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Card counting strategy

Card counting strategy is a special strategy for card games that helps to determine situations during the game when the player has the highest possible advantage. In blackjack, it is mathematical strategy of tracking the cards during the game to be able to increase blackjack probabilities.


The history of card counting strategy in blackjack goes back to 1962, when Professor E. Thorp revised basic strategy. He came across the fact that player's advantage was higher with less fives in a deck than any other cards. The players made use of this finding and began tracking fives in decks using a system of "Five Count". Later on tracking of tens was added to the system.

Applying card counting systems

The aim of applying blackjack counting systems is to give point values to card that correlate to the "Effect of Removal" - the affect a single card makes on house edge when it is removed from the game. The player is then able to calculate changes in advantage according to the new card composition and to assess the Effect of Removal for all cards in play.

It is obvious that high cards bring more advantages to the player whereas low cards are more favorable for the dealer. For instance, combinations of 10-valued cards and Aces mean better odds for getting "blackjack". Tens always make "stiff hands" (hands from 12 to 16) go bust. Considering that the dealer has to hit on "stiff hands", it is better for the dealer to get low cards.

Balanced and unbalanced card counting systems

The player who uses any card counting system with balanced and unbalanced count attributes certain point values - positive, negative or neutral - to each high or low card in play depending on how favorable the card is to the player. In balanced card counting systems, the total of all positive and negative values must equal zero. Examples of popular balanced systems are Hi-Lo Count, Hi Opt I and II, Wong Halves, Omega II and Zen Count.

The point values in balanced systems are added to the player's "running count". When there is a need to consider the number of decks in play, the amount of bets or applying basic strategy, "running count" is converted into "true count", which is seen as "running count" divided by the number of decks to be dealt.

Unbalanced counting systems were developed to simplify the process of blackjack card counting strategy. In unbalanced systems, the total sum of all point values of the cards doesn't equal zero. This fact cancels the necessity of "true count" conversion and means that the players stick to their "running count". Card counting systems with unbalanced count are: KO Count, Red 7 Count and Unbalanced Zen 2 Count.

Back counting

Back counting is a special method of applying different card counting systems that consists in watching different games and counting cards without entering the game while the conditions are less favorable. The player enters the game, or "wongs in", only when he or she is sure to have the highest advantage.

To be successful with your card counting strategy it is important that you use an efficient and appropriate basic blackjack strategy based on the number of decks in play and on specific rule variations.