6 Card Counting Systems Every Blackjack Player Needs to Understand

Two Blackjack Tables

If you play blackjack, you need to know how counting cards work. It’s the only way that you can win money, in the long run, playing blackjack, and it’s not that hard to do. Yet most blackjack gamblers never even try to count cards.

Here are the six best card counting systems for blackjack gamblers. Some of these systems are easier to use than others, but there’s something for every experience level in this article.

The main difference between systems that are balanced and unbalanced is that if you use a balanced system, you have to convert to a true count. This is an extra step, but it’s not hard to do. If you prefer simple things, stick with an unbalanced system.

1 – Ace 5 for Beginners

This is the card counting system that any blackjack player can use. It’s so easy that there’s no excuse for not giving it a try. And once you learn how easy it is to use the Ace 5 card counting system, you can start learning how to use one of the systems that help you get an even bigger edge.

With this system, you simply track all of the aces and 5s as they get played. Start your count at zero and add 1 to the count for every 5 you see. Subtract 1 from your count every time you see an ace.

Every time the count is at 2 or higher, you bet more money. When the count is at 1 or lower, you bet the lowest amount you can. As the count goes higher you bet more, with your maximum bet being 8 to 16 times your smallest bet amount.

Almost every other counting system works this way, but they track more cards. The more cards you track, the more effective the system is. But just because you’re only tracking two cards, it doesn’t mean that the Ace 5 isn’t a good system. You can get an edge using nothing more than good blackjack strategy and the Ace 5 system, as long as you find blackjack games with decent sets of rules.

2 – Knock Out Unbalanced

The Knock Out, or KO, card counting system is one of the two popular unbalanced counting systems in use today. I cover the other popular unbalanced system in the next section.

When you use an unbalanced counting system you avoid the need to make an extra conversion to get a true count. An unbalanced system doesn’t count an equal number of high and low cards.

The Knock Out system counts every card worth 10 points and the aces as -1, and counts all of the cards from 2 to 7 as + 1. Notice that this means you count five high cards and six low cards. This is why it’s called “unbalanced.”

KO Card Counting System

When you use an unbalanced counting system, you don’t start your count at zero like you do in most balanced counting systems. Instead, you start at a negative number. And when the count gets to zero, you adjust your bet size. Of course, you can adjust these numbers if you don’t like to work with negative numbers.

The book you want to read if you want to learn more about this system is Knock Out Blackjack by Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancura.

3 – Red 7 Unbalanced

Arnold Snyder, who happens to be one of the most famous blackjack writers, developed an unbalanced counting system he calls the Red 7. The way this system works is that you count every card from 2 to 6 and all of the red 7s as + 1 and all of the 10’s, face cards, and aces as -1.

Notice that this is close to the Knock Out system, but you only use half of the 7s. The truth is that both of these systems work basically the same and that both of these systems have about the same level of effectiveness.

The Knock Out is slightly easier to use when you start because you don’t have to worry about the color of the 7s, but the truth is that it doesn’t take long to train your eyes and brain to recognize the red 7s and ignore the black 7s.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about the Red 7 counting system, pick up a copy of Snyder’s book titled Blackbelt in Blackjack.

4 – Hi Lo Balanced

The Hi Lo counting system is far and away the most popular and most used system. It’s a powerful system, and there are more books and literature about this system than any other system.

This is a balanced system, so you have to divide the running count by the number of decks left to play to get a true count. This is the only downside of Hi Lo. Many players struggle at the beginning with this conversion.

However, anyone who’s smart enough to count cards is smart enough to make this quick conversion. It just takes a little bit of practice.

Blackjack Hand With Casino Chips on Top

When you use the Hi Lo counting system, you start counting at zero and subtract 1 for every ace and 10-point card value. You add 1 for every card value of 2 to 6. You ignore all of the 7s, 8s, and 9s.

I’ve used Hi Lo and it’s a good system, but I prefer to use one of the unbalanced systems because I don’t like to make the extra conversion. And the KO and Red 7 are both as powerful as Hi Lo.

5 – Speed Count

The speed count is a unique counting system that not many blackjack players use. But it’s simpler to use than every other system in this article except the Ace 5. I don’t use the speed count system, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a decent system that is easy to use.

Instead of tracking high and low cards, in the speed count you just track low cards, from 2 to 6. You also track the total number of hands dealt each round. Every hand at the table, including the dealer’s hand, and split hands, counts as a hand.

You count how many cards from 2 to 6 that are dealt during the round, and then subtract the number of hands dealt on the round.

I know this is a little bit confusing because it’s so different than the other card counting systems. If you want to know more about the Speed Count you have to read 1 of the 2 books that cover it. This system was first introduced in Golden Touch Blackjack, written by Scoblete and Tamburin.

The authors claim that this system is as powerful as hi lo, but most blackjack experts don’t agree. I believe that this system works, but I think sticking with one of the other systems in this article is usually better.

6 – Silver Fox Balanced

The Silver Fox blackjack counting system is a lot like the Hi Lo, except it tracks every card except the 8. Every card from 9 to ace is worth -1 and every card from 2 to 7 is worth + 1.

I’ve never understood why the Silver Fox system isn’t more popular. For some reason, the Hi Lo is the king when it comes to counting systems. To me, it’s easier to use the Silver Fox than the Hi Lo because there’s only one card that you ignore. In Hi Lo, you ignore three cards.

The difference in how effective the Silver Fox and Hi Lo systems are isn’t big because the 7s and 9s aren’t extremely important overall. But isn’t it better to be a little more precise?

It’s much easier to find books and good information on Hi Lo than on Silver Fox. In fact, as far as I know, there’s only one book on the Silver Fox system and it’s extremely hard to find. And it’s not even really a book. It’s a manual. The copy I had was comb-bound. You could also buy a set of cassette tapes about the Silver Fox system.

In Summary

If you play real money blackjack, you need to be using a counting system. All of the counting systems listed in this article can help you win, with some of them helping you win more than others. But there’s no excuse to play without counting.

Even blackjack players that don’t think they can count can quickly learn how to use the Ace 5 system. And once you learn how to use it, you can quickly start using a more advanced system.

I prefer using one of the unbalanced systems because I prefer not having to make the extra conversion. But even if you use a system that requires the extra conversion, you can quickly learn how to do it.