Does Wonging Still Work in Blackjack?

Many people are aware that blackjack can be beaten through card counting. Several famous movies have portrayed card counters making a fortune

But card-counting fortunes are harder to come by these days. Casinos have become more adept at catching advantage players over the years.

Dating as far back as the late 1960s, casinos started to improve at detecting card counters. Advantage gamblers, though, have always responded by developing techniques to circumvent these measures and continue making profits.

“Wonging” (back counting) is one of the techniques that have arisen from these efforts. Back counting takes card counting to a new level and boosts your chances of winning.

The only problem is that casinos are fully aware of wongers and how to spot them. But can you still use this method to improve your card-counting profits?

I’m going to answer this question by discussing the basics of wonging, standard card counting, and if you can put it all together to win big.

What Is Wonging?

Card counting revolves around determining a positive count, meaning when the shoe is rich in aces and 10-value cards. More high cards improve your chances of getting a natural blackjack and earning a 3:2 bonus payout.

You’ll be able to capitalize on this positive expected value (+EV) by also raising your bets during a positive count. But the problem with card counting is that you have to play a number of -EV hands before you can determine an edge.

Wonging helps circumvent this problem. Back counting sees you stand off to the side of a game and count cards.

You then enter a shoe as soon as you have a favorable count. Doing so allows you to bypass the house edge and jump straight into a +EV situation.

It’s unclear exactly when back counting started. Most contend that card counters have been doing this ever since the 1970s.

John “Stanford Wong” Ferguson is credited for popularizing the technique. Wong is a famous gambling author who coined the term wonging after his pen name.

How Does Wonging Work

Back counting begins by visiting a land-based casino and scouting the blackjack tables. You want to learn the betting limits and rules for the blackjack games at hand.

Ideally, you’ll find one or more tables with player-friendly rules and low betting limits. Favorable rules lower the house edge while simultaneously increasing your potential card-counting advantage. Low-limit blackjack tables aren’t usually watched as closely as high-limit games.

The next step is to find a vantage point where you can count cards without standing out. After all, you don’t want to stand directly behind tables and count because this will make your intentions obvious.

The best vantage points vary based on the casino you’re dealing with. One good strategy is to find a craps or roulette table that gives you a perfect view of the blackjack tables.

You can play low stakes with these games while simultaneously keeping an eye on the blackjack table. This isn’t easy to do, but it can be pulled off with experience.

The final step is to sit down to the table when the “true count” (discussed later) is at +2. Determining a positive count requires being good at card counting, which I’ll discuss in the next section.

You need to leave the table when the true count drops to +1 or zero. The reason for the option is that you may stick around at +1 to see if the count will go back up during the next hand.

Wonging is typically viewed as an individual player pursuit. However, some advantage gamblers form teams and use a back-counting variation.

Teams use what’s called the “big player” concept. The big player strategy starts with “spotters” sitting down to various blackjack tables.

Spotters make a table’s minimum bet while counting cards. Any spotter that determines a favorable count will signal the big player to come over.

The spotter will say a secret phrase to alert the big player to the count when they sit down. For example, they might say, “The cards are ‘running hot’ [+4] tonight.”

The big player can start placing large wagers right away and merely look like a high roller. This is preferable to suspiciously raising one’s bet from the table minimum to $150 in the middle of a shoe.

Team-based card counting isn’t technically wonging. However, it basically works the same way aside from the spotters placing minimum bets until they find a positive count.

Whether wonging in a team or individually, advantage players usually wait until they have at least a +2 count before sitting down. The reason why is because a +1 count barely offers an advantage.

Also note that wonging is best used in shoe games with six or eight decks. The increased number of decks creates a more-stable count.

This stability makes it more likely that a positive count will hold up for longer when you sit down.

Understanding Basic Card Counting

Earlier I mentioned how card counting involves determining when the deck is rich in aces and 10s. You want to figure out when you have a better chance of getting a natural blackjack, then raise your bet size to take advantage.

The blackjack world is filled with many different counting systems. These strategies differ in terms of their complexity and the edge they offer.

