Card Counting in Blackjack
Card counting originated in the early sixties with Prof. Edward O. Thorp developing the first basic blackjack strategy called Five Count, according to which, players’ chances of winning improved if the deck had fewer fives. If players kept track of the number of fives dealt, they could get an idea oft the number of fives left in the deck.
Players need not be geniuses or mathematicians to learn the art of card counting; they simply need to learn how to keep track of each card dealt to determine the type of the cards left in the deck to enhance their chances of winning.
How Card Counting Works
Card counting is the art of keeping track of every card that is dealt to players in a bid to effectively alter gaming strategy to enhance one’s chances of winning.
When players sit down at a blackjack table, the card count is considered to be zero. The card count keeps fluctuating depending on the card counting technique used. A successful card counter keeps track of all the cards dealt to all the players as well as the dealer.
1) Start by ‘Tagging’ Each Card
In most common card-counting systems such as Hi-Lo, players should begin by assigning a value for each card. 2-6-numbered cards have a value of +1, 7-9-numbered cards have a value of 0, while cards higher than 10 (to Ace) have a value of -1.
Hence, for each card dealt, players must either add or subtract 1 or take no action, according to the card’s value.
2) Keep a ‘Running Count’
For single deck games, this strategy is enough to give you sufficient information to start placing your bets. For each card that comes out of the shoe and for each round played, keep track of the value of all cards. A higher running count will shift the game towards the player’s advantage.
3) Calculate a ‘True Count’ by Using the Running Count
Multiple deck blackjack games are a little more tricky for card counters to keep track of. However, don’t be put off as some simple division is more than enough to help you stay on top of the game.
If you have a running count of +10 in a multi-deck game including 5 decks, simply divide the running count by the number of decks remaining in order to work out the True Count of +2 (10/5).
4) True Count Changes = Change Your Bets
With the information presented to you through the running count and the True count, you should use it to your advantage to make better decisions when betting. As the True Count rises, so should your bets while the opposite is also true.
A positive card count usually means that cards of smaller value have been played, owing to which the cards left in the deck are cards of higher value. If the deck comprises high-value cards, players can take it for granted that dealers have a greater possibility of going bust, players will get more blackjacks, or players will receiver stronger starting hands.
In case of a high card count, players can afford to bet high because they definitely have a greater edge over the house. If the card count begins to drop and become neutral or negative, players should start betting small because the house edge is greater now.
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Blackjack Card Counting Systems
There are several different card counting systems but the most popular ones are – KO Count, Hi-Lo Count, Hi-Opt I Count, and Hi-Opt II Count; and beginners often wonder which card counting system is the best for them. The type of card counting system a player needs to use depends on various factors such as the blackjack variants that interest them, the casino they play at, their skill and the time they spend playing blackjack, among others.
The basic card counting systems are KO and Hi-Lo Count. Players should master the simpler systems of card counting before moving on to the complex systems.
In the list below you will find all of the card counting systems for blackjack that are still being used by card counters around the world.
The 10 Count
One of the first Blackjack card counting systems was developed by Edward Oakley Thorp, a retired mathematics professor originally from Chicago. Edward’s 10 Count system is considered by many to be the grandfather of all card counting formulas for the game of Blackjack. While the 10-Count system wasn’t the first, it is regarded as the first mathematically sound system devised to gain an edge at the Blackjack tables. Like many well noted Blackjack experts Edward had an extensive education history. Edward was truly a pioneer in the mathematical analysis of the game of Blackjack. He used an IBM 704, introduced in 1954, to develop and test the 10 Count system. This system was detailed in Thorp’s book “Beat The Dealer”, which was originally published in 1962. In 1966 Thorp and a computer genius named Julian Braun developed the Hi-Lo Blackjack card counting system which replaced the 10 Count system.
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The 10 Count system was designed for single deck Blackjack, so it’s applicable uses are few these days. You might not be able to use this system in Las Vegas, but if a buddy ever offers to deal Blackjack at a home poker game the 10 Count system will come in handy. In any event this article will provide you with an elementary understanding of card counting in Blackjack.
How To Use The 10 Count Blackjack System
The Thorpe 10 Count system does not require you to memorize every card that has been played. It is a rather simple method of determining when you have an edge and when you do not. At the beginning of a fresh deck of cards you will not have any advantage or disadvantage in a hand of Blackjack, if you disregard the house edge inherent in this game. Once you have played several hands the 10 Count system enables you to determine if the remaining cards are in your favor. The 10 Count system assigns a number to each card rank. There are only two different values in the 10-Count system. 10 point cards have a value of -9 and the rest are valued at +4. As you work through the deck you must pay close attention and keep track of the running total.
If the running total is in the positive that means that your odds of receiving a 10 point card are higher. When the remaining deck has a higher number of 10 point cards remaining than average this slightly favors the player. This information is useful when deciding how much you want to wager. When the count is at 0 that means that there are 2.5 +4 point cards for every one 10 point card. Here is an example:
- Player 1: 3d-5s-3c-5h
- Player 2: Js-Qd
- Player 3: 4s-5d-Ah
- You: 10c-9h
- Dealer: 3s-6d-8h
In this situation the running count is +17. By placing larger bets while the count is in the positive you will effectively be eliminating the house edge the casino has in Blackjack and in some case you can even push the edge in your favor.
