True Count (Card Counting)

Card counting takes time to learn and master and concepts like blackjack true count play a crucial role for a player trying to practice counting cards.

Blackjack players can improve their odds of winning by playing with advanced techniques, one of which is card counting.

However, card counting takes time to learn and master and concepts like blackjack true count play a crucial role for a player trying to practice the art of counting cards in blackjack.

Blackjack True Count Explanation

Card counting is the process of assigning certain values to the cards and then keeping a running count of these cards. Card counting gives players an estimate of the high-value and low-value cards already dealt and those that are remaining in the deck. The true count is the number that the player arrives at after having kept a running count. To calculate the true count at any given time, a player needs to divide the running count by the number of decks remaining.

For example, if the running count is +8 and there are 2 decks remaining, then the true count would be +4.

The true count is said to be an accurate representation of the deck and the higher the true count, the more of an advantage the player has.

A time when you must consider the true count is before taking an insurance bet. Different techniques of card counting require different ways of calculating the true count. Some players even prefer to use the running count with a zero index and with hands like 16 vs. 10; the running count might be a little more accurate when deciding the best action to take.

How to Get the True Count in Blackjack?

Two cards with an ace face up

A blackjack player can use different card counting systems based on his expertise and comfort and here is a true count guide for most of these card counting systems:

Hi-Lo

In the Hi-Lo system of card counting, the higher value cards are assigned -1, the lower value cards are assigned +1 and the middling cards are assigned 0. As the cards are being dealt, players adjust the count. For instance, they add +1 to the count on seeing cards like 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 and subtract 1 from the count on seeing cards like a 10 and an ace.

Based on this running count, the player will calculate the true count. The true count is the running count divided by the number of decks remaining. Accordingly, if the running count is +9 and there are 4 decks remaining, then the true count would be 2.25, which can be rounded to +2.

Zen Count

The Zen count is a little complicated method of counting cards that requires a lot of practice. In this system, cards 2, 3, 7 are assigned +1, cards 4, 5, 6 are assigned +2, cards 8 and 9 are 0, cards 10, Jack, Queen, and King are -2 and Ace is -1. The true count is derived by dividing the running count by the number of decks left in the shoe or at best, a rough estimate of the same. If the true count is 0 or less, players should be placing the minimum bet and then increasing the bet by 1 unit as the count goes up.

Ace-Five Count

The Ace-Five count is a simple method of card counting. As players arrive at a blackjack table where the cards are being shuffled, they have to start with a mental count of 0 and place the minimum bet. As the cards are dealt out, for every 5, the player will add 1 to the count, and for every ace; they will subtract 1 from the count. This way, as the count goes up to 2, he will double his bet and keep increasing as the count goes up. When the count comes down to 1 or less, he should start betting the minimum again.

Ten Count

In the Ten Count system, conceived by American mathematician Ed Thorpe, the cards Ace and 2 to 9 are assigned +4 and the cards 10, Jack, Queen, and King are assigned -9. As the game progresses and the cards are being dealt, the player will keep a running count by either adding 4 or subtracting 9 from the count. The true count is derived by dividing this running count by the number of decks in the shoe. As a strategy, you should begin with the minimum bet and when the count gets higher, increase the wagers.

KO Count

In the KO count system, cards 2 to 7 are assigned +1, cards 8 and 9 are 0, and cards 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace are -1. The true count is calculated by dividing the running count by the number of decks in the shoe. When the true count is +2 or more, the player can start increasing the bets at a steady pace. And when the count returns to +1 or less, he can revert back to the minimum bet. The KO system true count is also a strong indicator of when to take insurance and that is when it is +3, implying several 10 value cards in the deck.

Red Seven Count

The Red Seven card counting system is an unbalanced one that is a bit complex and hard to memorize. Here, cards 2 to 6 are assigned +1, and cards 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace are assigned -1. The 7 red is +1 and the 7 black is 0. An unbalanced system of card counting such as this means that if the player is able to count all the cards in the deck, he will arrive at +2 instead of 0.

The running count using this method has to be calculated cautiously in order to ensure that the true count is accurate.

Omega II Count

The Omega II card counting system is a complicated one but almost 99% accurate. The values assigned to the cards are diverse. Cards 2, 3, and 7 are valued +1, cards 4, 5, and 6 are +2, 8 and Aces are 0, 9 is -1, and cards 10, Jack, Queen, and King are -2. Keeping the running count is a bit tricky with such different values but true count can be derived by dividing the running count by the possible number of decks left in the shoe.

Wong Halves Count

The Wong Halves Count system too is quite complicated but very effective in helping the players make strategic playing decisions. To keep the running count and arrive at the true count, you need to assign values to the cards, and in this system; a lot has to be kept in mind. Accordingly, cards 2 and 7 are +0.5, card 8 is 0 whereas card 9 is -0.5. Cards 3, 4, and 6 are +1 while card 5 is +1.5. Cards 10, J, Q, K, and Aces are -1, on the other hand.

How the true count works in different card counting methods
How the true count works in different card counting methods

How to Use the True Count?

Card counting is an advanced blackjack strategy and it effectively reduces the casino’s edge too. For a player to be able to make the most of card counting, they must understand the concept of running count, based on the values assigned to the cards as well as the final true count.

The true count, in card counting, is derived by dividing the running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. So, if the running count is 7 and there are 3 decks in the shoe, then the true count would be 2.33, which would be rounded down to +2.

There are systems of card counting that eliminate the need to convert the running count to a true count, but the true count is important in its own way. This is because apart from helping the players make the most optimal playing decision, it reminds the player to start over at 0 when the dealer reshuffles the cards. The unbalanced systems usually start at something other than 0 thereby, reducing the need to arrive at a true count.

Blackjack True Count: FAQ

Here are all your blackjack true count related questions answered in brief:

What is the true count in blackjack?

The true count in blackjack is the final count of cards, which gives a positive or negative value to the player, based on which he can take his playing decisions.

How is the running count different from the true count? 

The running count is the count of the cards based on the values assigned to the individual cards in the deck. True count, on the other hand, is the count derived from dividing the running count by the number of decks remaining.

How can knowing the true count help me in blackjack? 

Knowing the true count helps blackjack players take the right playing decision as they have an estimate of what cards are remaining in the deck.

Can I get the true count while the dealer is using a CSM? 

Continuous Shuffling Machines or CSMs make it difficult for card counters to keep a running count of the cards because the shoe is continuously shuffled and half of the cards in the deck are put back into the machine for reshuffling.

Do I need to be a mathematician to know the true count in blackjack? 

You do not need to be a mathematician to count cards. There are various systems, both basic and advanced, of card counting learning which can help a blackjack player calculate the true count.

So, it is not just important to know how to card count but also how to arrive at the true count as accurately as possible in order to apply the best strategy and beat the casino’s edge.