Blackjack Card Counting is a mathematically-proven strategy that can improve your chances of winning. Whilst it’s tricky to master, we have no doubt you’ll get the hang of it. In this section of this casino guide, we’re going to give you a general overview of card counting as well as the strategies you can use.
How to Count Cards in Blackjack – The Canadian Basics
So, how can you start counting cards? Canadian card counters need to take some time to master blackjack card counting in its entirety. Compared to the blackjack basic strategy, things are a little bit more complicated here. However, it’s nothing you can’t handle. Here are five steps you need to follow to improve your chances of beating the house whilst playing blackjack:
- Add a tag of (+1) to cards ranked 2 through 6 and a tag of -1) to each 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.
- Start card counting after the cards are shuffled. Next, add tags to every card that is dealt from your deck.
- If the running count is positive after a round, the remaining cards that aren’t dealt are stronger in large cards. This means you should increase your bets.
- If the running count is negative after a round, the remaining cards that aren’t dealt are stronger in small cards. In this case, you should decrease you bets.
- Place more money on positive counts rather than on negative counts.
What is Card Counting?
Blackjack card counting is a technique that is used in popular casino classics such as blackjack. It was first created by mathematical genius, Edward Thorp. Throughout his investigations, he discovered that the player’s odds tend to be more favorable when a single 2 is removed from a deck of 52 cards. Upon further discovery and testing, Thorp devised a strategy known as the Ten-Count method. Ultimately, this was proven to increase the player’s edge and have better odds. In fact, Thorp published this strategy in his bestselling book Beat the Dealer.
So, the question is, does blackjack card counting really work? Since blackjack is a game that is not just about luck, but also a game that features a set of fixed rules, counting cards is indeed a mathematically proven method. As you will see in the upcoming sections, it helps Canadian players predict if the next card that will be dealt from the shoe will favor the player or the dealer. To this this, you have to keep a tally of high and low value cards and the hands that are dealt throughout the entire duration of the game. To put it simply, if you think you have the upper hand, you increase your bets. If the odds aren’t in your favor, it’s best to stick to small bets or if you must, surrender.
How does Card Counting Work?
Let’s get down to basics. It’s now time to dig a little deeper into how card counting works. First of all, there are four important steps you need to keep in mind when mastering an effective blackjack card counting strategy:
- Assign a tag to each card dealt from the shoe
- The Running Count
- The True Count
- Increasing or decreasing bets depending on the true count’s outcome
It is imperative that you keep track of both the running count and the true count. They hold the key to mastering blackjack card counting. In this way, you will have a better idea of when you should increase or decrease your bets.
For example, if you notice there are more tens and aces appearing during the game, blackjacks will be dealt automatically. Since the payout here is 3:2, it’s very likely that the dealer will lose the game. However, if more low cards are dealt, things are likely to swing in the dealer’s favor.
If you look at the table below, we’ve listed your options and the portion of benefit. In this way, you can get a better idea of where you stand:
|Player's Action in the Game||Portion of Benefit Percentage|
Blackjack Card Counting Strategies
Now that you have a vague idea of the basics, its time to get down to business. Card counting isn’t for the fainthearted. First of all, you really need to know the game well. We’re talking about some of the most advanced blackjack card counting systems that are used by professional players in Canada and from the rest of the world, so you really need to know your stuff before you attempt to level it up.
In fact, there isn’t just one method that is used for counting cards. On the contrary, there are several betting systems out there, but in this case, we’re going to focus on the most popular ones: The Hi-Lo System, the Knockout System, the Omega II System and the Wong Halves System. Let’s take a closer look at each of them below:
Hi – Lo System
Harvey Dubner based his Hi-Lo Count strategy on Edward Thorp’s Ten Count. If you’re still new to the world of blackjack and advanced card counting strategies, this is a great system to start with. In fact, it is probably the most common blackjack card counting strategy of them all because it’s easy to learn and implement in your game. In short, the Hi-Lo Count Strategy is all about keeping track of the remaining high cards left in the deck.
The main advantage of the Hi-Lo blackjack card counting system is its simplicity. In fact, it is centered around how much practice you put into the game. All you have to keep in mind is to either add 1, subtract 1 or choose to opt out of adding or subtracting when the cards are dealt. The total value of a 52 card deck is zero. That’s all there is to it.
So, how do assign your values? Low value cards (2-6) are given a value of +1, the neutral cards (7-9) are given a value of +0, whilst the 10s, Face Cards and Aces are all given a -1 value as follows:
Bottom line - The more cards that are dealt and counted, the more accurate the blackjack Hi-Lo Count system is.
