Blackjack is one of the few casino games that can be beat at least in theory, by those who master the art of card counting. The concept can seem a bit abstract and overly complicated, but those who resort to this mathematical system of tracking cards know that with enough practice, it is possible to beat the odds in the long run. Depending on how many decks of cards are used, counting cards can be more or less difficult, but the most straightforward systems don’t require a lot of effort of special skills.

Card Counting is not illegal but using a device of any kind to do it might be. Either way, should you play at a live casino and be caught counting cards successfully they might ask you to leave and never come back.

The Hi-Lo counting system

This strategy of counting cards is the easiest and this explains why beginners love, and use it extensively. As the table below shows, the cards from 2-6 count for +1 and those ranging from 10-A count for -1, while the 7-8-9 have a value of 0. You only need to add and subtract these numbers on each betting round, but all the cards that are dealt need to be considered, including the dealer’s and the ones that other players receive. Due to its simplicity it works even in crowded casinos and allows the player to keep track of the cards dealt while playing his A-game.

2, 3, 4 , 5, 6 = +1
7, 8, 9 = 0
10, J, Q, K, A = -1

The goal of this system is to determine how many high cards are left when the decks are about to be depleted and bet massively when there are more cards that have a value of 10. The dealer’s edge is reduced when more high cards remain in the deck, as he risks getting busted more often, while the player can make Blackjack easier. If you do everything by the book, in the end the result should be zero, so it is easy to determine if things worked as planned.

The KO card counting system

This is one of the most popular card counting strategies used by Blackjack players, due to the fact that it requires little practice and the rules can be learned in a matter of minutes. It is very similar to the Hi-Lo system and the difference resides in the fact that the 5 also counts as +1. This means that at the end of the deck you will end the count on a positive note, with 4 points corresponding to the four sevens in the deck. If more decks are being used, then you will have a multiple of 4 if you didn’t miss any card.

In terms of efficiency, the KO counting system is just as good as the Hi-Lo so those who got used to either of them shouldn’t make the transition to the other. The risk of miscalculating outweighs the benefits and if more decks are used the errors will compound and in the end you might lose money by using a betting pattern that is based on false data. Make sure you have enough money at the table to stay on the plus side until the cards in the deck(s) are about to run our to determine whether the total amount is over or below. This is the time to cash in on your counting and you need to have enough chips left to bet.

The Hi-Opt counting system

This is basically the more advance version of the Hi-Lo strategy and it should only be tried by those who master the original system. Some cards have different values as depicted in the table below and it is vital to practice it a lot before playing at real tables. It is also a balanced counting system because in the end a value of zero should be reached if no mistakes were committed during the game.

3, 4 , 5, 6 = +1
2,7, 8, 9, A = 0
10, J, Q, K = -1

This is considered to be a more accurate system than the Hi-Lo but overall the downsides outweigh the benefits and rookies are advised to stick to the basic one. The amounts lost while playing due to the inability to focus on both the game and the counting offset the light benefits.

The Advanced Hi-Opt counting system

Last but not least this card counting strategy is the one that when mastered empowers the player to choose the ideal betting amount in the latter stages of the game. The trick is that it is so complex and demands an excellent ability to focus on both counting and playing that it is only recommended for veteran players. Those who are at the top of the blackjack food chain might give it a try, but they are advised to practice the strategy intensely before using it at real money tables. Values of +/-2 are added so that the one counting can determine how many of average cards are still in play not only low and high ones.

2, 3, 6, 7 = +1
8, 9, A = 0
10, J, Q, K = -2
4, 5 = +2