How to Count Cards in Blackjack Like the MIT Blackjack Team

  • The MIT Blackjack team included more than 70 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, Harvard University, and more.
  • Between 1979 and 1994 they won millions at the Blackjack tables
  • Their success and Blackjack Card Counting techniques inspired many books and movies

In this article, you are going to learn how to count cards in Blackjack following the precious pieces of advice of one of the leaders of the legendary MIT Blackjack Team.

Back in September 2012, former Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student and Blackjack star Mike Aponte joined the Def Con XX conference in Las Vegas to share priceless tips on how to beat the casinos.

Who is Mike Aponte?

Part of the legendary MIT Blackjack Team and leader of the "Reptiles Team", Aponte is considered to be one of the greatest Blackjack pros alive.

Not only Aponte won millions at the Blackjack table mastering the art of card counting in Blackjack, but he also took home the first-ever World Series of Blackjack Championship in 2004.

At that time, Aponte managed to beat the 25 best Blackjack players in the world in a memorable competition held at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, United States.

Want to know more about Aponte’s incredible story Pick a copy of Bringing Down the House - one of the best gambling books ever written - or watch the movie 21 on Netflix.

MIT Blackjack Team: Card Counting Video Lesson

In this video, you find an easy-to-follow guide to card counting in Blackjack explained by none other than Mike Aponte.

The very same card counting tips he shares in the video are what made him one of the most feared blackjack players in the world.

"We used card counting to hack Las Vegas and beat the casinos for millions," Aponte says in the 4-minute clip.

"A lot of people think you need to be a math wiz or Rainman to count cards, but it’s quite the opposite."

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What Is Card Counting in Blackjack?

Card-counting is a Blackjack system that - if implemented properly - can give the player a significant advantage over the Casino.

The way card counting works connect with the nature of Blackjack. That's why this technique cannot be applied to any other gambling game.

Whenever you play a game of Roulette, or you spin the reels of a Slot machine, you know that the outcome of each game is not related to the previous or the future outcomes.

Casino games controlled by Random Number Generators (RNGs) are completely unpredictable because every spin, game, hand you play is completely random.

Blackjack, however, is another story.

Since the cards in Blackjack are not re-shuffled after every hand, well-trained players can optimize their play by keeping a mental note of the cards that have been already in the game and are no longer in play.

The cards that have already been played affect your future games. Learn how to keep track of them and you'll be able to beat the dealer just like the MIT Blackjack did for more than a decade.

Is Card Counting in Blackjack Hard?

Many beginners are under the impression that counting cards in Blackjack require a computer like memory.

And if you think the MIT Blackjack team kept track of every single card dealt by the dealer, well…you are wrong because that's not how Blackjack card counting works.

To count cards in Blackjack you don't have to know every card that appeared on the table. You just need to know the proportion of high cards (10s and aces) and low cards (2-6) that are still in the game.

If this calculation tells you that the deck is rich in high cards, you have great odds to beat the dealer by following the basic Blackjack strategy.

A deck rich in low-value cards, however, is one where the Dealer has an advantage over the players. In this case, you need to adopt a much more conservative approach to the game and size your bets accordingly.

How Does It Work

There are many different ways - and strategies- to count cards in Blackjack. These methods exist on a continuum from ridiculously simple, to extremely MIT-grade difficult.

Despite the complexity of the system they use, those who know how to count cards in Blackjack base their decision on a common underlying strategy.

They focus on keeping track of the ratio of high-value cards to lower value cards in whatever deck is being used.

The High-Low Card Counting Method

Many Blackjack pros believe the best way to learn how to count cards in Blackjack is to start from the so-called 'high-low' count.

To use this method, you need to dedicate your full attention to the cards that appear on the table - starting from the VERY FIRST card that is dealt.

After every additional card, this count or score will change. The system works in this way:

The Value of the Cards

ValueCardsReferred to as
07,8,9Neutral Cards
-110, A, J, QHigh Cards
+12,3,4,5,6Low Cards

Keeping these values in mind,

  • The score always starts at zero
  • Any card that has a value between 6 and 2 would ADD one digit to the score
    [+]Any face cards, aces, or 10's would result in one being SUBTRACTED from the score
  • Any other card that is drawn should be scored with 0 - in other words, there is no change in these situations

Follow these rules and you'll be able to build a very accurate picture of how many low-value cards are left in the deck at any given time.

The higher this count is, the more high-value face cards are left in the deck. The lower the overall score is, the more low-value cards are still in play.

High-Low Blackjack Card Counting in Action

Let's imagine that you run into a sequence of 3,Q,K,9,A,2,5,J,9,Q. In High-Low terms, this reads:

(+1)+(-1)+(-1)+0+(-1)+(+1)+(+1)+(-1)+0+(-1)= +2

When the running count is negative, it indicates that there's a high number of low-value cards still in play.

The 'True Count' in Blackjack

If you think the High-Low approach to counting cards in Blackjack is not easy, wait until you learn about the True Count.

A True Count is when players divide their ongoing count by the overall number of decks left to be played out.

This is usually an estimate and relies on keeping a close eye on the status of the shoe to figure out how many decks are probably left in the game.

Through the True Count, you can get a better estimate of the cards still in play and of what Blackjack strategy is the best one to win at any given moment.

If the result of your True Count calculation is a high number, this indicates that there are still many high cards in the deck.

Once the number drops below zero, you know that low-value cards are the majority in the deck.

Why High Cards Are Good for You

By keeping a close eye on the count, and by knowing how many high cards are left in the deck, you can make educated guesses take better-informed decisions when you play Blackjack.

Think about these situations:

  • Scenario 1: You need to decide whether to double down or not. Knowing that there's a high number of high-value cards (10, J, Q, K, A) is helpful because it tells you that you have good chances to win the hand
  • Scenario 2: The dealer has an Ace. You better be careful here. If you know that there are many high-value cards still in the deck, you know that the dealer has very good chances to win.

Card Counting at the Casino

Before you decide to head to the Casino to count cards in Blackjack and win a lot of money - there's something you should know.

As a prospective blackjack card counter, you should always remember that the Casinos know people will try to count cards.

Let's be clear about this: counting cards in Blackjack will not send you to jail. It will just get you kicked out (and most likely banned for good) from the Casino.

To protect themselves from card counters, the Casino bosses can ask the dealers to reshuffle the shoe with great frequency or can study your every move through their CCTV system.

That's because most card counters make the mistake to show that they re counting cards while they play Blackjack.

Tells like moving your lips as you count the cards at the Blackjack table or making supersized bets only on high counts are dead giveaways.

If you decide to count cards in Blackjack, you need to play smart.

Practice counting cards at home until you can do all your calculation without giving anything away.

Also, try to occasionally raise your bets when the count is low and lower them when the count is high. This might make you lose a little more than you want to, but it will also make you look 'safe' in the eyes of the Dealer.

Practice Blackjack Card Counting Online

It's really important that you practice card counting in Blackjack online before you make your first trip to a casino.

The best way to learn how to count cards in Blackjack is to start from the table that uses a single card-deck and then gradually move up to those that use six at the same time.

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Make sure you also take some time to watch the action at a live dealer Casino. Sit at the table learn to count cards even if you are not playing.

The fact your money is not on the line will make it easier for you to concentrate on the cards and keep track of lows and highs.

Once individuals are confident that you can count cards in a game of Blackjack like one of the MIT Blackjack team - and you can do so without any visible tells - go to the Casino and get ready for the real deal.

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