What is Card Counting?

Card counting skills have been in existence for a long time and it’s a math-based strategy that is used in various casino games, especially when playing blackjack online. Card counters use this strategy to predict if the next hand will pose an advantage to the dealer or player.

The main aim and intention of counting cards are to keep a true count of high and low-value cards. With this information, the card counter now tries to minimise the house edge. Through counting cards, players have an idea of the other cards that have not been dealt with yet. This way, they can make better decisions.

Pros vs Cons of Card Counting

  • Card counting increases your ability to hit a natural (pays out at 3:2 odds)
  • Provides extra splitting opportunities
  • By doubling down you increase the expected value
  • Makes the insurance bet profitable
  • It’s not guaranteed because the casino might shuffle cards
  • Requires a high level of concentration
  • In case the casino realises you’re counting cards might be chased from the house

How to Count Cards

How to Count Cards
Estimated Time
15 minutes
What You Will Need
This guide, a good memory, lots of practice
Equipment Required
A casino (physical or live), a blackjack table
Assign Tag
Assign a positive/negative tag
First, assign a tag of positive 1 to all 2 – 6 ranked cards and another tag of negative 1 to all 10 – A
Give Tags
Tag Every Card
Count the cards after the shuffle and give tags to each card
Increase Bet
If positive, increase bet
If you notice that the count is positive after each round, it means that the undealt cards are large cards, so you increase your bet size
Reduce Bet
If negative, reduce bet
However, if the count is negative, the undealt cards are smaller cards, so reduce your bet size.
Keep Counting Afterwards
Repeat this count after every round, resetting the counter in your head every time the cards are shuffled.
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Card Counting Strategies

The standard card counting systems work by assigning positive, negative or zero card values to each card. Anytime a card is dealt, the card counter assigns a tag to that card and the running count gets adjusted. Low cards will increase the running count, and this means that the percentage of high cards in the deck increases.

On the other hand, high cards decrease the running count. For instance, the Hi-Lo system subtracts one from any jack, queen, king, ace, 10 and adds one for cards between 2 and 6. All 7s, 8s and 9s are counted as zero and don’t affect the true count.

 KO Strategy

When you join the game, the running count for the deck will be 0. As the game goes on and the cards are seen, no matter who’s holding them, you assign them a value of either negative 1, positive 1 or 0 and add the value to your running count. The values given are as follows:

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 - (+1)
  • 9, 8 - (0)
  • 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace - (-1)

 Omega II Strategy

Being a multi-level system, some cards will be counted as 2 points while others are counted as 1 point. Card counters assign a positive 1 to all 2, 3 and 7 cards while low cards such as 4, 5 and 6 are given a positive 2. The 9 card is assigned as negative 1 while 10s, King, Queen and Jack are assigned negative 2. Aces and 8’s have zero value which has no impact on the running count.

 Halves Strategy

The Halves system is a three-level card counting system. Once all cards are dealt with, the final result of the calculations of the card counter should amount to zero. In this system the values are assigned to the cards as follows:

  • 10s, Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces - (-1)
  • 8s - (1/2)
  • 9s - (0)
  • 5s - (½)
  • 3s, 4s and 6s - (1)
  • 2s and 7s - (½)

 Hi-Opt Strategy

In Hi-Opt I the card counter assigns the 3, 4, 5, and 6 cards a positive 1 value, the King, Queen, 10s and Jack get negative 1. The Ace, 2, 7, 8 and 9 are given zero. In such a balanced system card counters need to master the running count in order to make informed decisions. In the Hi-Opt II system positive 1 is assigned to 2, 3, 6 and 7. You add 2 to the running count when you see 4 and 5 cards. For 10s and face cards you subtract 2 from the running count.

 Red 7 System

The Red 7 system is a very simple card counting strategy for beginners because it is a one-level system, unlike the others. Red 7 is based on the principle of the high versus low cards. High-value cards are assigned negative 1 while lower-value cards are given positive 1. Neutral cards like 8 and 9 are marked with zero. Colours too matter, if a 7 is red, it becomes a low-value card and it it’s black, it’s neutral.

 KO System

The Knock-Out system is popularly referred to as the KO system. It’s a card counting system in blackjack that’s suitable for novices and intermediate players. Just like the Hi-Lo card counting strategy, 10s, Aces, Jacks, Queens and Kings get the value of negative 1. Cards ranging from 2 to 7 are given a positive 1 while 8’s and 9’s have a zero value.

 Zen Count

The Zen Count system is a balanced system of counting cards. In this system, the true count comes down to 0 once all the cards have been dealt. It’s a simple and basic system where the card counters value the cards as follows:

  • 2, 3, 7 - (+1)
  • 4, 5, 6 - (+2)
  • 8, 9 - 0
  • 10, Jack, Queen, King - (-2)
  • Ace - (-1)

When the true count is 0 or below, you should place the minimum bet, and increase the size each time the running count rises.

 Team Count Strategy

The blackjack team card counting system is greatly similar to the Hi-Lo system since the same values are given to the cards. So, high cards get negative 1, low cards get positive 1 and all the other cards have a zero value. Alongside this strategy, the team uses a three-person team strategy with a big player, a controller and a spotter. The role of the spotter is to count the cards and then signal the big player to place a bet.

Card Counting Trainer

There are several software tools that can teach you how to count cards accurately. A good example is the Interactive Card Counting Trainer and you need no experience to use it. Counting cards is a strategy that anyone can learn and it’s easier with such tools.




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Wonging aka Back Counting - Is It Important?

Back Counting involves standing behind a certain blackjack table and counting the cards as the dealer deals them. A player will “Wong in” to the game after noticing that the running count has reached a point at which the player has gained the advantage.

