Understanding Card Counting Systems

Card counting is the primary way advanced blackjack players are able to beat casinos at live blackjack tables. That is to say, it’s not that they beat the house all the time, but it helps to swing the advantage more in the player’s favor, allowing them to win more. You should know that the house will always hold a little bit of an advantage, or else they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. However, you must also realize, card counting does not work for online play.

Card counting is not illegal, just frowned upon by casinos. With blackjack already having the best player odds of any casino game, having the know-how to cut that advantage even more is something the casinos don’t like.

As a card counter, you will know when to bet more because the deck is favorable, or when to stick to the table minimum bet because the deck is unfavorable. If you can count cards, you will know the probable composition of the deck and therefore know when a typically unconventional bet, might actually be a good bet.

BASICS

The basic theory behind card counting is to track the relationship of high cards to low cards remaining in a deck of cards.  Through statistical studies, it has been determined that when more high cards remain in the deck, (10’s – Aces) it benefits the player, and when more low cards remain in the deck, (3’s-6’s) it benefits the dealer. Therefore, a high positive count is the ideal situation you hope for as a card counter.

With more high cards remaining, the player benefits for the following reasons:

  • There is a better chance to hit a natural blackjack, which generally pays 3:2 and therefore more money is won.
  • You will be more likely to get a high card when doubling down and therefore winning, which means more profit on a single hand.
  • Gives yourself more opportunities to profitably split cards because you’ll know the odds are greater that you’ll get a high card and a better chance to win the hand
  • Let’s you know when taking the insurance bet (a basic strategy no-no) may be a good thing because the dealer has a better chance of having blackjack if the deck is high card rich.
  • Knowing the deck has more high cards, makes it more probable for the player and the dealer to bust.  As a player using basic strategy, when you know you should hit a hard 16, you might not want to hit it because of the probability of receiving a high card and busting.  You would want to stand and let the dealer take that high bust card because he must hit a 16.

SYSTEM SETUP

Card counting systems assign numerical values to each card in the deck, either positive, negative, or zero(0).  When the count is a high positive number, it means the deck has more high cards, than low cards left and that is more favorable to the player.

As cards are dealt, you adjust the running count by the value of that dealt card.  If it’s a high card, you’re going to subtract from the count, because now there would be more low cards, than high cards in the deck, and if it’s a low card, you’re going to add to the count, for the opposite reasoning.

Cards are a given a value based on the card’s EOR, or Effect of Removal.  The EOR is basically an estimate of how removing a card from play will change the house advantage in the game.  Furthermore, the bigger the spread between the negative values and positive values, the better match to actual EOR, resulting in better efficiency of the system.

Finally, systems are also broken into different class levels based on the ratio between the lowest and highest given point values, which helps determine the difficulty in learning and using the system.  For the most part, the levels generally range from 1-4.  However, there are systems ranked above 4, but because of the complexity involved with them, most advanced players feel the slight increase in advantage is too small to make it worth the extra effort.  In fact, there are at least two extremely complex card counting systems (Griffin Ultimate and Thorp Ultimate) where it is suggested that only a computer could use them!

CARD COUNTING DEFINITIONS

When comparing card counting systems, here are terms to know:

  • PLAYING EFFICIENCY (PE) – Suggests how well a system can adjust to changes in strategic play
  • BETTING CORRELATION (BC) – The correlation between the effect of removal (EOR) of cards and the card point values.  It is used to figure out how well a system determines good betting situations and approach 1.00 (100% correlation)  More importantly, BC is highly crucial information in six or eight deck games (shoe games).
  • INSURANCE CORRELATION (IC) – It is defined as the correlation between a strategy’s card tag values and the value of cards in insurance situations. Basically, it means being able to identify when the player needs to take insurance. You would definitely want to take insurance when the count is high, meaning there are plenty of 10-value cards left, and so the dealer is more likely to have blackjack.
  • LEVEL – The number of different values assigned to the cards.  In other words, the higher the level, the more difficult to learn.
  • SIDE COUNTS – Methods used to increase strategy efficiency, usually refers to tracking aces.
  • TYPE – Refers to:
    • Balanced – Requires a True Count calculation, plus if you were to count down a deck, you would start and end with 0.
    • Unbalanced – No True Count calculation needed, plus if you were to count down a deck, it would not end with 0
    • Suit Aware – Requires different counts for black and red cards
    • Compromise – Uses indexes for greater ease
    • 1,2,3,4 – Refers to the level, the higher, the more difficult.

