Yes, you can count cards with one deck in blackjack. In fact, card counting is often most effective in single-deck games. Here’s why:

01

Simplicity: With only one deck, it’s easier to keep track of which cards have been played. The fewer the cards, the simpler it is to determine what remains in the deck.

02

Accuracy: Card counting in single-deck games can give a more accurate assessment of your chances. When you know exactly which cards have been dealt, you can make more informed decisions about hitting, standing, doubling down, or splitting.

03

Effectiveness: The effect of each card that is removed from a single deck is more significant compared to a game with multiple decks. This means the count can change more drastically, allowing for potentially more advantageous situations for the player.

Things to be aware of if you’re going to do this:

01

Increased Casino Scrutiny: Casinos are aware that single-deck games are more vulnerable to card counting. As a result, they watch these games more closely and may shuffle the deck more frequently to counteract card counting.

02

Rule Variations: Some casinos alter the rules of single-deck blackjack to increase the house edge. For example, they might pay 6:5 for a blackjack instead of the traditional 3:2, or restrict options like doubling down and splitting.

03

Skill Required: While counting cards in a single deck is simpler, it still requires practice and skill. You need to be able to keep track of the cards quickly and accurately, all while playing your hand according to basic strategy.

04

Limited Availability: Single-deck blackjack games are less common in casinos because of their vulnerability to card counting. When available, they often come with less favorable rules to offset the advantage that a skilled card counter could gain.

Count me in

Card counting in blackjack is a strategy used to track the ratio of high cards to low cards left in the deck. The principle behind card counting is that a deck rich in high cards (10s, face cards, and Aces) is more favorable to the player, while a deck rich in low cards (2s through 6s) is more favorable to the dealer. Here’s a basic overview of how card counting works:

01

Basic Principle: High cards are beneficial to the player because they increase the chances of getting a blackjack and make the dealer more likely to bust. Low cards, conversely, are beneficial to the dealer and decrease the player’s chances of winning.

02

Running Count: The player keeps a “running count” by assigning values to different cards and then adding or subtracting these values as the cards are dealt. A common system is the Hi-Lo system, where 2-6 are counted as +1, 7-9 are counted as 0, and 10-Ace are counted as -1.

03

True Count: In games with multiple decks, card counters convert the running count into a “true count” by dividing the running count by the number of decks remaining. This gives a more accurate representation of the deck’s composition.

04

Betting Strategy: Card counters bet more when the count is in their favor (a high positive count) and bet less (or not at all) when the count is unfavorable. This is because a positive count indicates a higher chance of receiving a high card, which could lead to more blackjacks or successful double downs.

05

Playing Decisions: Besides influencing bet sizes, the count can also affect playing decisions. For example, a player might deviate from basic blackjack strategy based on the count.

06

Legal Status: Card counting, when done in one’s head and without external devices, is not illegal, but casinos view it unfavorably. If a casino suspects a player of card counting, they can ask the player to leave or prohibit them from playing blackjack. Casinos employ various measures to counteract card counting, including using multiple decks, shuffling frequently, or imposing betting limits.

07

Skill and Practice: Successful card counting requires practice, quick mental calculation, and the ability to play without drawing attention. It’s not just about counting cards but also about how you play and manage your bets.

01

As the name suggests, a single-deck game uses just one 52-card deck, whereas multi-deck games use four, six, or eight decks, each with 52 cards.

02

The house edge for single-deck blackjack games is 0.15%, while the house edge for multi-deck blackjack games ranges from 0.46% to 0.65%.

03

While multi-deck blackjack games pay out 3:2 in many casinos, single-deck blackjack games often pay out 6:5 (substantially raising the house edge as a result).

04

In comparison to the typical 5.8% for multi-deck blackjack, the house edge on insurance in single-deck blackjack is 5.9%. But then, who cares? We don’t take insurance.

05

It’s easier to card count. Assuming you’re in a land-based casino, of course. Otherwise, don’t even bother trying.

Differences in Gameplay and Strategy

Card Counting Effectiveness:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Easier for card counting as each card played has a greater impact on the composition of the remaining deck.

  • Card counting is more challenging and less effective because the removal of a single card has a smaller impact on the overall deck.

Basic Strategy Complexity:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Basic strategy is simpler and more straightforward due to fewer card combinations.

  • Strategy can be slightly more complex with more combinations to consider.

Impact of Rule Variations:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Rule changes (like blackjack payout ratios) can have a more pronounced effect on the house edge.

  • The impact of rule variations is slightly diluted due to the number of decks.

House Edge and Odds:

  • Single-Deck Games
  • Multi-Deck Games
  • Generally have a lower house edge, primarily because the probability of hitting a blackjack (an Ace and a 10-value card) is higher with fewer decks.

  • typically have a slightly higher house edge, but this can vary depending on specific game rules.

Availability and Rules:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Less common in casinos. Often, casinos adjust rules (like 6:5 blackjack payouts) to compensate for the lower house edge.

  • More common and may have more player-friendly rules (like 3:2 blackjack payouts).

Shuffling Frequency:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • More frequent shuffling by the dealer to combat card counting.

