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How to Count Cards in Blackjack – Step-by-Step

With a little practice, anyone can learn to count cards in Blackjack

Have you ever wanted your own personal ATM machine? Have you ever needed an extra $500, $1000, $2000? Wish you could just create it out of thin air? Well there’s one way that’s close. Counting cards in blackjack. So exactly how do you learn to count cards? It’s much easier than you think.

You don’t have to be Rain Man

or MIT students either.

Here is a step-by-step program to learn how to count cards in 8 weeks.  At the end of 8 weeks you’ll be able to count cards in a live casino.

Note: If you’re reading this, I assume you already know how to play Blackjack and Basic Strategy. 


Week 1) Buy 6 decks of playing cards

(If you want, you can also buy a shoe, and a 6 or 8 deck discard tray)

You need to buy 6 decks of standard playing cards because the best blackjack games for card counters are 2 and 6 deck games.  You need 6 decks for practice.

On day 1, spend 15 to 30 minutes memorizing each cards value. When you count cards, each card represents either a +1, -1, or 0. Memorize the following:

The 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are all   +1

The 10, all face cards, and Aces are all   -1

The 7, 8, 9 are all   0

For the remainder of week 1, spend a minimum of 2 hours a day flipping over cards and identifying what each card represents. This needs to become automatic, and it will after a few days. Soon you will see a 6 and immediately think +1.

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Week 2) Learn and practice the “Running Count” with 1 deck.

This second week is where the work begins. The “running count” is keeping track of the totals as each card comes out of the shoe. To begin, start with 1 deck, make sure the cards are shuffled good, and flip over each card and lay it off to the side.  As you see each card, either add 1, subtract 1, or 0,  to your running total. Practice for a minimum of 2 hours a day.

For example: if the first cards you see are 3, 8, 5, 10, King, 2   – your “running count” is +1.  Because,

3 = +1

8 = 0

5= +1

10 = -1

King = -1

2 = +1

(Running Total: +1)

TIP: After finishing a deck of 52 cards your running count is 0 if you counted correctly.

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Week 3) Practice the “Running Count” with 6 decks.

Continue practicing the running count, but now do it with 6 decks. You’ll flip through 312 cards while keeping track of the totals. With 6 decks your totals will get higher and lower than with 1 deck.

For example: With 6 decks you might get up to +15, before ending back at 0 when finished.

Again, a minimum of 2 hours per day, more if you have time because this is the main skill of counting cards.

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Week 4) Learn and practice identifying how many cards are stacked up by sight.

In blackjack, after the cards are dealt to each player and the round is over, the dealer will put the cards in the discard tray, like this,

You need to be able to identify by sight how many cards are in that tray.

A good way to practice is to hold the 6 decks of cards like the dealer does when they are asking someone to cut the deck. Then practice cutting the deck to 52 cards from the back, 104 from the back, etc.

You need to know if the stack of cards in a discard tray is (approx):

1 deck (52 cards)

1 Deck

Tip: 52 cards stacked up are about the size of an upright dime.


2 decks (104 cards)

2 Decks


3 decks (156 cards)

3 Decks


4 decks (208 cards)

4 Decks


5 decks (260 cards)

5 Decks

Note: you’ll never see 6 decks in a discard tray, so don’t worry about what it looks like.

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Week 5) Learn and practice the “True Count”


The “true count” tells you what your advantage or disadvantage is at any point in the game. Then, you use this information and bet accordingly. See TIP below.

The “true count” is your “running count” DIVIDED by the number of decks remaining in the shoe.

Here you incorporate what you learned in week 4 seeing the decks on sight. You can determine how many cards are remaining in the shoe by how many cards are in the discard tray.

For example: in a 6 deck shoe, if you see 2 decks stacked up in the discard tray, that means there are 4 decks left to be played.

To practice the true count, take your 6 decks and flip through them. As always, keep track of the running count, just add and subtract +1, -1, and 0 for each card as you see them. Then, after you look at the card, and place them in your discard tray, watch them pile up). As they pile up, (each deck) take the running count and divide that by number the decks remaining to be played.

For example: if your “running count” is +9, and you’ve got 3 decks in the discard tray, that means you have 3 decks remaining in the shoe (6 deck shoe) then your “true count” is +3

Tip: The “true count” tells you how much to bet. For example: If your minimum bet is $25, you would bet $75 if the true count is +3

Again, practice a minimum of 2 hours per day.

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Week 6) Continue practicing the running count and true count.

If you’re going to count cards in blackjack, you’ll always be doing this to maintain your skills.

(the students in Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions and the movie 21

practiced for 6 hours a day, for 6 months.

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Week 7) Start dealing to yourself

By this time, you know how to count cards. Now its just a matter of practice. So now you should deal to yourself like your really playing. Use basic strategy, and keep track of the running and true counts. Continue practicing 2 hours a day.

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Week 8) continue dealing to yourself

Keep practicing, and at the end of week 8, go to a casino and try counting live.  After 8 weeks, you should be able to follow the count if the dealer is not dealing too fast, and nobody is talking to you. 

But, if you continue to practice everyday and play regularly, soon it will not matter how fast the dealer is, or if the waitress is asking you to do Algebra – counting cards will become second nature and automatic.

Then you will win money in blackjack.

If you want to learn more about why card counting works, helpful tricks to make counting easier to learn, or gambling tips such as what’s in my Never Leave a Hot Gambling Table article, you can find all these answers and much more in my ebook How To Win Playing Blackjack eBook .

For only $9.99

30-day money back guarantee.

Click on the add cart, and you will receive my ebook “How To Win Playing Blackjack”

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2 Comments on How to Count Cards in Blackjack – Step-by-Step

  1. awesome tip about identifying how many cards in discard tray.
    There are a couple counting apps on playstore that I like to use during downtime when I am out and about
    count’em blackjack & count’em blackjack 2
    Thought I read in one article you’re from phx right? Should roll up to LV sometime.
    I Will check out your book

    • The Bachelor // June 9, 2015 at 7:26 am // Reply

      Thanks for the feedback. I hope ur crushin the casinos up in LV. I’ll check out the apps you use. The strategy trainer at is the app I’ve used for years.

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