How to count blackjack cards

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Blackjack is one of the few games in the casino in which the cards are not returned to the deck or shuffled after each deal. As a rule, the dealer deals several times from a shuffle or even one deck. This gives players the advantage of being able to count the cards and estimate the chance of winning.

Counting Techniques

There are dozens of proprietary counting systems in blackjack. But the basic principles on which they are built are only a few. Let’s rank them from simple to complex.


Ace-Five, or Ace-Five, is blackjack’s easiest counting technique. It only counts aces and fives.

The gist of the system:

  • Counting starts at zero.
  • Each five in a deal is +1, and each ace is -1.
  • The higher the number, the better the chances of winning.


  • Does not require any changes to the game.
  • Easy to master, even for beginners.
  • Disadvantages:

Doesn’t give a big advantage in the game.

There are two modifications of the Ace-Five system. They use the same principle of calculation, but differ in the way of changing the size of the bet:

It doubles when it reaches a certain limit, such as +5.
The amount corresponds to specific account values.


Calculating with the Plus-Minus system is also not difficult. It does not require a calculator – only attentiveness and quick reaction. By the way, this is the technique used in the movie “Twenty-One”, based on real events.

The essence of the system:

  • Cards are divided into “small” (two to six), “neutral” (seven to nine) and “large” (ten to ace) and have values of +1, 0 and -1 respectively.
  • The higher the score, the more favorable the situation for the player.


  • Simple.
  • Allows you to favorably change your strategy depending on the score.
  • Disadvantages:

Requires attentiveness, timely and correct strategy changes.
Inaccurate – the values of the cards do not correspond to the real mathematical expectation.
For example, the output of fives are more favorable than twos, but the system “plus or minus” is estimated the same. This omission tried to eliminate in the improved versions with a larger spread, but such techniques are more difficult to apply.


At the time of its creation, Hi-Opt had no analogues among other techniques. The authors used an unusual approach – they took into account not only the mathematical expectation, but also the caution of the game strategy.

The essence of the system:

  • Only threes, fours, fives, sixes (favorable) and tens (unfavorable) count.
  • The other cards are not counted.
  • The principal difference between Hi-Opt and other techniques is that aces are ignored. The creators of the technique found that this is correct in terms of changing the course of the game.


  • Simplicity.
  • Suitable for cautious players.
  • Disadvantages:

Can’t use an aggressive strategy.
Theoretically, counting aces is effective, but in practice it can get in the way, especially if you lack game experience. Therefore, the Hi-Opt strategy is well suited for beginners.


“Halves” can be considered an improved version of “Plus and Minus.” This technique is quite complicated and requires good counting skills.

The essence of the system:

  • Cards are assigned a value proportional to the change in the mathematical expectation of the game after they come out.
  • The higher the count number, the better the chance of winning.


  • High accuracy.
  • Disadvantages:

Mistakes in counting negate effectiveness.
The “Half Draw” technique was described in 1975 in his book “Professional Blackjack” by American player Stanford Wong. In the original version, the values of the cards are halved (from -1 to +1.5).

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