It generally takes about six months to a year to learn to count cards, but it may take even longer to become an expert or professional card counter. The time it takes to master card counting may also vary based on useful factors like game rules, the number of active decks of cards, where you play blackjack, and the system you are using.
Every blackjack card counting system takes practice, time, and dedication to learn and master, but some are more sophisticated and complicated than others.
The simplest card counting system is often considered to be Hi-Lo, and it is easy for most players to learn it. If you already know the basics of blackjack, you can learn the Hi-Lo system within weeks.
On the other hand, Wong Halves is the most complicated card-counting system to learn and memorize because of its complex setup. It might take you more than a year to learn this card counting system while mastering the Wong Halves version will take years.
Average and widely used systems like Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II take around 6-9 months to learn and long to master. Fortunately, you use the following advice and tips to learn how to count cards faster and more effectively:
Tips for Learning Card Counting Faster
Learn the basics of card counting
Card counting is one of the many techniques you can use to lower the casino’s house edge and beat the dealer. Blackjack, in and of itself, is regarded as a game of skill that is friendly to players. You can significantly boost your odds of winning by following the basic blackjack strategy alone, reducing the casino’s edge to about 0.5%.
You can improve your winning odds against the casino by learning to count cards. Conservative studies show that an effective card-counting system can switch the edge in favor of the player. Some simple versions like Hi-Lo and Hi-Opt can give the player an edge between one and two percent against the house.
Many people take years to master card counting, although the basics of the technique are pretty straightforward to grasp. To start with, you must categorize the playing cards in a standard 52-card deck into three distinct groups:
- Big cards – The category consists of high-value cards, namely 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces. These cards are assigned a count of +1.
- Medium cards – As the name suggests, these are mid-value cards (7, 8, and 9). Mid-tier cards are assigned a count of 0 (zero counts)
- Small cards – The category comprises low-value cards (2 through 6). They are assigned a count of negative one (-1)
As the cards are dealt from the shoe, and the game progresses, the count can decrease by -1, remain unchanged, or increase by +1, depending on the card in play. Once you have established the running count, you can then calculate the true count of the current shoe using the following formula:
True count = running count / # of remaining decks
As a beginner, you can practice counting cards through multiple ways to learn how to keep a running count. You can use desktop software, online tools, mobile trainer, or practice app. You can also play blackjack against a bot or yourself to learn the technique.
The true and running counts are always varying. As a general rule, the higher the true count, the more favorable the remaining cards are to the player. With this knowledge, you can adjust your gameplay based on your current hand and the dealer’s up-card. So, card counting can minimize your losses and increase your likelihood of hitting big wins.
Master the basic blackjack strategy first
It would help if you memorized the basic blackjack strategy before thinking about card counting. Card counting alone won’t help you win at blackjack. You need the basic strategy to give you the mathematically best moves for any blackjack scenario. With it, you can decrease the house edge of regular blackjack to the 0.5% range from around 2%.
As you can see, using the perfect basic strategy can deduct roughly 1.5% from the house edge. Card counting alone, on its end, can give you a profit margin or edge of about 1%. That means you will lose any benefits of card counting if you don’t follow the basic blackjack strategy down to the letter.
Understand the basic blackjack strategies
More than just learning basic blackjack strategy is required. You must also get to study and follow any applicable blackjack rules. After all, the variant and rules of the game you are playing will significantly affect your chances of winning at blackjack.
For instance, some blackjack variants, such as Blackjack Switch, reduce the player’s expected value (EV) by almost 7%. That is because, in this blackjack game, the dealer must push instead of busting on 22. But not all blackjack rules reduce your expected return— the following can actually boost your profit margin:
- The rule allowing players to join a blackjack game in the middle of the shoe
- Ability to re-split Aces
- The rule allowing doubling down after a pair splitting
Choose a card counting system that is right for you
You should take time to review and pick the correct card counting system, depending on your style, experience, and level of play. Hi-Lo and KO systems are a good choice for newbies, as they are less complicated.
As you gain more confidence, sharpen your skills, and master these simple techniques, you can then move on to learn more advanced card counting systems like Wong Halves for a better outcome.
Although card counting systems are usually easy to learn, some people may need help keeping count, especially when they combine the system with basic blackjack strategy. To master card counting, you have to practice your preferred system until everything comes naturally to you.
When you first learn to count cards, don’t rush to the nearest land-based casino and wipe out your bankroll. There are several exercises you can do first for free at home that let you practice this technique and improve your card counting skills quickly.
The most effective ones are the top card-counting exercises. Here’s an example you can try:
- First, grab a single deck of 52 playing cards and flip the cards, one by one, while keeping the running count.
- Maintain a running count until all cards have been flipped
- After every flip, you should know the value of the removed card. And, by the end of all flips, the count should be zero, as the count for high-value and low-value cards cancel out.
- Pace yourself – timing yourself can help because the game will move quickly on an actual blackjack table. You will improve your card-counting skills by increasing the number of cards you can successfully count within a given period.
Watch card counting practice and live-action videos
While practicing, you should also watch videos to see how the pros count cards. This way, you can see card counting in action and refer to their techniques.
When you finally move to the real action at a casino, it pays to begin with small bets. When learning card counting, it’s wise to do that while only placing small bets when playing at the casino. If available, kick off with $1 blackjack and practice your learned skills without risking too much. Once you have mastered card counting, you can switch to $20 or $50 blackjack tables.
Can you count cards with one deck?
Yes, you can count cards with one deck. With a simple card counting system like Hi-Lo, you only have to keep the running count to examine your edge in single-deck blackjack. You don’t have to worry about the true count, meaning you can easily combine card counting with a basic blackjack strategy.
