Hi-Lo Card Counting System in Blackjack: A Comprehensive Guide

Hi-Lo Card Counting System in Blackjack

The Hi-Lo system in Blackjack is a popular card counting strategy that enables players to enhance their edge against the casino. This system is particularly favored for its simplicity and effectiveness. Let’s delve into its mechanics and strategic application in detail.

Understanding the Value Assignment

In the Hi-Lo system, each card in the deck is assigned a specific value, which is used to keep track of the running count. The values are categorized as follows:

  • Low-value cards, which include 2s through 6s, are assigned a value of +1. These are cards that, when removed from play, increase the odds of receiving a blackjack or a favorable hand.
  • Neutral cards, comprising 7s, 8s, and 9s, are given a value of 0. These cards are considered neutral as their removal has a negligible effect on the overall composition of the remaining cards.
  • High-value cards, such as 10s, face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings), and Aces, are valued at -1. The removal of these cards from the deck decreases the player’s advantage as it reduces the likelihood of hitting a blackjack.

Running Count: The Core of Hi-Lo

The essence of the Hi-Lo system is the ‘running count’. You start at 0 and adjust this count based on the value of each card dealt. For example, if the sequence of cards dealt is 4, 8, King, 3, and Ace, you would calculate the running count as follows:

  • The 4 is +1 (starting at 0, the count becomes 1).
  • The 8 is neutral, so the count remains at +1.
  • The King, being a high card, is -1, which brings the count back to 0.
  • The 3 is a low card, adding 1 to the count for a total of +1.
  • The Ace is a high card, subtracting 1, which brings the running count back to 0.

As the game progresses, you continue to adjust this running count, which becomes the basis for your betting and playing decisions.

Strategic Betting and Playing Decisions

The key to successfully implementing the Hi-Lo system lies in how you use the running count to inform your betting and playing decisions.

  • When the running count is high (+2 or higher), it indicates a greater proportion of high-value cards remaining in the deck. This scenario is favorable to the player, as it increases the chances of the dealer busting and the player hitting a blackjack. In such situations, it’s advisable to increase your bet size, as your odds of winning are better.
  • Conversely, a low or negative count suggests a higher concentration of low-value cards, which is more advantageous to the dealer. In this case, it’s wise to decrease your bet size.
  • As for playing decisions, a high running count means you can be more aggressive with doubling down and splitting pairs, especially with hands that benefit from a higher likelihood of receiving a ten-value card. For instance, if you have a total of 11 and the count is high, it’s an excellent opportunity to double down, expecting a ten-value card that will bring you to 21.

Practice and Patience

Mastering the Hi-Lo system requires practice and patience. It’s essential to practice counting through a deck of cards at home, gradually increasing your speed and accuracy. Remember, the goal is to keep an accurate count effortlessly, even in a distracting casino environment.

Ethical Considerations and Casino Policies

While card counting is not illegal, casinos frown upon this practice and may ask you to leave if they suspect you’re counting cards. Therefore, it’s crucial to use the Hi-Lo system discreetly and responsibly.


The Hi-Lo system is a powerful tool in a Blackjack player’s arsenal, offering a systematic approach to tilt the odds in their favor. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not infallible. Even with an effective card counting system, Blackjack remains a game of probability with its inherent risks. Therefore, always gamble responsibly and within your financial means.