How To Count Cards In Poker

There are many skills available for you to learn, so you can take your blackjack games up a notch. 

To be a profitable blackjack player, card counting is a technique you should master.

Counting cards is a great skill you can use to know when the odds are in your favor. If you have a firm grasp of the game, mastering the basics of card counting is simple to follow.

Get ready to improve your blackjack skills! Below, I’ll teach you how to count cards and how you can increase your chances of winning big.

What Is Card Counting?

Card counting is a skill that players can use to keep track of the number of high and low cards the dealer hasn’t dealt yet.

Blackjack is the only casino game where a player’s decisions can affect the outcome. Additionally, blackjack has a set number of cards and a set number of decks played.

When the dealer plays those cards, it affects the remaining cards in the deck. This changes the advantage for the player.

When you count cards, and the advantage is in your favor, you can raise your bets to win big. If the advantage is in favor of the dealer, the card counter either lowers his bet or forfeits his turn to play.

Counting cards allow you to make varying bets to win against the house edge. But it isn’t a technique for gaining consistent blackjack wins.

It’s possible to win high stakes from counting cards, but even the best card counters take time to pull it off well.

How Does Card Counting Work?

Card counting in casino games involves keeping a running tally based on the face value of the dealt cards. It’s a system for you to keep track of the ratio of low to high cards.

In a deck, there’s an equal number of high-value and low-value cards. After the dealer shuffles the deck, he plays either high or low cards at the start of the game.

If he plays more low cards at the start, there’s a higher possibility of high cards remaining in the deck.

Card counters can then raise their bets since they have the advantage of winning.

Every time the dealer shows a low-value card, they are more likely to bust from hitting their hand.

If you’re dealt with high cards, a higher concentration of low cards will remain in the deck. The advantage shifts to the casino and card counters will have to decrease their bet size.

If the dealer has a hand of 12 through 16, they can still hit. Since there’s a higher concentration of low cards, the dealer can hit without busting.

Basic Steps On How To Card Count

Are you now ready to learn the basics of card counting? Below are four basic steps on how to count cards in blackjack:

Assign Each Card A Value

Hi-Lo card counting system is the basic strategy for beginner card counters.

The idea is to assign a certain value to a card based on its face value. Assigning values take place mentally, so make sure you remember to keep track of your tally.

Based on the Hi-Lo card counting system, here is how you assign values:

  • +1 for cards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • 0 for cards 7, 8, 9
  • -1 for cards 10, J, Q, K, Ace

With each card dealt, you either add 1, subtract one, or do nothing based on its value.

The running count after the dealer shuffles is always 0. Additionally, you start your count after the shuffle.

Let’s say your card is a 10, you assign it with the value -1. If the next card dealt is a 4, you assign it with the value +1. The cumulative value of both equals 0.

Keep A Running Count

After assigning each card a value, you continue adding all of its values, including the dealer’s hand.

The sum of all the assigned values for each card dealt is the running count.

The idea of running count is to continue adding the values breaking its sum. You add these values until the round ends

Every time the dealer shuffles, the running count always starts at 0.

Let’s say the dealer has 10, and your hand is K and Q. For each card dealt, their respective assigned values are -1, -1, -1. After the round, the running count is -3.

If the running count is positive and the dealer has dealt most cards, the player has a greater advantage. In this case, the player can place a higher bet.

If the running count turns out negative, then the advantage goes to the casino. The player should decrease his bet size in the next round.

Calculate True Count

In single-deck games, card counting has made it possible for players to win big from casinos. With this, casinos began using multiple decks to confuse card counters.

To keep a running count in multiple-deck games, you have to look for the true count or count per deck. The true count is your running count divided by the number of decks remaining.

True count = running count/number of decks remaining

In a single deck game, a running count of +5 gives the player the winning advantage. But in a 6 decks remaining game, a +5 running count is different.

Since there’s less than 1 high card for each remaining deck, the player doesn’t have the advantage yet. Other than the remaining high cards, the player has to consider the ratio of high to low cards.

Let’s say your running count is -10, and you have 2 decks remaining. The true count is -5.

If you have a +5 running count with 1 deck remaining, there are only 5 extra 10’s and A’s in a deck. This makes you have an advantage over the dealer.