If you are a new card counter, you should opt for single-deck blackjack variants. Single-deck blackjack games are easier for newbies to keep track of the running account and their edge. Plus, blackjack games with fewer decks have the best odds of winning.
In classic single-deck blackjack, you can expect the house edge to be a mere 0.16%. You can flip the tables and enjoy a profit margin or edge of up to 5% when you apply the Hi-Lo card counting system.
Casinos know this and often incorporate restrictions and rules into single-deck blackjack games to introduce an edge. Allowing the dealer to draw another card on a soft 17 and limiting the ability to re-split are some common restrictions that reduce your chances of winning.
Can you still count cards in 2022?
Yes, counting cards in 2022 and beyond is still possible. Although casinos have introduced a series of measures to discourage card counters over the years, card counting still thrives and works today.
The casinos have changed the game rules, introduced multiple decks, and now use electronic shuffling machines.
While some of these measures have been effective, you can still count cards in land-based and live-dealer casinos. Why is that so? The number of unskilled blackjack players now outnumbers professional card counters. Casinos no longer mind card counters because they can still make decent profits from casual and non-skilled players.
Do professional blackjack players count cards?
Most definitely, yes! Professional players rely heavily on card counting skills to make a living playing blackjack. But, they often combine it with basic strategy, extreme dedication, and bankroll management skills. Blackjack pros employ many other advantage-play strategies, including hole carding, shuffle tracking, edge sorting, and ace sequencing.
Do you have to be good at math to count cards?
No. You do not have to be a math genius to take advantage of card counting, reduce the casino’s house edge, and increase your chances of making money playing blackjack.
Hi-Lo, KO, and other simple card counting systems don’t require much in the way of complex math. All it takes is to keep a basic count based on whether a card is of a small, medium, or high value. With practice, you can easily master card counting and do it without being good at math.
Do you have to be smart to count cards?
That is not necessarily true. You don’t need an IQ of more than 116 to count cards effectively. Although casino films like 21 and Hangover make card counting seem complex, it is a simple thing to learn and use by ordinary folk.
All you need to count cards is a basic knowledge of blackjack and simple arithmetics. A sharp memory and recall skills might help.
How do you count cards for dummies?
Counting cards is really easy, so much so that even dummies can do it…
1- Know the values of cards in card counting
Each blackjack card has a value when counting cards. Low-value cards 2-6 have a +1 count, cards 7-9 have a zero count, and cards 10-Ace have a -1 count.
2- The count
In card counting, the count begins at zero (0). Add the value of each card dealt to the count as the game progresses. For instance, an Ace takes the count to -1, while a 5 adds +1.
Don’t count the dealer’s down card until it is revealed.
3- Keep the running count
In a balanced card counting system like Hi-Lo, you must keep the running count as the cards are dealt out of the shoe. Note that the minus-plus count doesn’t reset at the end of the hand, so you must keep going with the running count.
4- Bet accordingly
If the count is higher, you should place large bets to take advantage of your edge.
5- Count cards discreetly
It goes without saying that casinos don’t like card counters. Almost all expert card counters get banned sooner or later if caught.
Is Blackjack a game of skill?
Yes, blackjack is a game of skill. But it also includes a certain degree of luck.
Is gambling a crime in India?
Yes, gambling is a punishable crime in India. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 expressly criminalized the act of operating a public gambling center, casino, or house. If you are found guilty of running an illegal gambling center, Indian gambling law specifies that you will get a prison term of up to three months or fined up to ₹200.
The recently passed law of 2021 has enhanced the maximum penalty for people found owning gambling houses. The jail term was increased from a year to 3 years max. The maximum fines for violating the gambling law were also bumped to ₹1,00,000 (Rs 1 lakh) from ₹1,000.
The law in India also prohibits residents from going to gambling houses or visiting online casino sites. If found guilty, you can face up to a month of jail time or pay a fine of ₹100.
Is it hard to count cards?
It depends – some card-counting systems are harder to master than others. All common systems for counting cards take practice and time to learn and master. Some, like Wong Halves, are more complex than others, like Hi-Lo systems, which make it easy to count cards.
What is a good blackjack count?
What passes for a good count may vary, depending on your hand and the dealer’s up-card. For instance, a dealer’s 2 and your 12 are the same. But you need a true count of at least +3 to ignore the basic blackjack strategy and increase your bet size.
However, if you hold an 11 against the dealer’s Ace up-card, you can deviate from the basic strategy even when the true count is as low as +1. In a normal basic strategy, you would always hit 11 when the dealer shows an Ace, but if the true count is +1 or higher, you can double down.
Who owned the Stardust Casino?
Boyd Gaming owned the Stardust Casino. In its terminal years, the casino has more than 1,500 guest rooms and a casino with 85,000 square feet of gaming space.
Can anybody learn to count cards?
Yes, anybody can learn to count cards. There are so many different card counting systems that anyone can choose a system that is right for them.
How much money can you make from card counting?
It is possible to make a decent money counting card. But it needs dedication, time, perfect basic blackjack strategy, solid counting skills, large bankroll, and reliable bankroll management skills.
When combined with these strategies, card counting can help you balance out the casino’s advantage in blackjack.
Even so, your profit margin while counting cards is around 1% to 2%. When you take expected value into consideration, you can make around $390 per hour with a decent bankroll.
Is counting cards allowed?
Card counting is perfectly legal and allowed, according to federal, state, and local laws in the United States and across the globe. It is not allowed, however, if you receive help counting cards from another player or a device. And, since casinos are private entities, they reserve the right to throw out and ban well-known card counters to protect their financial interests.