Counting cards in the game of blackjack has become fairly popular in recent years. The reason for this is that the mathematicians have figured out that you really can swing the odds in your favour by doing so. The only problem is that counting cards is not easy. The Hi-Lo count is the simplest version so it is the one that most people go with.
The Hi-Lo count is probably the simplest version of counting cards; basically cards are grouped into one of three categories. The high cards which are aces, tens and face cards, the low cards which are two through six and the neutral cards which are seven through nine. The idea is that when a low card is dealt you will add one to your total. When a high card is dealt you will subtract one from the total and neutral cards will count as zero. If you do this correctly and run through a full deck of cards you should end up at zero since there are the same number of high cards as low cards in the deck.
Counting the cards that come out of the deck will give you the running count; most people will really struggle to keep the count, especially when they are first learning. However the running count is the easy part. You also have to keep the true count. This is the running count divided by the number of cards that are left in the deck. This means that in addition to keeping the running count you have to be able to keep track of how many cards have been dealt. This is hard enough in a single deck game but in casinos they almost always use multiple decks. That makes it even harder to keep the count. It also means that in many cases you won’t even know how many decks are being used. In this case you will have to estimate how many cards are left in the shoe; you can get a good idea of this by looking at how many cards there are in the discard pile. We call this shuffle tracking, and we talk about it on this web site!
The final step is determining how to use the count to determine how much to bet. In the most basic strategy if the count is zero or less you will bet one unit. As the count increases you will increase the amount that you bet by a similar amount. For example if the count were three you would bet three units. This is the simplest and most straightforward approach however there are many others. The basic idea is to bet more as the count gets higher. You do have to be careful however because if the casino thinks you are counting cards you will be asked to leave. One of the ways they determine if you are counting cards is by watching the amounts that you bet. If there is a huge variation from hand to hand they will know you are counting.
I’m Jason Rockwell. When I’m not winning playing online poker, I enjoy writing about my love of the game. Thanks for visiting!