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How to Count Cards in Live Blackjack? (Check 5 Popular Strategies)

Posted on June 6, 2018 | 1:07 pm

Hardly any other strategy in casino games is as surrounded by myths as the concept of counting cards in live blackjack. Despite its absolute legality, many players are still afraid that using the method will get them kicked out of the gambling venue.

Others are concerned that their memories are not good enough to memorize all of the cards used in the game and that they simply won’t succeed.

We are here to answer all the burning questions about counting cards in live blackjack, and we will start by busting the myths.

Myth #1: Counting cards is illegal

This is not true. Using external devices that help you count cards during the game is not allowed, but those who know the basic strategy can easily manage without additional devices.

Myth #2. I need to be a mathematical genius to master card counting in blackjack

Wrong again. The basic strategy is extremely easy and does not require you to be a rocket scientist. It might be confusing at first, but with certain perseverance, you can master it in a couple of weeks.

Myth #3. I need to have a great memory to memorize the cards

There is a common misconception among live blackjack beginners that counting cards is about memorizing which cards are out of the game. In fact, you don’t need to keep track of them at all. Instead, you will focus on the running and true counts that we explain further in the guide.

Why You Will Want to Know How to Counting Cards in Live Dealer Blackjack?

Unlike other casino games, live blackjack is the game where the past determines the future. This is a smart way of saying that it does matter, which cards are already out of the deck. This will help you make important decisions as to further betting and strategies.

In a nutshell, counting cards is a comprehensive math model tested by time and thousands of blackjack players. It helps you keep track of what’s happening. Without going to extremes like memorizing cards that were played, you will easily predict your winning chances, determine whether it is worth betting more or less, and will be able to gain an edge over a casino.

Another reason why you will want to master your cards counting strategy is that it is ridiculously easy and brings results. Come to think of it, the only way to really take care of your interests in games like roulette is to strategically manage the bankroll. In blackjack, you can be in control of every move during the game and know that each move works to your advantage.

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Basic Strategy: The Hi-Lo

Every card counter will tell you that it all starts here, in the basic strategy. Under this concept, you will need to understand that there are 3 groups of cards in the blackjack deck:

  • High cards are Ace though 10. These are advantageous to players if counted properly. They also have a negative count of -1 assigned to them.
  • Low cards are 2 through 6. These serve to the casino’s interests and have a positive count of +1 assigned to them.
  • Cards 7 through 9 have a value of 0 assigned to them. These are neutral cards that serve neither the dealer nor the player.

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Running Count Explained

This might sound confusing at first but bear with us.

The running count is the count that begins once the game starts, and stops as soon as the dealer shuffles the decks. This means that from the very first card dealt, you will need to constantly keep track of whether the balance of the game is positive or negative.

If it is positive – you bet more. if it is negative, you lay low.

How do you count? Let’s say, the croupier deals a 6 to your hand. That’s +1 to the running count of the game because 6 is in the low-value card group. The next hand receives an Ace, which has a value of -1. The simple math of subtracting -1 from +1 leaves a running count of 0. The third hand receives a Jack – this leads the running count to -1.

And this is what you need to do throughout the game.

Earlier we said that certain card groups are advantageous to the player or the casino. For instance, the running count is negative. This means that too many high-value cards were dealt and are now out, so – the casino is in an advantageous position. And it is better for you to bet less. On the contrary, if the count is positive, it is because many low-value cards contributed to it. This means that the high-value ones are still to come, putting you in an advantageous position.

Based on this knowledge, you will be able to adjust your next bets and regroup the bankroll.

True Count Explained

Keeping track of the running count is essential, but it is not all there is to the basic strategy of counting cards in live blackjack. You will also need to know the true count.

Now, why would you need to bother with it if there is already too much going on?

The true count shows more accurately whether you should bet more and win or hold back and lay low because it allows taking a step back from the table and those cards that are in front of you and to take a look at all the decks in the game.

The current running count should be divided by the number of decks remaining to be dealt. This will show you the true count. For instance, the running count is 3, and there are 4 decks to yet enter the game. Divide 4 by 3 and you get 1 (actually, it is 1,3 but we always round-up to the closest lower number). The result of +1 goes to show that with a small advantage but you have an edge over a casino.

