How Do Poker Players Count Cards?


In poker, counting cards -- also known as "card removal" -- is a legal and sporting method of gaining an edge over less-skilled opponents. A deft manner and trained eye often significantly improve the counter's odds of booking a winning session.

During Play

  • A practice most often associated with stud variants, card removal is the process of accounting for exposed cards -- also called "up cards" -- to more accurately keep track of the development of a hand. Skilled players casually glance at each opponent's hand before their turn. Glances should be inconspicuous and timed so that each opponent's up cards can be scanned before being folded. Avoid distractions such as lengthy conversation or television; every exposed card represents an opportunity to make a more informed decision. There's no need for complex calculations to take advantage of this new information. Winning players fold most of their drawing hands when their outs are removed and call or raise more often when their opponents need removed cards.

Away From the Felt

  • Counting cards is a difficult skill to master at the table. To improve card recognition and memory, practice by dealing cards face up as quickly as possible, one on top of another, until the order of the entire deck is memorized. One way to rapidly improve strategic understanding is to take notes on confusing hands in which removed cards should have affected the correct strategy, and then analyze the games at home.


  • Photo Credit zbg2/iStock/Getty Images
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  • Poker Player's Bible; Lou Krieger
  • Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players; David Sklansky, Ray Zee

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