Introduction to Card Counting in Blackjack

Before You Begin

Before attempting to count cards in a real game, you should learn your basic strategy.  You must walk before you can run.  Unless you know automatically when to hit, stand, double down or split, you will find it difficult to keep up with the cards, considering the speed of play and number of distractions of an average casino.  

In casino play, you will be faced with hit/stand decisions the most, since these situations occur the most.  You will have to make double down decisions a bit less frequently. Favourable jackpot slots opportunities occur even less frequently, and the relative advantage of splitting versus not splitting is not as great.  As a result, if you have pretty well memorized the hit/stand and the double down tables, you can proceed to learn to count cards, but continue to study your basic strategy.

A Popular Card Counting System

The Uston Advanced Plus/Minus System is considered a “one level” count because the count values required are either +1 or -1.  The cards are given the values shown in the table below.

Uston Advanced Plus/Minus



               2         0
               3        +1
               4        +1
               5        +1
               6        +1
               7        +1
               8         0
               9         0
         10,J,Q,K        -1
             Ace        -1

As you can see, the good cards are given a value of +1 while the bad cards a value of -1.  A value of 0 is given to the neutral cards.  After counting a full deck the count will always be zero.  Add +1 every time you see a card from 3 to 7 played and -1 every time a ten card or an ace is played.  You will find that you can increase your speed by looking for two-card combinations that net to zero, say a 6 and a 10.

Other good one level counts exists, that are either marginally better or marginally worst than this one.  Most counts usually have advantages in certain situations but disadvantages in others.  These differences are so small that the actual system you use is not very important.  All good counts will give you an edge over the casino.  What is important is that you do use a count, use it accurately, and stick to it.  Some of the information provided relates to the Uston Advanced Plus/Minus count and will not be exactly the same for another system.  If you plan to use another count system, you should ensure that you can get a hold of complete information.

True Count
When card counting, it is important to use the true count or the count per deck.

Techniques for Counting the Cards Played
The Counting Cards Played section will help you ensure that you account for every card that has been played in both face up games and hand held Games

Varying Your Bet
See how you really gain an advantage by Varying Your Bet with the count.

Back Counting
Back counting is a method of gaining an extra advantage, often necessary to make a shoe game worth playing.  The player simply counts the cards by standing nearby and sits down at the table to play whenever the cards are favourable.  Theoretically, you could keep changing tables so that you would always play with a positive count.  The sacrifice is that the number of hands you play per hour would be much less; therefore it would take much longer to get into the long run.  For the 6 and 8 deck shoe games in Atlantic City, some degree of back counting should be used. Casinos have caught on to this method and have added counter measures to make it harder to succesfully back count.