The Definitive Resource on Card Counting for Blackjack

Everybody enjoys hearing about intrepid gamblers who beat the odds and leave the casino with a wad of cold, hard cash. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that many avid gamblers are fascinated by the idea of card counting in blackjack. The best Blackjack card counters in history have used the strategies detailed in CasinoTop10’s article on card counting. Some blackjack techniques for not being detected while playing dirty with the high rollers are also covered.

How does one count cards?

Blackjack players frequently use a tactic known as card counting, which is sometimes also called card reading. With this method, you can predict if your next hand will give you an edge over the dealer or another player. The goal of a card counter is to reduce the casino’s advantage by keeping careful track of the cards dealt to both the player and the dealer. The blackjack player can learn tells about the distribution of future cards by observing the distribution of high and low cards. You can take advantage of the situation and increase your chances of winning by using the card-counting approach.



Card counting is a complete mystery to gamblers who have never done it. They become engrossed and sucked into learning more about the novel and strategic idea. One possible explanation is that number crunchers tend to be more risk-taking than the rest of us. Maybe it’s because the protagonists are so dogged and resourceful that they’re able to take a simple game of blackjack and turn it into a lucrative business. That, or we share your desire to maximize your casino winnings to the greatest extent feasible. Maybe it’s because it’s inspiring to watch an ordinary person, someone like us, standing up to the powerful.


Card Counting Statistics:

By counting cards, a player can get a small advantage over the house (0.5%) to a significant one (1%)

It’s not uncommon for players to incur losses alongside their victories;

If you want to adopt the card-counting approach, you’ll need a sizable Bankroll.

When card counting, you must stay undetected by the casino at all costs.

Even though counting cards is not illegal, most casinos frown upon it.

Card Counting: A Brief History

Andy Bloch is another well-known figure in the card counting industry; he is perhaps best known now as a highly successful poker player. In addition, he was on the M.I.T. blackjack team and the creator of the card-counting instructional film, Beating Blackjack. The Hot Shoe, a documentary about blackjack directed by David Layton and featuring Bloch, was released in 2005. Layton talks to professional card counters including Edward Thorp and Andy Bloch for his film. Layton took what he learned from the interviews and used a portion of the film’s budget—$5,000—as a case study during production. Numerous blackjack fans in the 20th century owe a debt of gratitude to the mathematical genius Dr. Edward O. Thorp, widely regarded as one of the fathers of card counting, for sketching out the framework of card counting. In his 1962 book, Beat the Dealer, he detailed not just what would eventually become the basis of card counting, but also a number of different views on how to play blackjack strategically. Thorp was a visionary in many respects; he was, at the very least, an early proponent of disseminating his ideas to a wider audience through print. Authors ‘Stanford Wong,’ ‘Kent Utson,’ and ‘Arnold Snyder,’ all of whom have contributed to the canon of blackjack literature, are also among the game’s most recognizable names.

Card Counting: The Benefits and Drawbacks


We believe that all forms of cheating, including past posting and base dealing, should be strictly prohibited. The same holds true for using any kind of aid, be it a mirror or an iPhone’s built-in calculator. Keith Taft and his son are a classic example; they gained notoriety in the 1970s for their invention of portable and mechanical card-counting systems (picture). Card counting, on the other hand, is not only legal, but also a perfectly legitimate tactic to employ during your game. While there is no inherent problem with card counting, we do not recommend it for novice players due to the potential for severe repercussions at the hands of casino security. Simply put, we don’t want you to be apprehended. Because internet casinos utilize random number generators, counting cards is nearly useless. However, card counting is extremely useful in Live Casinos, where numerous hands of live dealer blackjack can be played before the cut card and the dealer has to reshuffle the deck.


Card Counting Methods

Card value is recorded by the counter from the moment the first card is dealt from the freshly shuffled deck. A card with a low value adds one to your total, while a card with a high value takes one away. The Hi-Lo scoring system ignores all cards with a value of seven through nine. Here’s how your tally may look in a haphazard game of blackjack:


Player 1 2 3 4 5 Dealer

Cards A,5 6,2 7,8 Q,Q 3,8 9

Count -1,1 1,1 0,0 -1,-1 1,0 0

After this particular round, your count should be 1. There are still a disproportionate number of high-value cards in the deck since fewer low-value cards have been dealt. After only a few hands, it’s likely that the count won’t be very reliable. The greater the depth of your knowledge, the more accurate your count, and the greater your edge. When learning to count for the first time, it’s fine to use a single deck and go through all the cards. If you’re doing the math right, you should get a total of 0. It may be challenging at first, but with practice, you can speed up and improve the accuracy of your counting. When you’ve gotten the hang of counting cards in blackjack, you can try counting two cards at a time. After sufficient practice, it will become second nature to count cards whenever you see a particular combination. This is when the elegance of the Hi-Lo Count shines through. Although more advanced counting systems will be discussed later on, most card counters think that the benefits of a quick and easy method outweigh those of a more precise but complicated one. You may apply this straightforward method while still playing blackjack at the standard pace, and you won’t need much time to get the hang of it. You can keep the count in the back of your mind while you play the game without letting it affect your strategy. It will take you far too long to figure out your count if you do not completely manage the counting system you are utilizing, as dealers, pit bosses, and floor managers are all trained to recognize this kind of conduct.



