Card Counting and the True Count

The True Count

You may already know how to count cards using the Hi Low or other card counting system. But it doesn't stop there. You have to learn to adjust your computation to the "true count" as it is called.

The true count will often be heard when discussing multiple deck blackjack. But it also applies to single deck. The true count is a more accurate count of the card odds.

You get the true count simply by dividing your count by the number of decks left to be played. If you have a running count of +8 and the number of decks left in the shoe are 4, then your true count is +2.

Why divide? Well, think about it. You practiced card counting with a single deck. You make a running count of +6 as if it were a single deck. But if there are really say, 3 more decks to play, then would you not have 3 times less of an advantage since there are more cards in the shoe? And the same principle applies to single deck games because as cards are used and you count, there is fewer than a deck left to play.

Just in case you're wondering, most casinos use multiple decks now precisely to thwart card counters like you. You see, card counting is most effective in single deck games. It is harder to use in multiple deck games, although some card counting systems work quite well with them.

Finding the Number of Decks

Now, as you can see, getting the true count is simple once you know the number of decks to use as divisor. The question now is: How do you know how many decks are left to play?

You can't ask the dealer, of course!

Instead, the card counter must learn to read the pile of discarded cards, called the discard tray. The cards there are neatly stacked together. It is not the shoe, by the way. The shoe is where the unused cards are stored in.

You have to be able to judge how many decks are in a discard tray just by looking at it. And to do this you have to practice as follows:

Get 6 decks of cards ready. Take a deck and look at it. You're looking at a single deck.

Now remove half of it just by hand, without counting. You are now staring at a half deck. Count the cards you took and see how many they really are.

Now pile the other 5 decks on top of one another. Take what you feel must be a whole deck and put it on top of the single deck. Count this afterwards and see if you were right.

Do the same thing for 3 decks, 3 decks, 4 decks and so on.

Keep doing this until you get used to recognizing the number of decks.

When you can do this, get a friend to make different piles for you. Do not look as they are doing it. Look at the decks when your friend is done and then see if you can guess each one correctly.

Do this card counting exercise and soon you will be able to find the number of decks used. It's not unlike a boxing fan who can tell what weight division a boxing match is just by looking at the fighters' build. Don't forget to subtract the used decks from the shoe to get your true count.