What Is the KO System of Card Counting

Pair of Aces on a Blackjack Table Between Stacks of Chips Labeled Blackjack Card Counting Knockout System

If you're looking for a blackjack card counting system that doesn't require you to do any division, the KO system might be the one for you. As you'll see below, this system of counting cards is relatively easy to learn and implement. Because of this, it's one of the more popular blackjack systems out there.

Over the years, the KO system has also become known as the knockout system. In the boxing world, KO is an acronym for knockout, and this system has adopted that name as well. Before we move on, we wanted to point out the fact that we'll use the names KO system and knockout system interchangeably.

On this page, you'll find all the details that you need to know about the knockout system of blackjack card counting. Below, we'll equip you with fundamentals first and then move you into sections about how you can count cards and size your bets. We've even included details about how you can practice the KO system and avoid getting caught when using it in a real-life casino. Lastly, you'll find an FAQ section and additional blackjack resources toward the bottom of this page.

To help you navigate everything we have to offer on this page, we've included some jump links below. You can use these to skip ahead if you're only interested in a particular portion of this page. For those of you looking to absorb as much detail as possible about the KO system of counting cards, we'd suggest you read the full page.

Understanding the Basics of the KO System

Up first, we've built this section to get you quickly up to speed on the basics of the KO system of blackjack card counting. You won't want to skip this section as it will help you understand some of the other core concepts below about how to actually count cards and size your bets

Running Count

The main piece of the knockout system that you need to grasp is the idea of a running count. With this count, you'll know how to bet all of your blackjack hands. We'll give you much more detail on a running count and how to calculate it using the KO system in the next section below.

Starting Count

If you've studied other card counting systems, you might think that you'll begin your running count with a count of 0. After all, that is the case with most other systems out there. However, the knockout system starting count depends on how many decks are being used. Below, we've built a handy chart to help you know what starting count you should use when using the KO system.

  • One deck = Starting count of 0
  • Two decks = Starting count of -4
  • Six decks = Starting count of -20
  • Eight decks = Starting count of -28

As you can see, the higher the number of decks in play, the lower your starting count will be. Through this process of adjusting the starting count for the number of decks in play, the knockout system doesn't require players to convert to a true count. This saves time and tough division so that players can more easily keep track of what's going on.

True Count

One of the most substantial perks of the KO system is that it doesn't make players convert their running count into a true count. This is something that many other card counting systems require to help adjust for the number of decks in play. If you're used to the idea of a true count from studying other card counting methods, you can forget about it here and solely track your running count.


As with other blackjack card counting systems, the primary aim of the knockout system is to help you know when to bet higher amounts while playing. If the system is used correctly, it will have you betting more considerable sums when you have a higher chance of getting blackjack. This is beneficial because getting blackjack pays out a higher return than winning a normal hand against the dealer. If your count is low or negative, the KO system is telling you that you have a smaller chance of getting blackjack. However, the higher your running count goes, the more likely it is that you'll get a blackjack.

Counting Cards With the KO System

Fanned Out Cards on Table

Now that you understand the fundamentals of the KO system, we wanted to help you know how to actually count cards. Below, we've included a list that shows you the cards you'll need to track with the KO system and the values associated with each of them. It's these card values that you'll need to add up in your head to do a KO system running count as described above.

  • Determine your starting count based on the number of decks in play (see our guidance in the section above)
  • When you see an A, K, Q, J or 10: Subtract 1 from your running count
  • When you see a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7: Add 1 to your running count
  • When you see an 8 or 9: Do nothing (worth 0)

If the first card dealt by the dealer is a 5, you'll add one to your running count. Then, if the following card is a 2, you'll add another one to your running count. For each card that comes out, you'll use the assigned values described above to keep a running tally.

As we mentioned above, the goal of the knockout system is to help you know when you should bet higher amounts while playing blackjack. To do this, you'll have to know the cards you'll need to track and those values associated with them. By keeping up with all of this, the KO system will guide you in your betting. We'll touch on that more in the following section below.

