Blackjack School – A Free 24-Lesson Class on Card Counting

This free course on blackjack and card counting was created by the GameMaster, publisher of the GameMaster Online website. It is reproduced here in its entirety with permission of the author. His 24-lesson course is an excellent introduction to winning blackjack.

Welcome to the GameMaster Blackjack School

A brief introduction

I am very pleased and proud to announce the complete revision of The GameMaster’s Blackjack School. For those who aren’t familiar with my “school”, this is a series of 24 written lessons that can teach you how to play a winning game of Blackjack. Here…we have gathered together the entire curriculum, expanded and refined the lessons and added additional resources.

When the state of Missouri legalized casino gaming in 1994, I developed a course of instruction that would show people how to get an edge over the casino Blackjack games. This course, which was taught by me at my home, originally cost $400 and that included all of the training materials, four “classroom” sessions of about 2 hours each, which were spread out over a four-week period and one playing session where I went to a local casino with my graduates in order to assess their skills in the heat of battle, so to speak.

In 1995, I was one of the founders of Rolling Good Times Online (, the Internet’s first gambling “E-zine” and that was when I began converting my course into a series of written lessons for presentation as a free, internet-based “school”. Until now those lessons have remained pretty much unchanged and have now been licensed to appear on more than 120 gambling related websites.

In July of 1997 I opened our flagship web site The GameMaster Online, from that day forward we have served the blackjack and gaming community with literally hundreds of articles on “getting the edge” on the casinos. I believe this school is the focal point of many of these efforts.

Sometimes you just need a place to start.

Blackjack is a game of skill and this is where you can learn the skills it takes to beat the game.

The 24 lessons you see here will take you step-by-step through the process of learning how to play each hand properly, how to count cards, how and when to properly bet and literally hundreds of other “tricks of the trade”. The course is long, but this is not something you have to learn overnight. Take your time, do what we say and you’ll soon be on your way to playing a winning game of Blackjack.

Start at Lesson 1 and go as far and as fast as you wish. The thrill of winning at casino Blackjack is literally at your fingertips.

Once you have completed this course, you may also want to read our online blackjack section for further information.


65 comments on “Blackjack School – A Free 24-Lesson Class on Card Counting

  • mikerevs said:

    GameMaster, After practicing the HiLo system with your 24 Lesson Blackjack course, I switched over to the HiLo system from my speed count system. I went to atlantic city and played for two days and I am happy to say that I won each day. I am a $10 table player and I won about the same amount that I did using speed count system, Winning the money was great, but it meant more to me that I was able to use the HiLo system at the table with some success. I never thought I could learn HiLo system, but thanks to your lessons, it worked for me. However, I made many HiLo card counting mistakes, but I can definitely see the potential in using this system. I know I need more practice to master the HiLo system, but my main problem is mixing up the two systems. As I will continue to use HiLo system, I would appreciate your advice on how to overcome this problem.

    • I’ll reply since the GameMaster is still not available.

      Mixing up two systems when switching is very common if you have a fair amount of table time with the old system. It doesn’t take too long for that to go away though. It’s just a matter of concentration and time. I’m glad to hear you were successful in your first Hi-Lo trip. Thanks for the report!

  • Blackjohn said:

    Hi there,
    I am very very new player…as I am interested in the game and learning basic, do some research. I wonder if there are many casino use the shoe to shuffle card or the continuous machine? How about in Canada?

  • Blackjohn said:

    Can I still use counting card strategy recently? As there are many casinos use the continuous shuffler machine

    • There are still plenty of non-CSM games in the US. Even in casinos where some of the tables use a continuous shuffler, you will often find other tables that are either hand-shuffled, or use an automatic shuffle machine but with a normal discard tray. I don’t have recent information on Canadian casinos, but I suspect the same is true there.

  • Blackjohn said:

    How much chance can I win if I don’t use card counting strategy? I went to casino yesterday, use basic strategy, I lost…

    • I actually don’t have a simulation number at hand to answer that, but my guess would be that a flat-betting basic strategy player will end a one-hour session ahead of the game about 45% of the time. Shorter sessions will increase that, and varying your bets will also increase that (at the expense of larger wins and losses.)
      This sounds like a question that many people would be interested in. I’ll look into it some more when I have time.

  • kingdan said:

    this sounds all great! i learnt the basics on my own and memorized a “cheat sheet” online in about 20 minutes (my brain is something else) and went to go play at the casino and won 400$ in about an hour and a half on 15$ bets (not including double downs etc) but i ended up leaving with what I came with because my emotions came into the way when I should’ve done certain moves in the previous hands. Definitely a lesson learned.

