Blackjack has one important difference when compared to most other games in the casino.
It is beatable.
Since multiple hands of the game are dealt to players between shuffles, a smart player can use information about the cards that have already been dealt to predict something about the cards to come.
Unlike games like roulette or craps where the previous spins or rolls have no impact on future decisions, each hand in blackjack depletes the remaining deck of the cards that were used. From that simple fact arises the idea of card counting, a legal advantage play method that can provide the player a real mathematical advantage over the casino.
If the remaining cards to be dealt have a higher than normal ratio of tens and aces compared to the smaller cards, the player’s advantage is increased. Thus, card counting is simply a method of determining when the remaining deck is player-favorable. When the deck is “rich” in tens and aces, the card counter places correspondingly larger wagers. When the deck instead has more small cards such as twos through sixes, the card counter will bet as little as possible or leave the table.
With the help of the articles and discussions listed below, you’ll find that card counting is not just for math geniuses, despite misleading media portrayals like the movies Rain Man or “21”. Instead, most players who are willing to put forth some time and effort can learn to beat the game of blackjack.
An Introduction to Card Counting: A quick and useful intro by ICountNTrack, one of our forum moderators.
Frequently Asked Questions: A selection of common questions from players who are new to blackjack and counting.
Kevin has won over a million dollars from casinos as a card counter, and is the author of several books, including Play Blackjack Like the Pros and Casino Gambling for Dummies.
Bill Channels, aka “The GameMaster”, originally developed this series of blackjack lessons for use during his in-person tutoring for the game. With his permission, his course materials are now available for free in our online version.
Free Counting Resources on the Web: A useful list of many sites and resources for card counters.
Card Counting System Efficiency Calculator: Determine the Playing Efficiency (PE), Betting Correlation (BC) and Insurance Correlation (IC) for any card counting system.
World’s greatest job my eye. It’s more like a job of last resort. The pay is low, comparable to minimum wage, but rather than a reliable pay of 10 bucks an hour it’s more like heads you win 510, tails you lose 490 in a given hour, and it’s the only job in the world where you’ll get fired by your employer for being too good at it. In other words, you’ll be banned from the casino. But since no one would ever hire me to do anything, it’s the only prospect I could ever have. But chances are, even if you do it WELL, your blackjack DEALER will get paid more than you.
Want me to demonstrate the prospects are that bad? It’s about like this, if you’re counting cards, your edge on the house is about 1/10 as large as theirs is on you all the time if you play roulette. So the average dollar you bet will return 1.005. So if you’re at a 10 dollar table, your average bet will be oh, 15 bucks let’s say, because most of the time you’ll bet the minimum, occasionally there will be a small advantage and you’ll be betting 50 or 75, and a very small fraction of the time you’ll be betting more like 200. If you’re playing to minimize risk of ruin, which is what you should be doing if you don’t have f*** you money (and if you have f*** you money, you shouldn’t be playing blackjack in the first place). This depends on the generosity of the casino with the rules they offer and where they put the cutcard of course. So 15 dollar average bet, at a .5% advantage on average, meaning the average you will earn per hand is 7.5 cents. If you play 100 hands an hour, that’s 12.50 an hour. So much for the dramatization of rainman or 21. Me, after 4 years, the most valuable thing I’ve gotten from it is a bunch of free food. In terms of money, I think about 800 dollars ahead last time I figured it out. After 4 years. (I WAS 1900 ahead in March 2016.) And being banned from 3 casinos.
But it beats the stock market at least. The stock market is like a casino where all the cards are blank and the house decides what their values are after they’ve been dealt to you, decides whether you win or lose at their discretion. Team A is you, team B is everyone else, and team B decides what everything is worth. Ponder THAT for a minute and you’ll see you’re still better off gambling in a casino if you have to gamble. At least the odds in casino games are calculable with math.
Free bet is one of the worst games around.
Hi 🙂 I’m 19 and a French-Canadian so sorry for any grammar mistakes and weird sentences formulation 😛
I had just started to count card in the nearest casino from my house, and last time I could not play at my usual table because they were to many people who were playing really slowly (and really badly, but it’s not my problem), so I move my ass to an other table. That second table was a Free Bet Black Jack table. I have look up on the internet for some basic strategy charts with indexes, but none of them have the same rule has the one that I was playing. I know that it won’t make a big of a difference, but still.
So my question is : Can you tell my were to look to find the information that I want, which is a basic strategy charts for Free Bet table with full indexes?
Rules : BlackJack pays 3:2, 8 decks, Dealer hit Soft 17, Split to 4 hands, Double down after split allow (except after split of As’), No surrender, Split of As’ allow but only one time and one and only one card is given, No CSM, Free Bet on Hard 9,10,11 and any pair except pair of 10’s, Dealer Push on 22, Dealer BlackJack Push player BlackJack.
Tell me if you need any more information.
I am unaware of a published source for index numbers for Free Bet. You might want to try the message forums.
Does anyone know Kevin Barton?
Yes who wants to know?
On your blackjack strategy trainer can you use it to count cards?
