Counting cards in blackjack: everything you need to know

If we tell you  card counting in blackjack , what comes to your mind? Probably the iconic scene of Rain Man , the film with Dustin Hoffman , Tom Cruise and our Valeria Golino , in which the autistic Raymond Babbit (Hoffman) allows his brother Charlie (Cruise) to win at the casino. And speaking of cinema, how can we not think of “21” ? This is the film that made this technique known to the world and in fact narrates the exploits of a  group of MIT students who used it between the 80s and 90s .

Behind all this there is a whole world, real, which today we will try to explain to you in detail. Starting with the seemingly trivial questions …

In this guide we will discover:

  1. Is it legal to count cards in blackjack?
  2. How to count cards in blackjack: the most popular techniques
  3. Can you count cards in blackjack online?
  4. Counting cards in blackjack: advantages and disadvantages

Is it legal to count cards in blackjack?

Although there is no law in the world that prohibits card counting in blackjack, gambling halls have done and continue to do everything to discourage their customers from implementing this type of strategy. If a casino notices that you are counting cards, it may initially just warn you not to do so and politely ask you to change your game. But usually, a player who counts cards in blackjack risks being kicked out of the room or even banned for life from the facility .

Because this is precisely the keystone: the card counting strategy in blackjack only makes sense if the deck is shuffled when it is about to run out, as it did initially in casinos. In fact, card counting today is a not very useful exercise in style, unless you are in a casino (online or land-based) run by completely inexperienced!

In fact, already at the time of the MIT student group the technique was effectively neutralized by the casinos. As soon as the managers of the casinos realized how there was the possibility for the players to reduce the house advantage , they began to increase the number of decks used and to shuffle them after each hand .

How to count cards in blackjack: the most popular techniques

This is not a simple count on the number of cards released, but rather a value that can suggest the size of the next card destined to go down.

In fact, to beat the dealer, it would be vital to be able to somehow predict what type of card awaits us, to decide the right move to make among those allowed by the blackjack rules .

So here is how to have a minimum of indication to guide us in the choice, mathematical systems have been developed that help predict what the value of the next card will be. These systems are quite difficult to put into practice , which require practice and preparation.

Card counting in blackjack: the Hi-Lo system

The Hi Lo system is considered to be the basic one, and its explanation is found in almost every popular blackjack book . To determine the next card, a mathematical system is used that assigns a predetermined value to the cards that have just come down , forcing the player to keep the progressive account of this parameter. The scheme used is the following:

  • The cards from 2 to 6 are counted with a +1
  • Cards 7 to 9 are worth 0
  • Cards from 10 onwards (including aces and face cards ) are scored at -1

Performing this type of counting therefore allows you to have an idea of ​​the type of cards still in the deck: for example if after a few minutes of playing the count of the cards dropped brings to a total of +15, it means that there are still cards in the deck. very high value . Of course we have to take this as a rough indication and not a certainty, because balckjack is played multiple decks at a time and therefore the chances of receiving a high or low card are difficult to calculate.

KO system for card counting

This is considered to be the easiest system out there and the one to start with if you want to experience card counting. The basic counting mechanism is the same as the Hi Lo system, with the only difference of card number 7 which is +1 and not zero . Having only two zero-value cards (8 and 9) the count runs better and is more manageable by non-regular players.

How to count cards with the Hi Opt System

This system also works with the basic principle of the Hi Lo one, thus making a progressive count. But in the Hi Opt system a higher level of precision is reached , thanks to a more complexly constructed count:

  • Cards 2, 3, 6, 7 have a value of +1
  • Cards 4 and 5 have value +2
  • Cards 8, 9 and Aces are worth 0
  • 10’s and figures are worth -2

Such a composite system of assigning values ​​obviously favors the accuracy of the system, but it represents a considerable difficulty in playing the game. Having to manage certain counts could generate confusion: if you want to count the cards you risk ruining the gaming experience a little, losing that component of relaxation when you sit at a green table or maybe try to spend a few hours of entertainment by taking advantage of the live blackjack of the Gioco Digitale platform 

Counting system based on 10-value cards

This system is different from those seen previously, as it is not based on a counting with progressive values. The principle that governs this strategy is that of the relationship in the deck between the cards with value 10 and all the others . If we consider a deck of cards for playing blackjack we know that it is made up of 52 cards, with 16 of these having a value of 10, for a ratio of 3.25 (52/16). So to adopt this counting system you will have to calculate the variation of this ratio for each card dropped , which is really complicated for those who do not have a strong mathematical mind.
To try to make it easier to keep track of this ratio, you can try a less precise count, considering that a card of value 10 every 3 will fall, therefore with a ratio of 1/3. If after 3 cards fell, we still do not have a 10-value card, we could therefore evaluate the increase in the probability of seeing it soon in play.

Can you count cards in blackjack online?

The answer is yes. Indeed, we will tell you more: blackjack is one of the few online table games where this strategy, born in land-based gambling halls, can also be applied to its virtual counterpart on paper with greater ease. In fact, when playing live, the timing dictated by the croupier must be respected. Online, however, no one forbids you to take all the time you need before deciding what to do.

Counting cards in blackjack: advantages and disadvantages

The benefits of card counting in blackjack are proven, but on the other hand today casinos have taken their precautions and doing so is much more difficult, if not impossible, due to a variety of reasons. So let’s try to understand what are the possible disadvantages or consequences – sometimes unpleasant – that can be encountered.

A mental effort not for everyone

Since we’re not talking about counting sheep before falling asleep , one of the more well-known downsides of card counting in blackjack is just the kind of effort and mindset it requires. Suffice it to say that that group of MIT students mentioned above, who inspired the film 21 with Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne , had to study a sort of staging that involved four or five players, in addition to a not indifferent mnemonic and counting preparation. – however, almost impossible without a strong aptitude for arithmetic .

We recommend the vision of 21 , if you don’t know it, both to understand the mental and organizational effort that MIT students had to face to win at blackjack by counting cards, and – and perhaps above all – to realize what could happen to you if a casino should notice that you are using this strategy.

No spoilers , but the outcome, we assure you, would not be pleasant …

And where is the fun?

Those who try to count cards when playing blackjack cannot be distracted in any way, because otherwise they risk losing the count and frustrating the efforts made up to that moment. At this point, as that fellow said, the question arises: does it really make sense to do so ?

Blackjack, like all casino games, must first and foremost be a source of fun and relaxation , a way like any other to have fun and free your mind. But if the mind is occupied with calculations, additions and subtractions, how can it relax? A decidedly impossible mission.

Counting cards in blackjack: yes or no?

To conclude, we can say that it is a good test of skill, which can also be trained by trying to play and count cards in online blackjack.

Do we recommend it? Honestly no. Better to think about having fun while you play, instead of making your brain smoke!


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