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M.I.T. Blackjack Team Guide - Part 2

by Nicholas Colon

Nicholas Colon is an 18 year veteran of the Casino Gaming Industry, and Managing Director of Carnivore Investment Strategies LLC. He is an accomplished intellectual engineer with profound contributions in Analytic's, Finite Mathematics, and is leading analytical consultant. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @byth3numb3rs.

Part 1 (covering basic strategy) appeared in BJI 195. Part 2 in this series covers how to keep track of the proportions of high cards to low cards in the remaining decks, what values we assign to each card, and how we add them up and normalize the ratio

Basic strategy, when implanted consistently and accurately, virtually eliminates any casino advantage. The next step in the process is being able to recognize when the advantage has shifted from the casino to the player. Over the years several systems have been developed to keep track of the ongoing percentage shifts. The simplest, and the system least vulnerable to player error, is the Hi Lo card counting system.

The best way to learn the H-L count is through the following progressive order of specific drills:

  1. Take one deck of cards and familiarize yourself with the card values by turning over each card one at a time and reciting its value. Go through the deck several times until you know the values automatically without hesitation.
  2. Count one deck reciting the cumulative value of the cards played (i.e., running count or RC), until you reach the end of the deck where you should have a count of "zero" since the total of the plus and minus cards are equal. If the end count is anything else than zero, you have made a mistake and you should recount without shuffling. For example, the sequence K, A, 5, 10, 6, 7, 2 has the values -1, -1, +1, -1, +1, 0, +1 and would be counted "minus 1, minus 2, minus 1, minus 2, minus 1, minus 1, zero". Count down the deck in this fashion until you can accurately go through it. At this point the goal is to develop accuracy and not speed.
  3. Learn the following pairs that "net out" to zero. These pairs need not be counted when counting down the deck...

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