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HOME > > Selecting a Card Counting System

Selecting a Card Counting System

25 September 2021

By John Marchel

After learning Basic Strategy for blackjack, you need to move on to card counting.

The easiest to learn and also a very effective card counting systems is called “level one.” They only assign card values of +1 or -1. The Multi-level counts may assign values of plus or minus 2, 3, or 4 for various cards. Some systems even use “side-counts” such as keeping a side count of aces along with the plus and minus count. The main point is to remember is there is NO memorization required. The player just adds or subtracts the total count as each card is seen.

Card counting does two big things for you. First, it tells you when to increase your bet. If you know the next round of a deck will produce a lot of big cards, like 10’s, you would want to make a larger bet than normal, expecting to get a 20.

Second, you can adjust your basic strategy to compensate for what cards you expect to receive as the hand is played. Normally, basic strategy tells you to hit a 12 vs. a dealer’s 2-or 3. If you know there is a lot of 10s in the deck, you would stand in this case. These two things, adjusting your bet, and adjusting how you play your hand, is what makes card counting so powerful in blackjack.

Some popular level-one counts
Hi-Opt I Hi-Low count Canfield Expert
3,4,5,6 = +1 2,3,4,5,6 = +1 3,4,5,6,7 = +1
2,7,8,9, A = 0 7,8,9 = 0 2,8, A = 0
X = -1 X, A = -1 9, X = -1

There are some important considerations to weight when selecting a counting system. The count should be simple, practical and powerful and one that you can use easily and effectually in the casino.

Some experts believe the simple counts will result in fewer mistakes and more reliability. Others advocate more complex counts to help improve the odds.

One problem with counting cards is speed. You must keep the count even against a very fast dealer. You can find yourself mentally fatigued after only a few hours at the table. You may start to make mistakes or lose your count frequently. The concentration needed may not allow you to make the small talk with the dealer or other players, raising casino suspicions that you are a card counter.

All these things must be taken into account when choosing a counting system.

Card counting can be very strenuous both mentally and physically. Limit your playing to 45 minutes to one hour, then take a 30-minute break. This will prevent you from becoming too tired and possibly making mistakes with the count.

Lastly, go on the Internet and review the systems available and start with one of the level one counts. Play some time and recognize your ability to maintain the count and how easy for you. Add the ace-side count and see how it fits. Later, decide to move to a multi-level count or not. The deciding factor will be ending your sessions a winner. Also remember you still have to practice and practice frequency to end up as a skilled player.


• Professional blackjack card counting teams required, at a minimum, 25 seconds to count down correctly a single deck of cards.

• Shuffle Master, one of the manufacturers of casino continuous shuffle machines, used at blackjack tables, has offered a $100,000 challenge to any player that can show the machines can be beaten by legal card counting or shuffle tracking techniques.

• When it comes to card counting in blackjack, you need to vary your bet from one unit when the house has the edge, to more units as your edge increases. It is recommended, a bet spread of at least 7 to 1 is necessary for a player to see a substantial return on their bankroll. However, raising your $5 bet immediately to $70 when the count is in your favor will likely be noticed by the casino management. Another method would be to parlay your bet by doubling and adding one unit. This would appear normal to a pit boss who was looking at a player who felt lucky while on a winning streak.

• 20 is the second-best hand in the game, don’t split 10’s.

• The real name of the game is "21," blackjack was added as a slang in the 1920’s.

• Mathematically, in 100 hands of blackjack the dealer will win 48 hands, the player will win 44, and tie 8.

• By being the last to play, the dealer or house will always have the advantage over all the players at the blackjack table.

• Card counting is not illegal. However, casinos have the right to “refuse service” and can ask you to leave. If you fail to leave when asked, you are subject to arrest under the “trespassing law,” not for being a skilled card counter.

• Knowing how to prevent casino management from identifying you as a skilled card counter and barring you from playing is very important.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

John Marchel
John Marchel is an author, speaker, teacher and player -- what John plays are casino games. He’s been a casino player for over 25 years and has played successfully in Europe, Panama, the Caribbean, Canada, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, on Indian reservations, cruise ships and in over 350 casinos throughout the US. He is also the author of six books about gambling, and has written numerous magazine articles and is currently a columnist for three gambling magazines and one internet magazine. Since 1988 John has combined his experience as a manager, teacher and player to present seminars and lectures about gambling. In addition, John has had an Internet website since 1995 that offers books, special reports and tips about gambling. He also publishes a monthly Internet gambling newsletter. The newsletter keeps subscribers alert to trends, information and winning techniques that allows them to be more successful when visiting casinos.

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