A Basic Card Counting System

Now that we have talked about what card counting is and what it is not, what it does and what it does not do, it is time to look at the starting point of actually counting cards. Today we are going to look at the most basic of card counting systems, the Hi Lo system.

The Hi Lo system is the counting system that most blackjack players start out with. It is easy to remember and the math is easy enough that those who are not inclined to the subject can still use the system.

In the Hi Lo system cards fall into one of three categories: High, Low or Neutral. Each category is assigned a counting value: -1, +1 or 0. Now we look at the how the cards are broken down:

High cards: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 with a counting value of -1
Neutral Cards: 9, 8, 7 with a counting value of 0
Low Cards: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 with a counting value of +1

Okay, so now that we have the counting values down, now the work comes in.

When you are card counting you are tracking the cards that have been played. This means adding up the values of the cards as they are dealt. Of everyone at the table. So say you are dealt a 10/10, your neighbor is dealt a 10/7 and the dealer has been dealt a 6 your count would look like this:

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

The -2 outcome means that more high cards have been played, which means there are more low cards left to be played. Low cards favor the dealer, so when your count moves beyond a -3 or -4 it is time to begin reducing your wager as the odds are more in favor of the dealer.

Now if your count goes up to +3 or +4 it means that a good number low cards have been played and have passed out of the game leaving a larger number of high cards—which favor the player—still in the deck. So when your count moves that high into the positive it would be time to increase your wager. Not too drastically of course, you do not want to tip off to the casino staff that you are counting cards; while not illegal, card counting is frowned upon by casinos because how dare you find a skillful way of gaining an advantage.

But that is the most basic of card counting systems. It is a good system to start with if you are looking to get your feet wet with card counting.

Basic Blackjack Card Counting

There are any number of blackjack card counting systems out there, ranging from complex to simple. Obviously if you have decided to begin learning card counting it makes sense to start with an easy system. Then, once you have become skilled at using that system, learn a newer more complex one if you would like.

The easiest blackjack card counting system is also one of the most common. It is called the Hi Lo system, and it is the one that the majority of beginning counters start with. It is a basic counting system whose only demand on your math skills is to add and subtract a positive one and a negative one.

Almost all of the cards have a positive or negative counting value assigned to them. The only cards that do not are 7, 8 and 9. Those three are considered neutral and have no value in this counting system. The other cards are assigned like so:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are all +1
10, J, Q, K, Ace are all -1

The way this system works is that the player will add up the values of the cards that are on the table, including the dealer’s face up and hole card.

So say that you are playing with one other person. You have a 5/6 and you double for 9. The other player has 2/6/5 and stands. The dealer has a 10 with a hole card of 6 and hits for 7 and busts. Adding up the value of cards played, starting with your hand and ending with the dealer, would look like this:

1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 1 + -1 + 1 + 0 = 5

Your count ends with a positive number. This means that more low cards were played than high cards, and so the remaining deck is richer in high cards.

You keep adding to you count with the next round. In the case of our example you pick up with 5 at the beginning of the next round.

A positive count means the remaining deck is rich in high cards, while a negative count means that more high cards have been played leaving the remainder of the deck rich with low cards. Blackjack card counters will raise their wagers with a positive count, and lower them with a negative count.

As the simplest blackjack card counting system, it is easy to see why so many beginning blackjack card counters start with this system.

How Card Counting Works

Part of the image of blackjack is card counting. And that image is of a smooth blackjack player who slips in and, using his incredible intelligence, overcomes the house edge, wins lots of money and slips out before the casino staff can catch on to him.

The idea that card counting can be used to beat the house is not new. And it can help a skilled blackjack player to break even with the house’s edge, if not overcome it somewhat. And that is why it becomes a part of a skilled player’s blackjack strategy.

Some misconceptions about card counting are that you have to be super intelligent or have a photographic memory. Neither of these are true. If you can add +1 and -1 then you can count cards. Oh, and forget about the photographic memory part, you only need to be able to work with +1 and -1.

Seriously, that is all there is to the most basic and widely used card counting system: Hi-Lo.

In the Hi-Lo counting system the cards are assigned counting values as follows:

2 through 6 are +1
7 through 9 are 0
10 through Ace are -1

When playing add up the values of the cards on the table. Say you are sitting with two other players and the dealer. You are dealt a 2/8, another player is dealt 6/10, the other is dealt 4/3 and the dealer has a 2 showing. The math would look like this:

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

That would be the count at that point. As players are dealt more cards and the dealer plays out his hand you keep adding the counting values as the cards appear. That is how card counting works.

When the count goes at least +3 or higher, skilled card counters will begin to raise their bets. And when the count runs -3 or lower they will start to lower their bets. This is because when the count is positive it means that there are more high cards still left to be played, and high cards are good for players and natural blackjacks. But when the count goes negative it means that the remaining deck is rich in dealer favorable low cards.

In order to become skillful with card counting you need to practice a lot at home with several decks of cards. You need to work at your blackjack card counting skills until you can count quickly and quietly in your head. Card counting can get you barred from a casino, which is why you want to practice and increase your skill with card counting so that you do not get caught and barred.

How Card Counting Works

Card counting is a skill used by blackjack players as a part of their blackjack strategy, more specifically their betting strategy. The purpose of card counting is to give the player an idea of how the cards are flowing in order to manage their betting.

Card counting allows a blackjack player to keep track of whether more low cards have passed out of play, leaving the remainder of the deck rich in high cards and vice versa. Blackjack players know that low cards favor the dealer while high cards favor them.

Knowing which type has mostly been played and what still remains is what helps a blackjack player determine when to raise and lower his wager. For example, if the remaining cards are rich in high cards, the player knows to raise his bet. When the count changes and reveals that the high cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in low cards, he knows to lower the amount of his wager.

The most basic card counting system, Hi-Lo, assigns low cards a +1 value while high cards have an assigned value of -1.

During the course a game if a lot of low cards have been played the count will become positive. This is because for every low card played the player adds a +1. The more low cards that are played, the higher the count goes in the positive range. A positive count of +3 or higher is a good indicator that the remaining deck is rich in high cards. At this point blackjack players that are card counters will begin raising their bets.

Conversely, when more high cards have been played, adding in -1 for every high card played will bring the count lower and lower until it slips into a negative count. This means that more high cards have been played and that the remaining deck is rich in low cards. This is when blackjack players will lower their bets.

You can see how blackjack players who have practiced this skill can use it to control their betting. This is why card counting factors into the betting strategy portion of a blackjack strategy.

Card counting also influences your blackjack odds. The more money you win from the house, the more you are taking off the house edge because it puts them at a disadvantage and causes them to lose more money.