COMPARISON CHART

My source of information for the following chart comes mostly from Card Counting Strategies. Ease of Use rating, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, is based on my personal assessment after understanding each system.  

Click on strategy name for a more complete description.

Strategy23456789TENJACKQUEENKINGABCPEICTypeEase of Use
Ace/Five000100000000-1n/an/an/aB11
Canfield Expert0111110-1-1-1-1-100.870.630.76B14
Canfield Master1122210-1-2-2-2-200.920.670.85B25
Easy OPP1111100000000n/an/an/aU11
Hi-Lo11111000-1-1-1-1-10.970.510.76B14
Hi-Opt I01111000-1-1-1-100.880.610.85B13
Hi-Opt II11221100-2-2-2-200.910.670.91B25
KISS 10/101110000-1-1-10n/an/an/aUS11
KISS 20/11111000-1-1-1-100.90.620.87US12
KISS 30/11111100-1-1-1-1-10.980.560.78US12
K-O11111100-1-1-1-1-10.980.550.78UC11
Mentor1222210-1-2-2-2-2-10.970.620.8B25
Omega II1122210-1-2-2-2-200.920.670.85B25
Red Seven111110/100-1-1-1-1-10.980.540.78USC12
Revere Adv. Plus Minus1111100-1-1-1-1-100.890.590.76B14
Revere Point Count12222100-2-2-2-2-20.990.550.78B25
Silver Fox1111110-1-1-1-1-1-10.960.530.69B14
UBZ 212222100-2-2-2-2-10.970.620.84U23
Uston Adv. Plus Minus01111100-1-1-1-1-10.950.550.76B13
Uston APC1223221-1-3-3-3-300.910.690.9B36
Wong Halves0.5111.510.50-0.5-1-1-1-1-10.990.560.72B36
Zen Count11222100-2-2-2-2-10.960.630.85B25

Final Thoughts

I hope you now understand how using a card counting system will improve your winning results when playing blackjack at a live casino. There are so many different systems (many more than I’ve listed here) that you can choose, with several being quite simple to learn. Take a look at the list here and pick one that seems interesting to you. Even the simplest system will make your blackjack playing sessions more profitable and in turn, more fun! If card counting doesn’t improve your odds, why do casinos get upset by players who use it? It must be an effective way to win more at blackjack, give yourself that advantage!

USTON APC-Blackjack Card Counting System

The Uston APC (Advanced Point Count) card counting system was developed by Ken Uston, and first published in his book, Million Dollar Blackjack, in 1981.  He also has 2 other card counting systems named directly after him, the Uston APM and the Uston SS.

The Uston APC is heavily considered his greatest accomplishment and one of the most powerful and effective card counting systems around.

After the success of his APM (Advanced Plus/Minus) system, designed for beginners, he wanted to give the professional players something they could use and so, the APC was developed.

It is a level three system, being very complex and difficult to learn.  It is not for a beginner player. 

How it works

There are 7 card values: -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 or +3.  Your count starts at 0 and continues until there is a shuffle, where you again start the count at 0.

It is also a balanced system, meaning if you were to count down a deck, you would start and end at zero.

The card value chart is:

   2345678910JQKA
+1 +2+2+3+2+2+1-1 -3-3-3-3 0

As seen in the chart above, there are not cards that easily cancel each other out, so the player has to pay more attention to the cards being dealt, in order to keep an accurate running count.

This system makes use of a true count, which adds to the difficulty of learning it. While the true count is not horribly difficult to figure out, it’s just another aspect of the system that makes it difficult and more involved.

For this system, this true count is calculated by dividing the running count by an estimate of the remaining decks in play. To quickly make that estimate while you’re at a live game, can be tricky.  However, the use of a true count is what increases the efficacy of this system.

The other added difficulty is in tracking aces. While counting aces is not part of the system, because aces are valued at zero, you can increase the advantage of using this system by also keeping track of the aces on the side. 

In order to keep track of aces, you would start by figuring out the total number of aces available (number of decks x 4).  With a 6-deck game, it would be 24 aces(6×4). When an ace is dealt, you would subtract 1 from that total to keep an accurate count of the remaining aces.

Knowing the ace count, will help you decide whether to bet even more, when the true count is high and you know there are also a majority of aces still out.  You can deduce there is a greater chance of blackjack in that situation and you would want to bet bigger.

Sizing your bets

At the start of play, your bet should be the table minimum.  Using the counting system, as your true count goes up, your bet size should increase.

