The Hi Lo Blackjack Card Counting System

The Hi Lo System of counting cards in Blackjack was one of the first developed. Ed Thorp is widely known as the father of counting cards in Blackjack. Ed was a mathematician and a professional gambler. He worked at MIT for a couple years after receiving a PhD at the University of California. The first widely used Blackjack card counting system was the Thorp 10 Count. The Hi Lo System was Ed’s second count system and Blackjack players instantly took a liking to it because the +4’s and -9’s of the 10 Count were replaced by -1’s and +1’s. The increased accuracy and reliability of the Hi Lo System made it one of the premier card counting strategies for many years, and it is still used today by some players for single deck Blackjack. The Hi Lo Count was featured in Ed’s book Beat The Dealer in 1962. This book was a featured best seller in the New York Times and it really brought Blackjack card counting strategies to the public’s attention on a large scale for the first time.

The casino industry was forced to develop measure to negate the increasing use of systems like the Hi Lo Count at the Blackjack tables. Casino games are designed to guarantee a profit in the long run. This is true for Blackjack but to a much smaller degree. Mistakes in Blackjack account for more of the casino’s profit than the small house edge. This is why understanding the optimum strategies for Blackjack should come first and foremost.

How To Use The Hi Lo Count System

Unlike the 10 Count, the Hi LO System can be used at tables that use more than one deck.

Keeping a running count using the Hi Lo System is relatively easy. This method factors Aces in so you will not need to keep a side count for them. You will have to calculate the true count however. To ascertain the true count you will divide your running count by the number of decks remaining to be played. Estimating the number of decks left is not as hard as it may seem at first. Do not try to count the number of played cards because it will almost certainly increase the difficulty of the running count. Here is an example you can practice with.

  • Player 1: 4d-3c-2c-6d
  • Player 2: Js-10d
  • Player 3: 4s-2d-Ah
  • You: 7c-9h
  • Dealer: 10s-6d-8h

If you had started at 0 your running count using the Hi Lo System would be +3. If there are two decks left in the shoe your true count will be +1.5 so increasing your bet would be advantageous. You don’t want to go from $10 to $100 though. You also do not want to go back and forth between higher and lower. Most players will hold off on increasing the size of their wager until the true count is greater than 2. You should always increase your wager in increments that reflect the size of the running count. If you have been wagering $10 per hand and the true count goes from +1 to +5 you should bump your wager up to $20-$30. All it takes is a few hands for the true count to go from good to bad so you will want to take advantage of the advantage as much as you can but never bet over your means. Practicing a healthy bankroll management is an important part of being a successful Blackjack player.