How to Size Your Bets Using the KO System

When using the knockout system, it will still be up to you to decide how much you want to wager for each hand. In general, the idea is that you want to bet the least amount of money possible when your count is low or negative. The reason is that the system is saying you have a small chance of getting blackjack. Alternatively, when your count is high, you should be betting more since that implies you have a high probability of getting blackjack.

One way you can size your bets is to simply use the running count as a multiplier for the table minimum.


If you're playing at a $100 minimum table, and your running count is 3, you'd bet $300 on the next hand. If your count is 1 or less, you'll just bet the table minimum of $100.

Another way to size your bets is to use tiers. Some players will bet 2x the minimum bet whenever their count is at a 2 or 3. Then, when their count goes to 4 or 5, they'll increase their wager to 3x the table minimum. Going with this method will slow down the amount you wager compared to the sample in the paragraph above. Ultimately, you'll want to find a betting system that works best for you and your bankroll.

How to Practice the KO System

Chips on Top of Ace and Jack of Spades

Up next, we wanted to give you some color on how you can begin to practice the knockout system. Practicing things is always a good idea because you'll need to be able to count quickly and stealthily when you're ready to use it in a casino. Check out our tips below so that you can quickly learn how to use the KO system.

Begin by Counting a Deck

Up first, you'll kick things off by counting an entire deck. Using the card values discussed above, you'll work your way through a deck one by one until you finish all 52 cards. Along the way, you'll keep a running count in your head just as you will when you eventually use the knockout system in a casino.

Since you'll be practicing with a single deck, your starting count will be 0. Then, if you deal yourself an ace, you'll move your count to a -1 based on the value of that card. If the next card you deal is a 10, you'll subtract another one from your count, bringing your running count to -2. You'll continue this process by keeping a running total of the sum based on the assigned values of the cards as described in the section above.

Time Yourself

After you've counted a deck using the KO system a few times, you'll then want to begin timing yourself. The goal of this step is to help you track your progress. To be an effective card counter, you'll have to be able to count cards in a casino swiftly.

To get started, simply use a stopwatch or a timer on your phone. Start the timer, and then begin counting the deck one card at a time. When finished, record your time and then start again. Your goal should be to reduce your times to less than half of your initial time.

Start Counting in Pairs

When you've made some improvements with your time counting a deck one card at a time, your next step of practicing the knockout system is to begin counting the cards in pairs. By doing this step, you'll be able to eventually count cards faster since you'll be counting two cards at a time as opposed to one.


If you deal yourself a king and a 7, your total in your head should add up to 0 since those two cards offset one another. Alternatively, if you deal yourself a queen and an ace, the combined total for those two cards is -2. Continue practicing counting in pairs while also keeping up with a running count all at the same time.

Add Some Distractions

To create a more real-life environment, our next suggestion for you is to add some distractions as you practice counting cards with the KO system. While it would be nice if you were counting cards in a perfectly quiet and distraction-free environment, that's not the case. Casinos are very noisy places that have all kinds of things going on that can be a potential distraction. All of these things add up to make it more difficult for you to concentrate and count cards while playing blackjack.

To help limit the chance of getting distracted while playing in a casino, you'll want to introduce some distractions at home while you practice the knockout system. It's as simple as turning on the radio or television as you practice counts. You can also turn them both on at the same time if you're really looking for a challenge. Ultimately, work to reduce your count time as much as possible with distractions happening at home.

Practice With a Friend

After you've practiced your card counting with distractions, your next step is to grab a friend to help you continue perfecting your KO system skills. By using a friend, you'll be able to have them help point out any body language signs that you might be giving off. The goal of this practice step is to have your friends let you know if you're doing anything weird with your body that might signal to the dealer you're counting cards.

Once you have a friend ready to help, start counting a deck as discussed below. Feel free to keep distractions going if you'd like to keep things challenging. Have your friend pay close attention to see if you're doing anything like mouthing your count, furrowing your brow, or something else that seems off. Be sure to take note of anything they catch and work to eliminate that tell to help reduce the likelihood of getting caught as a card counter.

