Card Counting from the Beginning
Card Counting is by no means easy, but it also doesn’t require you to be a mathematician or an autistic savant like Rain Man’s Dustin Hoffman. All you need to get started is a basic understanding that cards with a rank of 10 or higher (10 thru Ace) are beneficial for you, the player, and low ranking cards (2 thru 6) are more helpful for the Dealer. So if you’ve noticed more low ranking cards being played, then you have a better chance of making blackjack (Ace and any 10, J, Q, or K) while the Dealer has more chances to bust since there are more cards with a higher rank still left in the deck.
First Steps to Counting Cards – The Hi-Lo System
Of course there a quite a few systems for counting cards, but the easiest to learn from is the Hi-Lo system in which you create values of +1, 0, and -1 to every card that’s dealt. All low ranking cards 2-6, are given the value of +1, while all high ranking cards 10-Ace, have the value of -1. All of the cards in between (7, 8, and 9) are assigned the value of zero just as the table below suggests.
Rank | Value |
A |
-1 |
K |
-1 |
Q |
-1 |
J |
-1 |
10 |
-1 |
9 |
0 |
8 |
0 |
7 |
0 |
6 |
+1 |
5 |
+1 |
4 |
+1 |
3 |
+1 |
2 |
+1 |
Use the values to add or subtract from the RC (Running Count). At the beginning of every game, the Running Count is zero. Imagine that you’re playing with multiple players, perhaps 3 other players and the dealer in a live blackjack game. And the cards are dealt to reveal the following hands:
Player |
Cards Dealt |
Value |
Player 1 |
8♥ 7♠ |
0 |
Player 2 |
6♠ 4♦ |
+2 |
Player 3 |
Q♦ 10♣ |
-2 |
Player 4 |
9♣ 3♥ |
+1 |
Dealer |
8♠ |
0 |
If you begin the running count with the first player, the RC remains zero, since 8 and 7 both equal zero. However the second player has two cards that each equal +1, so the RC becomes 2 but then becomes zero again from the sum of the values of Player 3’s hand. The fourth player’s hand has one card with the value of +1 and one worth 0, so the RC becomes +1, and since the Dealer is showing an 8 the running count remains at +1.
Playing with Multiple Decks
If you’re playing with a Single-Deck, it’s a fairly easy system but single-deck blackjack has become less and less common and most casinos play with 6 and sometimes even 8 decks, mostly to deter you from counting cards. The good news is that there’s an easy equation that you can use to accommodate additional decks.
Divide the Running Count by the Number of Decks Remaining to give you the True Count. So if there are 5 decks remaining, divide the running count by 5 decks to get the True Count (TC). If you end up with a fraction, you should round up or down. For example .5 and up will round up to 1. Once you have the True Count, you’ll be able to decide the best betting strategy. Generally speaking if your TC is a negative number, it’s better to have a lower bet since there are less high ranking cards whereas if your TC is a positive number, you have a greater chance of winning, you may want to increase your bet.