One of the simplest card counting systems in existence is the ace five count. Multiple versions of this system exist, but the one most people are probably familiar with in the Internet age is Michael Shackleford’s version, which he explains on his Website. What follows is an explanation of how to use the ace five count along with an explanation of why it works.

How to Count Cards Using Ace to Five System

The reason that card counters can get an advantage in blackjack is because the deck has a memory. In other words, the odds change with every card that’s added to or subtracted from the deck. No other casino game offers this phenomenon in quite this way.

Some cards improve the house’s edge. Other cards improve the player’s edge. The amount that each card affects the game’s odds is mathematically defined, and, as it turns out, the two cards which make the biggest difference in the game are the aces and the fives. It should be obvious why a player would want a deck with a high percentage of aces in it. You can’t be dealt a blackjack without an ace, and a blackjack pays off at 3 to 2.

The fives are probably a little less obvious, but basically, the more low cards that are in the deck, the more likely it is that a player will bust.

Every five in the deck adds 0.67% to the house edge.

Every ace in the deck subtracts 0.59% to the house edge.

So when you’re using the ace five count, you’ll simply start with 0, and you’ll add 1 to the count every time a five is dealt. You’ll subtract 1 every time an ace is dealt.

When the count is positive, you’ll have the advantage, so you’ll increase your bet. Michael Shackleford suggests setting your betting spread before starting to play, but you might make it a spread of between one and sixteen units, for example.

If the count is higher than +2, you’ll double the amount of your previous bet, up to your maximum bet.

If the counter is lower than +1, you’ll bet the minimum.

The bigger your betting spread, the better the effect on your expectation. If you have a betting spread of 1 to 8, meaning that 8 units is the most you’ll bet, you’ll have an edge over the house of 0.3%.  If you have a betting spread of 1 to 32, you’ll have an edge over the house of almost 0.6%. In my experience, the larger your betting spread you use, the more heat you’ll see from the casino.

Variations of Ace to Five Card Counting System

Variations of the ace five count have been around for a long time. According to Shackleford’s site, a variation of the ace five count is suggested in Beat the Dealer, by Edward Thorp and also in Playing Blackjack as a Business, by Lawrence Revere.

The ace five count is easy enough that you can pull it off even if you’re having a few drinks. I did pretty well using this system in Kansas City at a casino there, until they started shuffling up on me almost every hand. They mellowed out on the shuffling once I’d had a few glasses of scotch, but I hold my liquor better than a lot of people.

Keep in mind, too, that some rules variations will wipe out any edge you get from this or any other counting method. For example, 6/5 blackjack, which pays out 6 to 5 for a blackjack instead of 3 to 2, adds 1.39% to the house edge. Even with the 1 to 32 bet spread, where you gain almost 0.6% on the casino, you’re still operating at a stiff disadvantage to the casino. The dealer also has to be willing to deal out a good percentage of the shoe before shuffling, or you’re never going to get an opportunity to raise your bets anyway. Try to find a dealer who’s dealing out at least 75% of the deck before reshuffling.

I know some people are going to read this and think, wow, I can go wild using this system in online casinos. It’s a nice idea, but online casinos shuffle their decks every single hand, so counting cards is impossible at an Internet casino. If you’re looking for an advantage gambling online, I recommend betting on sports or playing Internet poker. Every other form of gambling on the Internet should be considered pure entertainment, because the odds are stacked heavily in favor of the house. Even games like blackjack and video poker, which are often positive expectation games in a live casino, are heavily tilted toward the casino when you’re playing on the Internet.