The Uston SS (Strongest and Simplest) card counting system was developed by Ken Uston, with the help of fellow blackjack experts, Arnold Snyder, and Sam Case. It was first published in 1986. He also has 2 other card counting systems named directly after him, the Uston APM and the Uston APC.
While the SS stands for strongest and simplest, it is considered a level three system, being complex and difficult to learn. It was not developed for the beginner blackjack player, but for the player who already has a good understanding of card counting.
When learned and used as intended, it’s said to eliminate the house edge, while giving the player nearly a 2% advantage.
How it works
There are 7 card values: -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 or +3 with a level three system. However, if you look at the value chart below, there is no -3 value, just something to keep in mind.
It is an unbalanced system, so your starting and ending counts will not be the same. An unbalanced system is considered easier to work with because you don’t have to worry about a “true” count.
An unbalanced system such as the Uston SS is considered advantageous because it will start with a negative count, providing for a more accurate representation of the deck.
It has been determined that when the count reaches +1 with this system, the player has at least a 1% advantage.
For the Uston SS, the start number is determined by multiplying the number of decks used by -2. So, a six-deck game will have a starting count of -12.
This will counter faulty signals generated by momentary fluctuations in the game.
The card value chart is:
Looking at the chart above, there are no cards that easily cancel each other out, so the player must pay more attention to the cards being dealt, in order to keep an accurate running count.
Fortunately, aces are given a value, so they do not need to be tracked separately. However, if you can track aces, you will benefit by realizing if there are plenty of aces and therefore you would bet more because of the better chance to hit a blackjack.
Sizing your bets
At the start of play, your bet should be the table minimum. As your running count increases, your bet should increase. You want to stay with a table minimum bet if the running count is negative.
Because it is an unbalanced system that starts with a negative number, you will usually be betting the minimum for several hands. While that may seem boring, making small gains will be better in the long run.
The easiest bet sizing method to use with an unbalanced system is having the running count be the multiplier for the bet size. For instance, once the count reaches +2, you would double your bet size. It is an easy method, but leads to aggressive betting, possibly bringing you unwanted attention.
Using a tiered method, like betting 2x the minimum when the count is +2 or +3, and 3x when the count is +4 or +5, and so on, is less aggressive and would bring less attention.
Whether you decide on one of the above methods, or create your own bet sizing method, just remember that the idea is to bet higher as the running count gets higher and lower as it gets lower.
This is a remarkably effective system designed for those who know perfect basic strategy and employ a good betting spread. Many top players still use this system. If you think you might want to try it, realize that it will take time to master, so plenty of practice is required.