  • Shuffling is less frequent, but continuous shuffling machines are often used.

Casino Scrutiny:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Players, especially those suspected of card counting, may be monitored more closely.

  • Less scrutiny on players regarding card counting.

Game Pace:

  • Single-Deck
  • Multi-Deck
  • Can be faster as there are fewer cards to manage.

  • May be slightly slower due to the larger number of cards.

Impact on Gameplay

  • Betting Strategies
  • Playing Decisions
  • In single-deck games, players may adjust their bets more aggressively based on the count. In multi-deck games, bet variation based on the count is less pronounced.

  • Some playing decisions in basic strategy (like whether to double down or split) can be affected by the number of decks in play.

Doubling

Doubling is a popular ideal move in a single-deck blackjack strategies that may be employed in a number of situations and hands, but is frequently done after discovering the dealer’s hand. When the dealer shows 2-9 and the player has a 5-5 pair, for instance, doubling is the right action.

Splitting Pairs

You should use the following strategies when you are dealt pairs in single-deck blackjack:

01

Pair of 2s – Split on the dealer’s 3 through 7, or otherwise hit

02

Pair of 3s – Split on the dealer’s 4 through 7, or otherwise

03

Pair of 4s – Split on the dealer’s 4 through 6, or otherwise hit

04

Pair of 5s – Double down on the dealer’s 2 through 9, or otherwise hit on the dealer’s up card of 10 or Ace

05

Pair of 6s – Split on the dealer’s 2 through 7, or otherwise hit

06

Pair of 7s – Split on the dealer’s 2 through 7, or otherwise hit on ace, 8, or 9, and stand on 10

07

Pair of 8s – Always split a pair of 8s

08

Pair of 9s – Split on the dealer’s 2 through 6 or 8 or 9, or otherwise stand

09

Pair of 10s – Always stand on a 10

10

Pair of Aces – Always split Aces

When to stand

Using the best single-deck blackjack strategy possible, a player must: Place her feet on the gentle hands of A-9 and A-10 and the rough hands of 17 and 21. The player must stand on 2, 7, and 8 if the dealer reveals 3-6 and the player receives an A-7. A stand is the wisest course of action for the 10-10 pair as well.

When to hit

The most common move in single-deck blackjack is to hit. Hitting is nearly as important for one-deck blackjack as it is to multi-deck games. With this strategy, you must hit on nearly all pairs, except a pair of aces, 10s, 9s, and 8s, in which case you must base your next optimal move on the dealer’s upcard.

Hitting is essential for most soft hands, as well, except for Ace-10, Ace-9, and Ace-8. You must hit on most hard hands too, except for hands worth 17 through 21.

You don’t need to be exceptionally good at math to count cards in blackjack. While card counting involves some mathematical concepts, it’s more about memory and concentration than complex calculations. Here’s what’s typically required:

01

Basic Arithmetic: The most common card counting systems, like the Hi-Lo system, require you to add or subtract 1 from a running count based on the cards you see. This is relatively simple arithmetic.

02

Memory Skills: You need to keep track of the running count in your head as the game progresses. This requires a good memory but not necessarily advanced mathematical skills.

03

Concentration and Focus: Keeping an accurate count while playing (and possibly engaging in conversation, managing your bets, and applying basic blackjack strategy) requires a high level of concentration and focus.

04

Practice: Like any skill, card counting improves with practice. Initially, it may seem challenging, but with practice, maintaining the count becomes more manageable.

05

Understanding the Basics of Blackjack: You should understand the basic rules and strategy of blackjack to effectively use card counting. This involves knowing when to hit, stand, double down, and split, based on your hand and the dealer’s upcard.

06

Division for True Count Calculation: In multi-deck games, you might need to convert the running count into a true count by dividing by the number of decks remaining. This requires some division, but it’s usually straightforward.

Use the Hi-Lo System and start by assiging values to the cards as follows:

The most common move in single-deck blackjack is to hit. Hitting is nearly as important for one-deck blackjack as it is to multi-deck games. With this strategy, you must hit on nearly all pairs, except a pair of aces, 10s, 9s, and 8s, in which case you must base your next optimal move on the dealer’s upcard.

Hitting is essential for most soft hands, as well, except for Ace-10, Ace-9, and Ace-8. You must hit on most hard hands too, except for hands worth 17 through 21.

2 to 6 (low cards): +1

7 to 9 (neutral cards): 0

10 to Ace (high cards): -1

Steps to Count Cards Using the Hi-Lo System

Start with a Running Count of 0: At the start of a new deck or shoe, begin with a running count of 0.

Update the Count for Each Card Dealt:

Add 1 when a low card (2-6) is dealt.

Subtract 1 when a high card (10-Ace) is dealt.

Do Nothing for neutral cards (7-9).

Keep a Continuous Count: As each card is seen, update your count. You’re not memorizing cards, just maintaining a running total.

Calculate the True Count (in Multi-Deck Games):

Divide the running count by the number of decks remaining to be dealt. This gives you the “true count.”

For example, if your running count is +10 and there are 2 decks remaining, the true count is +5.

