The art of counting cards: how to count cards online and in traditional casinos

The art of counting cards: how to count cards online and in traditional casinos

Is counting cards in Blackjack legal? Should I learn how to count cards? Did someone win big amounts of money while counting cards online? If you’re asking yourself any one of these questions, you’re in the right place to find the answer.

In this article, we will discover everything related to the art of card counting, and we are going to give you all the information you need to choose if it’s a good idea to learn how to do it.

How is it possible to count cards?

If you’re wondering whether counting cards is illegal or not, it actually is not illegal to count cards, to the surprise of many. We have seen it done in countless (no pun intendedHollywood movies, you have most likely heard of Ben Affleck’s recent rendezvous with the law when he was kicked out of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Casino for getting caught counting cards.

There are different methods to follow on how to count cards, and they’re all quite simple to apply. They differ from each other in some basic characteristic, and because of this they can be applied by a wide range of different level of players.

How to count cards with different systems

As we said before, there are different counting cards methods that can be applied. Here, we  explain some of the most used methods:

Counting cards with the Hi-Lo system

This is by far the most famous and widely used system out of all the counting cards tactics, and that is because it is quite simple. You have to keep in mind that the cards are divided into three groups:

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: you will need to add +1 to the count.
  • 7, 8, 9: the score is 0 therefore nothing has to be neither added nor subtracted.
  • Ace, 10, J, Q, K: you have to subtract 1 point from the score.

Hence, the system is really quite simple compared to the other counting cards strategies, where you count half units.

An important aspect to consider is the number of decks of cards used by the casino. Usually, land-based casinos operate with six or eight decks to make counting cards harder for the players. So, first, you need to be sure that you know how many decks of cards are in use.

With this counting cards system, you have to start the count as soon as the game starts according to the points we stated earlier. Furthermore, in order to get the real score, a.k.a. “True Count”, you need to divide the score you have by the number of decks remaining.

This also means that you’ll have to keep track of the cards that have been dealt and divide by the score you’ve been dealt at that moment. All this math while keeping in mind each deck contains 52 cards.

The higher the score, the higher your bet should be, as it means that there are still high cards in the deck that can lead you to make blackjack or otherwise have a high score.

Ten Count System

This method is widely used by beginners and is based on the fact that figures and tens are essential in this game. Each deck has sixteen cards that are worth 10, namely the 10 itself, J, Q and K. The remaining ones are 36 and there is a ratio of 2.25. 

Your goal with this system is to always recalculate the ratio after each hand. When the ratio rises, you will know that there is a greater chance of a 10 or a figure coming out. Otherwise, if it goes down, it means that there are more cards worth 10 than others, making it more difficult to expect one to come out.

In this system there are no groups of cards and value to be added or subtracted during the various hands, this makes it a very simple method, suitable for every player. Just make sure to do the calculations quickly, so you do not lose the rhythm.

Counting cards with the K.O. System

The K.O. method of counting cards online and offline in Blackjack is one of the easiest to apply.

Again, we divide the cards into three groups:

  • From 2 to 7: add 1 to the count.
  • 8 and 9: their value is 0.
  • Ace, 10, J, Q, K: subtract 1 from the score.

This system is very similar to the Hi-Lo system we mentioned above. You just have to maintain high concentration during the hand out of cards and not lose the count. However, as with the Hi-Lo counting cards system, even though it is one of the simplest to apply, it is also less accurate than the others.

Once again, to get a more reliable “True Count”, you need to divide your score by the number of decks of cards involved in the game. The higher the score, the more chances there are that you will get a high card. On the other hand, if the “True Count” score is low, it means that the deck is empty, leaving minimal chance that you are going to hit a Blackjack.

How to count cards with other widely used systems

The three counting cards systems we have just seen are not the only ones available and used by the public, but they are the most famous and easy-to-apply even for a beginner.

Other well known card counting online and offline systems are:

  • Hi-Opt 1 and 2;
  • Hi-Opt II;
  • Omega;
  • Red 7;
  • Zen Count;
  • Halves.

 Counting cards in blackjack movies

Casinos can thank Hollywood for making counting cards a popular and sexy storyline. Well known and popularized films like The Hangover with Bradley Cooper, and 21 with Jim Sturgess have mainstreamed counting cards. Obviously, much to the chagrin of Casino owners. 


These movies have forever changed the perception people have of counting cards in Blackjack, as well as the fact that they helped make this card game widely popular between casino players.


As we have learned in this article, counting cards in casinos is actually legal. But, as often happens, casinos always try to use multiple decks to make it harder for the players to actually count the cards. 

What we can suggest you do if you want to try your hand at counting cards is to study first. Make sure you understand exactly how counting cards works, and second, make sure you’ll be able to do so at the pace of the game.

Photo by Jarosław Kwoczała on Unsplash

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