The Uston APM (Advanced Plus/Minus) card counting system was developed by Ken Uston, and first published in his book, Million Dollar Blackjack, in 1981. He is also a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Many argue that this system is what introduced card counting to blackjack players and thereby increased the popularity of blackjack.
It is a level one system, easy for beginners to learn, and yet effective in the proper situations. The main shortcoming to the system is that it was developed for single or double deck games, which are hard to find.
He has added the APC (Advanced Point Count) and SS (Strongest and Simplest) systems to account for multiple deck games.
How it works
There are only 3 card values: -1, 0 or +1 and your count starts at 0 and continues until there is a shuffle, where you again start the count at 0.
It is a balanced system, meaning if you were to count down a deck, you would end at zero.
The card value chart is:
It is easy for the beginning card counter because you can easily cancel out cards that are counted by the presence of another card. There are 3 cards with no value, 5 cards with a plus 1 value, and 5 cards with a -1 value.
When counting at a table, simple eliminate pairs that will cancel each other out and the remaining points are added to the running total count.
As with all counting systems, the higher the count, the more you should bet. As the cards are dealt, you assign the above appropriate values to the card and keep a running total count. You make your next bet based on that running count being positive or negative.
Because it is for single deck games, there is no need to consider a true count, because the running count and true count are the same when considering a one deck game.
While tracking aces is not part of the system, you can increase the advantage of using this system by also keeping track of the aces. Because the system is so simple, it shouldn’t be hard to remember if any aces have been played. If half the deck has been played and no aces have dropped, with a plus count, you stand a better chance of hitting blackjack and therefore should increase your bet.
Sizing your bets
Because of the simplicity of the system, using the running count as a multiplier is considered best practice. For example, if the running count is +4, your bet should be 4 times the table minimum. Conversely, if the running count is +1 or less, your bet should remain the table minimum.
Ideally, sizing your bet should be done by whatever method fits your individual playing style. Use of a bet sizing system, will keep your wins and losses to maximums and minimums, while misdirecting the fact that you’re counting cards.
The Uston APM system is another easy card counting system for beginners to learn. It is a good system to try as your first effort in card counting, which you can then use as a basis for advancing into more technical systems.
It is an old system that can still be reliable and effective if you’re able to find a single deck blackjack table to play.