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Counting Cards in Blackjack

November 24, 2021

Blackjack is an ever present feature in any casino you might walk into. Along with roulette, it is one of the most popular choices of any casino gambler. Whether the player is looking to sit down in front of a dealer, or just grind some online blackjack, the game will always be available.

Players who have a real interest in the game may have heard of the famous blackjack team from MIT—Massachusetts Institute of Technology—who travelled to Las Vegas and took the casinos for millions of dollars. But how did they do it exactly?

Beating blackjack is all about being able to count cards; and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

The first step is to learn the basic strategy down pat which will give you a 0.834% loss rate even without attempting to count cards. Compared to the 2.7% you will lose playing roulette we can consider this a good start.

But once basic strategy has been implemented you must use some method of predicting when the odds are in your favour if you are aiming to swing the edge into your favour.

How to Count Cards

The point of counting cards is to know when the dealer is in a potentially poor spot. Although the player has full freedom of choice in the game, the dealer must abide by certain restrictions, mainly by standing pat if the total is 17 or more, or being forced to draw at 16 or less.

By observing which cards have already left the shoe, the player will know if there is a greater concentration of higher cards remaining or lower cards.

Obviously we would prefer more high value cards because that will increase the chances that the dealer will bust when forced to draw. Conversely, more low cards reduces the chance of the dealer busting.


The first step is to assign the following values to cards that are drawn from the shoe, no matter which player they are dealt to.

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

The figure that you have in your head is known as the running count and must always be accurately tracked.

The higher the count, the more favourable the situation.


As card counting became better known, casinos began to implement countermeasures. Aside from scrutinising each player’s style, the house understood that it was beneficial to increase the number of decks in the shoe to make counting a more difficult proposition.

So now, the card-counter must not only pay attention to the fast-paced dealing of cards and keep a count, they must also be able to divide the running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. This is known as the true count.


The final stage is about flexing your bet size depending on what the true count is. This is all about betting bigger when the situation is favourable, and the minimum when it is unfavourable.

This all is just a simple overview of the process when, in fact, there is quite a lot of theory on proper bankroll management and the most accurate way to bet, but at least you now have enough information to get started with the process.

Fancy Starting Your Own Card Counting Team?

If this article has piqued your interest, then maybe you should have a word with some of your friends and see how they feel. As you can see, the card counting process is not so complicated that it can’t be learned with a little perseverance. The trick is being able to get away with it.

Casinos are constantly improving their methods to catch players trying to gain an edge on the house and blackjack is likely the most popular attempt they see.

What the MIT team did was to work in groups and master a discrete signalling system whereby one player would work the disadvantageous and neutral situations with the minimum bet and let the other team members know when to step in on a favourable count.

Casino workers understand that for a card counter to profit they must flex their bet sizes depending on the true count and this is now an obvious giveaway. Working in a team is the only way to try and get away with it. Good luck if you’re prepared to try this out!

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