Lesson 4 – Card Counting – How to Do It

Last Updated: February 18, 2020

By now you’ve chosen a counting system that you want to learn and even though it may be different than the Hi / Lo Count which I’m going to discuss here, the methods used to learn it are the same. Just make adjustments where appropriate and you’ll do fine.

The Hi / Lo counting system assigns a “point” value to each type of card in a deck. The first step in card counting is to memorize those values. Here they are

CardPoint Value
2+1
3+1
4+1
5+1
6+1
70
80
90
10-1
J-1
Q-1
K-1
A-1

A bit of simple math will show you that there are, in a complete deck, an equal number of “plus”-valued cards and “minus”-valued cards. This is called a “balanced” count and since all cards are valued either 1 or 0, this is also a “single-level” count.

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The Power of Card Counting

The Hi / Lo count recognizes that the cards 2 through 6 are of greatest value to the dealer, since these cards turn the dealer’s “stiff” hands (12 – 16) which s/he must hit into good hands. For example, a 5 turns a dealer’s 12-16 into 17-21, consequently it is the most important card for a dealer. On the other hand, an Ace is most important to a player, since it’s the key component to a “blackjack” which pays 3 to 2. So, as “little” cards are played, they are no longer available to the dealer and since there are an equal number of plus- and minus-valued cards in the deck, a “plus” count tells us that there are a higher proportion of tens and aces left in the unplayed portion of the deck. This situation is favorable for the player since the chances for a blackjack have increased and doubling or splitting situations stand a better chance of receiving a high card.

Of course, a dealer has the same chance of receiving high cards as you. But remember that the dealer does not receive 3 to 2 for a blackjack, may not double or split and must hit 16 or less. Also, as you will learn in a later lesson, knowing the proportion of 10-valued cards in the decks gives you the knowledge to make profitable insurance bets.

Learning The Point Values

This is the only exercise you will ever need to learn the point values of your counting system. It’s the one I use when I’m switching counts for a single-deck game or back again to the one I use for multi-deck games. Just take a deck of cards and begin turning them over one at a time and recite the point value of each card. If a card is a plus-value, I don’t say “Plus 1”; I just say “one”, because it implies “plus” anyway. If a card is a minus-value, I say “M 1”, not “minus 1” because it saves a syllable. For the “neutral” or zero-value cards, I say nothing — they are completely ignored for counting purposes with the Hi / Lo system.

So, how does this look? Here’s a quick example

Ace(M-one)
9
5(One)
6(One)
7
King(M-one)
2(One)
10(M-one)

Notice that I’m not keeping track of the cards, but merely stating the point value of each. You must practice this until you have the point values firmly implanted in your mind but don’t worry, it won’t take long.

Single-Card Countdown

If you feel you know the point values of each card in your system of choice by heart, you may now begin to count down a single deck. Simply remove any three cards without looking at them (to check your accuracy) and set them aside. Now turn over cards one at a time and keep a running total of their values. Remember your old algebra classes? If you add +1 to -1 the result is 0. That applies here, so keep it in mind as you go through the deck.

Here’s an example:

1st cardAceThe count: M-one
2ndKingM-two
3rd10M-three
4th6M-two (make sure you know why)
5thQueenM-three
6th5M-two
7th3M-one
8th6Even (I don’t use “zero”)
9th4One (again, no “plus”)

Got it? Good. You’re not very fast yet, are you? Well, don’t worry about that; we’ll work on speed later. When you’ve completed the deck, the count should be off by the value of the three cards we set aside in the beginning. Look at those cards, check your accuracy, shuffle and begin again. Get into the habit of removing three cards every time you do any counting exercises since they will keep you from fooling yourself when you make a mistake.

For now the key is accuracy; keep at this until you can go through a deck three or four times in a row without mistakes. What you have learned here is called the “running count”. Next time we’ll work on speeding up your ability to count; can you believe I’ll have you zipping through a deck in less than 20 seconds? The babes really love that at parties…

Homework

See you here next time.
Practice!



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the grump
the grump
1 year ago

It’s better to use 2-7 against 9-A, than 2-6 against 10-A. The only card that shouldn’t affect the count is 8. This is a superior way of doing it in every way but the insurance correlation. If you want a counting vector that has the lowest correlation to the standard hi-lo, then give 2 points to 5 and 7, 1 point to ace (yes, count ace as a low card), and give -1 point to 10 and 2. Yes, 2 counting as a high card. This has a correlation of about 0.2 to classic hi-lo so will never get you any heat because if they count to see if the count is high when you’re betting big, they’ll think you’re choosing your bet size independent of the count. Unfortunately, it’s only 1/2 as effective as regular card counting. But you might consider it if you find a promotional game. I once got banned from a casino that had a promotion of a 25 dollar bonus for a blackjack in hearts (both cards suited heart, thus 1/16 of all blackjacks will be this) on the weekends. This promotion is enough to completely erase the house edge and give the player a 0.7% edge even without counting cards, if you flat bet 5$, the min bet at the 6 deck game, and give a risk of ruin of 50% with just a 900 dollar bankroll. And so the pressure was off, of counting cards seriously, when you have the edge on the house even without it. I worked this method out afterwards, after being banned, it might have been nice if I had used it to have avoided detection.

John
John
2 years ago

“can you believe I’ll have you zipping through a deck in less than 20 seconds?”

This is hard to believe. I timed myself going through a whole deck without counting and the fastest I did was 25 seconds. Hard to believe someone is going to go through the whole deck while counting in less than 20 seconds.

Adam Michelsen
Adam Michelsen
3 years ago

I have tried the single deck card count at Harrah’s casino in South Carolin, and thanks to you, I won $500 in 3 hours!
I just got out of college, and I am going to Harrahs casino, in June! The way I count cards is: there are 16 cards that equal 10, in a normal deck of cards! So, that gives you around 32 percent chance, I think, of the card that is being dealt is a ten!
Anyway, that is my way of counting cards! It is not as fancy as y’all’s, however, it work for me!

Ryan
Ryan
4 years ago

Are there further lessons that deal with alternative counting strategies? Im going to check anyway, just wanted to say thanks for systematizing what i already knew, looking forward to reading more

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

What does the running count/true count signify?

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Send me the counting cards

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Ty Well done