Blackjack Card Counting

Card Counting is a system used by blackjack players to reduce the size of the house edge and in many cases swing the odds of winning a hand greatly in their favour.

It is an art that has been around since the early 1970′s when Ed Thorpe published what many people believe to be the first card counting strategy: The Ten Count.

Card Counting is centred around the fact that the most important cards are those worth 10 (King, Queen, Jack or any card with a face value of 10) and all Aces.

When there are more of these important cards in the deck, the player has a higher chance of receiving a natural Blackjack … or at least a hand worth 21.

Therefore, a card counter will usually raise his/her wager when the deck is rich with these high cards.

There’s a general belief that someone needs to be able to be a Blackjack expert to be able to card count, but this isn’t true. You just need a reasonable memory to be able to keep a track of which cards have come out and have a small understanding of maths.

Simple Card Counting

For those of you new to card counting in Blackjack, we’d suggest starting with a simple counting system that assigns a value of +1 to every low card that dealt and value of -1 to every high card which is dealt.

This is sometimes known as a Single Level system as it relies on the player only keeping track of one running total and then increasing his/her bet as the overall value increases.

We would suggest that if the overall value in your head exceeds 10 points, you should start to increase your initial wager as it means that a lot of lower cards have been dealt while there is still a relatively large number of high cards around.

The simplest Single Level system is known as the Hi-Lo. Check out our guide to Hi-Lo Card Counting for more information.

Multi-Level Card Counting

The next step up in Card Counting is known as a Multi-Level System and relies on players assigning different values to different cards.

Therefore, it’s possible that the lowest of cards (2-4) might each be given a value of +3, whereas the middle range cards (5-8) might be given a value of +2.

Likewise, any Aces or picture cards that are dealt might be assigned -3.

While this system is slightly harder to concentrate on while you’re playing, it provides a much more accurate way of knowing when you should raise your bet, which in turn throws things more in your favour.

Some examples of Multi-Level Card Counting systems include:

Balanced and Unbalanced Card Counting Systems

Card Counting systems can also be divided into Balanced and Unbalanced systems.

A balanced system will always leave the Blackjack player back at zero once they have calculated the full value of a deck, whereas an Unbalanced system won’t.

So which type of system is best then? Well, to be honest, the answer depends on the number of decks which are involved in your Blackjack game.

With a balanced system (such as the Hi-Lo Count), a player always starts his calculations from zero which works perfectly if the game you’re playing only uses one deck.

If multiple decks are in play then a player will need to take into account the extra decks as well as how many cards have been dealt in order to make their calculation.

With an unbalanced system (such as the Red Seven System), the number of decks you’re playing with is already taken into account.

To take advantage of this, you simply need to start your calculations from the number of decks which are being used.

Therefore, if the casino you’re playing at currently has four decks in the shoe, your card counting calculations will always start from the number four.