Practice in a Real-Life Casino

One other great way to practice counting cards is to do it in an actual casino. Here, you won't actually be playing blackjack yet. Instead, you'll be observing blackjack games and practicing your card counting skills as the others play the game. Your goal should be to see how effective your counting skills are with all of the distractions going on and the speed of the dealer. Simply keep a knockout system running count in your head and ensure that you can count fast enough to keep up with what's going on. Repeat this step until you're confident in your ability to quickly count in this environment.

Get Started With Low Stakes Tables

After you've run through all of our suggested practice steps above, your next step is to put everything you learned into use at a real money blackjack table. But before you head into the high-roller section of the casino to test your card counting skills using the KO system, be sure to get things started at a low stakes table. Ideally, try to find a $5 or $10 table to use at first. By starting with a low stakes table, you'll be able to implement your card counting strategy without risking a ton of money. This is a good idea in case you have any complications getting the ball rolling. Once you're feeling right about everything at a low stakes tables, you can elevate your table minimums to higher levels.

Tips to Avoid Getting Caught

Now that you know about the KO system and how to practice it, we also wanted to provide you with some tips on how you can avoid getting caught. While it's not illegal to count cards, casinos don't want folks doing it because it can cause the casino to lose their edge. Because of this, you'll need to be very smart when counting cards to avoid being detected as a potential card counter. Before you head off to use the knockout system to count cards in a real-life casino, check out our pro tips below.

  • Don't forget to tip your dealers.

    One of the things that card counters are most notorious for is not tipping the dealers. While many card counters skip out on tipping to help their profit margins, you should not. By tipping the dealer a bit here and there, you'll have less chance that they flag you as a potential card counter.

  • Don't bet large betting spreads.

    If you ever find your running count with the KO system high, it doesn't always mean that you should bet a significant Another way that dealers identify potential card counters is by looking for players with a massive spread of bets. In general, it's a good idea to keep your max bet under 5x the table minimum to help you avoid detection.

  • Mix up casinos.

    As much as possible, try to play at different casinos. Understandably, this is going to be tough for many folks that don't have a ton of casino options near their home. However, if you do have options, be sure to mix up where you play. Doing this will make it less likely that the staff of a casino gets used to your card counting ways.

  • Mix up playing times.

    If you are using just a single casino due to limited options around you, be sure to at least play at different times of the day. Your goal should be to play at different hours so that your playing is exposed to a broader set of casino employees. Using this strategy will help you fly under the radar.

  • Mix up dealers.

    Another great thing is always to mix up your dealers. By playing with a small number of dealers too often, it may allow the dealers to catch on to your card counting. Instead, mix it up as much as possible to help lessen the chances of getting caught.

  • Pay attention to casino employees.

    If you ever feel like you're being watched more than usual at a casino, this might be a sign that they are on to your card counting. If you end up feeling like this, do yourself a favor and call it a day. Try again on another day and see if you can identify what tells you might have given off to the dealer so that you can try to eliminate them.

  • Don't play at one table too long.

    Instead of parking it at one table all night, be sure to move around to different tables every once in a while. This will expose you to other dealers and casino staff to lessen the likelihood that they catch on to your card counting. As a good rule of thumb, aim to change tables at least once an hour if you're playing for an extended period of time.

  • Don't think too hard.

    When counting cards in a casino, don't overthink. If you're thinking too hard, there's a very good chance that your face may show it. Instead, relax and trust your ability to use the KO system so that you can fly under the radar.

  • Limit your alcohol.

    This rule applies to all forms of gambling, but it's essential when counting cards. Since alcohol can slow your mental skills, it's best to go light. By doing this, you'll be less likely to make mistakes when using the knockout system, or any card counting system for that matter.

  • Don't advise other players.

    Lastly, don't give advice to any of the other players at your blackjack table. If you do offer help, you'll immediately be under higher scrutiny as a potential card counter. Instead, keep the tips to yourself and focus on running the system correctly.