Deciding on a specific bet sizing system is best, because it will keep your wins and losses to maximums and minimums, thereby disguising the fact that you’re counting cards.  Having a betting system will hopefully control the urge to wildly increase your bet size when the deck is extremely favorable.

One last advantage of using a counting system, is in terms of the insurance bet.  Beginners are taught not make the insurance bet because it is a sucker bet. However, if you know the deck is full of tens, it will be more likely that the dealer would hit a blackjack, so it would be a bet to be made if you also have a blackjack.

Final Thoughts

It’s a bit funny that Ken Uston was known to say he doesn’t regularly use this system because of the difficulty.  He admits there are far easier systems available, including his Uston APM and Uston SS that are quite effective, despite the simplicity. The statistical increased advantage of the APC is not big enough to justify the increased effort necessary to use this method. 

Wong Halves – Blackjack Card Counting

The Wong Halves card counting system was developed by Stanford Wong and was introduced in his book, Professional Blackjack, in 1975.  Stanford Wong is actually an alias for John Ferguson, a well-known, professional blackjack player. 

The Wong Halves is a level 3, balanced system which means it is one of the most complicated systems devised.

It values some cards at fractions of a point, so a lot more concentration is needed, and more advanced mathematical logic is required.  Also, because it is a balanced system, a conversion of running count to true count is required.

The indices range from -1 to +1.5, which is why it’s a level 3 system and very difficult to learn.  Just the idea of using fractional numbers, would make you think it is probably much more accurate than many other counting systems.  The betting correlation (calculation of accuracy in determining player-favorable situations) for this system is 99%, so almost perfect.

Your count will start at zero and will also reset to zero after the cards are shuffled.

What else makes this system difficult is that a true count, instead of a running count is used.  Fortunately, getting a true count is not all that difficult, it’s just one more step in the process.

True count is determined by dividing the running count by the estimate of the number of decks left in the shoe.  A true count is designed to give the player a more accurate representation of the remaining cards and how favorable or not it is to the player.

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -1, -.5, 0, +1, or +1.5.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+.5   +1   +1   +1.5   +1   +.50-.5-1-1-1-1 -1

As the cards are dealt, a running count is kept.  The starting count will be zero.  You will then need to convert the running count to the true count before deciding on your bet.

Once you reach the shuffle, you revert back to the starting number of zero.

In order to make it less complicated, some people multiply the values by 2, so there are no fractions.  Despite doing that, it still is a complicated system to learn and use.  You have to be aware by doing that, your running count and true counts will be twice as high as they should be, so you’ll have to do another round of division to get the true values for betting.

ACE TRACKING

Fortunately, keeping track of aces on the side is not part of this system because they are given a value within the system.  This system is complicated enough without adding something else to track.

SIZING YOUR BETS

As usual, once you reach a positive count, you can increase your bet.

While the count remains negative, only bet the minimum or consider moving to another table if it keeps going down.

Keep your betting spreads narrow, as to not draw attention to your playing style.  Play with a betting system, but not one that will have you betting extremely high when the count is high.  Don’t start betting 10-20 times the table minimum because the count has become extremely positive.

Casinos understand that players will bet more if the cards seem to be “running good,” just don’t let them figure out why you know the cards are running good!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Wong Halves system is definitely for an experienced card counter who wants an extremely accurate system.  It is very hard to use, which is why it is not used a lot, but quite effective when compared with most other systems.

UNBALANCED ZEN COUNT 2 (UBZ2) – Blackjack Card Counting

The Unbalanced Zen Count 2 card counting system was developed by George C. and is very similar to Arnold Snyder’s Zen Count system.  The basic difference is that the UBZ2 is an unbalanced system, while the Zen Count is a balanced system. 

The Unbalanced Zen Count 2 is a level 2, unbalanced system that was actually designed to be a combination of the Zen count system and the Revere Point Count system.

The indices range from -2 to +2, which is why it’s a level 2 system and it’s considered unbalanced because the starting count depends on the number of decks in play.  You would start the count by multiplying the number of decks in play by -2, giving you the start number.  For instance, in a 6 deck game, your count would start at -12 and go up or down from that point.

It works like that because the effect of a particular card being dealt out of a single dealt is more significant than a card being dealt out of multiple decks.  If you think specifically about aces, and 4 aces are dealt out of a single deck, the chances of getting a blackjack drops to 0%, however, if 4 aces are dealt out of 6 decks, you still have chances to hit a blackjack.

