The Basics of Card Counting: How to Get an Edge in Blackjack

Learn the basics of card counting in blackjack and discover strategies to gain an edge over the casino. Improve your blackjack skills with actionable tips.

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Imagine sitting at a blackjack table in a bustling casino, feeling the tension in the air as the cards are dealt. You’ve probably heard of card counting – a technique that can give players an edge in this popular casino game. But what exactly is card counting, and how does it work? In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of card counting and provide you with actionable tips to improve your blackjack skills.

Understanding Card Counting

Card counting is a strategy used by skilled blackjack players to gain an advantage over the casino. It involves keeping track of the cards that have been played, allowing players to determine the probability of certain cards being dealt. By knowing which cards are left in the shoe, players can make more informed decisions on when to bet higher or lower.

Contrary to popular belief, card counting is not illegal. However, casinos frown upon it and may ask players to leave if they suspect them of employing this strategy. It’s essential to understand that card counting is not a guaranteed way to win every hand, but it does increase the odds of winning over the long run.

How Card Counting Works

Card counting relies on the concept that certain cards are more favorable to the player, while others are more favorable to the dealer. For example, high cards (10s and face cards) are beneficial to the player, as they increase the chances of getting a natural blackjack. Low cards, on the other hand, favor the dealer because they decrease the likelihood of the dealer busting.

One popular card counting system is the Hi-Lo method, which assigns values to each card. In this system, high cards are assigned a value of -1, low cards are assigned a value of +1, and neutral cards (7, 8, 9) have a value of 0. Players keep a running count of these values as the cards are played.

When the count is positive, it means that there are more high cards remaining in the shoe, increasing the player’s chances of winning. On the other hand, a negative count indicates an abundance of low cards, which is not advantageous for the player. Betting higher when the count is positive and lower when the count is negative helps players maximize their winnings and minimize their losses.

Tips for Effective Card Counting

Now that you understand the basics of card counting, let’s explore some tips to help you improve your skills:

  • Practice, practice, practice: Card counting is a skill that requires practice to master. Start by practicing with a single deck of cards and gradually work your way up to multiple decks.
  • Maintain a low profile: It’s important to blend in and avoid drawing attention to yourself while card counting. Be discreet and avoid any behavior that may raise suspicion.
  • Avoid distractions: Focus is key when card counting. Minimize distractions, such as engaging in conversation or consuming alcohol, which can impair your concentration.
  • Manage your bankroll: Effective bankroll management is crucial in blackjack. Set a budget before playing and stick to it. Remember, the goal is long-term profitability.
  • Be aware of table rules: Different casinos may have different rules regarding card counting, so familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the table you are playing at.


Card counting is a strategy that can give blackjack players an edge in the casino. While it requires practice and skill, mastering the art of card counting can significantly increase your chances of winning. Remember, always approach card counting ethically and within the rules of the casino. So, the next time you sit down at a blackjack table, try your hand at card counting and see if you can gain an edge!

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