Blackjack card counting principles

Card counting in blackjack is based on varying probability. In casino games such as roulette, the odds and probability are fixed. But in games like blackjack, the probabilities vary with each new hand that is drawn, depending on the composition of the card shoe.

This is due to the fact that cards are dealt and then discarded. This influences all future draws until the shoe is reshuffled.

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Card counting basics

To be successful at blackjack card counting requires you to keep track of the cards that have been dealt so far. There’s are various methods. These enables you to calculate the ratio of high-to-low cards remaining in the card shoe.

Most card counting methods use the so-called ‘positive count’ system. When the card count is positive, this means that more low value cards have been dealt than high value cards. Therefore there are more high value cards remaining in the shoe and this is the time for the player to increase their bets.

The importance of the hot shoe

When the majority of the cards remaining in the shoe are high value cards, the shoe is said to be ‘hot’. A hot shoe gives the player the edge over the casino, for several advantages:

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  • The dealer is more likely to go ‘bust’ (obtain a score of more than 21).
  • Players will have a higher chance of getting a blackjack.
  • Players will receive more high value cards and will receive stronger starting hands.

As the player now holds a mathematical advantage over the house, card counters will typically increase their bets at this point to press home this advantage. However, this is by no means a guarantee of success. It simply means that you have a statistically greater chance of winning.

Nor does card counting stop there. You must stay focused and continue to count the cards being dealt throughout. If the card count decreases again, you should lower the amount wagered accordingly.

The hi-lo method

The simplest counting method, and the one we recommend, is the hi-lo count system. This was famously developed by the MIT blackjack team. By counting cards as a team, they were able to win millions of dollars in Las Vegas. The technique is also known as the plus/minus system.

Most blackjack card counting systems start out with a card count of zero. This means that when the first card is dealt, the count is zero. According to the choice of the card counting method used, the count will change with each card dealt, as each is attributed a different value.

Each card is given a value of +1, 0, or -1 if you follow the hi-lo system. You must keep a very close check of each card that is dealt during a hand. This includes your hand, and those of the dealer and any other players, too.

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