Card Counting

What is card counting?

Card counting is the only way to gain a long term, statistical advantage at blackjack. Card counting works on the concept that high-value cards are good for the player while low-value cards are bad. By taking note of the cards that have been played, a player can determine whether the remaining cards are beneficial to the player, and alter their betting and playing strategy accordingly. You don't need to remember which particular cards have been played. Rather, a point value is assigned to each card and the player simply keeps a count of the aggregate points as the cards are dealt.

How large is your advantage when counting cards?

Overall, it is around 1%, depending upon the specific rules of the game. Counting cards does not give a player an edge on every hand, nor will it give a player a 100% chance of winning any particular hand. You will win, on average, about 44% of all hands played in the long-run. The long run is defined as beginning after about 500 hours of play, or 50,000 hands.

Once you feel confident with your card counting you can put it into practice. Party Casino is a popular choice for blackjack players offering a number of game variations, which you can try first on their demo play. Once you're ready to play for real you can get a new bonus code from

Is card counting illegal?

No - as long as you are only using your brain to count cards (as opposed to a computerized device) then it is legal. Casinos can, however, take actions to protect themselves. In Nevada, for instance, where casinos are ruled to be private places, casinos can ban you from playing blackjack or even being on the property for any reason. If you get banned from a casino and come back then you can be arrested for trespassing. This may, at first, seem like discrimination, but it doesn't meet the legal definition of discrimination because card counters are not members of a classification that is covered by discrimination laws, as defined by the Supreme Court.

In Atlantic City, the laws explicitly state that card counting is legal. But in response to that law, casinos have made blackjack much tougher to beat. They do this by using several methods: using 8 deck shoes, having lower deck penetration, prohibiting mid-shoe entry (taking away the ability of players to sit down only when the count is good).

Can they "backroom" you?

"Backrooming" refers to the casino taking you into their backroom in order to ask for your ID, take your picture, and lecture you. In the old days they might even rough you up. Under most state laws, it is illegal for a business to detain a person, unless the customer has committed a crime and the business is holding the person until the police arrive. So they can detain you if you are cheating (by using a computer, etc.) but not for card counting.

It ain't easy

The casinos are not in the business of donating money to gamblers, so they don't like players who can win with any regularity. This leads to the perpetual battle between card counters and the casinos. There is a misconception among many people that card counting is illegal, and many casino employees in particular do not feel that card counters should have any rights, treating them as if they were cheaters. As a result, the casinos alter their rules and procedures to combat winning blackjack players. Card counters may be forcibly ejected, legally or otherwise. In extreme cases, they see the counter as a cheater, and report you to a detective agency that keeps a book of cheaters. Sometimes the dealers will count cards along with you and shuffle up only when the count goes in your favor - this is called "preferential shuffling".

Are the glory days over?

Unfortunately, the game of blackjack has become more difficult to beat and it is no longer a road to riches. It takes a lot more than reading a few books and practicing on a computer simulator to be successful. Furthermore, if you do find a good game the casino will most likely limit the table's bet spread to no more than 4 units and put a maximum cap on bets. The way that Blackjack is now played in major casinos worldwide simply doesn't allow for the easy practice of the theory. Casinos simply got tired of being taken for millions by blackjack teams and well-bankrolled counters, and changed the rules and methods of dealing and playing the game. Additionally, they hired personnel that knew how to count cards better than the players trying to beat the casinos. Furthermore, surveillance technology is now so sophisticated that any person who walks into any casino can be instantly identified.

The real deal

Most people think of card counting as this wild ride you go on while making and losing millions of dollars. They think if you are making $25/hour then you can make $2 million over a 40-year career. But you can't think of it like that. If you are playing $50 and you have a 1% edge then you are only making 50 cents per hand - not very exciting. You are simply acting as a toll booth where the casino sticks 2 quarters in your pocket on every hand. The main metric that professional players look at is their theoretical win rate, because that's what they will make in the long-run. If your theoretical win for the week is $500 but you won $7,000 (very possible) then YOU didn't make $7,000 - YOU made $500 and luck made you $6,500. Card counters make money the slow and steady way - and it gets boring. If you want to see what card counting is really like, then check out my blackjack book review page and buy "Las Vegas Blackjack Diary".


Sometimes card counting is just a phase the average blackjack player goes through. First, he plays blackjack and realizes how much money he is losing. Then he buys a couple of card counting books and decides to learn about it. Then he starts practicing card counting at home. Then he goes to a casino to play and gets marginal results. At this point most quit.

Most people do not have the time, desire, or energy to do what it takes to become a successful card counter. Card counting is not rocket science, but it does take work. But just because you won't be a professional card counter doesn't mean you shouldn't learn how to count cards. There are plenty of players who simply want to improve their game or enjoy the intellectual challenge of taking on the casinos, while hopefully making a few bucks and earn some comps in the process. Even if you only break even at blackjack, at least you will be able to play all the blackjack you want over a lifetime and not lose money (theoretically speaking).


Log in to post comments
or Register

do you count the 7-8-9 with the hi lo system

kentrontika on November 21, 2014

What's Your Cosmo? card game. A good game to sharpen counting skills without the monotony of just practising on poker cards.

STLisa on July 20, 2013

Hi, how long will people be able to count and is there an ultimate camouflage system out there? thank you

jackblack on August 4, 2012

There probably always will be teams. But they will probably become less successful, on average, as time goes on. Just like card counting became "the way" to make money in a casino back in the 70's and 80's, "team play" became the new way in the 90's and 2000's. But the popularization of team play from mass-marketed movies like "21" is an indicator that it's time has passed.

HPG ADMIN on July 19, 2009

Well those last four paragraphs persuaded me to give up on this possible career.
I hate modern technology ):
So are there still Card Counting teams today?

Foxy on July 18, 2009

Card counting is for blackjack.

HPG ADMIN on November 29, 2008

Does card counting work for texas Holdem and carribean poker in casinos, if yes can you kindly give me an example...

God Bless

steven panjabi on November 29, 2008

Blackjack Card Counting - Card Counting

HPG ADMIN on June 15, 2006