How to Count Cards in Blackjack

This is part 6 of our seven part series on how to count cards in blackjack, where we explain some of the subsequent counting systems, in particular the KO system. For the list of all articles please click here.


Although the Hi-Lo system is a very effective system, many people do not like using the two calculations of running count and true count. In the belief that simplicity is often the best workable strategy, the KO system alleviates the requirement for a True Count, so only one count is needed. If you want to understand the background of this system, we suggest you first read our previous article.

How to use the K-O Knock Out Card Counting System

Unlike the Hi-Lo system, the Knock Out strategy is an unbalanced system. The main difference between these two card-counting strategies is the inclusion of the number seven (7) for the small group of cards that we add a plus one value (+1), thus the card values differ between the two systems. In Hi-Lo if you counted through a deck of 52 cards you would arrive at a zero (0) value, but in the KO system you would arrive at +4 due to four 7’s in each deck. This is not a problem though and in fact allows for a system that can give a clear advantage to the player.

Let’s start by looking at the card values in the KO system.

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7     Bad Cards           +1

8, 9                    Neutral Cards        0

10, J, Q, K, A       Good Cards          -1

Just as in the Hi-Lo strategy, we start with an initial running count number and then simply add one point (+1) for every disadvantageous lower card and minus one (-1) for every beneficial higher card. In this system we ignore the cards 8 & 9. This gives us a running count where we can then estimate the probabilities of winning or losing.

Factoring in the Number of Card Decks

The problem with our previous strategy was the need to make a separate calculation to know our chances based on the number of decks. This is done away with when using the knock out system. This is why its such an ideal system for anyone wanting to know how to count cards in blackjack.

There are only two pieces of additional information you need to learn to use this system. That is your Starting Point and your Count Target. See the chart below to see how these relate to the number of decks.

No. of Decks                       Starting Point                       Count Target

One deck                               0                                     +2

Two decks                            -4                                     +1

Six Decks                             -20                                    -4

Eight Decks                          -28                                    -6

Firstly you need to know how many decks are left in the blackjack shoe, either after a complete new shuffle or estimated if you start at some point during play. This is your “starting point” from where the count will commence. You will notice that only one deck blackjack uses a starting point from zero, whereas if being dealt from eight decks you will start the count from minus twenty eight (-28).

The second piece of information you need to memorize is the Count Target. This tells you that once the running count is the same or more than the Count target, you should increase your bets. Play the minimum bets when the cards will give you a disadvantage and increase to maximum when the advantage has swung in your favor. That’s it!

As with any system, practice makes perfect. We suggest playing online in order to hone your skills and what’s more you can do it at no charge. To practice counting it may be better to replicate a casino environment where there are numerous players apart from yourself. You can use our software to place free bets to as many hands on the table as you like. Wherever there is a bet, cards will be dealt to that place at the table. This way you’ll soon gain the full knowledge of how to count cards in blackjack and become proficient in quick paced play!

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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