✅ Most popular counting cards strategy
✅ Great for beginners
✅ A simplified version of Edward Thorp’s Ten-Count
✅ Works around the concept of keeping track of the high cards
✅ Works as follows: +1, +0 -1
The Knockout System / KO System also serves as a great method for counting cards. Like the Hi-LO System, all you have to do is add 1, subtract 1 or stay neutral when a card is dealt. That said, there’s a small difference when it comes to the 7s in the card deck. Whilst all values retain their respective values, in the KO system, the 7 is a low card that has a plus value, whilst in the Hi-Lo system it is a neutral card. For this reason, the Knockout System is unbalanced since if you count a deck of cards, the final card will be +4.
The good news is that you don’t have to figure out the true count here – this means that you can throw out the complicated math out the window and stick to keeping track of the running count.
In fact, this is why Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancura created the KO blackjack card counting system in 1998. Let’s face it, not everybody is good with numbers as it is, let alone trying to track all the math whilst playing. Here’s a closer look at what you have to do:
So, how does the running count determine your bets? In short, the higher the count, the more you should bet. However, we advise you to stick to a spread betting system. This means that as your count increases or decreases, the number of units you bet will also increase/decrease.
✅ Invented by Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancura
✅ Doesn’t require a true count
✅ The running count determines your bets
✅ Works as follows: +1, +0 -1
✅ 7 is a low card with a + value
Omega II System
We will now move on to more complex blackjack card counting betting strategies. In this case, we’ve got Bryce Carlson’s Omega II System. Although it is quite difficult to master, it has proven to offer the most accurate results out of all the advanced systems. In fact, lots of professional blackjack players prefer to use this advanced system.
Just like any other betting system, the aim of the Omega 2 System is to help Canadian players and others residing across the globe to determine when remaining cards in the shoe can offer more favorable odds.
If you opt to use the Omega II system you need to keep in mind two important steps, especially if you’re playing with multiple decks. Due to the fact that the majority of casinos use between 4 to 6 decks, this system can be used with a number of blackjack values. First of all, you need to follow the running count. As we’ve seen with the previously mentioned betting systems, every card dealt will be part of this count. In this case, four values will be applied to the cards:
|2s and 3s||Count +1|
|4s, 5s and 6s||Count +2|
Once every card is dealt, players need to deduct one or two points. So far, the math required is quite simple. Ultimately, if you use the Omega II blackjack card counting system effectively, you can avail from an accurate true count. This is the second step of the process.
To determine the true count, you need to divide the running count by the remaining decks in the shoe. This can be quite difficult since Canadian players also have to track the cards dealt to have a better idea of how many decks remain in the shoe. Once again, don’t opt for this strategy for counting cards if you’re still new to the scene.
✅ A complex method for counting cards
✅ Used by professional blackjack players
✅ Invented by Bryce Carlson
✅ 4 values will be applied to the cards to determine the running count
✅ Most accurate method for counting cards
Wong Halves System
The Wong Halves system was developed by Stanford Wong. It is one of the more advanced blackjack card counting systems that you’ll come across. In fact, it is more commonly used by seasoned players.
As opposed to the other systems such as the KO System or the Hi-Lo System for counting cards, things get a little more complicated here because of the number of card values that need to be recorded. In fact, halves come into play, as indicated by the name of the method. Here’s a closer look at how things work with the Wong Halves System:
|Aces and 10s||Count 1|
|Deuces (2s) and 7s||Count +0.5|
|Threes, Fours and Sixes||Count +1|
Although it’s easy to memorize these values, the tricky part is how you make use of them during your game. Naturally, the adding and subtracting of the running total is easy. Let’s say you are dealt a 6, a 2, an Ace, followed by an 8, then the final running total is 1, 1.5, 0.5, 0 - 0.5 in total.
Nevertheless, the Wong Halves blackjack card counting method is a balanced system. This means that the final count will be valued at 0 once each deck is counted. For this reason, the running count has to be changed into a true count if you’re playing multi-deck blackjack. This is done by dividing the running count by the approximate number of remaining decks. Once you memorize the true count, you have to adjust your bets. If the count is positive, then you should opt for high bet amounts and lower amounts as the count decreases. Keep in mind that there are more chances of having Aces and 10s left in the decks if the final count is high.
