Unlike other casino games that rely solely on luck, blackjack is a game where players can use certain math and card counting skills to gain an advantage over the dealer. The term card counting is not a process of memorizing every card that comes out of the shoe, as an autistic savant like Rain Man would do. Counting cards in blackjack means keeping the ratio between high and low values of the cards left in the deck.
The principles behind this process were first discovered by Edward Thorp, who is considered the father of blackjack card counting, who published the book “Beat the Dealer” in 1962. This book is practically the main proponent of the blackjack revolution, which prompted casinos to take action against this method. The card counting process is actually not illegal as technically you are just keeping track of the cards and not cheating in any way. However, casinos were clearly frowned upon for this practice and would ban players caught counting cards.
Before you can successfully apply the various popular methods of card counting in blackjack, you must first understand the basic mechanics of how the process works and how to apply these methods practically and successfully – and achieve success in this game.
Popular Blackjack Card Counting Methods
There are two basic blackjack card counting systems: balanced and unbalanced. In a balanced card counting system, counting down the entire deck would give you a final count of 0. The popular methods for this were the Hi-Lo, Hi-Opt 1, and the Hi-Opt 2 systems. On the other hand, unbalanced counting is a system of card counting where you don’t end up with a count of 0 after going through the entire deck.
* KO card counting strategy
KO or Knock-Out card counting system will not end with a count of 0. The strategy involves adding an extra +1 value for every 7. Since there are four 7s in a single deck, you will end up with a count of +4 if you have counted down the entire deck. The developers of this strategy, credited to authors Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchsln, described it as making it difficult for players to mentally switch the true count and the running count back and forth — especially when playing in an environment full of with distraction like in casinos.
You only use +1, -1 and 0 in this strategy, so it’s really not hard to count, but it’s very important that you keep your focus and attention on the table. You need to master the value of each specific card so that you can have the most accurate count. You must know the running total throughout the game and the count will not reset until a new shoe is shuffled. A high positive count will tell you that there are only smaller value cards left in the deck. The opposite is over if you have a negative running count.
The following are the preferred card values in this strategy:
- 2en, 3en, 4en, 5en, 6en en 7en = +1
• 8en en 9en = 0
• 10en, J’s, Q’s, K’s en Aces = -1
While the KO card system is designed to make it a little easier for the player to count cards, you have to sacrifice a certain percentage of your accuracy. It all comes down to how much you are willing to invest for something that is easier to use but less likely to win. However, this system is just right for people who play the game occasionally or for recreational purposes.
* Hi-Lo card counting strategy
This strategy was devised by Harvey Dubner and is a simplification of Dr. Edward Thorp’s ten-count system. Also called the High/Low System or the Plus/Minus system, the Hi-Lo card counting strategy will make it easier for novice or intermediate blackjack players to use at a real blackjack table and is most commonly used by blackjack teams.
To learn this system, you must master the respective values of each card in the deck. As a general rule, the small cards 2 to 6 are counted as plus 1, while the big cards 10 to A’s are counted as minus 1. The middle cards or neutral cards 7 to 9 will not change the running count. This is considered a balanced system. Summarized:
- 2en, 3en, 4en, 5en, 6en = +1
• 7en, 8en en 9en = 0
• 10en, J’s, Q’s, K’s en Aces = -1
You should be aware of how the number of running cards is affected as each card is dealt, but you should pay special attention to how many smaller cards have already been played. The fewer small cards left in the deck increase your chances for higher values or even a blackjack, and vice versa, allowing you to adjust your betting patterns.
* Hi-Opt 1 card counting strategy
Hi-Opt or Highly Optimum card counting strategies are designed for use by more advanced blackjack players. There are two versions for this system and the first is also known as the Einstein count. It’s more mathematically advanced and can give the players using this system a slightly bigger advantage — it’s more complicated to use and requires more focus on the table.
To avoid confusion with other card counting systems, the player must master the following table which lists the values for each card:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 JQKA
0 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 0
While the aces are generally not tracked in this system, some variations of the strategy use external things to keep track of how many aces have already been played, such as the use of chips, fingers or even your feet.
* Hi-Opt 2 card counting strategy
The Hi-Opt 2 card counting strategy is the more advanced high-optimum card counting system and is used by more advanced blackjack players. This is more complicated to use and usually only seasoned professionals use this system, giving them only a small added benefit when using it. The system requires even more effort to focus on the table and includes some 2 value cards, which makes it even more complicated.
The value designation for each card is shown below. From the graph alone you can see that this is more complicated than other systems that only use 1 plus/minus 1 value:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 JQKA
+1 +1 +2 +2 +1 +1 0 0 -2 -2 -2 -2 0
Again, aces are generally not tracked in the number of running cards, but are tracked externally using marjers such as chips, fingers or even your feet. As a balanced system, your count should end at 0 after all the cards in a 52-card deck have been played – otherwise something went wrong with your count.
Making card counting effective
The success and effectiveness of card counting does not depend entirely on how well a player can count or keep up with the cards, but more on how he can perform the same skills while sitting at a real blackjack casino table full of all the noise and noise. distractions that are typical of such places. Apart from that, the player must learn how to camouflage how they count during the actual game – and avoid getting the attention of the casino pit bosses.