Black Jack Card Counting

At some point, any player who is somehow interested in Black Jack will hear the term “card counting”. The wonderful story that it is possible to beat your superior opponent Casino by counting cards in Black Jack. It was me in the middle of the eighties so far and some friends and I began to deepen us with it into this matter. “Making money playing” – a wonderful prospect opened up for us. But already the procurement of the necessary technical literature turned out to be anything but easy. As a reminder: no Internet, no forums, no Wikipedia, no blogs.

At the top of the wish list, of course, was Ed Thorpe’s book of books for card counters “Beat the Dealer”. Thorpe, a mathematician, was the first to develop a concept in which the player has an advantage over the casino and published the first edition in 1962. We ordered the books in the United States and sometimes waited weeks for delivery. Afterwards a time-consuming training began, before the theory was put into practice for the first time. But how does card counting actually work?

Basics of Black Jack Card Counting

The chances

A statistically unequal distribution of the high cards in the sled favors the player because

the likelihood of a blackjack increases. The player receives a payout of 3:2 while the dealer’s Black Jack only loses the original bet.
The player is only allowed to split and double and the expectation of winning increases.
A higher number of ten-value cards can also make the insurance profitable.

The bank benefits from many small cards in the sled because it is less likely to overbuy with hands between 12 and 16.


Most counting systems are therefore based on a significant number of tens of cards and aces that are still in the sled. So if there are 13 cards face up on the table and there is neither an ace nor a tens card underneath, there are four tens cards and one ace more in the sled than the statistics say.

The cards are assigned positive, negative and neutral values. In the “entry system” Hi-Lo, for example:

  • 2 to 6: +1
  • 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace: -1
  • and 7-9: zero

For the cards in this game the following count results:

  • Four and Nine:    +1 and 0     Total Plus 1
  • King and Seven:   – 1 and 0    Total Minus 1
  • Five and eight:     +1 and 0     Total plus 1
  • Four and six:        +1 and +1   Total plus 2
  • King and Five:      – 1 and +1   Total zero
  • Three (Dealer):    +1                 Total Plus 1

So the total is plus four. If this is the first game of the new sled, it is the “Running Count”. Each additional card from the sled is then taken into account. Of course, a value has a completely different effect on the betting and playing behavior the fewer cards there are left in the sled. In “Balanced” (the sum of the card values is zero) systems like Hi-Lo, the running is used to form the “True Count”. The counter divides the running count by the estimated number of decks remaining in the sled. This estimation also requires some practice.

Each counting system is designed to find the point at which the probability speaks for the player and he has a positive expectation of winning.

The card values in some other counting systems:

The “finer” a counting system is, the more efficient it is. But with more levels (different numerical values of the cards) the training effort for mastering this system also increases. The so-called Betting Correlation (BC) expresses how effectively a system informs about this situation. Playing efficiency (PE) is a measure of how efficiently the player can change his strategies due to the changed card composition in the rest of the sled.

The Strategy of Black jack Card Counting

Drawing behavior

Depending on the True Count, the drawing behavior changes. With very high values it can even be right to divide two tens. There are almost endless tables in the literature. Of course these changed brick rules are dependent on the valid game rules of the casino. (e.g: Number of decks, Holecard …. to the many variants see the blog “this is Black Jack”.)


The more extreme the count is in favor of the player, the higher his bets will be. It is important not to attract too much attention from the casino staff when it comes to these increases in stakes. Although card counting without technical aids is not illegal, the house rules of most casinos state that a player may be expelled from the house.

In order to avoid betting at the beginning of a sleigh, or to avoid attracting attention for higher bets, there is a back-counting strategy called “Wonging”. (After the pseudonym Stanford Wong under which John Ferguson published his books.) The player stands behind the table and only bets when the advantage is on his side.

This has resulted in team strategies, such as those of the well-known M.I.T. team, in which different team members play at the tables and give others the information if the probability favorable for the player. The bet then high amounts.

Conclusion of Black Jack card counting

You have already learned a lot about mathematics.

The Rainman-like fairy tales that a counter only has to sit at the table and can take money with him are still persistent. Even if the advantage can sometimes amount to a few percent for the player, it remains a game of chance and these hands can get lost, which is especially painful as the stakes are high.

The trouble remains how training without card counting in Black Jack can quickly become expensive. Furthermore, the player should not be noticed by the casino staff, otherwise a sometimes long journey was quickly in vain. The successful card counting consists of the “counting” of the game strategy and the possibility to play for a long time. Casinos are networked and so it happened that after entering I was told I could play Roulette, but at Blackjack I was not welcome. In a casino where I was for the first time.

Many fairy tales start with the words “once upon a time” and so it is with card counting. Since almost all casinos play with mixing machines, which are practically “endless” sledges for the probability, only the memory of an exciting time remains.

Plays Black Jack at and remains curious.