Card Counting – The High-Low Method

Card counting is a legitimate method of tracking the shoe of cards in blackjack and gaining a small edge over the casino. Despite Internet chatter, it’s not illegal and you don’t need to be a wiz kid to be able to do it.

The method I’m going to show you below is known as the High-Low method and it’s the easiest way to count cards. The first step is to assign each card a value which you can see in this image (which comes from blackjack apprenticeship who say that they have won millions from counting cards).

Card Counting Card Values

So when you first sit at the table, the count in your head will be 0 as you haven’t started playing. Ideally, you would just bet the minimum until the cards have been reshuffled and placed back in the shoe so that you are starting from scratch as opposed to starting half way through when you don’t know which cards have already been drawn.

When you are ready to start counting, you continually adjust the count for every card that comes out of the deck in accordance with the values above. I shall give you a quick example, assuming that you are the only player.

Your cards are 5 and 6. The count is now +2.

The dealer’s face card is 8. The count stays +2

In accordance with basic strategy, you double down and the card you get is a 10. The count is now goes down to +1

The dealer’s second card is flipped over and it’s a 9. The count stays +1.

So after that first round of betting, the count is +1. The further in + the count goes, the bigger the advantage for the player because small number cards favour the dealer while high number cards favour the player.

Working Out The True Count

In the early days of blackjack, it was played with a single deck of cards so it was very easy to gain an advantage and casinos realised that counters were winning easy money. To make it much harder, casinos started using multiple decks of cards and most games now use 4-8 decks.

As such, you need to keep track of the count as you play but then convert it to a true count in relation to the number of decks remaining in the shoe. That may sound complicated, but it’s actually a very easy sum.

Running Count ÷ Decks Remaining = True Count

To give an easy example of the equation above, if your count was +5 and there are 5 decks left in the shoe, the true count is 5÷5=1 – a true count of +1. Apparently, each true count of +1 will swing the house edge 0.5% in favour of the player.

So a true count of +1 means no house advantage, true count of +2 means 0.5% advantage for the player, true count of +3 means a 1% advantage for the player and so on. It may sound like a small edge, but it’s an edge all the same.

How To Bet When Counting Cards

Usually a card counter will use basic strategy and play the table minimum until there’s an advantage, then they will bet much higher until the edge stops, then it’s back to betting the minimum and waiting. Like all forms of gambling, there are numerous risks to take into consideration, here are just a few of them.

  1. It’s entirely possible that you will sit through an entire session and never gain an advantage.
  2. Even when you do get the advantage, it’s only small and you could lose your much bigger bets.
  3. Your advantage can be very short lived and over with just 1 hand, so you need to seize the moment and increase your bets while you can, even though there’s a risky you will lose these bigger bets.

Card Counting FAQ

Is it illegal?

Nope, this is nothing but a rumour.

Can I use a device to help me count?

No, that is illegal. There’s no law to stop you from using your brain to gain an advantage (keeping track of the count) but there are laws all over the world to stop you from using computers for help.

Will the casino eject me?

It is entirely possible and they can refuse business to anyone they want.

Is it really as simple as this page makes out?

It’s easier to talk about it than actually apply it in casino conditions but essentially yes, card counting is as simple as described above. More of the questions are answered at my blackjack FAQ.