The Most Popular Card Counting Strategy
The first card counting system many people are introduced to is the Hi-Lo count. This system has the advantages of being both easy to use and accurate. While you will have to be completely familiar with basic strategy first, you can learn the Hi-Lo count very quickly and be ready to use it after only a few hours practice.
As the Hi-Lo count is often seen as an entry point into card counting it has been written about by every leading blackjack author. The system was first discussed publicly by Harvey Dubner, with Stanford Wong later providing a clear explanation of it in his famous book “Professional Blackjack”. Here you can find out how to go about using the Hi-Lo count, followed by why it works and what limitations this method has.
Hi-Lo Count – How to Use the Hi-Lo Count
When you approach a new table or the shoe has been freshly shuffled you start with a running count of 0 in your head. For each card you see after that, whether it is dealt to yourself, another player or the dealer, you either add 1 to this running count, subtract 1 or make no change.
The count value of the different cards are as follows:
- 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 = +1
- 7, 8, 9 = 0
- 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace = -1
As the game progresses your running count will be going up and down as the deck is dealt out. It is when the count is highest that the remaining deck is more favorable to you and when the count is at its lowest the house benefits.
For the most part your playing decisions should follow basic strategy, so in order to get an edge and increase your profits when the count is favorable, you will need to adjust your bets. To do this you need to find the ‘true’ count, which can be done by dividing your running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe.
When your true count is at 1 or lower you should be betting the minimum then increase it when the count gets to 2. You can then slowly continue betting bigger as the true count goes up before returning to your original bet size when the count is back to 1 or less.
As you become confident using this system you can, based on your true count, take different playing decisions than those described in basic strategy one. Actions which would previous be losing decisions become profitable with the added information about the remaining cards, for example taking insurance become a good bet with a true count of +3. These actions are listed in a table of “Index numbers” which appear in several publications including the previously mentioned “Professional Blackjack” by Stanford Wong.
Hi-Lo Count – Why the Hi-Lo Count Works
While the house edge is constant in the long run, providing you play perfect basic strategy, for individual hands this edge can change rapidly and can go in the players favor. As your count goes up there is a larger number of 10-value cards and aces left in the shoe, which means the player has a greater advantage in the upcoming hands.
Aces are strong because there is flexibility with playing them, as they can be valued as 1 or 11 and they can help make blackjack which typically pays out at 3/2. Meanwhile 10-value cards can also including blackjack, and basic strategy is more correct with a greater number of 10s in the deck, as it assumes the next card drawn will always be a 10.
If you bet according to your true count you will be wagering more when the odds are in your favor and less when they are against you.
Hi-Lo Count – The Limitations of the Hi- Lo Count
As the Hi-Lo count is the most commonly used method it is also the one which the casino employees are watching out for the most. While it is unlikely the dealer will be counting himself, dramatic swings in betting patterns can cause the floor staff and security cameras to pay closer attention to what is happening. So while you can exploit your edge more by betting higher you will have to exercise restraint in order not to be caught out.
In order to use this system effectively you will probably need to practice away from the tables to correctly convert your running count into a true count. Many players fall down when it comes to carrying out this calculation, a mistake costs them significantly. If you are struggling to do this then you may want to explore similar systems like the KO Count, which does not require a true count.
Finally like any card counting system the Hi-Lo count will not work on tables with continuous shufflers or online, where the cards are effectively shuffled before each hand. You will also want to avoid dealers who are shuffling the shoe often, meaning you will not be able to maintain an accurate count.