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Hi Lo Card Counting in Blackjack

The two easiest counting systems are Hi-Lo and Hi-Opt I. Both systems assign +1 to 3,4,5,6 and -1 to T,J,Q,K. Both systems do not count 7,8 and 9. Hi-Lo assigns +1 to 2 and -1 to A while Hi-Opt I assigns 0 to both.

Here are these systems in detail:

Hi-Lo
2,3,4,5,6: +1
7,8,9: 0
T,J,Q,K,A: -1

Hi-Opt I
3,4,5,6: +1
2,7,8,9,A: 0
T,J,Q,K: -1

The true count is calculated by divided the running count by the number of decks remaining.

Here’s a simple example. You’re playing the first hand of an 8 deck shoe and it is just you and the dealer. You’re dealt 6,4 and the dealer has 7 showing. You hit, get a J and stand on 20. The dealer turns over the card next to his 7 and shows that it is a 6. He hits his 13 and draws a 5 for an 18 giving you the win on this first hand.
Using the Hi-Lo system, what is the count?

You
6: +1
4: +1
J: -1

Dealer
7: 0
6: +1
5: +1

Running Total: +3

There are still close to 8 decks so the true count is 3/8.

Blackjack charts are meant for when the true count is close to zero. When casinos use 8 deck shoes and reshuffle before getting near the end of the shoe, the true count tends to stay near 0 (remember, the true count is the running count divided by the number of decks left).

Chart strategy differences are more important when the count is positive than when the count is negative. This is because we’re betting more money when the count is positive but we’re betting the minimum or taking a break when the count is negative.

The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book says to stand on 16 vs T (instead of hitting) when we can’t surrender and the true count is greater than 0.

The book also has the following strategy changes when the true count is higher than 1:

  • Stand on 12 vs 3.
  • Stand on A,7 vs A.
  • Double 11 vs A (already true when dealer hits soft 17).
  • Double 9 vs 2.
  • Double A,8 vs 6 (already true when dealer hits soft 17).
  • Double A,8 vs 5.
  • Double A,7 vs 2 (already true when dealer hits soft 17).
  • Double A,3 vs 4.
  • Split 7,7 vs 8.
[The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book pages 256 – 259]

Note that the figures in this book are based on just 4 decks so be careful. Also, the book uses Hi-Opt I where Aces and Deuces are not counted.

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