What else makes this system difficult is that a true count, instead of a running count is used, making it slightly more difficult.  Fortunately, getting a true count is not all that difficult, it’s just one more step in the process.

True count is determined by dividing the running count by the estimate of the number of decks left in the shoe.  A true count is designed to give the player a more accurate representation of the remaining cards and how favorable or not it is to the player.

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +2   +2   +2   +2   +100-2-2-2-2 -1

As the cards are dealt, a running count is kept.  The starting count will depend on the number of decks in play.  You will then need to convert the running count to the true count before deciding on your bet.

Once you reach the shuffle, you revert back to the starting number of -2 multiplied by the number of decks.  

ACE TRACKING

Fortunately, keeping track of aces on the side is not part of this system because they are given a value within the system.  This is what the more advanced players like about the system, one less thing to track.

SIZING YOUR BETS

As usual, once you reach a positive count, you can increase your bet. With this unbalanced system, when the count is above 0, your edge over the house is about 1%, so you definitely want to bet more.

While the count remains negative, only bet the minimum or consider moving to another table.

Keep your betting variances moderate, as to not draw attention to your playing style.  Play with a betting system that will keep your bet spread fairly even, in order to not look like you’re counting cards and know the deck has become quite favorable to the player.

Casinos understand that players will bet more if the cards seem to be “running good,” just don’t let them figure out why you know the cards are running good!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Unbalanced Zen Count 2 system is best used by an experienced card counter who wants a powerful system.  It is relatively hard to use, but quite effective when compared with other systems.

Off Broadway Shoes

THE ZEN COUNT – Blackjack Card Counting

The Zen Count card counting system was developed by blackjack expert Arnold Snyder and was introduced in his book Blackbelt in Blackjack.  This is just one of a few card counting systems Snyder developed.

Though he was a master card counter, Snyder developed systems that were simple enough for a beginner to work with, yet effective and efficient enough that an advanced player would be willing to work with it.

The Zen Count is a level 2, balanced system with parts that would require some practice at home before trying to use it at a live table game.

The indices range from -2 to +2, which is why it’s a level 2 system and it’s considered balanced because if you were to count down a deck, you would start and end with zero.

Because a true count, instead of running count, is used, it is considered slightly more difficult to learn.  Figuring out the true count is not really that difficult, it’s just adds to the process, making it a little more involved. 

True count with this system is determined by dividing the running count by the estimate of remaining decks in play. A true count is designed to give the player a more accurate representation of the remaining cards and how favorable or not it is to the player.

One point about this system is that using a true count is actually optional, The Zen Count can be used profitably with just the running count, but if you incorporate the true count, it will definitely give you an even greater edge.

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +1   +2   +2   +2   +100-2-2-2-2 -1

As the cards are dealt, a running count is kept.  The count does start at 0 and is increased or decreased per the value of the card dealt. You will then need to convert the running count to the true count (optional) before deciding on your bet.

Your running count will revert back to zero once the cards are shuffled.

ACE TRACKING

Fortunately, keeping track of aces on the side is not part of this system because they are given a value within the system.  Snyder figured that accounting for aces with a -1 value, was just as effective as eliminating them from the running count or tracking them separately.  This is what the more advanced players like about the system, one less thing to track.

SIZING YOUR BETS

Whether you’re using the running count or true count, a positive count is the signal to increase your bet and a negative count is the signal to bet the table minimum.  Consequently, as the number increases, you want to increase your bet, in hopes of winning more, and if the count goes negative, bet the minimum or even think of moving to another table.

Try not to dramatically increase your bet if the count increases significantly, because you will probably draw unwanted eyes to your play.  Play with a betting system that will keep your raises moderate, in order to not look like you’re counting cards.

As long as you don’t make wild jumps in betting amounts, you should be okay.  Casinos understand that players will bet more if the cards seem to be “running good,” just don’t let them figure out just how much you know!

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Zen Count system is best used by an experienced card counter who wants to take their skills to the next level.  You can first learn it using the running count, and then take the next step and add the use of the true count.  Lastly, it works well with single deck or multiple deck games.

REVERE POINT COUNT-Blackjack Card Counting

The Revere Point Count (RPC) card counting system was developed by Lawrence Revere and was introduced in his book Playing Blackjack as a Business.  It’s been around since the early 1970s.

