Card Counting

atlantic city blackjackNo matter your profession in life, everyone wants to have an edge. Whether you are a captain of an industry or just a member of the regular work staff, gaining an edge is important. It allows us to move ahead and achieve more.

Blackjack players are no different. Their goal is to win more at a casino. The most popular method of gaining that edge is through counting cards.

Introduction To Card Counting

The idea behind counting cards is to determine whether a player feels he has an advantage in the game or the house does. This will then determine how much the player feels he can “safely” bet.

There are some famous card counters like the late Ken Uston who back in the 1970’s won millions of dollars through card counting techniques. He also is said to be the mastermind behind team card counting.

To be a card counter you do not have to be a genius. There are some simple methods like speed counting, that are not complex, but they do not yield advantages that more complex systems do. Let’s examine a couple of them.

The Hi/Lo System

In the Hi/Lo system, card counters keep a running tally in their heads of high value and low value cards. Each card has a (+), (-), or (0) value given to it. Low cards like 2-6 benefit the dealer and get a +.

High cards such as 10,J,Q,K,A get a – and 7-9 get a “0”. The thought process behind this is if a low card is dealt, that’s one less card in the dealer’s favor. If a high card is dealt, that’s one less in the player’s favor. The more the low value cards are dealt, the better chance you will get a 10-K and an ace giving you a natural blackjack.

When the count goes positive, the card counter will increase their bet. As long as the tally is negative, the card counter will bet low.

The Ace Five Count System

This system of card counting is easier because the only cards being counted are aces and fives, hence the name. The fives get 1 point added to the count, which starts at 0 and aces take a point away.

This counting strategy is simplistic and, consequently, does not garner the results of a system like the Hi/Lo counting strategy. Keeping track of the aces is important because that will give you an idea of when a blackjack will surface, either for you or the dealer.

Fives are important from the standpoint that if a dealer’s hand is a weak one, a five can make it stronger.

Is Card Counting Still Possible?

It is still possible to count cards in casinos. Contrary to popular myth, it is NOT illegal to count cards. However, the Federal, State, and Local laws do state that you are not allowed to use external devices (there are smart phone apps that will do this for you.) or any other person as in a team to help.

Do not think that casinos are not savvy enough to come up with ways to thwart card counting activities. Running a casino is a business. Like any other business, it has the objective of making a profit, and protecting that profit.

The various forms of “blocking” a card counter run the gamut from low tech to high tech. On the simple side, they will try to distract them with casual conversation, or more forceful dialogue. Almost non-existent are the days of inflicting physical assault.

They can ask a suspected card counter to leave and are well within their legal rights to do so.

They may also reshuffle a deck before the penetration gets too high, flat betting a player (not allowing them to increase their bet while the current shoe is active), or shuffling when a suspected increases their wagers.

A little more high tech method is using computer software to watch the tables and players.

MindPlay® is a computer program that is able to detect card counting strategies in real time. Many casinos have installed facial recognition software in their surveillance systems to alert them of known card counters entering their building.


While card counting has been around for decades, it’s actual efficiency is based on how good the counter is, what system they are using, and what deterrents are in effect against them.

And a good system of counting is no guarantee you will win every hand. You still have to answer to Lady Luck.

April 9, 2015 - Offer valid as of date published. T&Cs apply.