Counting Cards in Blackjack: How to Get Started

Blackjack, also known as 21, is one of the most popular card games played at casinos around the world. While most people see it as a game of luck, there is actually a strategic aspect to it that can significantly improve your odds of winning. One such strategy is called card counting.

What is Card Counting?

Card counting is a technique that allows skilled players to keep track of the ratio of high to low cards left in the deck. By doing so, players can make more informed decisions on their bets and actions, increasing their chances of winning over the long run.

Is Card Counting Legal?

Card counting itself is not considered illegal by any means. However, it is important to note that casinos do not look kindly upon card counters. While they cannot arrest you or take you to court for counting cards, they do have the right to ban you from their premises and prohibit you from playing blackjack.

How to Get Started with Card Counting:

If you’re interested in trying your hand at card counting, here are a few steps to help you get started:

1. Learn Basic Strategy:

Before you can start counting cards, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the basic strategy in blackjack. This includes knowing when to hit, stand, double down, or split. Once you have a good grasp of the basic strategy, you can move on to card counting.

2. Master the Hi-Lo System:

The Hi-Lo System is one of the most popular card counting methods used by players. It assigns a value of +1 to low cards (2-6), 0 to neutral cards (7-9), and -1 to high cards (10-Ace). By keeping a running count of these values as cards are dealt, you can estimate the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck.

3. Start with a Single Deck:

When you’re just starting out, it’s best to practice card counting with a single deck of cards. This will make it easier for you to keep track of the cards and calculate your running count. As you become more proficient, you can start to work with multiple decks.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice:

Card counting requires both speed and accuracy. The more you practice, the better you will become. Start by practicing at home with a deck of cards, trying to maintain a consistent count while dealing them out. Once you feel comfortable, you can try your skills at a local casino.

5. Use Disguises:

As mentioned earlier, casinos are not fans of card counters. To avoid arousing suspicion, consider using disguises or altering your appearance when playing. This may include changing your hairstyle, wearing glasses, or even using a fake identity.

6. Manage Your Bankroll:

Card counting does not guarantee immediate or consistent profits. There will be ups and downs along the way. It’s important to manage your bankroll effectively, setting aside a specific amount of money for your blackjack sessions and sticking to it.

7. Stay Alert:

Card counting requires focus and concentration. It’s essential to stay alert at all times, avoiding any distractions or temptations that may hinder your counting abilities. Remember, a single mistake can cost you dearly in the long run.


Card counting is a powerful skill that can give you an edge in the game of blackjack. However, it’s not a foolproof method, and success is never guaranteed. It requires a significant amount of practice, dedication, and discipline to become a proficient card counter. Before attempting to count cards in a casino, be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations, as casinos have strict measures in place to prevent and detect card counting. Good luck!

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