Hi/Lo Card Counting System

The Hi/Lo blackjack card counting system is very popular and it’s also easy to learn and use. Used in conjunction with basic strategy this system can be a good starting point for wannabe card counters or just those looking to improve their blackjack strategy.

The general advice this blackjack card counting system gives you is that you place larger bets when the odds are in your favour and smaller when they are against you which allows you to maximise winnings and minimise losses.

Getting started with Hi/Lo

In blackjack, there are the low cards, neutral cards and the high cards:

Low cards: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
High cards: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten,
Neutral cards: 7, 8, 9.

Aces are the only cards in blackjack card counting which can be counted as a high card or low card. Neutral cards are those which do not have an effect on the count used with many various blackjack counting systems. Basically, blackjack card counting is all about keeping track of the high cards and low cards that have been dealt on the table by the dealer. In order for one to make use of the card counting systems you need to have a good memory and you should not lose track of your count during game play — concentration is of paramount importance.

In this guide we will mainly look at the Hi/Lo blackjack counting system and how best it can be implemented during game play.

Hi/Lo counting system: running count

Generally, this system focuses on the high and low cards that affect the count. Low cards increase the count and high cards reduce the count. Thus the low cards carry a positive sign (+) while the high cards carry a negative sign (-). Neutral cards do not affect the count.

Players should note that the count commences at 0 after the shuffle. Each time you see a high card on the table you should decrease the count by 1 and if a low card is dealt increase the count by 1. Do nothing to the count when neutral cards are dealt, and the result of the count is known as the Running Count (RC).

For example, we will take a look at cards that are being held by five players on a blackjack table after the deck has been shuffled.

Player 1 – J/K,
Player 2 – 2/8,
Player 3 – 7/9,
Player 4 – 5/8,
Player 5 – 3/4
Dealer face card – King.

  • Your initial count is 0.
  • Player 1 has two high cards (decrease count by 2) and this means that your RC = -2;
  • Player 2 has a low card (increase count by 1) and a neutral card (no change to the count). This means the RC = -1;
  • Player 3 has neutral cards (no change to the count) then the RC = -1;
  • Player 4 has a low card (increase the count by 1) and a neutral card (no change to the count) then the RC = 0;
  • Player 5 has two low cards (increase count by 2) then the RC = 2.
  • The dealer’s face-up card is a high card (decrease the count by 1) so the overall RC = 1.
  • Hi/Lo counting system: true count

    True count is a method of measuring how favourable the remaining cards in the deck could be. Each extra card that is dealt on the table by the dealer will add 0.5% advantage to the player. Therefore with the true count we have to calculate the exact advantage of extra high cards remaining in the deck.

    In order to calculate the true count you have to know the exact number of decks that are being used in the blackjack variation. Many blackjack variations make use of four to eight decks. The true count (TC) is the running count (RC) divided by the number of decks remaining.

    TC = RC / Number of decks remaining.

    TC gives out the assessment of how advantageous are the remaining cards.

    Hi/Lo counting system: house advantage

    Normally, the dealer starts off with the house advantage because they get to play last. Therefore we need to calculate at which point the player gets to have an advantage over the house. In order to calculate this, you first of all have to know the rules of the variation you are playing.

    The number of decks used in the game is also of paramount importance. A player will always start off with the disadvantage and this should be subtracted from the TC. O.5% disadvantage = -1 to the TC while a disadvantage of 0.75% = -1.5 to the TC.