Card Counting: Learn Hi-Lo Count System

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Several blackjack card counting systems have been developed over the years.

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 beginner card counters will find it difficult to execute them.

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

Hi-Lo Count System In Five Easy Steps

Step 1: Know the Counts Assigned to the Cards

Hi-Lo Count System divides cards into three groups

Low Cards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 +1
Middle Cards 7, 8 and 9 0
High Cards 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.

Step 2: Track the Running Count

Tracking running count in 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 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 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 count that 28 cards are dealt
  • 26 cards reduce the number of deck by ½ and two cards are left over
  • 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 Count 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


Other Card Counting Methods

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


  • It is one of the simplest card counting systems
  • 5 has a count of +1
  • A has a count of -1
  • All other cards have a count of 0

Knock Out (KO)

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

Some of the complex card counting systems are as follows.

  • Hi-Opt II
  • Halves
  • Zen

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