    My questions is, as the teachers and masters of this website. How successful have you been in the real world, or are you just teaching it? It seems like if you become a master at this game, you can make serious bank, not guaranteed of course, but well advanced than the regular winners.

    • Yes, the potential is real and achievable. I’ve been very successful over many years. Blackjack is just one of many ways that smart players can get a true edge in casinos. It remains the best introduction to advantage gambling. Once your eyes have been opened, you’ll start seeing other opportunities as well.

  • Anonymous said:

    is it obvious to see how many times the casino shuffles their deck? i remember they get it from like a little shoot or something. would it shuffle in there or would they take out every deck and than shuffle. how would you know if they shuffle after each hand or when the decks are done?

  • kingdan89 said:

    how does the strategy change when theres a full table?

    • Not at all. The number of other players at the table (or their ability!) does not affect the game at all. Strategy, and expected results are unchanged whether playing heads up, or at a full table. The only difference is speed of the game, which will move a lot faster with fewer players.

  • anonymous said:

    Hi, I’m currently 20 years old in college learning how to count cards. Ive taught myself hi lo and advanced omega ii. Would you recommend me starting out on double deck or 6 deck shoes if I have yet to do this in a casino setting. Double deck with AOII is easier for me than hi lo with 6 shoes however I realize that the minimum bet is going to be higher in a double deck game. What do you think is easier for a beginner.

    • Double deck will be easier and far more profitable as well, as long as you can afford the bet limits. (This is assisted greatly by the fact that you will need a far lower bet spread in 2 decks!) However, I don’t recommend AOII right off the bat. Start with Hi-Lo, even at the double deck game. Only after at least a year of experience with Hi-Lo would I consider moving to a more complex count, and even then it may not be worth the extra effort and potential errors.

  • kingdan89 said:

    if more people are at the table and they draw cards out, wouldn’t that change the percentage or odds of me using the practiced chart? if it says hit on a certain hand but 3 people were ahead of me. i don’t understand how that wouldn’t change my odds or change my betting style.

    • gary replied:

      Usually the casino is using several decks so a few cards do not do much to change the odds. The only way that
      can happen is if you have counted cards and it is getting close to the end of the shoe.

      • kingdan89 replied:

        makes sense to an extent. another thing. when your changing the rules to meet my area of casinos, does the advice change automatically with charts and explanations to meet my rules?

        • For the Basic Strategy Engine, yes, the charts are optimized for the rules you pick. Similarly, in our Strategy Trainer, the advice is customized for the exact rules. The lessons in the school don’t have an option to customize the rules, though several variations are discussed in the lessons themselves.

    • Other players at the table don’t change your strategy on average, meaning that basic strategy is still the optimal way to play the hand without considering the cards already in play. However, it is true that the specific cards being dealt can change the optimal decision if you are able to take them into account. The easiest way to do that is to use a card counting system and strategy variation index numbers.

      For a basic strategy player, the game should be played identically whether you are a heads-up against the dealer, or at a full table of awful players. And your expected loss will be identical in both cases, with the significant difference that a full tables will be slower, and therefore less expensive over the same amount of time.

  • John said:

    I have a question.
    Does anyone know of a website where I can learn quickly how to count cards?
    I was invited to go on a trip with some friends of mine and there will be some casinos there and I would like to make some cash to buy some drinks for them as an appreciation gift for inviting me.
    The thing is that the trip is tomorrow and I am a little bit short on time.
    my plan is to learn the basics and when and how to bet.
    Later on I will read this lessons to become better at it.
    Please answer

  • I was just on this site to look at some info Ken had about the Gamemaster in regards to a review of his book on Blackjack Forum. I saw your questions. First, there is NO one that can learn card counting in one day. This is not a quick, easy, get rich scheme. I don’t know if you know basic strategy already but if you do, stick to that. If not, then take a look at the Wizard’s simplified basic strategy at:

    You can also go to Ken’s Blackjack Basic Strategy engine; place the most common rules you think you will find and print out that chart for use at the table.

    If this answer doesn’t suit you, you might check out the site I copied with card counting info on Blackjack Forum.

