Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2023 10:51

How to count cards at blackjack?

How to count cards at blackjack
Many players have probably heard that blackjack is the only game where the professional player can get a real mathematical advantage over the casino. People who count cards in blackjack are called counters. This article describes the basic rules of counting cards in blackjack and illustrates one of the most popular card counting systems - plus or minus.

Blackjack is not the only game where players can obtain a positive mathematical expectation of winning. Our site contains information that allows players to get an advantage even at slots. Learn more on the next page:

How to count cards at blackjack?

All face cards (Jack, Queen, King and Ten) give 10 points. Card counting systems do not differ a lot from each other. The player can calculate the probability of appearance of big and small cards. When a player knows what type of cards (big or small) are left in the deck, it is much easier to double or surrender his hands.

For example: if you know that there are a lot of big cards left, you can double any cards that cannot bust against a dealer's 6 or 5. From the other hand, it will be easy "surrender" with small card against the dealer's 10.


During counting, we are trying to get the situation, when a lot of big cards (10 points) are in the deck. This situation is called "warm deck," and it is a good reason for increasing the stakes.

What are the ways

Plus-Minus System
Edward Thorp opened counting cards system. But his method was very complicated - each card has its value: from -9 to +11, so the counting process, considering all these values was incredibly difficult. Thorpe system urgently needs to be simplified.

System plus or minus

In 1963 card counting system named Plus-minus appeared. It was much more straightforward and understandable to the average person. Strictly speaking, many card counters use the system so far. It was only a little to correct and accounted for the basic strategy.

  • In the "plus or minus" all the cards are divided into three groups, each of which is assigned its value +1 (for small cards 2-6), 0 (for medium-sized cards 7-9) and -1 (for big cards, aces and tens). The sum of points in one deck consisting of 52 cards is zero.
  • Every time player sees that cards are out from the deck he adds +1 for each small card (2-6), -1 for each face-card (10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace) and skip all middle (sevens, eights, nines) cards in counting. The plus-minus system allows us to understand how warm the deck is right now: +10 (warm), +15 (extra hot), around 0 is normal, any minus number - cold.

Mathematical expectation depending on the counting

If you are using plus-minus counting system, you can expect for the following mathematical expectation:

Live count Changing the winning expectation
–10 –4,79%
–3 –1,71%
–2 –1,12%
–1 –0,53%
0 +0,09%
+1 +0,73%
+2 +1,36%
+3 +1,98%
+10 +7,39%

With a negative value (-2 or lower), you must reduce the stake, or skip the hands, continuing to count cards of other players. If the account has positive value cards (two or more), rates can be increased.

Live casino

Live gambling
Let's see if we can count cards in blackjack when we play online? You should check whether the dealer is using a shuffling machine or shuffling all cards with hands. If the machine is used - the counting of cards cannot be applied here (as it shuffles cards before every hand). If a dealer is shuffling with hands - you can use this strategy without any doubts.

Blank cards

So, how does one count cards in blackjack Live casino? To use the variant of "empty card counting", you should:

  • Connect to the blackjack table in the live casino and start to count cards without any betting. You're just looking on cards of other players and count. 
  • Start to bet in only when the deck becomes "hot".

The movie Twenty-one

Counting Cards at Movie 21
Let's remember, for example, recently released in the cinema the movie "Twenty-one." Here Matt, well versed in mathematics, falls into the group of students who make a lot of money using card counting in blackjack. They used plus or minus system. They even developed a system of gestures and words to communicate with each other the value of the current deck. One group played with minimum stakes and counted cards. When the deck becomes hot, they showed secret signs to the "high-roller," who came to the table and began to play with maximum stakes.

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Where to play?

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Written by Vladislav Dibrov
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