Needless to say, if you’re still new to the scene, we don’t recommend novice Canadian players to start off with this method for counting cards:
✅ One of the more difficult methods of card counting
✅ Ideal for advanced players
✅ Developed by Stanford Wong
✅ Works with halves
✅ Final count will be valued for each deck counted since it is a balanced system
Hiding your Counting Card Strategy when Playing at Canadian Casinos
Although you can incorporate a blackjack card counting strategy in your gameplay at Canadian casinos, if dealers catch you doing it, they’re not going to be very happy about it. In fact, you’ll most likely be banned from ever entering the casino in question!
Let’s call a spade a spade here; although blackjack card counting is a mathematically proven strategy, it is more or less cheating. Obviously, casino owners keep a close eye on things since they’re not interested in altering the odds in the players’ favor. So, what can a card counter do to hide the fact that may be counting cards?
- Blend in: This a no brainer. Don’t do anything that would make you stick out like a soar thumb. Put your best foot forward and just act natural.
- Visit different casinos: Always visit different casinos if you plan on doing your fair share of blackjack card counting. In this way, the employees and dealers won’t get used to you
- Play at different times: If you tend to play at the same casinos on a regular basis, be sure to visit at different times. You stand a better chance of getting away with counting cards if you do so
- Play with different dealers: It’s clearly not the time to be buddy-buddy with the dealer if you’re up to no good with counting cards. If you play blackjack with the same dealer over and over again, you’ll most likely be caught out
- Don’t play at the same table for hours: If you don’t want to be detected, make sure you also mix up your tables. If you’ve been playing for an hour, make sure you move around so you can deal with different set of employees
- Tip your dealers: Always tip your dealers once every half hour, especially if you’re counting cards. Just as players love a casino bonus, dealers tend to love a good tip, so take advantage of this.
- Keep your tips and tricks to yourself: If you found a good blackjack card counting strategy that works for you, keep it yourself. It’s not the right time to be generous with other players here, as the dealers may pick up on it.
- Don’t place huge bets: Dealers can immediately be suspicious if you if they catch you placing huge bets from the get-go. Instead, increase them gradually and keep them under 5x the table minimum to help you avoid detection.
- Don’t Overthink: You face will most likely say it all if you think too hard. Just be cool as a cucumber.
Card Counting FAQs
⚡ What is Card Counting?
Blackjack Card Counting is a mathematically-proven strategy that can improve your chances of winning. It was first invented by mathematical genius, Edward Thorp who discovered that the player’s odds tend to be more favorable when a single 2 is removed from a deck of 52 cards. Eventually, others followed suit and created more strategies for counting cards, including: the Hi-Lo Strategy, the Knockout Strategy, the Omega II Strategy and the Wong Strategy.
💯 Is Card Counting legal in Canada?
Yes, it is perfectly legal for Canadian players to card count at Canadian casinos. Just make sure to avoid detection as not only will you be removed from the blackjack table, most likely banned for life.
🤯 Is it hard to count cards?
We won’t lie, it is trick at first as you really have to be good with your numbers. However, it’s all about getting some practice in. To this this, you have to keep a tally of high and low value cards that are dealt throughout the entire duration of the game. To put it simply, if you think you have the upper hand, you increase your bets. If the odds aren’t in your favor, it’s best to stick to small bets or opt out of the game.
🧨 What are the risks of card counting?
Although blackjack card counting is a mathematically proven strategy, it is more or less cheating. Obviously, casino owners keep a close eye on things since they’re not interested in altering the odds in the players’ favor. So, although you count cards, if dealers catch you doing it, they’re not going to be very pleased about it. In fact, you’ll most likely be banned for life!
🤓 How do avoid being caught counting cards?
If you really want to card count, make sure you’re not caught by any of dealers or employees of the casino you’re visiting. Blend in and don’t do anything that will force the dealers to keep their eye on you. Make sure you play at different times and at different tables, as well as at different casinos. If you tend to visit a casino on a regular basis, be sure to play blackjack with different dealers. In this way, they won’t get used to you. Additionally, don’t place huge bets that could immediately cause the dealer to be suspicious. More so, if you tip occasionally tip the dealer, he’ll most likely focus his attention on someone else.
🧐 Can I count cards when playing blackjack online?
Although card counting is mathematically proven to work, it doesn’t make sense to use it in an online scenario. For starters, all online blackjack games work with the Random Number Generator. This means that all games are completely random and you simply have no way of knowing every sequence and outcome. Furthermore, you won’t know how many decks the dealer is going to use in a live blackjack game.
🃏 Which casino games could be card counted?
As a rule of thumb, card counting is generally associated with blackjack, however, it can be used in any table game that involves tracking cards that are dealt from the shoe. In this way, a player can develop a strategy in his favor. In blackjack, card counting is used in multi-deck shoe games, where cards aren’t shuffled after each hand.