Card Counting in Blackjack Explained

Counting cards is a strategy used by many professionals to reliably win money in a casino. Odds are you have heard about counting cards from a movie or from a person and are now curious as to how it’s done. Well, you have come to the right place. With the below instruction and some good practice you should be able to count cards too. Take note, counting cards, while not illegal, is frowned upon by casinos. If caught, you will likely be asked to leave the casino and not welcomed back.

Additional note. Counting cards is possible in physical casinos and online live dealer casinos. Counting cards is not possible in normal online casinos as they start with a fresh deck on every new hand.


The first step to learning to count cards is learning the card values. Memorize the below values as any counting will need to happen very quickly, you will have no ability to reference anything.

-1            = 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.

0             = 7, 8, 9.

+1           = 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

The Counting

Each count starts at 0, as a new card is dealt add its value to your current total. Keep in mind that the total is running, so keep counting into the next hand and hands continuing after. This count will be ongoing until the Shoe is changed.

Example. If 2, 7, King, Ace, 4, 3, 6 are dealt, our running sum would look like this [0(starting point)+1 +0 -1 -1 +1 +1 +1] giving us a grand total of 2. Keep these numbers running in your head and practice counting as much as you can. Practice at home with friends or playing blackjack games. Add in some distractions while practising like people talking or loud music, casinos can be a distracting place.

Remember, you are not just counting cards dealt to you. You are counting every card dealt on the table.

Important note: a full deck will always equal to 0. While casinos may use a shoe of several decks together, they will always use complete decks ensuring that the shoe will always equal to 0.


Now for the betting phase. First we must know what the numbers you have been counting mean for our bets.

  • Positive number – a positive number or high count (the higher the better) indicates that a lot of lower numbered cards have been dealt already. There are likely a lot of high cards left in the shoe.
  • Negative number – a negative number or low count (the lower the better) indicates that a lot of higher numbered cards have been dealt already. There are likely a lot of low cards left in the shoe.

So what do we do with this information?

  • If you have a high count, bet conservatively as the odds of going bust are very high.
  • If your count is low, play aggressively as the odds of the next card being low are in your favour.

Counting cards is not a perfect science, but can help secure a much needed win.