How to count cards in blackjack: a guide to card counting

The difficulty of counting cards when playing blackjack is not a myth or exaggeration. This is an extremely time-consuming and painstaking process, which should be understood step by step. One should not only understand the game itself but also skillfully use card mechanisms to make a profit. The first thing to understand is the basic counting rules, which in blackjack always begin with a discard pile. Such a calculation model was invented by players not by chance, as this fixation allows you to analyze the number of small and large cards remaining in the deck. Let’s have a more detailed look at a strategy of counting cards in blackjack. To write this article, we received advice from Kamen (editor-in-chief of who worked as a dealer in online casinos real money for about 3 years(Evolution and NetEnt companies).

Counting strategy

In fact, there are many systems of cards accounting, but the fundamental principle is one: high-value cards are indicated by negative numbers, small cards are positive. Since the score starts from zero, the player can estimate how many cards of a given denomination are in the deck at any time of the game. If the total (sum of values) is positive – most cards are large. If it’s negative – the “trifle” prevails in the deck. There are even some card counting apps that are designed to help players.

The easiest way to calculate the total is to use the high/low system, giving the cards different values, ​​from -1 (aces) to + 1 (tens and cards 2-6) and 0 (cards with a face value of up to nine). High low card game strategy is used very frequently. A more complex option is to use the Uston APC method, where the scoring range of cards is wider, varying from -3 to + 3. Except for the discard pile, it is extremely important to monitor the number of remaining cards in the decks (as well as the number of decks itself), as without this data, it is impossible to play blackjack successfully and become a winner.

For advanced players

Having understood the basics, one can complicate the calculations. For example, in addition to fixing the discard pile and remaining cards, it will not be superfluous to maintain a third-party account, in which each ace should be given 0 sequence number. It is assumed that after three moves, the player must record a third-party card, and in a block of 13 cards at least one will be an ace (there are 4 aces per deck of 52 cards). If 13 moves took place and there is no ace, you should add + 1 to the third-party card. If two aces appear, -1 is added.

So, the breakeven formula (real account) in blackjack is the mathematical ratio of the discard pile (R) and the third-party account (X) relative to the total number of decks (D): (R + X )/D. Obviously, the higher the resulting positive number, the more profitable it is for the player.

At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the R and X indicators are the actual result of accidental drop-out of cards, which depends neither on the rules of the game nor on the casino conditions. So, R + X shows the player the ratio of the current account to the real account. As for the total number of card decks (D), the smaller it is, the more positive the real account is (and more profitable) and vice versa.

In this regard, the most favorable situation for blackjack players is the moment of the game when the D value is zero. This fact fully explains the desire of professionals to take into account the so-called “penetration factor” when playing. This is the calculation of the percentage of cards that drop out of the deck. Counting cards blackjack and counting cards poker are widely used by both experienced players and beginners. 

Finally, the Kelly formula is also used frequently. This formula is widely used by gamblers. Using it, the player calculates the share of the bankroll that should be put on the current distribution. Usually, an excess of + 5 is considered the boundary value to say stop. We should also mention that nowadays there is even blackjack software, which is designed to help players, but people still argue whether it’s helpful or not.