Counting cards → Explained

The counting cards betting system can be used whilst playing blackjack or poker. It is generally believed that this system can’t be applied to any other casino game. Is this assumption true?

Counting cards
Counting cards

Counting card betting system appears simple. It can only be simple if the dealer shuffles the card only once. Does shuffling affect the outcome of your result? Maybe!

This guide is formulated to help you win your games in flying colours. We shall be looking at the various rules, advantages and disadvantages, and so on.

How do the cards counting work?

Card counting is a betting strategy used mainly while playing card games like the popular blackjack. If you are good at it, you will gain an advantage over the shuffler and other players on the table.

Most experts have won millions using these card counting techniques. Let’s take a look at how to apply this technique.

Rule one – select a value to every card in deck

Allocate a value to all your cards. This is the first step every good counting cards expert takes. Hi-Lo is a popular card counting system and the values are as follows;

  • 2-6 = +1
  • 7-9 = 0
  • 10-Ace= -1

As each card is dealt, the counter is expected to add 1 or subtract 1 or take no action at all.

Rule two – Keep a running count

Apply the running count strategy. Here you are expected to keep a running count by simply adding or subtracting any card. You are supposed to do this for any card that leaves the shoe.

This should be done card after card and every round until the card is shuffled by the dealer. As the running count increases, the player will have more advantage. On the other hand, if it reduces, the house advantage will increase.

Rule three – Calculate a true count

Always calculate a true count. Most casinos have realized that card counters take advantage of single decks. To eliminate this advantage, casinos are making use of multiple decks.

To apply the running count technique on a multiple deck game, we decided to come up with the “True count” technique. For example, if you have more than 5 running counts with 6 decks left, it’s entirely different from a 5 running with just a deck left.

From the first illustration, the extra high card on each deck will be less than 1. This means that the dealer has the advantage at this point. What should be of interest to the player are the concentrations in pari passu with the low cards.

So assuming you have the running count of 5 with just one deck left, then it means that there are 5 additional 10’s and aces in the 52 cards left. This simply will put you at advantage.

Assuming your running count is 10 and 5 decks are left, the True count is 2. That is 10 divided by 5. On the other hand, if your running count is -7 and 2 decks are left, your True count will be-3, i.e. -7 divided by 2.

Rule four – Do not hesitate to increase your bet

When the true count rises, change your bet. This is also applicable when the true count falls.

The running count and a true count will help you know when you are at an advantage.

As soon as you have the advantage, don’t hesitate to increase your bet.

explanation of the tue count conversion
True count conversion explained

Does counting cards system work?

This strategy is a very popular technique used by poker and blackjack players.

There is a lot of misconception about this strategy that has to be cleared. The biggest of them is the aforementioned question above.

The counting cards system has to do with keeping a mental record of the cards that are played while the game is on. To win using this strategy, you must have a sharp memory.

Even though a lot of players shy away from this technique because of various reasons, it works when you master it.

Counting cards history

man cheating on poker by counting card system.

Edward O. Thorp is considered by experts as the father of card counting. He is an American mathematician. In 1962, he published a book called Beat the Dealer where he put together several strategies.

Although before Edward his book, other professional card counters have already been using various counting cards strategies before Edward developed his techniques. Some of Edwards’s card counting techniques will also be discussed here.


Every blackjack or poker player will love to know the cards that the dealer has. This will automatically put on an edge over the casino. Nevertheless, blackjack card counting appears very easy in theory.

They are various theories on the internet about how easy it is to count cards and so on. The simple truth is that counting cards are not easy. Don’t you know that the dealers are also trained? Most of the dealers were professional players.

They also read about these tips and strategy. Remember the casino is not in business to lose.

Lest we forget, card counting in some countries is prohibited. Always check their poker or blackjack rules and regulations for more insight.

Related article: The best poker tracking programs


Is counting cards illegal?

Beginners always ask this question. No one wants to get into trouble with the law. Card counting is not cheating in most countries. You are keeping a mental record of the cards that have been played and including those with the dealer. It simply involves brain work. You can check out the casino rules if card counting is prohibited.

Is it possible to win always using a counting card strategy?

Yes, it is. Remember this strategy involves a lot of brainwork. Studies have shown that those who perfect this strategy often have high IQ. However, you can perfect this strategy if you practice always.

How much advantage will a counter have over the casino?

The first thing you must note about this strategy is that it doesn’t give players up to 20 per cent over the house. The most a very good card counter may likely get is between 2 to 5 per cent advantage over the house. You can win a lot after perfecting this strategy.