How to Count Cards in Poker: The Fine Art of Card Counting

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As it says in the name, you need to count the cards that will help you win. In poker, counting cards entails calculating all your available outs, and thus, your odds of winning a hand.

Basically, card counting is completely fair game. Much like in chess, you use what is in front of you to try to shift the game in your favour. Card counting is a strategy that anyone can master with time and practice. The card counting system might seem overwhelming and difficult at first, but if you follow a few simple steps, you can make it a lot easier.

Of course, there are some positive, as well as negative aspects of card counting. One of the main advantages is that you will not play out every hand, in case your chances end up being less than ideal. The downside is that you will need a lot of concentration in order to keep counting cards, especially when the game starts heating up. Furthermore, many distractions that are a common thing in a casino can influence your concentration and confuse you even more.

Learning the Basics

When you play poker, you will use a standard card deck with 52 cards. Now, imagine you have a flush draw. Meaning, you have four of the same suit, and you need one of the remaining cards to get a flush. Before your turn comes, you have already seen the 4 cards on the board, and of course, the two that you are holding. Which means there are 46 cards left. That way, you can loosely calculate your chances of landing a flush on the river.

For example, if you had two cards with hearts on them, with the combination of  2-7-8-J on the board and 6–5 of hearts as your hole cards, that would give you a chance at both a flush and a straight draw. Additionally, with 46 cards still unknown, you will have 15 outs in total. In other words, 11 out of the 46 cards would give you a flush, while 8 would give you a straight. And since the two out of 8 that would give you a straight also count towards the flush draw, you’d have 17-2=15 total outs. Math is hard, we know. But who said that card counting would be easy?

What About the Other Players?

Of course, you should always bear in mind that card counting is not a science that gives precise results. First, you can never know which cards other players hold. Rather, you can only estimate which cards could come up next, but you can never be too sure.

However, once you’ve mastered the basics, it couldn’t hurt to try and calculate how you can achieve the winning hand, and take the pot while you’re at it. Since you can’t predict the cards of your opponents, you should focus on the things that you know.

Texas Hold’Em Card Counting

When playing Texas Hold’Em, it is even harder to predict which hole cards your opponents have. That’s why you should learn what the odds of receiving the best hole cards are, as well as which hole cards are regarded as the worst. When playing Texas Hold’Em with four players, the best starting hand are the Pocket Aces. This hand contains two aces and has the best possible chances of winning. However, when it comes to the second best hole card combination, people are in two minds between a Pair of Kings and a Suited Ace-King. Conversely, the Unsuited Seven-Two combination is the worst possible hand to have in Texas Hold’em. The chances of winning with this one are just over 15%.

Practice Makes Perfect

When learning how to count cards in poker, it is important to know that once the game starts, things will run smoothly and quite fast, so you need to learn how to keep up. In addition to being fast, you will need to be unnoticeable while doing it, just so you don’t ruin the appeal of the game. A card counter keeps it to themselves and they don’t gloat when their skills are proven to efficient. The basic strategy for card counting consists of a lot of practice, and being persistent is just one of the many qualities you will need to acquire in order to become the best at card counting.


Though card counting may seem complicated at first, you can easily master it. As long as you are patient and remain calm, everything will be fine. There a lot of external circumstances that can influence your card counting efficiency and derail you, so you need to pay special attention to retaining your concentration.

Aside from that, there is no reason why you shouldn’t at least try your luck this way, and of course, have fun in the process!

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