Adjust Your Bets Based on the Count:

Higher True Count: Bet more when the count is high, as this means more high cards are left in the deck, increasing your chances of a favorable hand.

Lower or Negative True Count: Bet the minimum when the count is low or negative, as this means more low cards are left, which is less favorable.

Use Basic Blackjack Strategy: Card counting should be used in conjunction with basic blackjack strategy to make the best playing decisions.

The time it takes to learn to count cards in blackjack can vary widely depending on several factors, including the individual’s learning pace, the amount of time dedicated to practicing, and the complexity of the card counting system being learned. Here’s a general breakdown:

Understanding the Basics: Learning the basic concept of a simple card counting system like the Hi-Lo method can be accomplished relatively quickly, often within a few hours. This involves understanding how to assign values to different cards and practicing maintaining a running count.

Practicing and Gaining Speed: Becoming proficient in keeping the count quickly and accurately, while cards are being dealt, may take several weeks of practice. This stage is crucial and requires consistent practice.

Mastering the Count in a Casino Environment: Being able to maintain the count in a distracting casino environment while also applying basic blackjack strategy, managing bets, and acting naturally can take additional time. This might require months of practice.

Learning Advanced Techniques: If you choose to learn more complex counting systems or advanced techniques (like shuffle tracking or team play), this will extend the learning time even further.

Regular Practice and Refinement: Like any skill, card counting requires regular practice to maintain proficiency. Even after learning the skill, periodic practice is necessary to keep your counting skills sharp.

Counting cards in blackjack is a skill that can be learned, but its difficulty varies depending on individual aptitudes and the effort put into practice

01

Memory and Concentration: Card counting requires a good memory and a high level of concentration. You need to keep track of the running count amidst the distractions of a casino environment.

02

Speed and Accuracy: The ability to count quickly and accurately as cards are dealt is crucial. This becomes more challenging in a fast-paced game or when playing at a table with multiple players.

03

Mental Arithmetic: While the math involved in basic card counting systems like the Hi-Lo method is not complex (mostly adding and subtracting one), doing it quickly and without obvious signs of concentration can be challenging.

04

Applying Strategy: Beyond counting, you also need to apply basic blackjack strategy and adjust your bets according to the count, which requires additional skill and discretion.

05

Casino Countermeasures: You have to count discretely to avoid detection by casino staff, as casinos watch for card counters and may ask them to leave or play another game. This adds a layer of stress and complexity to the task.

FAQ

Can you win at blackjack without counting cards?

Yes, you can win at blackjack without counting cards. While card counting can give players an edge in certain situations, it’s not the only way to win. Use bonuses, basic strategy, good game selection, and solid bankroll management to increase your chances of walking away a winner.

Do blackjack dealers count cards?

No. There’s no advantage to them to do so. The dealer can’t alter their play style, even if they did know something about the deck, because their decisions are automated. They follow the table rules. e.g. Any hand worth 17 or above is a stick, and anything worth 16 or below is a hit.

Do professional blackjack players count cards?

Yes, most professional blackjack players count cards as part of their strategy. Card counting is a legitimate and widely recognized method among professional blackjack players to gain an advantage over the casino.

How much of an edge does card counting give?

The edge gained from card counting in blackjack can vary depending on several factors, including the specific counting system used, the skill of the player, and the rules of the game being played. Generally, a skilled card counter can gain an edge of about 0.5% to 1.5% over the house.

How do you count cards in a single deck?

Counting cards in a single deck involves assigning a value to each card and keeping a running count as cards are dealt. Low-value cards (2-6) are typically counted as +1, mid-range cards (7-9) as 0, and high-value cards (10-Ace) as -1. Maintain the total count to gauge the deck’s composition favorability.

How many decks is best for card counting?

The ideal number of decks for card counting practice is typically one to two decks for beginners, which simplifies learning the process. However, casinos commonly use six to eight decks, so practicing with this range can better simulate actual playing conditions and improve skills for real-world scenarios.

Can you count cards in one card poker?

In one-card poker, counting cards is not applicable, as the game involves minimal cards in play, making the concept unfeasible. Success in one-card poker relies more on strategy and reading opponents than on counting cards, which is a technique typically associated with games like Blackjack.

How many people can play blackjack with one deck?

Blackjack with one deck is most commonly played with 2 to 7 players at a table. This traditional format ensures a balanced game and allows for optimal strategy application, making it ideal for both novice and experienced players who enjoy classic casino experiences.

Is single-deck blackjack beatable?

Single-deck blackjack is the most beatable form of blackjack that you can play, as the standard deck size means that you don’t have to play as long with regular odds before your counting tips the scales in your favor.

In multi-deck blackjack, the game will go on for longer before your advantage comes into play. This means a higher chance of losingl before you can put the techniques you’ve learned to your advantage.

What is a good blackjack count?

Using the Hi-Lo card counting method, a “good count” refers to a situation where the running count is significantly positive. Typically this is when we begin to creep into the 4, 5, and 6 counts. The higher the positive count, the better. This is because a higher positive count indicates a greater concentration of high-value cards remaining in the deck, increasing the chances of the dealer busting and the player hitting blackjacks or winning with higher hands.