Single-Deck Card Counting

Card counting is an advanced technique that enables blackjack players to identify the instances when the odds shift in their favor. When this happens, the player would raise their bets. Conversely, when the player is at a disadvantage, they would bet small or completely refrain from betting. It is this variation in bet size that enables card counters to beat the game of blackjack.

Keeping track of the cards through counting is possible in both single-deck and multiple-deck blackjack variations. Single-deck games can be very profitable (provided that they offer decent table conditions) because the effect of removing individual cards from a single deck is more significant.

Counting single-deck games requires a different approach you are recommended to acquaint yourself with even if you play mostly shoe blackjack. Stick with us for further clarification on what this approach is and how you can improve your speed and accuracy while counting single-deck blackjack games.

How Counting Works in Single-Deck Blackjack

blackjack card coutingThe method of counting is slightly different here due to the fact single-deck players receive their first two cards face-down. In comparison, those who play shoe blackjack have all their starting hands dealt face-up, a peculiarity which renders it easier for counters to keep an accurate track of the cards.

It would be difficult in the beginning, especially if you have already grown accustomed to counting shoe games. The main principle remains the same, however. You again add or subtract the value of each visible card that is dealt. On the basis of this, you establish a running count to help you with accurate bet sizing. The trouble is the two starting cards of other players are dealt facing-down in single-deck games so they are not immediately visible for you to adjust your running count with.

There will be situations in which things get a little hectic. For example, suppose the dealer gets a blackjack and all players muck their hands face-up. You need to be able to count all visible cards very quickly before the next round of play commences. This is something that requires a good deal of practice.

When a player hits their two-card total, their hit cards are dealt face-up so you can easily see them. After the reshuffle, you start by counting the first cards that you can actually see, those in your starting hand and the dealer’s exposed card.

Single Deck Blackjack Card Counting


Tips on Improving Your Speed and Accuracy

card coutingIn order to be a successful counter in single-deck blackjack, you must develop both speed and accuracy. You can start your training by shuffling two decks together and counting them down. You can test your accuracy by remove three of the cards.

After you have developed some speed and are able to count the two decks down in less than forty seconds, you can proceed by practicing with six decks shuffled together. Divide the cards into six separate stacks and try to count them down as quickly as you can. You should practice this way until you develop the ability to count the six decks down in less than two minutes.

The purpose of practicing with multiple decks is to help you maintain an accurate count for prolonged periods of time. This way, you also grow accustomed to experiencing more dramatic swings in the count. You will rarely witness running counts of +10 or -10 in single-deck blackjack but these are not such a rarity in shoe games. You should know how to approach those high positive and negative counts in both types of games.

Another good idea is to try and mimic the hectic casino environment by practicing with a lot of distractions around you. If you get interrupted while counting the cards, you can try repeating the running count in your mind. The real sign of progress comes when you develop the ability to converse with people at the table without losing your running count. The only way to achieve this is through practice.

Moving Your Bets with the Running Count in Single-Deck Blackjack

Blackjack betsRegardless of the number of decks you play against, you gain an advantage over the house by sizing your bets in accordance with the count. The general rule of thumb for card counters is to up their action when the composition of the remaining deck/shoe is favorable (i.e. when it is rich in high cards) and reduce their bets or altogether refrain from betting on negative counts when the odds shift in favor of the casino.

Sizing your bets in accordance with the count is quite easy in single-deck blackjack. In order to do it successfully, you need to gain a sufficient understanding of the shuffling procedures single-deck dealers are instructed to follow.

The single-deck dealers in many landbased casinos abide by the so-called “rule of 6” which dictates the deck should be reshuffled when the sum total of the number of the players at the table and the number of rounds played is equal to 6.

Is Counting Single-Deck Blackjack Worthwhile?

Counting Single-Deck BlackjackSingle-deck blackjack is the best variation of the game to play if you know how to count cards. The fewer the number of decks in play, the lower the house edge. Players generally tend to enjoy more blackjacks and more successful doubles/splits when a single deck of cards is used.

The trouble is casino operators themselves are aware single-deck blackjack is beatable so they change the rules with more unfavorable ones to hinder card counters. If you are unable to find a single-deck table with half-decent rules, you better not bother. Many single-deck games offer payouts of 6 to 5 for blackjack. These are the tables you need to avoid because the reduction in the blackjack payout increases the casino advantage by 1.40%. It is impossible to beat one such game even if you are a very skilled card counter.

Some of the other rules may also be unfavorable. Dealers at single-deck tables are often required to hit soft 17 which works to your disadvantage. Some casinos would restrict players to doubling only on specific two-card totals like 9, 10, and 11. This significantly cuts down the profits you can extract from the game. The opportunities for splitting and re-splitting may also be limited which again leads to a profit decrease for the player.

To wrap things up, you should never settle for a game with subpar playing conditions just because it plays with a single deck. A decent single-deck game to count is one where the dealer gives you are least three rounds before they reshuffle and pays your blackjacks at the standard rate of 3 to 2.

Ask a Question. Get an Answer.

Have a question about this topic? Ask an expert at

Find the answers of questions people asked so far:

Dan Lisa

Is card counting on single-deck blackjack a useful skill if I decide to play a single-deck version of blackjack online?

Asked by: Lisa | Asked on: 2023-06-13
Answered by: Dan | Answered on: 2023-06-14

Not really. While single-deck is the most favorable blackjack version for card counters, this is mainly true for land-based casinos where the card game is played. On brick-and-mortar casino floors, you might come across blackjack tables that use one deck, offer 3 to 2 for a blackjack, and give players quite a few rounds before the deck is reshuffled, enabling bigger deck penetration, which is extremely profitable for card counters. Unfortunately, when you play single-deck blackjack online, you will have the deck reshuffled automatically after every betting round. This allows no deck penetration, making card counting very ineffective. Even if you play live-dealer blackjack with just one deck, you will still have the cards reshuffled after every hand that is played.