Blackjack Card Counting



Card counting, while playing Blackjack in brick and mortar casino, is a real no-no. It's not illegal, nor is it really cheating unless a mechanical device is being used to help track cards. However, it will get a player tossed from a facility. The reason it is so frowned upon is because it converts the house's small .5% advantage into a player's advantage of anywhere between 1% and 2.5%, the difference being which style of Blackjack or “21” is being played.

About Card Counting



Card counting is the process of assigning playing cards a numeric value and keeping track of the decks overall numeric value by counting the cards that have already been dealt by the dealer. The method is known to be effective when Blackjack is being played with up to six different decks of cards. In fact, most casinos reverted to games with more than one or two decks in the 80s and 90s in order to make it more difficult for card counters to gain their advantage. Note: It's near impossible to count cards online because each hand is kept random with a full compliment of cards.

It's important to note that no matter which casino game is being played, the house's advantage is calculated on statistical probability, assuming each player is playing a particular game exactly by the rules. Any deviation from playing “perfectly” will generally result in the house's advantage increasing. The house counts on its advantages to create consistent profits over an extended period of time, and they don't like when players mess with that winning formula.

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How Carding Counting Works


There are several variations of the base card counting system, each emphasizing keeping track of cards in a certain way for a certain reason. For the purpose of this writing, the base method will be explained.

As indicated above, each card in the deck is assigned a numeric value of “+1”, “0” or “-1” as follows:

  • cards 2-6 = +1
  • cards 7-9 = 0
  • cards 10-A = -1

As the dealer deals the cards for each hand or sequence, the player's task is to keep track of the overall deck value by adding or subtracting from a deck or shoe, starting with the absolute value of zero. Example: the entire deck starts at zero and the dealer deals a (2, 10, A, 9, 3, 6, 7, 2) to the three players at the table and themselves. The values would be counted as (+1, -1, -1, 0, +1, +1, +1, +1). That leaves the deck with a value of +3. As the positive number gets larger, the more the player should wager on the next hand with the same deck or shoe. A the negative number gets larger, they would decrease their bets or not play at all. For maximum effectiveness, the player shouldn't worry about changing their bets until about 25% of the deck or shoe has been used. That's 13 cards on a single deck game and approximately 75 cards on a 6-deck game.

There are several other “rules of thumb” that come into play based on certain scenarios, but the above provides a basic education about the card counting process.

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