Beating Blackjack With a Simple Plus Minus Count

Blackjack table
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Blackjack can be beaten using a simple Plus Minus count. Casinos have known this for years, books have even been written to train people how to do it. But the game is still offered because not enough players take the time to learn how to play blackjack very well.

Some players put the time into learning basic strategy for blackjack, and they are able to play almost even with the house. However, to win regularly takes a little more work and practice.

The Count

The house edge changes as cards are removed from a deck of cards. Players must play perfect basic strategy and count cards to take advantage of the times they hold the edge by wagering more.

To do this, the Plus Minus count is used to keep a running total of the "count". As a player sees cards in action, they assign the following numbers and keep a running count in their head. With a new deck or a new shoe, the count will always start at zero.

Card Values

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - each of these cards counts as plus 1

Aces and ten cards (tens, jacks, queens and kings) count as minus 1

7, 8, 9 count as zero - just ignore them

For example, on the first hand, the cards on the table are a ten, a 5, a 6, an 8, and an ace. You count minus 1 for the ten, back to even with the five, plus 1 with the six, the eight is zero - so ignore it, and back to even with the ace. Your running count is back to zero. As new cards are revealed you continue the count. Any time the count is a minus number or zero, make a bet of one unit.

When the count is positive, bet more than one unit. By betting more when you have the edge, and less when you don't, you can actually beat the casino at blackjack. Of course, you have to practice the count before you ever play for real money.

Practice The Count

On the first hand of a single deck, you bet one unit and wait. Here is the run of cards: 6, 4, 2 ace, ten, five, four, six, 9, 8. Your count should be: one, two, three, two, one, two, three, four, four, four (ignore the 7, 8, 9 - they are zero). Now the odds are in your favor, bet two or three units.

Next hand the new cards seen are: ten, 8, 2, ace, ten, 4, ten, ten, 9, ten, 3. Your count should start with four and go three, three, four, three, four, three, two, two, three. The count is still three so you should bet two or three units again.

In a single deck game, ​you will probably get just one more hand. Your work is done and you got to bet more when you had the edge. Whenever the count is negative or even, bet one unit. If you are playing on a shoe game with more than one deck, you will need to convert your running count to a true count before making your next bet.

True Count Conversion

With a shoe, the number of cards still to be used must be factored into your bet. You still only bet one unit with any negative or zero count, but if the deck is positive (any number of +1 or higher), you need to look at the discard rack and guess how many decks have been used, and how many remain in the shoe. With a six-deck shoe, you will divide your running count by 6 at the beginning. If your running count is 12, your true count is 12/6 = 2. If four decks remain, divide 12/4 = 3. If two decks remain, you divide your running count by the two remaining decks: 12/2 = 6.

Yes, you have to keep the running count in your head—and divide the remaining decks by that running count before each bet. It takes some work. The payoff is that depending on the positive running count, you know how much to bet and when to take insurance.


Taking insurance is a bad bet if the count is negative, but if the true count is plus 2 or higher, insurance is a good bet. Take it.

How Much to Bet

Unfortunately, casinos don't like to let card counters play. It is perfectly legal to use your brain to beat the house, but they still have the right to bar you from playing in Nevada (but not in Atlantic City and a few other places). The trick is to not be noticed. But you have to vary your bets to make any money—so walk the tightrope!

When the count is positive, you need to bet more than one unit. Bet one unit to start and add a single unit for each 1/2 true count advantage:

  • True Count = 1 Bet 1 unit
  • True Count = 1.5 Bet 2 units
  • True Count = 2 Bet 3 units
  • True Count = 2.5 Bet 4 units
  • True Count = 3 Bet 5 units
  • True Count = 3.5 Bet 6 units
  • True Count = 4 Bet 7 units
  • True Count = 4.5 Bet 8 Units
  • True Count = 5 Bet 9 Units
  • True Count = 5.5 or more you should bet 10 units

Don't Get Barred

Pit bosses are trained to catch counters, and their main tip-off is players who rarely take insurance (except in positive counts) and who vary their bets. You have to look like the average player. If the count jumps suddenly, don't jump your bet from one unit to 10 units. That's likely to get you barred. Learn some clever cover for your player. Use a parlay when you win and the count increases. You might want to spread to two hands occasionally to help increase your bet.