How to Count Cards in Blackjack like the MIT Blackjack Team

Counting Cards in Blackjack

6 minutes

Last Updated: March 18, 2024

If you have been around gambling for a while or simply saw the casino movie “21”, you have surely heard of card counting by now. This blackjack strategy was used by a number of players over the years, including the notorious MIT blackjack team.

Counting cards in blackjack sounds like a daunting task, but it’s actually not all that difficult.

This article will explain the ins and outs of blackjack card counting and how you can use it to beat the house.

Of course, there are some restrictions to this technique, and I will cover those as well. By the time you are done, you will have a basic idea of how card counting works and the skills you need to get started.

After that, all you need to do is get some decks of cards and some friends and start practicing. If you get good enough and find the right place, you may just win yourself some big bucks.

What is Card Counting In Blackjack

Card counting in blackjack is a technique that can be used to reduce the house's edge. That said, blackjack rules are quite simple, so you can get close to breaking even in this game if you play the perfect strategy alone, but when counting is added, an edge can be produced.

Counting cards in blackjack is best done when only a single deck is used. However, this is rarely the case nowadays as shoes with 6 or 8 decks are used by most casinos.


Still, there are some casinos where single-deck games are available. Even more importantly, the card counting strategy can be applied to a whole shoe as well.

The simplest card counting technique tells you if the deck has many big cards left in proportion to the small cards or the other way around.

If the deck is hot (many big cards), the player should increase his bet. If the deck is cold (many small cards), the bet should be decreased.

So how do you know if the deck is hot or cold?

How Blackjack Card Counting Works

Blackjack is one of the best online casino games, so it is not surprising that people come up with creative ways to gain an advantage over the casino. This is where card counting comes into play.

The basic card counting works in a very simple way. All cards dealt out are put into three categories:

  • The categories are small cards (2 to 6)
  • medium cards (7, 8, and 9)
  • and big cards (T to A)

The counter must monitor all cards dealt to all the players and the dealer.

  • Each time a small card is dealt, the count increases by +1.
  • Every time a big card is dealt, the count decreases by -1.
  • Medium cards don’t change the count.

If counting cards in blackjack is done right, the count may become very large or very small at some point. If playing with a shoe, the player should wait for at least half of the shoe to be dealt.

So why does it matter how high the count is? This is a great question!

The answer lies in the fact that big cards mathematically favor the player, while the small cards favor the dealer.

Since the dealer must play a specific way and the player also has his optimal strategy, a surplus of large cards gives the player a significant advantage. The higher the count, the better for the player.

The moment your count changes for the positive, you could start increasing your bets.

However, it is best to wait for the count to get really high and the remaining cards to be few for the best results.

This sometimes requires a lot of patience but can also be extremely rewarding. In blackjack, if you count cards the right way, you may come across some very hot shoes and make the best of that.

Using a Team to Count Cards

Card counting techniques were made popular by teams such as the infamous MIT team that stripped Las Vegas casinos of millions of dollars. If you are wondering why you need a team, there are a few reasons?

Casinos don’t like card counters and often ban them from playing the game or even entering the casino altogether.

This is where the team kicks in.

If a single player sits at the table, betting $2 per hand and suddenly starts betting $100 per hand, the staff can quickly get very suspicious.

On the other hand, if a new player sits at the table and starts making large bets, this will not be as suspicious. This is why teams use spotters and big players to work together and beat the house.


The spotter's job is to sit at the table and count the cards. He waits for the count to get high at his table and then signals the big player to join the action without alerting anyone else.

The big player then sits down, makes some big bets, and once the deck is dried up, he leaves the table, pretending to play another game or simply have some drinks with his winnings.

The movie 21 perfectly describes how a blackjack card counting team should work. However, make sure you don't get too greedy, or you may be spotted even when working as a team.

Does Card Counting Really Work?

Counting cards in blackjack definitely work. It's been proven both in real casino settings and in experiments. While it's not one of the simplest blackjack tips, it's definitely the most effective strategy there is.

However, the real question is how much you can realistically win.

With perfect basic card counting, the player's edge gets as high as 2.5%.

Remember, the casino originally has a 0.5% edge if you play the perfect strategy.

This means you may be beating the casino for as much as 5x more than they are beating you when you play without card counting. This is quite massive.

However, to make some really big money with card counting, you will have to play in a casino that accepts large bets. This, in turn, usually means higher security and more danger.


If you adjust your strategy and learn how to size up the bets based on the running count, your edge will be greater. You should also look for blackjack games with rules that are best for card counting.

All your profit will come from blackjacks, doubling, splitting, and surrendering and not from winning more hands. This is why you should also come prepared with a large bankroll.

So Can I Win with Card Counting?

The short answer to this question is, yes, you can win! While card counting does not work in poker, it can help you win in a blackjack game.

The real difficulty in this day and age comes from learning how to count cards and finding the games in which you can apply the technique.

The first thing is first, so go and start learning how to count cards and how to do it fast?!

Get some friends together and try practicing. Once you get the hang of it, you can also count cards at the casino for fun.

Only once you are sure of your techniques and know it works in a particular casino, should you go ahead and try to apply it in the game.

If you want to use a team, make sure they know what they are doing.

And remember, regardless of what anyone tells you, card counting is not illegal in most jurisdictions. While the casino may ban you, you will never be prosecuted for counting cards in blackjack.

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