Like most casino games the strategy in blackjack can be as complex as you want to make it. Once you know the rules of the game front and back and have basic strategy wired you might want to start learning advanced concepts like card counting. In this section, we’ll give you an introduction to card counting.


You can definitely count cards at an online casino so this section is worth paying attention to no matter where you play. That being said, you might have more success counting cards at a live casino for a variety of reasons. Your focus will likely be better, it’s easier to keep an eye on what the other players are doing and you don’t have to worry about software programs that aren’t on the up and up.


Hollywood has given the average ‘man on the street’ a somewhat inaccurate view of what card counting is. You can think the Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise film ‘Rain Man’ for that. If you’re one of the few people that hasn’t seen the film, Hoffman is an autistic savant and Cruise is his brother. Cruise discovers his brother’s skill for observation and recall of numbers and the two head out to Las Vegas to try and monetize this ability.

In real life, you don’t need to be a savant of any sort to count cards. In fact, the process is very simple. What you do need is knowledge, experience, practice and focus. The concept behind card counting is easy to understand and the practical aspect of counting is also easy to pick up. The trick is to put it all together in a real world casino situation.

There are several types of card counting but all work on this premise: when the deck is rich in high value cards (ten value cards and aces) it’s favorable to the player. When the deck is rich in low value cards it works to the benefit of the house. Card counting is keeping track of the ratio of high to low cards in the deck using a predefined system.


The most common type of card counting is called the ‘Hi Lo system’ for reasons that will become obvious momentarily. With this system the player assigns a minus value to high cards (ten through ace), a positive value to low cards (two through six) and a neutral value to the other cards. The player then observes every card as it is dealt and keeps a running count of the deck using the scoring format outlined above. This is the most common method of scoring:

LOW CARDS (2 through 6) +1
MIDDLE CARDS (7, 8, 9) 0
HIGH CARDS (10 through Ace) -1

It might seem counterintuitive to make the low cards a ‘plus number’ and the high cards a ‘minus number’ but keep in mind what we’re trying to do here—we’re trying to determine the ratio of high to low remaining in the deck. If the card has been dealt it’s out of the deck. The more high cards out works in favor of the house, the more low cards out works in favor of the player.

Simply put, the higher the count the more a player should bet. When playing single deck blackjack no modification of the count is necessary to get a ‘true count’ but when playing a multiple deck game the player must divide the ‘raw count’ by the number of decks in play to get the ‘true count’.


The hi-lo count is the most popular and easiest to learn. There are several other systems that have caught on over the years with each claiming to offer a more accurate reflection of the betting potential in the deck. This notwithstanding, they all work on a similar premise—trying to keep a running count of the deck to determine when it is most favorable for the player to bet.

–KO: The primary difference between the KO system and hi-lo is that 7’s are worth +1 and are not treated like a ‘neutral’ (0) card.

–OMEGA II: Omega II offers another modified scoring system. 4,5,6 are worth +2, 10,J,Q,K are worth -2 and Aces are worth 0.

–HAVES: 2 and 7 are forth +.5. 5 is worth +1.5. 9 is worth -.5

So which counting system is best? That’s a question only you can answer. You’re better off using a count system that you understand completely and can implement expertly over a system that might be theoretically more accurate but with which you are less fluent.

In the next section, we’ll conclude our introduction to advanced blackjack strategy by looking at the tactical challenges of card counting.