How To Count Cards

Free online game teaches you
to count cards while you play

The Knock-Out Card Counting system

The house has the statisical advantage in BlackJack. But, unlike other games in a casino, BlackJack has a history. Used cards are put aside and new cards are dealt from the shoe. Card counting seeks to use the history to change the advantage to the player. When there are more cards with a value of ten in the shoe, the advantage shifts from the house to the player. Accurate card counting lets you know when there are more ten cards, and thus when the advantage shifts to your favor. You increase your bet when the odds are in your favor and you should statistically win more hands. The casino attempts to discourage card counting by using multiple decks and reshuffling before the shoe is empty.

The game uses the KO Count method. This is counting method put forward by Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs. It is one of the easiest methods to use, if not the easiest. The method can be described in a series of points.

of Decks
1 0
2 -4
6 -20
8 -28

Establish the running count. The KO Count system relies on a running count to tell you when the odds favor the player. The running count is simply a number. You must keep this number in your head. For every card you see that is then discarded, you add or subtract it's value from the running count. This running count tracks the history of the game.

The KO Count method is an unbalanced count. That means if you start from running count of zero and count through a single deck you will not wind up back at zero. In fact, with a single deck you will wind up a +4. A balanced method on the other hand will wind up at a zero. The benefit of the unbalanced KO Count is that you only need to remember the running count. You do not need to calculate a true count from the running count.

The initial start of the running count depends on the number of decks being used. The basic formula for the "initial running count" (IRC) is (decks - 1) x -4. The means the IRC is defined by the table here.

Note: balanced versus unbalanced counting methods

You just learned that the KO Count is an unbalanced count, and that means you don't need to convert to a True Count like you would in balanced count. Why does converting to a True Count make it more difficult to count cards?

First, converting to a True Count requires you to divide the Running Count by the number of decks left in the shoe. Performing mental division is no easy task when you consider that you are concentrating on basic strategy, counting every card on the table to keep the accurate Running Count, and dealing with the casino waitress, dealer and other players. Imagine a two deck game with 3/4 deck left in the shoe and trying to do fractional division while playing.

Second, you've got to accurately estimate the decks left in the shoe. You would do this this by estimating the numbers of decks discarded and subtracting that from the number of decks you started the shoe with. Learning the skill of accurate estimating the discards alone will take practice.

These are the two reasons I recommend the KO Count. You are sacrificing a little bit of accuracy for ease of play.

Face Value
2 +1
3 +1
4 +1
5 +1
6 +1
7 +1
8 0
Face Value
9 0
10 -1
Jack -1
Queen -1
King -1
Ace -1

Assigning values to the individual cards. Each card you see on the table (and is then discarded) is translated into a value and added to the running count. The values assigned to the cards is demonstrated in this table.

Pair Total
King, 8 -1 -21
8, 4 +1 -20
5, 2 +2 -18
Ace, Jack -2 -20

For example, let's say you are counting into a six deck shoe. The Initial Running Count (IRC) is (6 - 1) x -4. That means the IRC is -20. Now, imagine you see the cards being dealt. You translate each card into it's KOCount value, and then add that amount to the running total. When you have a high running count number, there are more ten cards in the shoe. At this point you realize that the odds are in your favor.

It is generally recommended that you practice counting in pairs of cards. When you look at several cards at once, you can quickly cancel out a pair consisting of one low card and one high card.

of Decks
1 0 +2
2 -4 +1
6 -20 -4
8 -28 -6

Betting Spread. All card counting system rely on knowing when the odds shift from the house to player. As we seen, by careful counting the you can maintain a running count of the ratio of high to low cards in the shoe. The next part is taking advantage of the shifting odds. You take advantage of the odds by increasing your bet when the odds are in your favor. You wager more when you have a better chance of beating the house.

Our game uses a simple two wager scenario. A low bet, usually the table minimum. You use the low bet on a new deck, after the dealer shuffles or when the running count is not in your favor. The second bet is the high bet. This should 10 times the low bet. So, if you are playing a $25 low bet, the high bet would be $250. The high bet should be no more than 2% of your bankroll.

The "key point" is the critical point at which you should switch between the low and high wager. Just like the IRC value, the key point depends on the number of decks in the shoe. The various key can be seen in this table. Whenever the running count reachs the key point our higher, you should be using the high bet. When the running count is less than key point, you use the low bet.

Now you have a complete card counting method.