Counting Cards Strategies

The High-Low Methodology

The Hi-Lo approach is one of the most successful card counting methods and is also one of the simplest. Each card is given a numerical value, and the total is kept in a running tally. When playing blackjack, the technique is employed to determine if there is an imbalance between high- and low-value cards in the shoe. The odds of getting a blackjack or a hand totaling 20 are both boosted by the presence of high-value cards like tens and aces. If the dealer’s deck is heavy on high cards, the player has a good chance of winning because they will likely go bust sooner. The dealer has a significant advantage over the player if the majority of the cards still in the deck have low values (2–6). If there are still many low-value cards in the deck, the fact that the dealer must draw on hard hands (12–16) will decrease the likelihood that he or she will go bust. The likelihood of the dealer going bust increases if there are many high-value cards (tens and aces) in the deck.


Absolute Numbers

The number of remaining cards is an additional consideration when attempting to ascertain the blackjack deck’s equilibrium. As we mentioned before, your card count will be more precise the further you are from the top of the deck. The “true count” can be calculated by dividing your running total by the estimated number of remaining decks. Your count will be much more precise if you convert the running total into a true total. Although this may seem impossible at first, after some experience and a few decks of cards, you’ll be able to visually estimate how many decks are still in the shoe. If your running count is four and you think there are two more decks in the shoe, you should divide four by two to get your accurate count: two. After using the true count system to your running count, you have a strong possibility of making a profit by increasing your bet size if your count displays a positive outcome. The true count is a better indicator of how good or bad the deck actually is.


Counting backwards, often known as “wonging”

“Wonging” is the name of one of the most well-known card counting strategies, which gets its inspiration from the pseudonym Stanford Wong under which John Ferguson wrote a number of publications on the topic of blackjack. The term “Wonging” refers to his strategy of watching Blackjack tables and counting the deck in a manner similar to that described above before deciding whether or not to join the game. If you use this method, your “operating cost” will go down because you won’t have to pay anything until you actually use a “hot” table. A floor manager, however, will have little trouble spotting this strategy in action among the tables as it is already common knowledge. In addition, “mid-shoe entry” is not permitted in many Blackjack games at modern casinos. Winning is just one example of a back-counting technique that has the apparent benefit of allowing the player to avoid playing every hand counted. This will stabilize your funds, giving you an even greater advantage as a gamer.


Advanced Card Counting Techniques

For as long as there has been card counting, there have been those who have attempted to perfect various systems for doing it. However, experience has taught us that the more straightforward a system is, the less effort it will take to put into effect. You can fool yourself into thinking you’ve mastered a complex and accurate counting technique, but that won’t help you make any money. Complex systems, such as side-counts and multi-level systems, reduce your speed and accuracy when counting since you have so much more information to keep track of. When it comes to making money, speed is more important than accuracy when playing a simple count. Less time spent counting means more time spent avoiding detection by casino security.


Why It’s Better to Use a Basic Counting Method

Multifaceted counting techniques are obviously much more observable by casino staff than simple, plain systems, for the reasons already mentioned. For “eye-in-the-sky” personnel, a team of counters is easy to spot when they’re all working together. Even if you think a sign or code would go unseen, chances are high that it will be picked up by surveillance cameras, if not immediately but later when security personnel check the videos. In contrast, cameras will never be able to pick up what goes on within a player’s thoughts, which is likely the best reason why even the most cutting-edge casinos today have difficulties recognizing the most successful card counters despite their best efforts. When you bring in outside help that can leave traces for the casino to pick up, that’s when you run the risk of being caught. In order to catch card counters, most casinos use human and machine observation of betting patterns to look for anomalies. If you’re employing a straightforward counting technique, you can avoid suspicion by, for example, talking to other players at the table and changing your betting pattern.


Counting Cards Without “Attracting Heat”

We think the greatest way to avoid being spotted in casinos is to keep your strategy as straightforward as possible and master it thoroughly. It’s possible that the most successful card counters are not the mathematically gifted Rainman types, but rather players who are adept at counting cards and can pass for dealers. While using our Card Counting Coach for practice will undoubtedly improve your card counting skills, learning how to blend in at a real casino will be something you have to do on your own. However, your ability to practice casino stealth will improve in direct proportion to how well you can mentally count and how easily it comes to you. And maybe someday we’ll hear about your incredible success at the blackjack tables, or maybe we won’t.