You’ll find that the Hi-Lo features a nice combination of simplicity and accuracy. You should be able to pick up this system within just a few minutes.

Using the Hi-Lo begins with assigning values to different groups of cards. You can see this below:

  • 2-6 (low cards = -1
  • 7-9 (neutral) = 0
  • A-10 (high) = -1

You add 1 to the count for low cards, because this signifies that there are more high cards available. You subtract 1 for high cards because your chances of getting a natural decrease as these cards are dealt.

Keep in mind that your initial count is only the “running count.” This must be converted to a “true count” when playing a multi-deck shoe.

The true count refers to when you divide the running count by the estimated number of remaining decks. Here’s an example:

  • Your running count is +8.
  • You estimate that four decks are undealt.
  • 8 / 4 = +2 (true count)

One final step to card counting involves determining when to raise your bet sizes. You want to increase your wager as the true count rises.

The problem with bet spreading, though, is that it’s a telltale sign of card counting. Pit bosses and dealers become suspicious when they see a player going from a $10 minimum wager to $100 (i.e. 1-10 bet spread).

Wonging offers the advantage of not having to worry about spreading bets. You already come onto the table with an advantage, meaning you don’t have to go from the minimum wager up to a 10x-15x multiple of your starting bet.

I don’t personally recommend that you worry about spreading wagers as a wonger. However, you may want to know the basics in case you feel like changing your bet size as the count increases or decreases.

Here’s a quick synopsis on spreading bets:

  • You create a unit size (e.g. $25).
  • You start by making the table’s minimum bet (e.g. $10) to minimize your risk.
  • You raise your bet to one full unit starting at +2.
  • Continue increasing by one unit as the true count increases (e.g. three units for +4).
  • Go back to the table’s minimum bet when the count reaches +1 or lower.

Why Is Wonging Effective?

Back counting is a great technique if you can get away with it. You get the advantage of entering shoes at a more-favorable point.

Contrast this to regular card counting, where you play a number of -EV hands while waiting for a positive count. Once this positive count comes, you only have a short window to capitalize.

What’s nice about wonging is that you still gain an edge without spreading your bets. You can enter the table with a $50 or $100 bet, for example, and never have to change your wager.

Wonging also calls on you to leave when the count drops to +1 or zero. Rather than also having to drop your bet to the table minimum, you simply get up.

One more advantage to back counting is that it’s not much more difficult than regular card counting. The main challenge is that you must count from further away.

Mastering the skill of counting away from the table requires an adjustment. However, you can develop this skill as you spend more looking for good vantage points and counting from a distance.

Downsides to Wonging

Again, one of wonging’s biggest benefits is that you don’t have to spread wagers. This takes away one method that casinos have for detecting your card counting abilities.

But as a whole, wonging leaves you more susceptible to being detected. Casinos are, after all, aware of wonging and the advantage that it provides.

One telltale sign that casinos look for is if you’re intensely watching blackjack tables from a distance. Many pit bosses can pick up on when you’re staring at a table from 20 feet away.

This alone doesn’t give them a reason to identify you as an advantage player. But they can make a mental note and use this info when you sit down to the table mid-shoe.

Making large wagers when you sit down to the table can also attract attention. Dealers inform the pit boss when a black chip ($100) is in play at a low-limit table.

The dealer does this to alert the pit boss, who then watches to see if you spread your bets like a typical card counter. However, it can also draw attention to your wonging efforts if they previously noticed you watching the table.

Also note that standing idly by and back counting can be caught by surveillance too. Your tactics will especially become noticeable if you continue showing up to the same casino.

Besides the multiple ways that you can be caught wonging, another downside is that you can’t guarantee how long a hot deck will last. You might wong in at +3 and quickly see the count drop to zero or worse.

You’re supposed to leave the table at this point so that you don’t play against the house edge. Of course, it does become suspicious when a pit boss only sees you playing 3-5 hands at a time.

Wonging’s biggest drawback is that casinos have measures in place to stop you from achieving success. The most-common measure is a sign that reads “No Mid-Shoe Entry.”