Once you check in with the true count, immediately return to the running count and continue playing.

More Strategies for Counting Cards in Live Dealer Blackjack

There are quite a few other ways to count cards in live blackjack. Whether you use them or not depends on how good you know the basic strategy because all of the below are its alterations.

Red 7 System of Counting Cards in Blackjack

This is an unbalanced system, which in simple words means you won’t need to convert the running count into the true one. As for the rest, there are not that many differences with the Hi-Lo system. Aces through 10 cards have a value of -1. Cards 2 through 6 are worth +1.

The deviation from Hi-Lo is the red 7 is worth +1. Black 7, just like cards 7 through 9, is worth 0. You begin you count with the negative number and subtract -2 for every deck in the game. At the running count of 0, you are advised to double on the bets and continue to raise accordingly to the count.

KO System of Counting Cards in Blackjack

KO stands for the knockout and it is a single-level system. According to it, you will need to add or subtract 1 based on the cards that were played. What is the value of the cards? Like usually, Aces though 10s will bring -1. Cards 2 through 7 will be worth +1. The rest amounts to 0.

Similar to Red 7, those who invented KO wanted to get rid of the true count. In addition to being an unbalanced system, KO invites you to start count based on the number of decks, not at zero unless you’re playing a single deck. Then, the count starts at 0. The recommended count to start doubling on the bet is +2.

Kiss Concept of Counting Cards in Blackjack

If you decide to go with the Kiss Concept, you will need to count picture cards and those numbered 3 through 6. It begins with a positive count and eventually allows to gain the edge over a casino. Many players enjoy it because it allows skipping through the true count.

Silver Fox Concept of Counting Cards in Blackjack

According to this concept, a value of -1 is assigned to all picture cards and 9. All the other cards maintain a positive value of 1. The count per hand is kept progressively, which makes it very easy for beginners to keep their heads above water in blackjack.

What Is Wonging and Why You Should Avoid It?

In many land-based casinos, there will be a no-wonging sign next to the blackjack tables. Invented by Stanford Wong, this tactic suggests a player joins the game only if the running count is positive. The deviation of the counting system is that each card has a value of -1 through +1.5 assigned to it.

What sticking to wonging does is allows the player to work his/her way through the game aggressively. The player also knows that the advantage is on his/her side and can raise the bets from the very start.

Useful Insights About Counting Cards in Live Blackjack

  • When asked what is the best way to master the basic strategy, experienced card counters recommend practising at least a couple of hours every day for 2 to 3 weeks. In order to keep your eye on a prize and to be in the game, you will need the card counting process to be automated to perfection. Only then you can succeed.
  • To make the running count easier, use the Meaningful Pair approach. If a hand has two cards, one of which has a value of -1, and the second one – a value of +1, you can simply disregard the hand because its value is 0.
  • Experienced players also recommend – don’t start counting with the very first card dealt. Wait for the croupier to deal the second card to your hand and start counting by pairs.
  • The main reason why there are several strategies to counting cards is that its inventors wanted to avoid converting the running count to the true count. Which strategy should you choose? It is really up to you. Those who master the Hi-Lo strategy say that the conversion is not as bad as the newbies describe it.
  • The Hi-Lo strategy always ends at zero.
  • While card-counting is not illegal, certain venues may say that they disqualify players that use this strategy. How do you know the casino knows? Every table will have security’s eyes on it and people in this security are retired card-counters. They will immediately know whether you use the strategy or no.

Does Card Counting Work in Online Casino Blackjack?

In simple terms, the answer would be no.

Many experienced card counters tried applying the strategies that worked in the land-based venues to online lobbies and failed. When analyzing why this happened, they saw the following peculiarities in the virtual lobbies.

Usually, live blackjack in an online casino has the dealer shuffling decks either immediately after the round is over, or halfway through the decks in the game. Both of these tactics mess with the counting system as you can no longer keep track of who’s got the advantage.

The second difference is the duration of the game and the number of hands that you can play in an online vs a land-based casino. In a land-based venue, you can play up to 100 hands per hour, which makes it worth your while in terms of wins. In online casinos, the number of hands per hour hardly reaches 30.

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