Hi Lo Blackjack

This is part 5 of our seven part series on blackjack card counting, where we discuss the Hi Lo Blackjack System, Ed Thorp’s second and easier system for counting cards. For the list of all articles please click here.


The Aftermath of the Ten-Count System

The 10-count system method was mainly geared towards a one-deck shuffle and unfortunately the system became a slight victim of its own success. The casinos introduced multiple decks for blackjack, which made this system unusable in its current form. Unfortunately, this system had caused such a storm in the world of blackjack that various successors were bound to be designed in order to continue the ability of blackjack counting card.

This reaction by the casinos actually led Ed Thorpe to publish an easier and more robust system that would not require two separate counts like its predecessor and could also be used effectively with multiple decks of cards. It was not his own technique but rather the brainchild of Harvey Dubner. Thorp became familiar with the strategy after Julian Braun, a computer wizard, optimized the strategy with a program to check its effectiveness. Having realized its great potential, Thorp decided to publish these new findings in his revised book.

The High-Low Counting Method

Also known as the Complete Point Count or Hi Lo Count, the system was a variation of the plus minus system designed by Harvey Dubner. This is perhaps the most popular system in card counting today because it is the easiest to learn and to master. Although not the most accurate, many suggest you will actually win more in the long run using this simplistic strategy than one of the more complex systems, where counting mistakes may easily occur.

The thinking behind the system is that low cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) are generally bad for the player and the higher cards (10, J, Q, K, A) are good for the player because they swing the advantage towards the player. If we can keep a ratio of good and bad cards left to be dealt, it will give the player a better idea concerning the possible advantage or disadvantage of the remaining cards; this will thus influence the amount we wager on each hand.

How the Hi-Lo Count Works

The Hi Lo Count assigns numerical values to each blackjack counting card as follows:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6      Bad Cards         +1
7, 8, 9             Neutral Cards      0
10, J, Q, K, A    Good Cards        -1

As you can see, the numbers are separated into three distant groups showing the disadvantage, neutrality or advantage for the player. The count commences immediately after the shuffle when the first cards are dealt. Starting from zero (0), every card dealt to the players or dealer that is between 2-6 you should add one (+1) for each card & every ten value card or Ace, you should minus one (-1). The cards seven, eight & nine can be ignored for the purposes of this count. This is also known as a balanced system because after a full deck of 52 cards are dealt, it would result in a count of zero.

When you use this method, you are basically afforded a running count, which helps you to immediately know the cards that are still to be dealt. Each time a bad card is dealt and the total count increases, it in effect means that there is one less bad card to be dealt. Conversely, when a ten value card or ace is dealt, the count decreases because there is now one less good card remaining. The use of the resulting count number is self-evident. It means that when the count is higher than zero, the player has more advantage for the following hand as the number of good cards remaining is favorable to the player.

Using a True Count

Using the above method is already a great help to many players, but for those to want to calculate their advantage to a more accurate degree, you can use a true count. To use a true count, you firstly need to know how many decks the casino is using, whether 1, 4, 6 or 8 which are dealt directly from the blackjack shoe. Secondly, from the time that the cards were placed in the shoe, you need to keep a rough estimation of the remaining decks.

The true count works in this way. For each additional high card in one deck of cards gives approximately 0.5% advantage to the player. But if there are multiple decks in use, we need to calculate how many high cards there are per deck. So imagine the running count that you learn earlier was 12 and you estimate there are 3 decks of cards remaining in the shoe. You divide the running count by the number of decks remaining, in this case 12 divided by 3, giving a true count of 4. This can help considerably in estimating how much you wish to wager.

In our next article we discuss the Knock Out or KO system which alleviates the need to do a True Count.

Use our FREE BLACKJACK DOWNLOAD to practice blackjack card counting online for free.


To view our complete series on counting cards, use the links below:

Part 1- How to Count Blackjack Cards- An Introduction on the subject of card counting.
Part 2- Blackjack Counters- The history of card counting & its main founder, Ed Thorp.
Part 3- Counting blackjack cards- Other famous professionals who followed after Thorp.
Part 4- How to count in blackjack- Explanation of Thorp’s 10-count blackjack system.
Part 5- Hi Lo Blackjack- The Hi-Lo system of counting explained in detail.
Part 6- How to count cards in blackjack- The easiest complete system for card counting called the KO strategy.
Part 7- Blackjack counting card- The Hi-Opt I system for blackjack card counting.


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