Changing Your Bets

It’s important to note that card counting isn’t a skill to make you have a blackjack. It’s not a technique to gain you a winning hand.

Card counters have an advantage over the casino by placing varying betting strategies. Blackjack players who mastered counting cards know how to bet based on the count.

Keeping proper track of your running count and true count is essential in knowing. You can use this information to know when you have the advantage.

It’s not about gathering information to change your playing style. A card counter should know when to raise and lower his bets.

Otherwise, counting cards without making winning bet spreads would be mentally exhausting.

When the cards are in favor of the player, he should raise his bets to win big. If the count is negative or neutral, the player’s hand is less likely to blackjack. He must then reduce his bet size.

Advanced Strategies For Counting Cards

Beginners that learn how to count cards start with the Hi-Lo strategy. It’s the easiest and simplest skill to follow.

But once you’ve mastered the technique, you may want to explore other strategies.

For proficient card counters, here’s how to count cards using advanced techniques:

Omega II

This technique is more sophisticated compared to the Hi-Lo strategy. Omega II is a ‘balanced system.’

This means your count starts at 0 after the dealer has dealt the deck completely. Below is how you assign values to each card dealt:

  • 1 for card 2, 3, 7
  • 2 for card 4, 5, 6
  • -1 for card 9
  • -2 for card 10, J, Q, K
  • 0 for card A, 8

If the count turns out positive, then there’s a greater concentration of low-value cards remaining.

Otherwise, for a negative count, a greater concentration of high cards remain in the deck.

Wong Halves

The Wong Halves technique is complex because some of its assigned values are fractions. The name comes from Stanford Wong, who developed this technique.

Below is how you assign values to each card:

  • 1 for card 3, 4, 6
  • 0.5 for card 2, 7
  • 1.5 for card 5
  • 0 for card 8
  • -0.5 for card 9
  • -1 for card 10, J, Q, K, A

Adding and subtracting fractions might confuse the player in the middle of the game. A player might also lose track of keeping count.

A trick to avoid getting confused is to double all assigned values into a whole number. This way, you can simplify it compared to using fractions.

Group Play

This technique requires a team effort, which can be pretty risky if you’re caught. This is why you must be extra careful when pulling off group play.

The technique benefits multiple deck games in many tables. In this case, you can count both at the same time.

Group play involves signaling other teammates or players whether to join in, give up, or make a bet. You should take caution when doing this to avoid casinos from calling you out.

Is Card Counting Illegal?

Blackjack is the only game in casinos you can outsmart by mathematical means. With this, card counters use logic to sway the odds into their favor.

Before anyone tells you otherwise, card counting isn’t illegal. What’s allowed is using your mind and your logic to play the game.

There are no federal rules to prohibit card counting, as long as it isn’t done using a device or a mobile app.

Some casinos frown upon counting cards in blackjack. Casinos will watch a player’s behavior in any event. Once caught or suspected of card counting, they might ban you or vacate you from their table.

Casinos in general frown upon card counting. This is why if you’re planning to count cards in blackjack, make sure to be cautious.

Another major misconception about card counting is that players should memorize the dealt cards. Soon, you’ll see how counting cards isn’t a technique of memorization.

You don’t have to be a genius to be a card counter. Card counting is a skill that any average person can learn. Although it’s a simple skill to learn, it will take time and practice to master.

What You Need To Master For Playing Blackjack

You can’t rely on basic card counting skills alone if you want to win big in blackjack.

For you to be a profitable card counter, these are the following skills for you to equip yourself with:

Basic Strategy

The blackjack basic strategy are techniques that you can use to reduce the house edge. 

Blackjack is a game that has a fixed set of rules. Using the basic blackjack strategy allows players to make proper playing decisions. 

This uses a more logical way of playing, instead of relying on intuition.

Like card counting, this doesn’t involve making assumptions or any memorization. It’s knowing when to play, surrender, or make bets based on the available information shown to you.

Master Card Counting

Once you’ve mastered how to count cards, it’s easy to see the mathematical reality of blackjack.

If the remaining deck has more 10’s and A’s, there’s a greater possibility for blackjacks.

If the remaining deck has a high concentration of low cards, the dealer has the advantage.

A skilled card counter keeps careful track of this and knows when to make bets to his advantage.

