You Can Count Cards Even If You’re Terrible at Math

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Blackjack Card Counting Without Being a Math Genius

I’ve taught many gamblers how to count cards, and something that almost all of them believe before they start is that it’s too hard. Many of them also believe that they have to be really good at math to be a good counter.

Neither of these things is true. You don’t have to be a great mathematician, and it’s not too hard to learn. In fact, I once taught a teenager to be a good counter before they were even legally allowed in the casino. And she hates math.

Here’s a step-by-step guide that shows you how to count cards, even if you’re terrible at math.

Basic Card Counting

The first thing I’m going to do is take care of the fear of math used in card counting. Answer the following questions.

What is 1 + 1? What is 12 – 1?

These aren’t trick questions. The first answer is 2 and the second answer is 11. If you can answer these two simple questions, then you can count cards. Because counting cards is mostly about either subtracting 1 or adding 1 to a number. It doesn’t often get more complicated than that.

To be completely honest, it helps if you can add and subtract 1 with negative numbers. But if you have trouble with this, there’s an easy work-around. The work around is starting your count at 10 instead of at 0. Don’t worry about this right now, because it’s easy to do if you need to.

When you subtract or add 1 to a count it’s tracking a ratio of low and high cards. When the ratio is in your favor, you risk more. And when the ration isn’t in your favor, you risk less.

Using this simple information and ratio tracking system you get more money in play when you have a favorable situation, which leads to long term profits.

In the next section you’re going to learn about the best system to start with, including how to practice until you have it down well enough to break even when you play blackjack.

The Starting System

The best system to start with tracks two cards. You track the 5s and the aces as they’re revealed. Start with a count at 0, and every time you see a 5, you add 1 to your count. Every time you see an ace, you subtract 1 from your count.

Before you learn more, get a deck of cards, shuffle them, and turn the cards over two at a time. Don’t forget to keep your count. When you work through the entire deck, your count is back to 0.

If you struggle with negative numbers, start your count at 10. After you work through the deck, your count is back to 10.

As you can see, this is easy to do. Now, start flipping over two to four cards at a time and keep your count. When you see an ace and a 5 at the same time, you can cancel them out. Keep doing this until you can keep your count while turning the cards over faster than they are normally played in a casino.

Now, you know how to count cards using a simple system. But what do you do with this information to make money? The truth is that this simple system won’t win much money. But it will help you break even while playing real money blackjack, which is much better than most blackjack players can do.

Playing Blackjack

Here’s what you do with your count:

Anytime the count is at + 1 or lower, you bet the minimum amount the table allows. If you start at 10 instead of 0, this means when the count is 11 or lower, you bet the minimum.

When the count is +2 or +3 (or +12 or +13 if you start at 10) bet twice as much as the minimum.

When the count is +4 or +5 (+14 or +15 if you start with 10) you bet 4 times the minimum bet amount.

When the count is + 6 (+ 16 if you start with 10) or higher, bet 8 times the minimum bet amount.

In addition to following the simple rules I just listed, you should always decline insurance and you should use the correct basic strategy.

You can learn how to use this simple system quickly. And if you’re willing to spend a few hours practicing, you can use it to break even when you play blackjack. Learn more about blackjack rules and how they change the house edge to make sure you’re using this system at a good blackjack table.

Moving Up

Once you put the beginner system in practice, and are breaking even or winning a little bit of money, the next step is to move up to a better system. The good news is that a better system uses the same basics you learned in the simple system. You’re still mainly subtracting or adding 1 to a number.

More advanced counting systems have at least one big difference, and some have two big differences. All of the more advanced counting systems track more than two cards. You tracked 5s and aces with the simple system. Advanced systems track 10 to all 13 cards.

You can find super advanced counting systems that add and subtract more than 1 at times, but you never need to use these systems. All of the systems I recommend just use 1 to change your base number.

The other difference, depending on the system you use, is the need to convert your count number to something called a true count. Only one of the three systems that I recommend uses a true count conversion, but it’s the most popular system.

I recommend reading more about each of the three systems and learn as much as you can about the system you choose to use.

Here are the three systems I recommend:

  • Red 7
  • Hi Lo (Uses a true count conversion)
  • K O/li>

All three of these systems give you the tools you need to win as a blackjack player. All three of them are used by professional blackjack players, so you can’t go wrong with any of the three. I personally like the Red 7, but more pro counters use the Hi Lo system than any other.

You can read a great deal about these three systems online, but I suggest getting a good book that covers the system you want to use. Once you have the system down, practice using it the same way you practiced the simple system.

Start using more decks and flipping hands over faster and faster to make sure you always keep an accurate count.

Becoming a Master

You have everything you need to play like a professional blackjack player. Once you master one of the three systems I recommended in the last section, you’re winning more than you lose at the blackjack tables.

This doesn’t mean that you’re going to win every time you play, but it does mean that if you’re doing things correctly that you’re winning more overall than you lose.

Blackjack Cards

The truth is that you never have to move beyond becoming a professional card counter. Plenty of blackjack players make decent money counting cards. But there is another level of play that involves several different tactics that can help you win even more.

Each of these tactics requires a great deal of practice and study. None of these tactics is easy, and very few gamblers ever use them.

Here’s a list of advanced tactics:

These aren’t the only advanced tactics in existence, but if you learn how to use one of these, it can add a great deal of profit to your play. Research each of these three tactics to see if any of them interest you. Just remember that they’re all hard, so there’s no shame if you decide to stick with counting.

And don’t even start researching these advanced tactics until you’re winning more than you lose as a counter.


Now that you know that you don’t have to be a master mathematician to count cards at the blackjack table, why aren’t you getting started? It’s going to take some time to learn everything you need to know, but this time is going to pay dividends forever.

Start with the simple ace-five system and learn how easy it is to break even as a blackjack player. Then, move on to a better system and start making money. Once you master a counting system, the main thing you have to worry about after that is just not getting caught.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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