Of course. The trainer uses a random shuffle, and shows you when the shuffle happens. Count away.
Does anybody know Kevin barton? He is my dad and I have been looking for him for 19 years. He is a really well known blackjack player card counter please any information about my dad would be really appreciated
Currently on trial for murder in Calgary.
Hi. I got into learning the KO counting and tried it out in the Casino Vérité Blackjack program and got really good at it and i now feel ready to try it out online. The problem is, it says to increase the bet at -6 BUT in the online casino i play at (unibet.dk) they change the shoe midway, so it often doesn’t even come down to -6, it’s stays around -10 to -16 most of the time. Is there a good way to know with the KO when to bet higher even if the TC isn’t down to -6??
You also mentioned that this is an 8 deck game. An 8-deck game that deals only 4 decks will rarely get positive. That’s what the KO count is telling you.
There is not a good time to bet other than when the count reaches the target count. Card counting online is rarely worth the effort. Most games shuffle every hand anyway, so it’s not possible. The few games where they do not shuffle every hand are very poor penetration, or exceedingly slow in the case of live dealer games.
To really get a chance to play profitable blackjack via counting, you will need to find a land-based game.
Thanks for the answer 🙂
Yeah that was kind of what i was “afraid” for. Is there a way to beat the online casino like counting in a land-based casino, or is the only way to try and beat it, by lower the dealers chance to win by using a Basic chart? I just feel like, using the chart as i did before i learned how to count cards, it wasn’t very profitable. I lost a 100, won a 100 and so on, but never a bigger win?
Ten years ago, online casinos were a fantastic opportunity, because of the generous bonus offers and promotions. They have been exploited so frequently that this opportunity is pretty much gone, due to much more restrictive wagering requirements. Since I am in the US (and not usually in New Jersey), I don’t have recent experience with any alternatives for beating casinos online. My guess is that you are unlikely to find much of an edge.
Your comment about trying to beat the game by using basic strategy is a little misguided, although I realize you may not mean it quite literally. If you play a negative expectation game long enough, any good luck that you happen to experience will not be enough to keep you ahead of the game. It’s just a matter of time. In games like this, if you are entertained by playing, then it may be reasonable for you to play. (And basic strategy will reduce your expected cost to a small amount.) But don’t expect to create a profit.
Ken, years ago I counted using HiLo. I would like to start counting again recreationally when I go to Vegas or a day trip to AC. I am trying KO because there is no need to estimate the number of decks in the discard tray. But I find the the increased negative counts hard to deal with and it is easier to know when I have an advantage using HiLo and the betting table is easier to remember. What would you advise for a recreational player, put up with deck estimation or get over negative numbers and unintuitive betting strategies? How accurate do I need to be at deck estimation?
KO really does perform favorably compared to Hi-Lo, so I think it is a very reasonable choice. Most people who choose KO end up adjusting the starting count and the key numbers up by enough to eliminate most of the negative running counts. That is a good plan.
Even so, I always personally preferred balanced counts despite the need to convert to a true count. With KO, you really can’t reliably know how big your edge is, just whether you have an edge or not. That bothered me, although the sims confirm it’s not a big deal. While deck estimation accuracy does matter, you will be fine if your accuracy is pretty reliable to one deck.
I don’t know how to count cards as far as 21 goes. So I don’t even know what Ko or hi-lo is; or how their done. Is there a way to learn them here on line? I don’t count cards; so from what I have read here; I am playing badly? So far this year I am up 920$ after 4 sets at the tables on 4 different days. I thought my play was fairly good? But now I am wondering if I could do better if I learn about counting?
I just saw information, and a UTube snippet on “Speed Count”, where one only counts the plus cards (2-7) played during the hand, and then subtracts the number of hands played to get a running count. Of course, they recommend their system highly, claiming a 1% player advantage using the system. What are the betting increase levels? ( I presume since they use 2-7 like KO and REKO, one starts out at -2 x [number of hands] )
I have tried to use REKO. I keep up the count just fine at 2 deck games, but have difficulty maintaining count at 6-deck due to not wanting to merely sit and stare at cards throughout.
What’s the “review” of SpeedCount.
I am not a fan of Speed Count, unless you really feel that you are unable to manage anything more powerful. Speed Count is quite a bit weaker than KO or Hi-Lo, and when you are playing a six-deck game it really extends the number of hands you must play before you reach the fabled “long run”. My recommendation is keep working at maintaining the count using KO. I have a tough time believing the claimed 1% player edge using Speed Count, except under very good conditions and a large bet spread. KO and Hi-Lo can rarely achieve that level in practice, with 0.5% to 0.7% being a more typical edge in a six deck game. Does Speed Count work? Yes, but your edge will be smaller, and it will take more hands to reach a high likelihood of being ahead of the variance of the game.
You called the casino to ask if you could count cards. You are an idiot.
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 small number of hands per shoe. Or to play across the entire shoe, where you can play many more hands per shoe ?
Sorry, I thought I responded to this earlier. I must have forgotten to hit Reply.
