Blackjack Card Counting

Counting on the strategy of counting cards

Card counting is a strategic method of playing blackjack against the casino. Blackjack is indeed a game of strategy. Outside of poker, blackjack might be the most strategic table game in a casino. It involves memory, math, and awareness. Card counting is falsely considered “illegal” or “unethical”. Unethical action in a casino? Really? These are details that are the cold, hard truth surrounding card counting:

Card Counting Involves an Actual Strategy

Card counting isn’t a dramatic use of a photographic memory, as Hollywood has portrayed. There is an actual strategy involved. A card is “noted” with a numeric symbol, and these numeric symbols are added or subtracted. As an example, there are five royal diamonds: King, Queen, Jack, Ace, and 10. If a player who is counting sees one king of diamonds, they will deduct the possible number (5) by one. There is now a 4 in 5 chance of getting a royal diamond. A queen of diamonds appears in front of a user. No other royal diamonds have shown up. Chances are now that 3/5 a royal diamond. 3/5 chances are not bad. The user considers this when predicting or counting the next card.

Card Counting Involves Difficult Math

MIT students are not required to do the math involved with card counting. A fifth grader can perform the math involved with counting cards. The math involved is simple addition and subtraction.

Card Counting is Impossible

The process of counting cards is not impossible. Even if the user is going into six or eight shoes, counting cards are still nothing more than addition or subtraction.

You Need Money to Make Money

Never exceed a minimum can: Gambling 101. It’s a simple lesson and one learned often too quick. The player needs to understand how they will be able to withstand a losing streak, which will invariably happen.

Card Counting Will Get You Beat Down by the Gangsters Who Own the Casino

With a good lawyer, a player will avoid the ugliness that comes with winning. If a casino suspects a player of counting cards, the casino can ask the player to leave. Chances are, they will not meet a team of thugs in a dark alleyway- these days anyway. One cannot say the same thing for the old ways.

The Skinny on Simple Math

When looking at how card counting involves simple addition and subtraction, one must think of a bucket filled with red poker chips and white poker chips, each an even number. The chips themselves have nothing to do with the game other than symbolizing numbers. The player will bet $50 on pulling a red poker chip. The player closes their eyes, picks up a poker chip knowing the odds are 50-50.

Red-chip? The user just won $50

So now the odds are 49-50 that the player will pick another red chip. The player though bets on picking a white chip. One thing the player needs to do is keep track of what has been taken from the bucket. They are counting what they are pulling out, and what is remaining in the bucket. As the disparity between numbers grows, so do the odds of picking one over the other. By the middle of the game, there are 15 red chips missing, and 10 white chips missing. The user should now bet more on picking up a white chip. There will be wrong guesses, but the player is now counting with awareness to how many are missing from the bucket—not how many they have.

Card Removal

While playing a fictional game of blackjack, the player noticed on the first draw there are 4 aces drawn. In a deck of 52, there are four aces: diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. This means, simply, there are now no aces left or in other words: there is a zero chance of getting another ace. At this point, the user will want to bet the smallest amount available the 2nd round.

Odds in blackjack are dynamic, meaning the odds change from round to round. This is dependent on what cards were played in different rounds. Removing a card from multi-decks has a lesser effect because the chance of pulling a card from a 5-deck game is minimized; it will not impact the player’s expectation as much as a single-deck game.

Single Deck Card Removal

There are certain cards that when removed, hurts the expectation of the player. If a flush of one suit, say 2,3,4,5,6 of diamonds appears on the first draw, the expectation of the player is increased by +0.71%. These are great odds. But, on the flip side, if a single ace from the first draw changes the expectation of the player by -0.59%. These are not so great odds.

In the same respect, if a 3 and a king is removed (remember: suit does not matter one bit in Blackjack), the strategy is simple math: -59 + 71= 12. Therefore, if a 3 and a king are drawn, the chances somewhat nullify each other. At this point, the small cards have a positive effect when removed from play and the four royals have a negative effect.
Removal of a 6 and an 8= positive effect
Non-removal of a king or ace= very positive effect
Removal of the 7, 8, 9= no effect


Obtaining blackjack may seem like a pipedream, but blackjack favors the player over the house. A player who receives blackjack will obtain a higher payoff than the dealer. Therefore, if the player sees a large removal of small cards on that first draw, they should bet the farm because the chances of getting a small card on the second pull are slim. A thing to keep in mind: this applies only if the player receives a large card.


The art of taking more in betting is simply knowing what is favored over what is not favored. If the shoe is just brimming with ten/ace cards not yet pulled, the player needs to split when receiving an Ace, 7, 8, or 9.

Double Down

The basic blackjack strategy calls for doubling down on the first pull of a 9, 10, and 11. If the dealer pulls a weak up card (anything less than a 7), and the shoe is full of a ten/ace possibility, the deck is in the gentle hands of the player.

Card Counting Processes

  • There is a process for counting cards. This is not so much a strategy as it is different systems.
  • +1 for the small cards, -1 for large cards
  • Removing small cards is not the same system of card counting. In terms of small cards, there should be an appointed number to represent each card. For example, a 2 has a tag of 5, a 3 had a tag of 10, etc. If a 5 is pulled with a tag of 25, it has a greater chance than a 2 card with a tag of 10. In the same respect, the user should assign a -5 to the large cards, thus resulting in a greater chance of removal.

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