The Blackjack Basics: How to Count Your Cards?

Count your cards The blackjack basics

By far, the most popular technique to minimize the house edge in blackjack is card counting. You may not know that there are different variations of this strategy, but we'll focus on the simplest one – the Hi-Lo system. Also known as the Plus/Minus strategy, it was introduced by Harvey Dubner in 1963 as a remake of another, more involved card counting system.

If you’re not a professional player, this is the best way to reap the benefits of card counting without it getting too complicated. Everything you should know to get started is here in this article.

Card Counting in Blackjack: The Hi-Lo Strategy

The premise behind the Hi-Lo system is to keep track of the card cards as the dealer shows them and guess which ones are more likely to come up next. Card counting is supposed to predict whether the shoe favors the players or not. If it does, the player raises their bet.

Here is the general information that you should know:

  • Each card is assigned a different tag - +1, -1, or neutral.
  • The count starts at shuffle and continues with each card being pulled from the deck.
  • If the running count is positive (more on that later), it means the remaining cards are predominantly large, and you should increase your bet size.
  • If it's negative, then the remaining cards are mostly small, and you should lower your bet.
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Cards through 2 to 6 are valued +1; 7-9 are given zero value; and 10, jack, queen, king, and ace are all given -1.

What to Keep in Mind When Counting Cards in Blackjack?

The first thing to keep in mind is the "running count". This means you need to add and subtract the values of each card, which we've mentioned earlier. Let's say, the first five cards are Jack, 7, 3, King, and Ace. The running count would be:

-1 + 0 + 1 - 1 - 1 = - 2

At first, you can use online Card Counting Trainers. These will help you get used to these quick calculations so that you’ll be able to do it instantly as the cards are dealt.

In addition to the running count, you need to calculate the true count of the shoe. Since blackjack can be played with a different number of decks (one to eight), you need to consider that in your calculations. Here is an example:

  • Your running count is 9 in the six-deck shoe, and you see three decks in the discard tray.
  • 6 deck shoe minus 3 discarded decks = 3 remaining decks
  • Divide the running count by the remaining amount of decks, which is 9 / 3 = 3

The true count is the size of your bet. In our example, if you play at a $5 blackjack table, it means you should bet 3 x $5 = $15 as there is a higher chance to win.

The Limitations of the Hi-Lo Count

In blackjack, mistakes can cost you significant money. So, it's crucial to master this method before you bet real money. Carrying so many calculations non-stop can be tough, and you may not be able to do it successfully during fast-paced sessions.

Also, card counting becomes extremely difficult or even unreliable on games with continuous shuffles. It instantly resets your count and doesn’t let you make informed decisions on what to bet. In some online blackjack games, it’s a serious obstacle to implementing the Hi-Lo system.

Major Takeaways

You may not master card counting from the first try. But with enough time, this method should become effortless as long as there aren’t too many decks involved. Remember about limitations and stay focused as you can quickly lose count without even noticing.

Overall, most experienced blackjack players agree that card counting does work, and it's possible to keep your 1% edge. Make sure to practice as much as you can, preferably in the free mode of the game. Then, you can slowly graduate to playing for money and start winning.

The benefit of playing at online casinos is that you can count cards without the risk of being caught. This is exactly why Loki Casino is the prime place to practice. Check out the game selection even beyond blackjack and access to top-rated game developers, HD graphics, and the highest payouts.

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