Keeping track of cards as you play is good practice for just about any card game – if you’re playing poker, you need to count your outs or you’ll find yourself going all in on a royal flush that simply isn’t left in the deck. But never is this more apparent than in blackjack where counting the cards is so widespread that many casinos have rules in place to prevent players from doing it due to the advantage it gives players. So, obviously we’re going to give you a quick primer on how to do it so that you can have that advantage too!
Step 1: Choosing the system to start with
This is going to be the biggest part of any card counting plan – choosing which system you want to use. Ever since the early days of Edward Thorp, counting cards has had a very vaguely defined set of ‘rules’ for how the systems should be used and the methods have stayed relatively similar since then with ranges of complexity. Choosing the first system you want to learn is a vital step in your journey to become a Rainman-esque master but you probably don’t want to start with one of the harder ones.
The most popular starting system for players is Hi-Lo. It’s a balanced system (so once you reach the end of the deck the count should be 0 if you did it right), it’s fairly accurate and it’s simple enough to put into practice before you get into the really difficult stuff later on. If you’re playing Hi-Lo, what you need to do is add 1 to the count any time you see a card between 2 and 6 and minus 1 for any card between 10 and ace; 7, 8 and 9 are all a flat 0. When the count is in the positive numbers, you have a better chance of getting a good card, when it’s in the negative numbers, a better chance of getting a bad one. It’s a pretty easy way to keep your head straight as you play.
Step 2: Practice
Practice, practice and more practice! Getting your head around how to keep the count going accurately is a tricky process and one that needs you to really dedicate time to it in order to get the most out of the experience. You’ll probably need to spend a couple of hours really refining the entire process until you can get every card right every time.
Step 3: Decide if you want to get tricky
A simple counting system, such as Hi-Lo, is perfect for beginners and it’s accurate enough so that you can use it in the casino and probably do alright on the whole. But, if you want to improve your accuracy, using a more advanced counting system like Omega II would be a solid choice. This system is noticeably more complex than the Hi-Lo method. In the Omega II system the cards 2, 3 and 7 have a value of +1, while 4, 5 and 6 are worth +2; the 9 is equal to -1 while 10 ; the face cards king, queen, jack are scored with -2 and the aces and the 8s are counted as 0. As you can see, it’s a lot more complicated, but the end result is that your count is more accurate and you have a better idea what cards will be coming up next.
If you want to use this system, much like the Hi-Lo system, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to getting your count practice up before you even attempt it in the casino.
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