Blackjack Hi-Lo Strategy w/ True Count

Blackjack hi-lo card counting strategy & true count system explained.

Blackjack Hi-Lo Card Counting Strategy & True Count System ExplainedAnyone with the most basic knowledge of blackjack has heard of card counting. Aside from basic decision-making strategy, counting cards is the most effective way to pull the house edge a little more into the player’s favor. When used with extreme precision, it’s actually possible to turn the tides, eliminating the casino’s advantage and creating a “player’s edge”.

The blackjack hi-lo strategy is the most basic of all card counting systems; the original model from which most other systems are derived. That’s not to say that it isn’t effective. In fact, according to the true blackjack math experts, (Stanford Wong, Don Schlesinger, Michael Shackleford, etc.), using this count with the right basic strategy and bet sizing tactics can increase your edge by 1.182%.

In a blackjack game where basic strategy delivers a 0.5% house edge, that added 1.182% turns the favor to the player by 0.682%. As low as that positive expectation may sound, it is a positive expectation—something no other casino game’s strategy can offer.

Blackjack Hi-Lo Card Counting Strategy

The Hi-Lo count is the simplest of all card counting systems, designed for absolute ease by novitiates. It’s a simple matter of assigning a value to each card, with said values being -1, 0 or +1.

The values are set as follows:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 = +1

7, 8, 9 = 0

10, J, Q, K, A = -1

The process is simple. When a game starts with a new shoe of cards, you begin keeping a running count, starting at 0 and adding or subtracting the appropriate value for every card seen. For example, if the order of cards is:

5, 9, A, 3, J, K, 7, 2, 9, 10, Q, 8, A

You will run the count as follows, starting from 0:

+1, 0, -1, +1, -1, -1, 0, +1, 0, -1, -1, 0, -1 = -3

The lower the count, the more low cards there are remaining in the deck, as opposed to high cards. Conversely, the higher the count, the more high value cards (10-A) there are left in the deck, as opposed to low cards. Therefore, the higher the count, the higher your bet size should be, since the odds of being dealt a blackjack are greater.

You can practice this method easily enough by counting down a deck of cards at home. If you start and end at 0, you’ve done it right. Then, once you’ve gotten good enough at it, there’s one more rule to consider.

There are five -1 values and five +1 values in the blackjack hi-lo strategy, which make this a balanced card counting system. For that reason—and the fact that so many blackjack games are played with up to 8 decks in the shoe—you must convert to a “true count” for the most accurate results.

Convert ‘Running Count’ to ‘True Count’

I’ve mentioned the use of a true count several times in past card counting articles. However, those all had to do with unbalanced card counting systems that never required its use. So today, for the first time, I’ll explain to you how to convert a running count to a true count for the most accurate blackjack hi-lo card counting strategy in multi-deck games. Note that it’s not necessary in single-deck blackjack.

Converting to true count requires only simple division. You take the current running count and divide it by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. For example, if you’re about a third of the way through a 6 deck shoe, that leaves 4 decks. If your count is +7, divide by 4 for a true count of +1.75. You can round that up to +2 for simplicity’s sake.

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