Have A Winning Bet Spread And Playing Deviations

Basic blackjack strategy and card counting allow a player to make bets to his advantage.

Depending on the true count outcome, you can also shift your playing strategies. We call this ‘playing deviations.’

There are many strategies for a player to explore. First, practice a few of them and see which works best for you. After, you’ll be ready to test your skills in online or land casinos.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Count Cards?

A player must have the training discipline to master how to count cards. It takes about roughly 100 to 200 hours of practice by yourself at home.

Until you’ve reached this length of training, we won’t tell you to test your skills in casinos.

Before you get excited to beat the casino, it still takes about 40 to 50 casino training hours. After then, you can start playing more aggressive strategies.

If you’re still testing out your skills, you must start playing in low limit tables. It’s also better to get a feel first of the casino environment. 

Once you’ve tested your skills, you can start taking your playing strategies a level higher.

It takes a lot of time and practice before a card counter can win big. If you want to know whether you’re ready or not, seek advice from a professional card counter.

They may be able to help you with the necessary skills needed before you can play to win.

Can You Still Count Cards In 2020?

When players do card counting in the current blackjack world, it takes more effort as needed.

 Which is why most would put off learning how to count cards for this reason.

When the trick was gaining popularity in the 1960’s, it’s easier for players to win big against the casino. 

Nowadays, casinos have established tighter surveillance to counter card counters. It’s hard for them to find a way around modern technology. 

These include databases, facial recognition, and RFID tracking inside chips. 

Counting cards is proven to bring the house edge low. And casinos have been finding more means to track down those who attempt to pull it off.

Because it’s not as easy to win today compared to before, most players consider card counting dead. 

For those who are serious about card counting, they put in a lot of discipline into mastering the skill. These card counters are still making money today.

Card counters can still win big if they level up their playing style. Here’s how to count cards using other approaches in 2020:

Shuffle Tracking

You can use shuffle tracking on top of card counting as an advantage against weak shuffles. By doing this, you get less suspected by the dealer and the casino.

In this technique, you want to look out for Aces, and 10’s grouped together. These card batches are also known as ‘slugs’ since they’re discarded into the tray.

After the dealer shuffles his deck, he takes the slugs from the tray to shuffle them. Make sure to keep track of how he shuffles the discarded cards.

It’s easier for you to determine when the dealer can pull out an Ace or a 10 in his next deck. If you successfully track these slugs, you can start raising your bets.

Shuffle tracking improves your card counting skills in two ways:

  • Making your card counting less obvious to the dealer
  • Helping you track Aces and 10’s.

When you’ve traced the slugs, be mindful when raising your bets. This could give off the fact that you’re counting cards.

Switch Up Your Appearance

You have to switch up your appearance so you can hit many casinos without raising suspicion. This doesn’t require you to pull off sketchy disguises.

If you don’t want to attract any attention towards you, avoid clothes that look flashy or eye-catching.

You can change your appearance by sporting a pair of glasses or having different hairstyles. You can even alter how you look with the way you keep your facial hair.

Be Careful With Bet Spreads

Making big bets can be profitable for you when you have the advantage. But large bets can also lead the casino to suspect you.

You have to be cautious with the number of bets you spread. First, identify how low and how high of a wager you’re willing to risk.

Make sure your least and greatest bet amount isn’t spread too far apart from each other. For instance, a bet spread of $10 to $500 dollars seems too far out.

Making bet spreads of 1 to 100 will have you banned from your table.

Know Where To Count Cards

There are certain casinos that are lenient to players who count cards. As an advantage gambler, it’s not advisable for you to hit the same casino all the time.

A big win could draw attention and the surveillance to be on you. As much as possible, do your research first before knowing where to count cards.

It wil surprise you to know many gaming establishments are lenient on advantage players.

Final Note

Are you now more confident about getting started on counting cards? It’s a simple technique that’s easy to follow.

Regardless, I cannot stress enough how much dedication and practice it takes to master it. Please use our casino bonuses we offer at the casino you decide to play poker at, just in case you have a few unlucky rounds.

As of today, counting cards is still an applicable technique for blackjack players. Once they master the skill, they can use it to gain serious wins.

Before you jump to the serious strategies, make sure you’ve mastered the basic skills first. With enough practice, you’ll be ready to test those skills out for yourself.

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