How to Count in Blackjack

This is part 4 of our seven part series on how to count in blackjack, where we begin to detail some of the actual techniques used for card counting. We start with the first published system called the “Ten Count system”. For the list of all articles please click here.


Although there were a number of players using there own systems of card counting which were never directly publicized, Ed Thorp was really the first to introduce a system of card counting to the general public. Although a workable system, it was difficult for general players to use. This being said, many were still able to capitalize on the information and make themselves a killing within the Nevada casinos.

Dependency in the Ten Count System used by Thorp

Thorp’s 10-count system was really the foundation for all card-counting systems that arrived after it and certainly for the general public, it was the only one available. For the few that had even known that card counting existed, the general impression was that these could only be known and mastered by geniuses combing the skills of mathematics, mental agility and gaming expertise.

The basis of this system was around what Thorp called dependency. He realized that in casino games such as craps, baccarat and roulette that no previous rounds had any influence over the next. When using dice or a roulette wheel, no matter the previous outcome, any subsequent roll or number had the same chance in every turn. This was not the case though with blackjack that used a deck of cards. According to the previous cards dealt, this would improve or lessen the chances of a subsequent win because of the amount a key cards left for dealing.

How to use the Ten Count Blackjack System

The method was undoubtedly difficult to master, but for those with a keen interest in how to count in blackjack, this system was indispensable. Those familiar with the game of blackjack knew the value of cards with a ten value for the player. The more tens left in the pack, the easier it would be for them to reach a high hand close to 21, and the easier it would be for the dealer to go bust because of the forced rules of them having to hit. Hence by keeping a running count of the ten value, you could determine the amount of advantage to the blackjack player.

His system worked something like this. You needed to keep a count of all the ten value cards (10, jack, queen, king) and a count of all other cards. In a standard pack of fifty-two cards, this would mean 16 tens and 36 other cards. As cards were then dealt from a freshly shuffled deck, you would deduct the cards from these two numeric values and keep a mental total of what was left.

At the end of each round you would need to divide the remaining “other cards” by the number of “tens”, which gave a ratio that could determine the chances of winning on the following round. If the ratio was 2.0 or less, that would mean the player had at least 1% advantage over the casino. This was monumental considering the previous casino advantage had been 6% in their favor. An example of how this worked, imagine the other cards were 24 & the tens were 12; the calculation 24/12= ratio of 2.0; this would mean that raising the stakes on the following dealt hand could be beneficial for the player. Conversely, if the ratio was higher, the player should then bet his minimum and simply wait for the odds to turn again in their favor.

Following the success of Ed Thorpe’s Ten Count system, he later published an easier and more preferential strategy, which is discussed in our following article.

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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 systems for blackjack card counting.


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