  • I play blackjack for almost 16yrs and until now i cant win,no matter what i do i cant do anything.I played $25,$50 or$100 table it doesnt matter the +count if the dealer can’t bust you cant bet the game.And most of the time i won the negative count of course i dont raise my bet because of – count thats horrible thing.I always play DD deck blackjack can you tell me what to do in my this game easy and to bet the casino?I have very good bankroll management $14,000 with $25 table DD spread 1to8 the only thing if i played 2hands in + count the dealer push me or bet me up.Please i need your advice real bad and thanks

    • Perhaps you are exaggerating your bad luck, but it is quite impossible to play beatable games with accurate card counting for 16 years and not be ahead of the game.
      You say you’ve played “$25, $50, $100” tables and it “doesn’t matter”. Well, the denomination of the table doesn’t matter at all, so I suspect your thinking about the game still is not based on the pure math, and instead has a big superstition component. Sure, even when counting and playing perfectly, sometimes you’ll seem to win all the negative count hands and lose the positive count hands. But, over a reasonable amount of play, any anomalies like that will fade away.

      To have sustained bad results like you describe, there are holes in your game or your understanding somewhere.

      Have you tested your skills at the kitchen table? Deal the game to yourself. When you get to the cut card, count down the remaining deck to make sure your count was exactly accurate.

      If you are betting appropriately based on the count, and playing the hands accurately (either basic strategy or index variations), everything else will take care of itself over time.

  • Theoriemeister said:

    I’ve begun the process of card counting (learning to count down a deck & memorizing the I18–the local casinos don’t allow surrender so I haven’t bothered with the fab 4). The BJ games where I live are very limited in number (like ONE per ‘casino’) and, unfortunately, have a HE of .66% (according to a link you provided in another thread, where I could input the house rules). Anyway, I’m memorizing the I18 and bought Schlesinger’s book and when I got to his table on the I18 I noticed that his indices are slightly different than what I’ve been learning. I think they’re based on slightly different rules that what’s available locally. I began to think: what other indices might be different based on the various rules of the game?

    My question is: is there a website where I can generate a list of I18 indices tailored to specific house rules at the local casinos?

  • Hello Ken,

    I’ve recently started learning card counting with hi-low system. I find this matter amazing and I’m confident I can get to master it and I dream of nothing but success while reading and practicing day and night, every second I have free.
    I just found your website and it seems very interesting. I would like to interact with you, for I have a world of questions and inquiries.
    To start off with a question:
    how come your course or classes of such a value are published for free?

    Thank you,

    • The Blackjack School was originally published online by “The GameMaster” who used it to publicize his website by offering it to other sites for their use. His site has been offline for a while now, but we all still get the benefits. Like so much excellent free content on the net, it’s generally supported by advertisers.

  • Is blackjack dying, it’s hard to find a good game, h17, Csm and now way too many 6:5 games are casinos going to make blackjack a dinasor ?

  • In live casinos on line, one has the advantage of back counting (8 decks games).
    the question is which is prefered, to back count and wait till the true count is high (say +3 or higher) and only then start betting, but then, you only play low number of hands per shoe. Or to play acroos the entire show, where you can play many more hands per shoe ?

  • Hello, I want to ask about the true count, after a round has been done, for example we have a +6 running count and 3 decks haven’t been played, the true count is +2 . But when we start a new round, where shoulld I start counting? From 0 again or continue the +6 running count that I have before? Thank you
    very much

  • Hi,

    Is there a way to calculate your risk of ruin to include expenses? So for example, if my expenses account for 10% of the EV gained how do I incorporate this knowledge to calculate my true risk of ruin?

  • I’ve been learning to card count. I’m using the Hi-Lo system. (But I’m looking at the TKO system as well.) I’m dealing one deck and keeping track of my outcome as well as the time it takes me to get through a deck. My best so far is 40 seconds.

    There are three questions I have for you…
    1. How to best compute “decks dealt” by just looking at the discard shoe?
    2. In my second-to-last casino visit I did very well BUT… one of the other players at the table actually said “what are you doing man? Counting cards?” I about $hat my pants! So, how to best “cover up” the fact?
    3. What are your thoughts on the TKO system by Daniel Dravot?

    • 1. Estimating the number of decks in the discard tray is a skill that you can practice at home. Buy a few used decks from a casino gift shop, and try guessing how many cards are in various sized stacks. You don’t have to be super-accurate. Getting within a half deck accuracy should be good enough.
      2. At low bet amounts, you cannot afford so-called camouflage to hide your tactics. Just keep your sessions at any single table short.
      3. KO is roughly equal in strength to Hi-Lo, and most people find it easier. TKO improves on it further, but I would make sure you are very comfortable with regular KO first. You can add the TKO ideas later.
      Good luck, and good cards! -Ken-

  • Chad said:

    Hey Guys, I’m having trouble finding a RoR formula if anyone can give me some insight. I have an $8k bankroll and my options are limited to my local area to play. The best I found is 6d, H17, DAS, DA, NO RSA, NO Surr. I think it is .61% house edge. I am wondering what the RoR is for $10 vs $15 units with 1-12 spread top bet of $120 or $180. The $10 tables are very hard to find locally and I am resorting to $15. Please let me know if more info is needed as I don’t have the formula.