This sign refers to how you can’t enter the game in the middle of a shoe. You must instead wait until the dealer shuffles it. The No Mid-Shoe Entry rule is specifically aimed at preventing wonging.

Yet another problem is that you may draw the ire of regular blackjack players. Some gamblers are superstitious and believe that you’ll disrupt the flow of cards by entering mid-shoe.

Finally, back counting is a boring pursuit that requires you to watch the action far more than you play. By the end of the night, you may feel like you’ve spent far more time watching than actually playing.

Ways to Camouflage Wonging

Getting caught wonging and counting cards will get you kicked out or even banned from a casino. You’ll eventually run out of options if this happens repeatedly.

It’s good to use camouflaging methods to prevent yourself from getting caught. One of the best ways to disguise your efforts is to look casual while counting off to the side.

Earlier I mentioned how you need to find a good vantage point to watch the games. But you must also take this a step further and ensure that you don’t stick out when observing the action.

Playing a low-stakes table game with a nice view of the blackjack tables offers good cover. Craps and roulette are good options because they both require standing, thus giving you a higher vantage point.

Of course, you’ll have to make -EV wagers on these games. But the winnings you earn from wonging will easily erase the low-stakes -EV bets.

You may become so skilled at wonging that you’re eventually able to observe a table while looking totally natural. The only catch is that you’ll need a lot of card-counting practice and experience to count in this matter.

The best places to wong include Las Vegas and Atlantic City. These are America’s largest gambling destinations and they’re filled with blackjack tables.

You’ll need access to lots of casinos if you plan on wonging for considerable hours each week. Doing so becomes infinitely harder if you live a rural area with only 1-2 casino options.

Vegas and Atlantic City, in contrast, offer a wide range of gambling venues that you can hit. Spreading your play helps you become less recognizable.

You should also disguise your appearance each time out. I’m not saying that you need to wear Gruocho Marx glasses and a fake beard. But you can wear different hats and go back and forth between glasses and contacts.

Playing house-banked casino games after a session is one more good way to hide your advantage play. This technique especially works if the pit boss and/or surveillance is suspicious of you for any reason.

Most advantage gamblers don’t go off and play slot machines or video poker after wonging. You can take the heat off yourself by playing low-stakes slots after blackjack.

Can You Still Pull Off Wonging?

Wonging is still a viable advantage play technique. But you need the right skills and conditions to pull it off.

The first step involves learning card counting. This can be done through the Hi-Lo system, which is both basic and effective.

Once you thoroughly know the Hi-Lo, you want to start practicing. Online blackjack trainers, which are programs that flash card values, are a great way to hone your card-counting skills.

Next, you need to become good at counting cards far enough from the table. I suggest visiting casinos and practicing distance counting without playing.

You can move on to counting from a craps or roulette table as your abilities improve. Playing another game offers the perfect cover as you count in the background.

Regarding the conditions, you have to find tables that don’t have: a) a No Mid-Shoe Entry sign, or b) an automatic shuffling machine.

The no mis-shoe entry rule completely prevents you from wonging. An automatic shuffling machine mixes the shoe up in a manner that renders card counting useless.

Some blackjack tables are void of both automatic shufflers and no-mid-shoe-entry rules. Provided these tables have good rules, then they’re perfect spots for your wonging efforts.


Wonging blackjack games certainly isn’t a new advantage-play method. In fact, players have been using this strategy since at least the 1970s.

Regardless of its age, this technique is still effective today. You just need to thoroughly understand it and how to effectively use it.

The actual concept behind wonging is very easy to understand. You simply count cards without playing and sit down when the count becomes favorable.

Putting wonging into practice, though, is more difficult. You not only need to master basic card counting, but also the ability to count from 10-20 feet away without drawing attention.

Spending time in the casino around blackjack tables is the only way you’re going to master this. You may even want to step it up a notch by learning to count while playing other table games.

Of course, you also need to make sure that a table doesn’t have anti-wonging rules or an automatic shuffling machine. Either of these elements will keep you from entering tables mid-shoe.

Wonging is just like any other advantage gambling method in that it’s not easy. But the rewards are great if you’re able to become excellent at wonging.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.