How To Practice Card Counting

Counting cards is a difficult blackjack strategy. Training exercises allow you to get familiar and comfortable with the many card counting systems.

Blackjack card counting is a technique that helps a player improve the odds of winning while playing the game in a casino. Learning blackjack card counting, however, takes a lot of time and needs considerable practice over the years. Here is how players can get better at card counting by practicing in the right way.

Let us first understand how cards are counted in blackjack and how the technique works.

How Does Card Counting work?

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A card counter will first assign card values to each of the cards. According to the Hi-Lo system, cards 2-6 have a value of +1, cards 7-9 have a value of 0, cards 10-Ace have a value of -1. As the cards are being dealt in the game, players will either add 1, subtract 1, or do nothing, based on the card's value.

The next step is to keep a Running Count of the cards, following which; players will be able to keep a True Count or count per deck. This True Count is derived from dividing the Running Count by the no. decks remaining. For example, if the player's running count is 10 and there are 5 decks remaining, then the true count is 2. Depending on this rise and fall of the true count, players can take their playing decisions or change their bets.

Counting cards is a technique that actually helps the players beat the odds in blackjack. By counting cards, a player can get an idea of how many cards have already been dealt and how many are remaining in the deck. Accordingly, when a remaining shoe probably has a higher concentration of tens and aces, statistically, there are chances of more blackjack being dealt. Now, blackjack pays 3:2 and the dealer will bust more often.

Contrarily, when the deck has more small value cards, there will be fewer blackjacks and the dealer will have much fewer chances of busting. Because of this phenomenon, card counters can place higher bets when there are more high cards and lower bets when there are low-value cards.

Hi-Lo System (Blackjack Card Counting)
Hi-Lo System (Blackjack Card Counting)

Card Counting Exercises

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Card counting, as a blackjack strategy, might appear to be a simple one but in an actual game of blackjack, it is very hard to master the skill of card counting. A few exercises can help players in their card counting practice.


Self-practice is the simplest and easiest way of practicing the technique of blackjack card counting. All you need is a deck of cards and a table to lay on the cards and you can start dealing to yourself. The biggest advantage of self-practice is that it stimulates the real-life process of actually seeing the cards and assigning values to them. Since there is neither a live dealer nor any automated software dictating your moves, you can be your own dealer and remain stress-free while practicing, which is very important.

With self-practice, you can begin slowly and then gradually, as you build up your confidence, increase the dealing speed. This is also crucial because eventually, a player should be able to count cards at the same pace with which the dealer moves in a blackjack game.

Play With Friends

Self-practice is good but getting too used to being your own dealer as you progress in card counting might pose problems when you play at a casino. So, playing with friends is one of the best card counting exercises to follow. You can let one of your friends, preferably one who is competent in handling a deck to deal cards while you keep counting them. Even if just the two of you are practicing, the one who is being the dealer in the game can deal the cards to different spots on the table to create a feeling of multiple players being seated. This will lead to better practice as well.

While practicing card counting with friends, you can take turns dealing, letting the other one keep the count. A quick competition of who is keeping the count better can also let you get an idea of your progress. Like in self-practice, here too, the pace can be slower in the beginning and then go higher to match the speed of a professional croupier.

Blackjack Table Observation

Players who want to learn card counting and master the technique can alternatively benefit from blackjack table observation. The best part is that in a casino, you can simply stand off to the side of different blackjack tables and practice by yourself. There is no need to wager anything whatsoever. At the same time, you can try to match up to the pace of the dealer and also get a real feeling of card counting in a real casino and live game.

While practicing card counting through table observation, make sure that you are neither visiting the same casino daily nor hovering over the same table as this can attract the suspicion of the dealer or pit boss.

Playing Live Online Blackjack 

Playing live online blackjack is an excellent way of practicing card counting. This is true for various reasons. To begin with, live dealer blackjack creates the atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar casino, which is hard to bring about when you self-practice or play with friends. At the same time, there is no pressure or distractions that come when you play in a real casino.

Live dealer blackjack is slower, which allows you to practice at a slower pace even though there is a human croupier dealing the cards. For the sake of practicing card counting, players might not be interested in visiting a casino. On the contrary, live online blackjack can be played on any device right in the comfort of one's home. And the stakes are not at all high. Live dealer blackjacks can be played at as low a rate as $1 per hand. So, one can keep practicing card counting with peace of mind and without the risk of losing much.

Blackjack Training Software

Card counting enthusiasts can also take the help of card counter trainer software that can make it very easy to practice the technique. Blackjack training software, usually available in the form of apps for both Android and iOS, is designed to let you play blackjack with a varying number of decks. The software application is programmed to show you the card values in fairly quick succession, entirely for the purpose of enabling you to practice card counting. You just need to maintain the best possible count throughout the entire deck. There are both free and paid blackjack card counting trainers available online.

As a player becomes more proficient in counting cards and is ready to do so while playing with the basic blackjack strategy, self-practice or even practicing with friends can become redundant. In such situations, the training software is of real significance.

Exercises For Card Counting Practice
Best Exercises To use For Card Counting Training

Important Factors to Practice

Practicing card counting is not just enough. Players need to keep a few factors in mind while practicing so that they are actually able to count cards in a casino with lots of distractions as well as prevent themselves from getting identified.

Card Counting With Distractions

Practicing card counting at home is one thing and counting cards in real in a casino is another. When you play in a casino, it is very necessary that you stay focused in the middle of a lot of distractions. To master this art of keeping your focus, you must practice card counting with distractions so that you are ready to be doing well in a real casino.

You can practice with distractions by turning the TV on when you play instead of keeping the doors locked and curtains, drawn. As you become more and more confident of being able to count cards in spite of noises all around, increase the number of distractions. Switch on the radio, throw in a dog or let a few kids in as you practice. This will definitely prepare you to exercise card counting in a busy and hopping casino. Some people also practice card counting whilst on the phone with a relative or friend (without telling them they are counting cards at the same time).

Avoid Detection

Avoiding detection is a crucial factor to consider when you play blackjack in a casino. If the casino identifies a player as a card counter, they might be asked to leave the table. Camouflaging your strategy is surely a hard thing to do. The first thing to do is act casual, almost like a tourist. If you play for hours without eating or enjoying any of the amenities available, you will attract the suspicion of the casino authorities.

Also, with your focus still on counting cards, make sure that you appear to be interested in other things such as having small talk or getting a drink. Card counters have a reputation of being zoned out and stay too fixated on the cards. If you do so, you will soon be spotted. Practicing with distractions such as with the TV on and kids playing helps in avoiding detection in the casino in the long run. Lastly, tip the dealer occasionally. A dealer who likes you might just shuffle a favorable deck later than a bad deck.

practicing card counting at home
The traps of practicing card counting at home.

All of the practicing methods listed in the article are precisely the ways in which blackjack players can practice card counting and become experts before hitting the casino and winning in a game.

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