Interestingly enough, Lawrence Revere is actually one of the “pen names” of prominent professional blackjack player, Griffin K. Owens.  His other aliases were Paul Mann and Leonard “Speck” Parsons.

There are 3 other systems Revere developed with partner Julian Braun.  Those are: Revere 5 Count, Revere Plus Minus Count and The 10 Count. The Revere Point Count is considered his best.

It is an advanced, level 2, balanced system that can be difficult to master, but is extremely effective.  Because it is considered very powerful and accurate, it is still used to this day.

With the indexes ranging from -2 to +2, and tracking aces encouraged, though not required as part of the system, there is plenty to keep track of during a hand.

Extra math is involved with this because a true count is used, instead of the running count, when determining how to size your bet.

Fortunately, the Revere Point Count system is a balanced system, meaning if you were to count down an entire deck, you would end up with 0 at the end, making it easy to practice by counting down decks.

Considering it was developed during the times of primarily single deck games, it is most effective for that, however, it can be adapted for multiple deck games.

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +2   +2   +2   +2   +100-2-2-2-2 -2

As the cards are dealt, a running count is kept.  The count does start at 0 and is increased or decreased per the value of the card dealt. You will then need to convert the running count to the true count before deciding on your bet.

Determining the true count with this system is slightly different than other systems.  With RPC, the true count is determined by dividing the running count by the number of half-decks are left.  For most other true count systems, the running count is divided by the number of full-decks left.

When the next hand is dealt, you add the new card values to the previous running count, not the true count.  But once again, when you’re ready to bet, convert the running count to the true count and bet based on the true count.

Your running count will revert back to zero once the cards are shuffled.

ACE TRACKING

While ace tracking is not a true part of this system, if done, it will increase the effectiveness of the RPC system.  Many advanced players feel it is not necessary because of the inherent effectiveness of the system.

It means extra work to keep a separate count of aces, and the increase in effectiveness is not great enough to justify the extra effort.

SIZING YOUR BETS

The idea is to bet more when the true count is high and less when the true count is low.  The higher the true count, the bigger your bet should be.  If the true count is low or negative, keep your bet to the table minimum.

If you are able to use some sort of betting system that keeps your bet spread moderate, you should be able to have a nice profitable blackjack session, while card counting.

Your goal should be to play without having the “eyes in the sky” realize that you are counting cards.  As long as you don’t make wild jumps in betting amounts, you should be okay.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Revere Point Count system is best used by a more advanced player because of its complexity.  There must be something good about this system because it’s been around for a long time and is still in use.

Blackjack Card Counting System – OMEGA II COUNT

The Omega II card counting system was developed by Bryce Carlson and was introduced in his book Blackjack for Blood in 2001.

It is an advanced system that is difficult to learn, but extremely effective.

What makes this system harder is that the indexes range from -2 to +2, and keeping track of aces is encouraged.  That means a lot more to keep track of during a hand.

In addition, a true count is used instead of only the running count, meaning additional math is involved.

Fortunately, the Omega II system is a balanced system, meaning if you were to count down an entire deck, you would end up with 0 at the end, making it easy to practice by counting down decks. 

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +1   +2   +2   +2   +10-1-2-2-2-2 0

As the cards are dealt, a running count is kept.  The count does start at 0 and is increased or decreased per the value of the card dealt. You will then need to convert the running count to the true count before deciding on your bet.  The true count is determined by dividing the running count by the estimate of remaining decks in play.

When the next hand is dealt, you add the new card values to the previous running count, not the true count.  But once again, when you’re ready to bet, convert the running count to the true count and bet based on the true count.

Your running count will revert back to zero once the cards are shuffled.

ACE TRACKING

Because aces are given a value of zero, some consider them not counted, but keeping track of how many have been dealt, will greatly increase the effectiveness of the Omega II system.

It does mean extra work to keep a separate count of aces, but studies have shown that knowing the ace count, increases the system’s efficiency by almost 3 percent.

If you have a high positive count and know there are still lots of aces left in the deck, increasing your bet at this time, with a greater chance of hitting a blackjack that will pay 3-2, can greatly improve your profits.

SIZING YOUR BETS

As with other systems, the higher the positive true count, the bigger your bet should be.  If the true count is low or negative, you want to keep your bet at the table minimum.

Using the true count as a multiplier is again, most popular. For example, if the true count is +4, your bet should be 4 times the table minimum.  Conversely, if the true count is +1 or less, your bet should remain the table minimum.

