If you believe TV shows and movies, you probably envision blackjack card counting as slick pros using various disguises and complicated math to wins thousands of dollars – all before narrowly escaping the clutches of the evil casino security guards. In reality, card counting in blackjack goes a lot more like this: some average Joe sees card counting in a movie, visits a casino to try it out, then either loses lots of money or gets thrown out after winning.

In short, counting cards in blackjack isn’t an easy process, so if you’re looking to get into this, you need to read as many card counting strategy books as possible. Even then, you’re going to need a lot of practice to beat the casino. But if you’re looking for a shortcut to card counting in blackjack, here are the basics.

Card counting begins with sitting down at a table and tracking all of the cards that are dealt to the players and dealer. Your goal is to pick an opportunity when more small cards (2-6) have been dealt, and more big cards (10-A) are left in the deck so you can make larger bets. When big cards are in the deck, there is a higher chance that you’ll be dealt better starting hands and blackjacks. The dealer also has a stronger chance of busting when there are more big cards in the deck.

When more small cards are left in the deck, you scale back bets to avoid losses. As you can see, blackjack card counting is a continual process that requires skill and fast math skills.