Card Counting Strategy in Blackjack Explained


Counting cards is one of the most infamous strategies touted to work like a charm in the famed blackjack table game. However, as effective as it often is, it takes time to master so that you can execute the moves seamlessly. 

Interestingly, like any other strategy, effective card counting is just a matter of following some simple steps to the letter, and you’ll be raking in substantial wins consistently. So, whether you play blackjack in land-based casinos or are more into live dealer action on leading iGaming platforms like, read on to discover the basics of counting cards.

What is Card Counting?

Card counting in blackjack depends on your prowess in mathematics combined with statistics and probability. In this strategy, the goal is to determine whether the next hand dealt will benefit you (the player) or the dealer. And you’ll have this vital insight by keeping a running count of the high and low-value cards dealt in the game to ultimately get an edge over the house.

Depending on how good your memory span is, card counting gives you an almost accurate idea of the composition of the remaining cards as the dealing continues in the game. With this knowledge, you can make wise decisions in your gameplay that will increase your success rate as you enjoy the game.

So, every time a card is laid down, you either add the number assigned to it or subtract it from the running total. If the value of the card laid down is 0, then nothing will change in your running count. So, logically, low-valued cards will increase the number of high cards remaining in the set and thus increase the count. Similarly, the opposite scenario also checks out with high-valued cards, increasing the number of low cards and thus reducing the number of the count. 

With proper practice in the art of card counting, you will be able to gauge when to bet big and when to bet small to increase your chances of winning big and, of course, mitigate your losses. That being said, let’s get to the actual steps you will take when executing the card counting blackjack strategy.

Steps of Card Counting in Blackjack

There are a few steps you should follow to count cards effectively in blackjack. They are as follows:

  1. Assign each card a value based on the plus-minus count. For example, cards 2 to 6 will have a +1 count, cards 7 to 9 will have a 0 count, and cards 10 to Ace will have a -1 count.
  2. Start the count at 0, then add the card’s value to the count as each card is dealt. 
  3. Continue with the count as the cards are dealt out of the deck. Then, progressively make your betting decision based on the count. 

The strategy here is to bet higher if the count is low and lower if the count is high to hit massive wins when the time is right and still minimize your losses. Remember, these steps are not exclusive to land-based blackjack gaming; you may also borrow a leaf and apply them to online blackjack.

Blackjack Card Counting Systems

The blackjack game has a few card counting systems that may differ in some ways. Some may be rather straightforward, while others may be a little complicated. Let’s take a closer look:

The Hi-Lo System

Also called the ‘basic card counting system,’ the Hi-Lo system is the simplest blackjack counting method. The system uses the three steps outlined above and is mainly recommended for beginners.

The Omega II System

Developed by Bruce Carlson, the Omega II system of blackjack card counting is a multi-level strategy. In this approach, some cards are assigned two points, whereas others are assigned only one point. That being said, here is how the values are tallied:

  • Cards 2, 3 and 7: Value +1
  • Cards 4, 5 and 6: Value +2
  • Card 9: Value -1
  • Cards 10, King, Queen and Jack: Value -2
  • Cards Aces and 8: Value 0

The Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II

Under the Hi-Opt I, here are how the values are assigned:

  • Cards 3, 4, 5 and 6: Value +1
  • Cards King, Queen, Jack and 10s: Value -1
  • Cards 2, 7, 8 and 9: Value 0

On the other hand, the Hi-Opt II system assigns the values as follows:

  • Cards 2, 3, 6 or 7: Value +1
  • Cards 4 and 5: Value +2
  • Cards 10, King, Queen and Jack: Value -2
  • Cards 8, 9 or Ace: Value 0

Parting Shot

We’ve only just looked at some of the most straightforward blackjack card counting systems that are perfect for beginners and mid-level players. Pro-level players can use more complicated card counting strategies such as the Wrong halves system, the Red 7 system and the KO system, just to mention a few. Well, whichever way you go, all these systems will help you get ahead in your blackjack gaming endeavours. 

However, it is worth noting that the practice is largely frowned upon by many casinos as it is considered a dirty trick. So, before using the strategy in a land-based casino, find out the house rules, as you may get kicked out of the lobby. Nonetheless, mastering the techniques of card counting is definitely something all blackjack players should master as it will boost their winning potential.