1, -1. This will then give you a total value of -1 for that round. It is also important to remember that the card count can only happen after a deck is shuffled and the first set of cards produced. Missing cards during a card count or losing your place could result in a negative outcome. The larger the number becomes as you count cards, the more large cards remain in the deck. If the count is far into the negatives then this means that many of the 10-value cards and Aces have already been dealt and many small cards remain in the deck. The Hi-Lo strategy of counting cards is an amazing system for card counters that are new to the game and is a useful way to ease yourself into the realm of card counting and improve your chances of winning at blackjack.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Blackjack Card Counting Strategy (the Hi-Lo system)
Like any system there are advantages and there are disadvantages to using card counting systems like the Hi-Lo card counting system. On the plus side we have discovered that card counting, at least in its basic form, needn’t be feared as something that is too complicated for mere mortals to learn. We now know that even absolute beginners can adopt a basic card counting system and run with it. Another advantage of using a card counting system during a Blackjack game is that you will have a much better idea of where the game is in terms of card values, while card counting isn’t a fool-proof system and you won’t be able to predict with 100% accuracy the value of the next card out of the shoe, implementing a basic count will tell you the likelihood of a high or low card being next out of the shoe.
There are of course a few disadvantages to using a card counting system like the Hi-Lo. For starters you have to pay attention to every hand that is dealt, not just yours but every one at that table as well, including the dealer. If you miss a few cards or forget where your count was, or forget how many decks have already been in play, you may be in trouble. Missing cards is a no-no and could see you lose more than you could hope to win. Another possible negative to card counting is that, while it may not be entirely illegal it is most certainly frowned upon and if you are suspected of card counting you will be ejected from the game, this goes for both land-based and online casinos.
You may be wondering how this could happen in an online casino since they can’t actually see you and the game is a computer. Here’s the thing with card counting, when the deck is running a string of low cards your bet will be accordingly low as well. If the deck is running a string of high value cards your bet will be high, this is the essential point of card counting. It is also the giveaway tell-tale sign that you are card counting and casinos will be monitoring your betting behaviour for this.
Chances and risks
In card counting for Blackjack online
As we have seen from the above pros and cons, there are some risks involved in card counting strategy. Some of the risks are not all that serious and you can get away with them, losing your place being a good example. However, other risks could land you in a bit of hot water with the casino, if they suspect you of using a card counting system. There are a few tricks that you can use to disguise the fact that you are using a card counting strategy. For now let’s look at the chances and risks in three basic points:
Who is suitable for this strategy?
The answer to this question is based on which particular card counting strategy is being considered. With card counting there is a system for all levels of players – beginners, advanced and pros. The Hi-Lo card counting strategy that we are using here as an example is the ideal system for beginners because it is very easy to learn and implement with success. Once you have mastered the Hi-Lo card counting system, you can easily move on to more complicated ones like the Omega II system or the more advanced Wong Halves system.
- 90% Beginner
- 80% Advanced
- 70% Pro
How high is the risk?
This depends on the type of risk in question. From a playing point of view the risk is fairly low if one is paying close attention at all times to the game at hand. This means that every move is noted. You need to know what each player has in terms of card value so that you can assign the appropriate number value (+1,-1 or 0) to each hand and derive a total value for the round. Missing anything will increase the risk of inaccuracies of the system. The other risk is the casino itself. They can pick up when someone is card counting simply based on that persons betting behaviour. Casinos will be more aware of you and may eventually eject you from the game or from the casino.
Are winnings guaranteed?
While no winnings are ever guaranteed with any sort of a system or strategy, this system is much more likely to produce wins than other systems or even no system. You can adopt a number of different tips and tricks during your game but only some of them will work. If the card counting system, like the Hi-Lo card counting system is used properly, without any lapses, then it can be accurate enough to virtually guarantee that your predictions and betting behaviours based on your card count will produce wins.
Is the Hi-Lo card counting strategy worth it?
There are plenty of inflated and hyped Blackjack systems out there that are worthless but the Hi-Lo card counting system is certainly not one of those. Out of the entire known card counting systems that are out there, the Hi-Lo card counting system is by far one of the easiest and quickest to learn and implement in a game. You can learn the Hi-Lo system in an afternoon and be implementing it in a real online Blackjack game for money that same night!
- Easy to understand
- Possible to lower the Casino advantage
- In some casinos the strategy is forbidden
- You must learn and try a lot in advance