Card Counting: Learn Hi-Lo Count System

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Hi-Lo is a card counting strategy which employs a simplified method of counting by assigning values to cards. The Hi-Lo Count System helps players keep track of the cards in the deck.

Simple card counting systems are easy to learn but deliver results that are less than the best. The complex systems give the highest returns, but beginners will find it difficult to execute them.

The Hi-Lo Count System strikes the perfect balance between ease and returns. Therefore, this calculating system is the most popular. This article will take the new card reckoners step by step through the Hi-Lo Count System.

What is Card Counting?

Beating the house is every casino player’s dream. The desire to win is strong in every person within the lobby, even more so among blackjack players. And they all have a favourite device for defeating the house and winning – counting cards.

Card counting is a widespread practice among blackjack players.

But what most beginners do not know is that there are infinite ways to calculate cards at blackjack tables.

Essentially, card reading is an umbrella term for a range of methods and systems. There are multiple ways – many of them quite complex – to count cards. But each of those elaborate methods serves the same purpose, which is to predict the outcome of the game as accurate as possible.

Card reading helps players tip the scales in their favour and increase the player advantage in contrast to the house. House edge is every blackjack player’s adversary, so counting systems are necessary to overcome the edge and beat the house.

But here is the catch – casinos don’t really like players who do this.

The practice helps the players, i.e. harms the casinos, so most venues seek to put an end to this practice using countermeasures. It is also worth noting that while unassisted card counting with only your mind is not illegal, using a physical device or collaborating with someone else is considered cheating.

Online casinos make the whole business of calculating the cards even more difficult thanks to RNG (Random Number Generator). It’s nearly impossible to tally in online blackjack, but live blackjack is an entirely different subject.

How Does Card Counting Work?

To compute during rounds, you will first need to learn the rules of the game, in this case, blackjack. A general misconception is that calculations which we saw in movies entail knowing the entire deck of cards. That is not possible, and it’s also time-consuming.

Instead, card reading relies on guessing the distribution of high and low cards. The basic formulations are based on statistics, which show that high-rank cards work in favour of the player, whereas low rank helps the dealer.

Hence, the standard way to start this practice is by learning to assign values to each card. You can assign negative, positive or zero values to them. At the start of each round, you start from zero, and as dealing progresses, you adjust the count to the assigned values.

Hi-Lo is one of the easiest ways to master blackjack and card reading without complicating the process.

Pros & Cons of Using Card Counting

Does card reading actually help, or is it only an urban myth commercialized through movies?

The answer is far from black and white. In some instances, it can help, in others, not so much. But it definitely won’t hinder your winning chances.

In general, reading the tally and guessing the outcome can positively affect the result at the end of your game session. It does have a plethora of benefits for each player.

Pros

  • You can increase a bet when royals and high cards appear
  • You can lower the bet when the tally shows that more low ranks are left in the deck
  • By guessing the outcome, you increase your advantage
  • The house edge is lower by 1%

There are also drawbacks to using this playing method.

Cons

  • It is not a guarantee, but merely a prediction
  • Casinos do not like calculations and might ban you if you use it
  • Complex strategies require memorization of more information, which might prevent players from concentrating on the flow of the game
  • Requires a high level of focus

Some players are avid fans of reading cards; some are not. There are even players who avoid using such strategies as they are convinced they hinder their winning chances.

In truth, the choice is always up to the players.

Hi-Lo Count System in Five Easy Steps

The Hi-Lo Count System is a balanced system which is very easy to understand and apply.

The entire point lies in assigning values to each rank and then keeping a tally during the rounds. The calculation will help you predict upcoming cards, in turn affecting your betting decision as the round progresses. Moreover, the name of the method hints at its point value assignment mechanism. Hi-Lo separates high from low ranks and adds or removes a point based on the rank. It is a level-one count because the active sum never goes above nor below one value.

BestCasinos.com team compiled an in-depth guide for the Hi-Lo system based on 5 simple steps.