    • Chad replied:

      I re-read my post and wanted to clear up I am inquiring about “risk of ruin” with the RoR acronym.

        • Chad replied:

          Thanks for the reply Ken, In your opinion is $8K bankroll sufficient for $15 tables?

          • If it’s really a non-replenishable bankroll, I think it’s too risky. My rule of thumb is to not make an initial bet of more than 1% of your bankroll. That would imply a $12K bank for $10-$120, and a $18K bank for $15-$180. I also realize that when starting out, that can be an unmanageable sum to accrue. Most players in that situation will take a shot with the smaller bank. If it falls apart, it’s back to work to build another bank.

            I don’t trust my off-the-cuff RoR estimates because I’m out of practice. Let me see if I can do a quick job tonight to get a real estimate for you.

            • I ran CVCX from to get some numbers.
              CVCX is worth the money for these sorts of calculations, even though it takes a while to get the hang of it.

              6 decks, S17, DAS, $8000 bank:

              $10 to $120 spread:
              75% (4.5/6) penetration: Win per 100 hands: $22, RoR: 24%
              83% (5.0/6) penetration: Win per 100 hands: $26, RoR: 15%

              $15 to $180 spread:
              75% (4.5/6) penetration: Win per 100 hands: $32, RoR: 38%
              83% (5.0/6) penetration: Win per 100 hands: $40, RoR: 28%

              With a $12K bank, 75% penetration $10-$120 RoR drops to 11%.
              With a $12K bank, 75% penetration $15-$180 RoR is still 24%.

              The killer in 6+ deck games is the cost of waiting through the crud. If you can backcount, it makes a huge difference.
              That’s tough most places these days due to mid-shoe entry restrictions and increased heat.
              But at least make sure you take breaks on really negative counts. That will help a lot.

  • Chad said:

    Thank you for the info. I see you calculated stand on 17. I only have the option of hit on soft 17. I can assume the risk of ruin and 100/h win rate will be even worse than the calculations above, correct?

    • And I claim I looked at your message before deciding! Oops, my mistake!
      Here is a run for H17:
      $10 to $120 spread:
      75% pen, Win per 100 hands: $16, RoR: 32%
      83% pen, Win per 100 hands: $22, RoR: 21%

      $15 to $180 spread:
      75% pen, Win per 100 hands: $24, RoR: 47%
      83% pen, Win per 100 hands: $33, RoR: 36%

      AND, I realize now that I posted NDAS numbers before.
      I corrected the numbers in the S17 reply. They are now DAS as intended.

  • Stefan said:

    Ken Smith hi again.sorry if i write in a wrong section but i want to ask two things.when the true count is high and its time for us to bet as back counters or betting more like players on the the table and there are three or five bases/players we bet where for better results ?first base ?the last one?or it dont matter.?second guestion i have read that to survive the long run and play all good luck and bad luck we need 50 times the max bet.if i decide to play flat bet of 5dollars it means that i need 250 dollars.right?at this fynny amount of money what profit per hour can u gain?000000.1 cents πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.and last in another post u answered me that its not how much hours a counter can play continiusly but how much he should play?please inlight us.if he plays more or less hours what the results?thanks for your time !!

    • It doesn’t matter which seat at the table you choose. The only difference is that you get to see a few more cards before making your decision if you sit at third base. But that effect is a minor one.
      For your other question, you ask about bankroll needed to flat-bet $5, and how much profit that will yield. I assume you mean you will play only in positive counts, otherwise there of course will be no expected profit. How much earn per hour? Not much. Off the top of my head I would estimate that a $5 flat bet in positive counts might yield around 50 cents an hour in expected win. And you’ll still need that $250 bank you asked about to weather the ups and downs. Your final question about results based on hours, it’s a straight linear relationship. 10 hours will earn 10 times what 1 hour will.

  • Stefan said:

    Also when one player wants to play with just the maths and overcome the good and the bad luck i cant understand how much time is needed in continious game?or should i think not in time but in hands??and i cant understand if the tables or the cazino have united memory !i mean that if i play 10 days in the row every day of 5hours each day and i loose every time for those 10 days and i decide to go after on month for 10days again of 5hours each day the maths those days will have to give me profit ????