Of course, sizing your bet is totally dependent on your individual playing style.  However, the use of a bet sizing system should be practiced because it will keep your wins and losses manageable, while misdirecting the fact that you’re counting cards.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Omega II counting system is best used by an intermediate player because of its complexity.  Omega II is a powerful, effective and efficient system that offers great rewards for those willing to learn it.

Blackjack Card Counting System – MENTOR COUNT

The Mentor card counting system is another one developed by Fred Renzey and is introduced in his book the Blackjack Bluebook II. 

This is a multi-level system and also considered a level two system because of the wider range of indices.

What makes this system harder is that the indexes range from -2 to +2, so there is more memorizing to be done.

Another difficult part to this system is that it uses a “true count” and not just the running count.  This means some additional math, fortunately not too difficult though.

What makes it easier to learn is that it is a balanced system, meaning if you were to count down a deck, you would start with 0 and end with 0.  That makes it easier to practice because you know if you’re not at 0 when you run out of cards, you counted something wrong.

How it Works

Each card in the deck is assigned a value of -2, -1, 0, +1, or +2.  The chart of values is:

2345678910JQKA
+1   +2   +2   +2   +2   +10-1-2-2-2-2-1

A running count is kept as the cards are dealt.  The count does start at 0.  You will need to convert the running count to the true count, which means, for this system, dividing the running count by the estimate of remaining double decks in play. Note that the true count is figured out based on the number of “double” decks remaining.  That is different than other systems where the conversion is based on remaining single decks.

As you keep track of your running count, before you decide on your bet, you convert that running count to the true count. 

When the next hand is dealt, you add the new card values to the previous running count, not the true count.  But once again, when you’re ready to bet, convert the running count to the true count and bet based on the true count.

Your running count will revert back to zero once the cards are shuffled.

SIZING YOUR BETS

If the true count is positive, you’ll want to increase your bet, if it’s negative, you want to keep your bet at the table minimum.

Most players like using the true count as a multiplier with this system.  For example, if the true count is +4, your bet should be 4 times the table minimum.  Conversely, if the true 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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With the Mentor card counting system being a level two system, with a betting correlation of 97%, it is efficient and understandably very effective with medium sized shoe games.  

It is not an easy system for a beginner, but an advanced player could be quite successful using this system.

Blackjack Card Counting System-USTON APM

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:

   2345678910JQKA
0 +1+1+1+1+100 -1-1-1-1 0

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Blackjack Card Counting System-SILVER FOX COUNT

The Silver Fox Count system was developed and introduced by Ralph Stricker, in his book The Silver Fox Blackjack System.  The moniker fox was thrust upon him by a pit boss who felt he was slick as a fox, and Stricker himself added the “silver” as his beard hair started to turn gray.

It is a level one, balanced system, considered one of the easiest systems to learn, yet effective enough to reduce the house edge. 

How it works

While the system is considered easy, it does require the use of a true count, not just a running total count.  Use of a true count basically helps you take into consideration the number of decks being used.

The true count is determined by dividing your running count by the estimated number of decks left in the shoe.  For instance, if you had a running count of +12 and you estimate there are 4 decks left in the shoe, the true count would be 12/4 or +3.

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.

The card value chart is:

   2345678910JQKA
+1 +1+1+1+1+10-1 -1-1-1-1 -1

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. That running count is then converted to a true count. You make your next bet based on that true count being positive or negative.

What makes it one of the easier systems is that you’re literally tracking low and cards and high cards, and not the middle 8’s.  You just have to remember if it’s a low card, you add 1 and if it’s a high card, you subtract 1.

Sizing your bets

Because of the simple nature of the system, using the true count as a multiplier is considered good 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.

There is also a less aggressive method called bucketing.  This is where you would create a “bucket” that would be a range of counts, like (+3 or +4), (+5 or +6) or a larger range (+3 to +5), (+6 to +8) and each bucket has it’s own multiplier.  For instance, a true count that falls in the first bucket would have you multiply the minimum bet by perhaps 2 or 3, and not until the true count gets to the next bucket, would you increase the multiplier.

Ideally, sizing your bet should be done by whatever method fits your individual playing style.  By using a bet sizing system, it’s easier to disguise the fact that you’re counting cards because your bet sizes won’t vary wildly.

Final Thoughts

The Silver Fox Count system is a good system to try as a beginner. It’s simplicity makes it perfect to see if card counting will improve your win percentage.  With just a little bit of effort, you can lessen the house edge and that should at least make it more fun to play.

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