Card Counting

History of Card Counting

The foundation of card counting as we know it today was laid out by Edward Thorp, who many consider as the forefather of card counting. Although Thorpe wasn’t the first person to outline several different theories on how to play strategically correct Blackjack, he was one of the first to publish his theories in a book, known as Beat the Dealer, which came out in 1962. Beat the Dealer was based on mathmatics calculations that showed how favourable a deck of cards is to a Player during a regular game of Blackjack. The book was an immediate success with Blackjack Players, who tried out his theories in casinos across the US and then later internationally. Initially, the casinos prospered because many Players used the theories incorrectly. This, however, changed and Players began actually beating the casino, when a new breed of professonal card counters emerged. They improved upon Thorp’s system with simple ideas like “Wonging,” where they would watch a game and only play when the count was favourable to them. The casinos, realizing their demise and, some after being beaten out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, began to change their rules. They increased their decks and Dealers had to reshuffle 3/4 of the way through the game. Despite their efforts to curtail this practice, which by the way is not illegal in land-based casinos, Blackjack Players are still confident that they can beat the dealer in Blackjack.

The Hi-Lo System

The Hi-Lo system is the most popular card counting system used world-wide. This is probably due to the fact that it is the easiest to learn. In this technique each card is assigned a specific value, so a Player can tell when the deck is unbalanced. If the deck has mostly high value cards (tens, face cards, Aces), this means that the chances of Blackjacks being dealt is greater. As well, it means that the likelihood of the Dealer going bust is also greater. If the deck has mostly low value cards such as twos, threes, fours, fives, and sixes, this means that the Dealer’s chances of winning are greater. Take for example, the rule that the Dealer must hit until he gets 17 or goes bust. If the Dealer has a hand of, let’s say, 15, and the deck has a lot of low value cards, the Dealer will have an edge over the Player, because he isn’t likely to go bust on the next card being dealt. This changes in the case of a high value deck, because the Dealr could very well draw a face card on the next deal and go bust.

As a card counter using the Hi-Lo system, you should begin counting the value of the cards immediately after the first card is dealt from the newly shuffled deck. A low value card adds 1 point and a high value card subtracts 1 point from your running count. Cards 2 – 6 are +1. Cards 7 – 9 are neutral or 0. Cards 10 – Ace are -1. Let’s use a more visual approach:

  • The Dealer’s Face Up Card is a 9. The count is 0.
  • Player 1 is dealt Ace, 5. The count is -1, +1.
  • Player 2 is dealt 6, 2. The count is +1, +1.
  • Player 3 is dealt 7, 8. The count is 0, 0.
  • Player 4 is dealt Q, Q. The count is -1, -1.
  • Player 5 is dealt 3, 8. The count is +1, 0.

If you calculate your count, you will get +1. More low value cards were dealt, so this means that there are more high value cards in the deck. For a more accurate count, it is better when more cards are dealt. The more precise your count is, the better your edge will be over the Dealer. Try doing this on your own using a single deck of cards. Do it over and over until you fully understand the counting system. In a single deck of cards, your count will always end up at 0, if you count correctly. Give it a shot! After all, practice makes perfect.

Other Card Counting Systems

Many other card counting systems exist. These include “Wonging”, also known as “Back Counting”, the KO Count, the Hi-Opt I Count, and the Hi-Opt II Count. The KO system, also known as the “Knock-out system” is another commonly used system. It is almost like the Hi-Lo system, where low value cards (2 – 7) are assigned a value of +1. High value cards (10 – Ace) are assinged a value of -1. Cards 8 and 9 are neutral (i.e. their value = 0). As you can see, the difference between the Hi-Lo and the KO systems is the 7 card. Although it was designed to make card counting easier on the Player, it is thought to be too taxing on the brain, because Players had to switch between the true count and the running total.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, should I use card counting systems? Will they be profitable for me? This is entirely up to you. Card counting systems can be profitable, but, realistically, you have to be patient and play over a period of time to see results. The best advice we can give you is “KISS” – Keep it simple. The less complex the card counting system is, the more likely you are to learn it and master it. Once you master it, you can use it freely (without being detected by security personnel) in a casino. Card counting isn’t illegal by law, but casinos and casino managers don’t take too kindly to persons trying to win using special systems.