Additional Blackjack Resources

In addition to all of the information you found here today about the knockout system of blackjack card counting, we've also got lots of other resources to help you elevate your game skills. To give you a little taste of what we have to offer, we've included a few of these resources here. To see more blackjack resources than these, be sure to check out our main website menu.

Best Online Casinos for Blackjack

If you're considering playing blackjack online, then you won't want to miss the link below. This link will take you to our page focused on the best online casinos. Here, we'll give you our list of recommendations and walk you through why our picks are the best of the best for your blackjack gaming needs. If you'd like to see this information, just click the link below.

Blackjack Strategy for Beginners

Card counting strategy is not something that you should be trying to learn if you're a blackjack beginner. If by chance you've ended up on this page, and you're new to blackjack, we'd suggest you take a quick step back since counting cards is a more advanced game strategy. Before diving into card counting systems like the KO system, you'll want to head to our blackjack strategy beginners guide. On this page, we'll fill you in on all of the primary game fundamentals that you need to know. Once you get some experience under your belt with the game, you can then continue your research of card counting strategies.

Main Blackjack Card Counting Hub

If you're just beginning your research for a blackjack card counting system, you should definitely check out our main page focused on all things card counting. Using the link below, you can explore more general information about card counting. We've also got high-level details about other popular card counting systems that you might consider using. To visit this page, click the link below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, we've compiled a list of some of the questions that we get most frequently about the KO system of card counting. If you've still got some unanswered questions at this time, be sure to check these out. We hope you'll be able to find the answers you're looking for.

Is it illegal to use the Knockout system of counting cards?

No. It's perfectly legal to count cards using the KO system if you're only using your mind to do it. If you ever use a device to count cards, you may be breaking the law depending on where you're playing. Doing that is also cheating. While it's not illegal to count cards with your mind, casinos still don't have to let you play if they think you are counting cards. Be sure to visit our section above to see tips on how you can avoid being caught when using the knockout system.

Is this the right card counting system for me?

With so many card counting systems out there, we can't blame you for asking this question. To know if the KO system is the right one for you, it's best to check out some of the other options available. By investigating multiple card counting systems, you can identify which one is the best fit for you. Your goal should be to locate a system that's easy for you to use and put into practice.

Is the Knockout System the best card counting system?

The KO system is a good card counting system, however, it can be tough to determine which method is best. All card counting systems have their strengths and weaknesses. We can tell you that there are some variants out there that are more accurate than the knockout system. However, these systems are often much more complex and harder to implement than the KO system. In our opinion, this system is an excellent intermediate system for counting cards.

Will the KO system work if I play blackjack online?

You may be able to use the knockout system if you play online blackjack. Your ability to use it will depend on what form of online blackjack you plan on playing. If you're into live dealer blackjack where you can see the dealer and the table, you should be able to implement this system. However, those of you choosing to play traditional online blackjack won't be able to use the KO system. The reason for this is that most traditional online blackjack variants reshuffle the deck virtually after every hand, thus wiping out your ability to establish patterns.

Will I be a sure winner using the Knockout system?

Unfortunately, no. The KO system does not guarantee that you'll be a winner when playing blackjack. The same is true for all other card counting systems out there. However, the knockout system and others do give you an advantage on the house if you can execute them properly. In turn, this means that you'll be more likely to make money when playing.

How difficult is it to learn the KO system?

If you've jumped to this frequently asked questions section without reading the rest of the article, we'd suggest you start there. Up above, we've got some reliable information about the system, how it works, and how you can practice it. In general, many folks should be able to learn how to use the knockout system in a relatively short amount of time. However, it will take some practice to make sure that you're effectively doing it.


Thanks for stopping by to visit our page about the KO system of blackjack card counting. If you've never visited our site before, this article is one of just many that we've created to help you improve your blackjack game. Be sure to check out some of the other excellent blackjack-related material that we have to offer. We're here to be your one-stop source for all things gambling related. Thanks for reading and good luck with your future card counting attempts!

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