    • It sounds like you are wondering whether things have to eventually even out, so if you’ve had a losing streak the coming days “will have to give you profit”. Nope. It never works like that. The cards don’t know you’ve been on a losing streak. Each time you play the odds are the same. There is no “memory”, between casinos, or in the same casino, or in the same session, or over 100 sessions.

      When discussing how long you need to play to have a good chance of making a profit despite luck, a useful concept is a statistical measure known as “N0”. That’s N-Zero. It is a measure of how many hands you must play in a game before your expected win is equal to one standard deviation. Even after N0 hands, you still have a roughly 32% chance of being a loser despite playing perfectly. In really good games, N0 can number in the low single thousands of hands. In marginal games, it can be as much as 50,000 hands. In bad games it could be over 100,000. That’s a lot of blackjack!

      Here are a couple of threads…

  • Stefan said:

    U got exacly what i ment.thanks again for your precious advice/answer !

  • Stefan said:

    U explain very nice your answers but maybe i have a wrong concept of idea from the begging.a counter has 53/100 chance to win!right?i understand that this doesnt confirm by it self that if i play 100 times i will win exacly 53 times .maybe i win 60 times maybe 40.if i have understand it correct this is cause of tbe variance.and to finishe with the variance/luck u need to play to the long run.but as much as i try to find a number or math type to give a number or an amount to these words i cant!!!maybe its something general .real but general like the concept of the “time”.we all now what timeline it is but we cant give a exacly meaning by words

  • Stefan said:

    PLEASE Take a look at this …..

    Yesterday one guy in a local cazino made something very strange in bj.he took almost 10.000euro

    The strange part of corse was that the game was with smc if i tell them correct.the machine that shaffle after every hand .

    More strange was his bettings.he was betting for some rounds the minimum 10euro and after sudenly BOOM !!!200euro in each box.he was playing in two boxes and he decided BOOM maximum bets and sometimes he opend also a 3d box.he was taking all the time tens and ases.also the dealer was taking 10 but for some reason never an ace.when the party was over again only two boxes with 10 euro each for some hands and after 6 or 7 hands BOOM !!!maximum bets with 200euro and always 20 or bj.never again see something like that.the funny part was the 3 pit bosses and the floor manager that come running to that table and watching the game.i was also counting with hi/lo but of corse my counting was air !!!his method/counting was working perfect !!!

  • Blodget said:

    We have an Indian casino about an hour and fifteen minutes away where we play with no heat and very friendly dealers and pit bosses.

    Both double deck and 6 deck games have great penetration…85% plus, no surrender but double on anything, split up to 4 times.

    A couple of interesting notes. I was on a crazy run and had about $8k of $500 chips and the pit boss leans over to me and says “you know, it’s OK to leave with money…you don’t have to stay and give it backπŸ˜‚”

    Then on another trip one if the dealers who is a part time pit boss looks at the 6 deck discard and quietly says “there’s about 1 1/3 decks discarded” to me. He obviously assumed I was counting.

    Just goes to show that not ALL of the casinos are alike, especially outside of NevadaπŸ˜‚

    Anybody else have good story?


  • Stefan said:

    Ken smith hi again !i want to travel from greece to the usa to see the hot action in real.anywhere i can get informed from where to have an economy room to stay until in which casino to go and play.?also a general question is with 20.000 dollars bank roll what spread to u advice me to use to be invisible to the pit bosses and how much hours of session should i make?and what is the average profit an hour?thanks again for your time

  • Aaron said:

    i want to print this out is there a way to print every lessons at once

  • Ken hello again !!its me your midnight fan …πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    You have opened my eyes for good so one more question 4 you sir !!

    In a 6d s17 das bj3.2 double on any 2 cards we need the bet spreads why?
    to over come the losses through the negative counts?and if i have to play under tc -1i need that bet spreads more than i would need them if i wong out at 0tc ?or the spreads are the one that creates the edge 4 the player?and if instead of spreading 1/12 at my casino i spread only 1/3 i suppose that my r.o.r its going to be alot lower but what about my e.v?i try to understand the importance of the spread and in a typical game what the affect in the same game rules with 1/12 spread and 1/3.if i wong in only at tc+2 with flat ber of 5 dollars i generate like this 0.5 edgeΓ—5 dollars =2.5 this is 0.25cents ? Is there a ror /bankroll/spread mathematic formula or i need cvcx?

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