As the advantage increases, the player can raise their bets or lower them in case the advantage goes down. Some players might stay at the table while others might “Wong out” when the running count shows no advantage.

5 Mistakes Card Counters Do


There are so many things that could alert a casino employee that a player is counting the cards and the common ones include:

  1. Abrupt bet variations-this especially happens when a player places larger bets, especially at the end of the shoe
  2. Refusal to play-when some card counters notice the running count is low, they tend to refuse to play which might raise an alarm
  3. Extremely aggressive plays-this could include splitting tens or doubling soft 19 or 20
  4. Surrendering on 14 when the basic strategy says otherwise
  5. Playing a small number of hands or multiple hands during a shoe

Blackjack Basic Strategy - Card Counting’s Best Friend

In every casino game, the casino has a statistical advantage and many players leave casinos with empty pockets. But, between spinning roulette wheels and rolling dice, there’s one game that is quite rewarding if you use the right strategy. The game is blackjack.

Blackjack is a twenty-one card game and the player attempts to beat the dealer by getting as close as possible to 21 points. The dealer has to follow set rules but the player is free to use the best strategy. That’s why with enough practice you can count blackjack played cards and try your new skills on the blackjack simulator.

blackjack strategy chart
4- Deck to 8- Deck
4-8 Decks, Dealer Stands on Soft 17
4-8 Decks, Dealer Hits on Soft 17
blackjack chart for hard without ace
Legend for blackjack chart for hard without ace
blackjack chart for hard card value
Legend for blackjack chart for hard card value
blackjack chart for soft hand
Legend for blackjack chart for soft hand
blackjack chart for soft hand vs soft dealer
Legend for blackjack chart for soft hand vs soft dealer
blackjack chart for pairs
Legend for blackjack chart for pairs
blackjack chart for pairs vs soft 17
Legend for blackjack chart for pairs vs soft 17

Counting cards in other games

Although many gamblers associate card counting with blackjack it can also be used as a playing strategy in other casino games. Card counting is considered a betting opportunity on casino games that are dealt from a single deck. Below is an explanation of card counting in other games:

Card Counting Apps

Explaining the card counting technique might seem easy but to beginners, it can be a complex skill to learn. It requires you to possess a mathematical mind and the ability to memorize numbers fast. To make this work easier, there are apps that punters can use to learn this technique.

There are several apps including Card Counting Lite, Blackjack & Card Counting Pro, A Blackjack Card Counter and many more. These apps help you determine the best times to place your bet in a game or when to adjust your bet. However, using these apps in a real casino or live casinos isn’t allowed.

Card Counting Countermeasures

Card counting is disadvantageous to casinos because the technique gives an advantage to the player and reduces the house winnings. So, they have put up measures to make counting cards difficult and thwart card counters:

Card Counting in Casino Movies

Even though card counting has been controversial, it has managed to make its way into various hit films such as "The Hangover" and "21". In "The Hangover", Doug Billings goes to Las Vegas in the company of his friends to celebrate his upcoming wedding. However, things don’t go as planned and Doug goes missing. Now his friends have to put together what happened and find Doug. In the process, they end up heavily indebted to the mafia (of course), so they have no choice but to earn the money they owe back using card counting in a scene that has inspired many Internet memes.

The other film – "21", is inspired by real-life events. It tells the story of Ben, who was accepted into Harvard but can’t report due to the high tuition fees. A maths professor helps him join a secretive club where he’s trained to count cards and ends up making a lot of money. From 1988's "Rain Man" to 2021's "The Card Counter", counting has thoroughly inspired numerous Hollywood directors.

Frequently Asked Questions About Card Counting

Casino.online FAQ

 Is counting cards legal?

Card counting isn’t illegal, nor does it go against the standard betting rules. As a matter of fact, some casinos allow this practice while others have banned it completely. Therefore, it depends on the casino you’re actually playing on.

 Can you count cards in an online casino?

Yes, card counting also works in the online gambling industry. The only issue is that many online casinos have prohibited it and if you’re caught they might ban you from using their services. What’s more, they have put across measures that make counting cards difficult.

 Should I just count my own cards, or also other people’s?

It depends on the game you’re playing. However, in most casino games for you to reach the true count you have to count your cards and what hasn’t been dealt. In some other games such as poker, you will have to count your own cards, your opponent’s cards and the cards that are yet to be seen.

 Does the running count reset after a shuffle?

Yes, the running count changes after a shuffle and so does the true count. That’s why casinos have come up with Continuous Shuffle Machines to counteract card counting in Blackjack and other casino games. Even without the shuffling, counting cards need a lot of concentration for you to keep the correct running and true count.

 Do you need to be a genius to count cards?

No, you don’t need to be a genius to use this technique. You just need to have basic math skills and a high level of concentration during gameplay because you have to assign values to cards and add them up.

 Does card counting work in live casinos?

It’s possible to count cards in live dealer games. However, the strategy is made difficult by several factors. For starters, the game is played is played with multiple decks of cards, which are reshuffled after each round. Live casinos also have software monitoring.

 What happens if you're caught counting cards?

Casinos really don't like it when you're using help while playing blackjack, especially if that help comes in the form of counting. So if you decide to practice card counting (let alone use an external card counting device like an app on your phone), just keep in mind that you're likely to be kicked out. Blackjack players have even been banned for life!

 What happens to card counters in online casinos?

Casinos try as much as they can to prevent card counting through the measures explained earlier, but still, some players still count the cards. Casinos have strict policies such that in case you’re caught counting any cards you might be banned from the table or even the casino.

Angel Petkov Written by Angel Petkov