The Gambling Industry’s Countermeasures

Since at least the early 1960s, when the first books on the subject were published, casinos have had employees attempting to prevent card counting systems from being used. Here are some of the most common — and unsuccessful — ways casinos have tried to prevent card counting:


The Discernment Card

Casinos were quick to implement the cutting card system, which ensured that players never went through an entire deck.


Decks in a Row

Even though the number of decks is irrelevant when employing strategies such as the Hi-Lo count discussed above, players have begun to use more of them in games.


Card Counting Done In-House

These days, casinos use a variety of automated tools to keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior that would indicate cheating. When dealing blackjack, some casinos scan the entire shoe, effectively performing their own card count. They combine data on betting irregularities from the table with knowledge that the deck is stacked in the players’ favor and run the resulting dataset through a computer program. The casino may suspect a player of card counting if he or she consistently raises bets at times when the computer determines that the deck is hot. In this case, the player may be asked to leave the casino or to try their luck at other, non-skill-based games within the casino.


Casino Chips With Built-In Microprocessors

Furthermore, microchips put in gambling chips at the casino are a frequent method of detecting betting irregularity at the tables. The casino can easily keep tabs on how much money is being wagered on individual games thanks to this. You should keep in mind that we are dealing with businesses who have been employing surveillance cameras for decades, and that their primary purpose is to generate money, not to give it away to people who are really excellent at outsmarting them, so this might sound a bit “Orwell-esque” to some.


Recognizable Faces

Facial recognition software is a cutting-edge addition to casino surveillance systems. Cameras equipped with facial recognition software can search a database for images of known cheaters. All gamblers are checked in by the cameras as they enter the casino. The introduction of these new cameras has increased the likelihood that a renowned card counter will be asked to leave the casino before ever getting to the blackjack tables.


Playing Strategy Teams That Count Cards

There is a natural limit to the amount of hands any one person can play. As a result, joining a team may look like a good plan to boost your hourly wage. There are many examples of great teamwork, like the M.I.T. blackjack team (a group of students from MIT who served as the basis for the Kevin Spacey film “21”). The most common team-counting techniques involve members playing one table apiece and signaling when to go in with the large money to the rest of the team. When playing as a team, you can elect to only commit a big portion of your stack when you are confident that the table is in your favor. The problems with group play are that it’s a big operation, and there are plenty of individuals participating, all of whom want a share of the profit. The risk of being detected is further heightened by the fact that a floor manager would undoubtedly keep a close check on a high roller who is seen bouncing between tables. However, if you’re interested in trying out team plays or simply learning more about how they could be set up, consider the following classic framework:


The Covering Officer

There is a team member who is not required to take a seat at any of the tables. The Back-Spotter’s job is to keep an eye on the tables from a safe distance, letting the team know when it’s time for the Gorilla to pounce.


An Observer

This team member participates actively in the game, but his or her primary responsibility is to keep track of the number of cards in use at this table. Because casinos are always keeping an eye out for suspicious betting patterns, the spotter will continue to make minimum bets while alerting the Gorilla or a team manager to when the deck is very favorable.


The Big Guy

Gorillas are not known for their ability to count, hence this eliminates the need for the gorilla to do so. Instead, this team member hops from table to table, only putting up big money when the action is really intense. The image of a drunken millionaire staggering from table to table, seemingly carelessly tossing around his vast fortune, is a staple of gorilla comedies.


The Main Event

The Big Player’s job is to ensure that the rest of the team remains undetected at all costs. The dealers and pit bosses in a casino will take notice of a high roller who plays blackjack competently. A skilled player with the same bankroll as the gorilla is likely to draw the attention of the casino before the rest of the squad does. Remember, it is not unlawful to play perfect strategy at the blackjack tables.


Learn to Count Cards and Dominate Blackjack Games.

Play Blackjack online at a desktop or Mobile Casino and start counting while you play if you want to be flush with cash like the movie gamblers. If you want to learn more about playing blackjack on your mobile device, check out our best blackjack applications page. Counting cards will test you, but beating the casino with this strategy will be well worth the effort. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again; persistence pays off in the long run. If you’re interested in learning how to play Blackjack before visiting a real money casino, you can do so with our free game here.


Extra Materials

This card counting guide concludes with a collection of further reading materials available online:


A virtually entire BBC documentary on the subject of card counting, titled Making Million The Easy Way.

A look at Dr. Edward O. Thorp’s book Beat The Dealer.

This is a summary of the MIT Black Jack Team from Wikipedia.

Ben Mezrich of WIRED analyzes the MIT hacking team’s work in Las Vegas.