There is no advantage in playing more hands per shoe if those hands have a negative expectation.
Your results will always be best if you can limit yourself to betting only in positive situations.
And to be profitable at all you must bet very little or not at all in even or negative counts.
Entering these games only at TC +3 or better will yield a nice percentage profit, but you will watch far more hands than you play. I would probably start at +2 instead, but it depends on your bankroll.
i called up the Mirage casino in Las Vegas five years ago I did not bother to call again on this date September 24 , 2015
asked is card counting legal they said no and i said even if i bet 5000 thousand dollars on seven hands at a table and they still said no
if i am standing on hard 13 , 14 , 15 they know i am studying the cards very well and if i bet much more money when the deck is rich in high cards they will no doubt know what i am deciding to do
if i leave the table when there are a lot of low cards in the deck they know what i am doing what do you think about my comments ?
I don’t know why anyone would call the casino and ask that question. Still, no matter what the Mirage chose to tell you, card counting is of course perfectly legal. And yet the casino is also within their legal rights to tell you that you can’t play if they think you have an advantage. Welcome to the cat and mouse game of card counting.
Counting cards is the easy part. Staying welcome to play is the difficult part. You are certainly not going to be able to just camp out at tables for hours on end varying your bets directly with the count. At low stakes to mid black chip action, you can survive by keeping sessions short and moving around a lot between casinos.
At the very highest stakes, this tactic is less useful. For bets in the thousands, there are better ways to beat them than card counting. At that level, you should be able to demand a percentage rebate if you lose on a trip. If you handle that well, it can be worth much more than counting.
Wow. While you were at it, did you contact the united chess federation while and ask if it’s against the law to think about your moves before you make them or if you’re legally required to move randomly when playing chess (not just by the rules of the game, but under penalty of law)? Maybe ask if it’s a misdemeanor or a felony to not move at random? You obviously either think we live in Orwell’s 1984 subject to enforcement by thought police (what, it’s illegal to try to REMEMBER something now? And we’re not even talking about a GOOD memory, a FISH could remember that much, it’s laughable how much an intellectual thing counting cards ISN’T) or don’t even know what counting cards is. All it is, is remembering a stupid number that starts at 0 at the beginning of the shoe, adding 1 to the total whenever you see a low card dealt out, subtracting 1 when you see a high card dealt out! Remembering a number. That’s IT! That’s all it is! That’s all it’s ever been! “Card counter” shouldn’t even be a NOUN! It’d be like “move thinker” in chess. If you’re not counting cards, it’s not that you’re avoiding cheating, you’re simply playing badly. Just like the chess player who refuses to do anything but move at random isn’t somehow doing something ETHICAL by refusing to form any sort of plan in his moves and play the game well, he’s just not playing the game well, he’s playing it like a 4 year old is all! You’re either counting cards or you’re playing badly. Those are your choices. And if you call the casino and announce your intention to count cards, you are an even bigger idiot than the people who go to the casino and play blackjack and DON’T count cards (i.e. play the game BADLY). Because the casinos make their money from stupid people. They don’t want people who play it well, they want imbeciles. And being a BUSINESS, they have a right to refuse to do business with anyone they want to, you’re just telling them you’re one of those people who they want to not do business with. Whatever. At best you’re a shill for a casino to ask a question like that on a website like this, but probably just someone who intellectually reaffirms my cynicism and disgust for the human race.
Hello there, firstly, I apologise if this has been asked and answered already, but could you go to a casino and watch a game from the sidelines whilst counting the table then when the edge is in the player’s favour, makes bets within basic strategy then? Not do this over and over but say for one or two rounds. Be in and out, make your profit (or loss) and leave?
Yes. Backcounting a table and dropping in when the count is good can be a very effective approach. It’s also known as “Wonging”, named for Stanford Wong.
Although many casinos now restrict mid-shoe entry to prevent this and similar strategies, it’s quite common still. For low bankrolls especially, this is a great way to play against the shoe games.
Great! Thank you for your reply. I’ve been doing my homework and I’m excited to invest at the table as per the brilliant guidelines laid out in the lessons on here. I live in England and the casinos that I’ve been to seem to allow you to watch from the sidelines and join in at anytime.
Yeah but it then becomes really obvious that your card counting had the casino will kick you out. I wouldn’t bother, if it were really that easy, everyone would be doing it and the casinos will lose money.
Hi Ken, I play the UK casinos and I too have no problem Wongin in but I have ‘respected’ the environment more now and will play through a moderately negatively shoe. However last month I played in continental Europe and after 15 minutes I was told I either play or go away. Later in the week, a player synchronised his bets with mine and also played deviations. We got chatting after and it didn’t go unnoticed that he attracted a lot of heat. He was informed his play was no longer welcome and we think it was because he was moving from table to table.
You can stand in the shadows and count, but when the dealer gets to certain point in the shoe, you will have to wait for the shoe to play out. So, if you are watching a 2 deck game, when a half deck appears in the discount pile, you will not be allowed to play the remaining deck and a half.