If you are ready to start your card reading adventure, let’s go over the five easy steps in mastering Hi-Lo strategy.

Step 1: Know the Values Assigned to Each Rank

Hi-Lo Count System divides cards into three groups. Here is a table with all ranks in each group and the value which you are supposed to assign. There are negative, positive, and zero values. Have a look.

Classification

Rank

Value

Low 2,3,4,5 and 6 +1
Middle 7,8, and 9 0
High 10, J, Q, K, and A -1

Even though Ace can take a value of 1 or 11 in blackjack, the Hi-Lo Count System always groups it as a high card.

Red 7 and KO are quite similar to Hi-Lo, the only difference being one the value assigned to 7.

Hi-Lo Count System Card Rank Value

Step 2: Track the Running Count

Tracking running count in the Hi-Lo card counting system is best explained through an example.

  • At the start of a new shoe, the running count is 0.
  • You are dealt A (-1) and 8 (0) and the dealer’s face-up card is J (-1), so the running count at this stage is -2.
  • You stand, and the dealer draws 4 (+1) and 8 (0) and busts, so the running count at this stage is -1.

The advantage of the Hi-Lo Count System is that you need not remember the cards in the discard tray. You only remember the running count and the past is history.

Step 3: Track the Number of Decks

Tracking the number of decks in the Hi-Lo card counting system is also explained through an example.

  • You start with 8 decks in the shoe.
  • In the first deal of the above example, 5 cards are dealt, so you remember 8 decks less 5 cards.
  • At the end of a subsequent round, you calculate that 28 cards are dealt.
  • 26 cards reduce the number of decks by ½, and two cards are left.
  • Therefore, you now remember 7 ½ decks less 2 cards.

Step 4: Compute the True Count

In Hi-Lo Count System, you compute the true count just before you have to make a bet. Two different examples are used to illustrate the importance of true count.

  • For a running count of +6 and 6.5 decks, the True Count is +0.92 (6/6.5).
  • For a running count of +6 and 1.5 decks, the True Count is +4 (6/1.5).

Step 5: Adjust Your Bet Amount

The Hi-Lo System prescribes that bets should be increased for high positive values of true count and decreased for high negative values. One such mechanism based on this is described below.

  True Count

Adjusted Bet

Starting Bet $X
True Count between +3 & +4 2 x $X
True Count between +4 & +5 3 x $X
True Count greater than +5 4 x $X
True Count between -3 & -4 1/2 x $X
True Count between -4 & -5  1/3 x $X
True Count less than -5 1/4 x $X
True Count between -3 and +3 $X

With positive counts, the adjusted bet increases according to the value of the count. On the other hand, you decrease the bet when you encounter negative values (i.e. high ranks).

Other Card Counting Methods

Hi-Lo is easy, simple, and fun to learn. You won’t have to waste time learning complex math – for many of us, it seemed like rocket science – but instead, focus on simply adding up.

However, if you are looking to learn something other than Hi-Lo, you might be interested in other systems.

Two other card reading methods for beginners are discussed below, particularly how individual card values differ from the Hi-Lo System.

Ace/Five

  • It is one of the simplest systems for calculations in blackjack.
  • 5 has a value of +1.
  • A has a value of -1.
  • All other cards have a value of 0.

Knock Out (KO)

  • It is almost identical to Hi-Lo.
  • The only difference is that 7 has a value of +1 instead of 0.

Hi-Lo, Ace/Five and KO are perfect for novices. If you are still unsure about your skill and wish to improve them a bit, practice with the three methods described above.

Once you gain enough experience and proficiency, you might want to look into other, more complex card systems such as these:

  • Hi-Opt II
  • Halves
  • Zen

We hope you enjoyed our Hi-Lo strategy guide and that it was at least helpful for you. If you want to share your thoughts about the Hi-Lo Count System or similar strategies, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment in the section below.

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