The Hi Opt 1 and 2 System
The Hi Opt 1 System is also known as the Einstein Count because it was created by Charles Einstein in 1968. Charles is an unlikely Blackjack expert. Most creators of Blackjack card counting systems have extensive backgrounds in mathematics, but Charles was more of a writer than anything else. That doesn’t mean that the Hi Opt 1 System is inferior though. It is highly accurate but you will have to work pretty hard to get the most out of this count system. If you are experienced with the Hi Lo System you will have a much easier time adapting to the Hi Opt 1 Count. Concentrating can be difficult at a Blackjack table, especially if you are playing with talkative players.
I usually scope out the Blackjack tables and take note of the various atmospheres. It is always best to avoid tables with one or more intoxicated players since they can easily break your concentration which will result is messing up your count. In 1970 another Blackjack expert named Lance Humble improved the Hi Opt 1 System and named it the Hi Opt 2 System. Once you have finished learning how this count system works you may want to check out the Hi Opt 2 count method. It is a little more accurate but it is also a little more difficult.
How To Use The Hi Opt 1 Count Blackjack System
The Hi Opt 1 System gives each card rank a number, either -1, 0- or +1. Some Blackjack card counting systems use fractions or fairly large numbers so the Hi Opt 1 Count is relatively simple as far as the running count goes. You will use the chart below for your running count.
When using the Hi Opt 1 System you will not base the size of your bets on the running count. You will have to figure out what the true count is. To do this you have to divide your current running count by the number of unused decks in the shoe. Asking the dealer how many cards are left is obviously out of the question so you will have to estimate. If there is around two decks left in the shoe and your running count for the previous hand ended at +4 what would your running count be after the following hand:
- Player 1: 6h-9s- 2c
- Player 2: Qc-4s
- Player 3: 5s-3d-Ah
- You: 7c-Kd
- Dealer: 3s-8d-9c
If you guessed +7 for the running count you would be correct. The Hi Opt 1 System true count would therefore be +3.5, giving you a very respectable advantage. Determining how much to increase your wager by isn’t an exact science. Obviously whenever the true count is a positive number you have an advantage but you should be aware of the fact that it does not mean you will definitely win each hand. Blackjack card counting systems like the Hi Opt 1 Count give you a small edge over players that do not count cards. If your true count is +7 that doesn’t mean you should wager the rest of your bankroll. The house edge can swing from around .5% against you to .5% with you, but this is still a very small edge. Practicing bankroll management is important in Blackjack and using a count system doesn’t change that. Some Blackjack players will wager over 10X their base bet when the true count is +5. In the +3.5 situation listed above I would likely increase my wager by 3 times. You will have to develop your own formula for increasing and decreasing your wagers. You should always be aware of the fact that dealers, pit bosses and casino security experts are on the lookout for blatant card counting and the number tell is changing the amount of money you bet.
The Hi Opt 2 Blackjack Card Counting System
Lance Humble developed an improved version of Charles Einstein’s Hi Opt 1 System. Lance’s Hi Opt 2 System is more accurate than the original Hi Opt Count, but the increased accuracy is complemented by increased complexity. I wouldn’t suggest the Hi Opt 2 System to anyone without considerable experience with card counting in Blackjack. Lance co-authored the book The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book with fellow Blackjack strategist Carl Cooper which was published in 1980. The Hi Opt 2 System is still used by some players today, and is considered one of the most accurate count methods. The Hi Opt 2 System is best suited to experienced Blackjack card counters who are naturally gifted with a great memory and with the ability to make quick calculations on the fly. For those that master this system the benefits are readily apparent at the tables.
How To Use The Hi Opt 2 Blackjack Count System
There are two essential aspects of the Hi Opt 2 System; the running count and the true count. The running count is more complex than some other systems but isn’t too hard to implement. The card values range from -2 to +2. Aces are not given a value so it is recommended that you keep a side count for them. For the best results you should also keep a side count of eights and nines. The Aces side count is the most important of the three, but if you are able to accurately side count each of them while maintaining your running count you will enjoy extremely accurate results. Here is a chart for the card values used in the Hi Opt 2 System.
- Player 1: 4c-8d- 3h
- Player 2: Jc-4s
- Player 3: 5h-3d-10h
- You: 7s-10d
- Dealer: 3s-8c-9c
Your running count would be +9 and your true count would be +2.25. True counts will rarely be whole numbers so rounding them is a commonly used practice. A true count of +2 means that you have an advantage over the dealer and you should increase the size of your bet on the next hand. The Hi Opt 2 System does not specify how much you should increase your bet, but most people will simply make a 100% increase for each number in the true count. If you regularly bet $5 per hand a +1 true count would call for a $10 wager and a +2 would call for a $15 wager. In rare situations the true count will be quite high. While this is always good for the player it doesn’t mean that you should bet half of your bankroll on a single hand.
The side counts for eights, nines and Aces should influence the size of your bet when the true count reflects an advantage. You do not have to count the eights and nines separately though. Combining them, into one side count will really make things easier.
The Hi Lo System
The Hi Lo System of counting cards in Blackjack was one of the first developed. Ed Thorp is widely known as the father of counting cards in Blackjack. Ed was a mathematician and a professional gambler. He worked at MIT for a couple years after receiving a PhD at the University of California. The first widely used Blackjack card counting system was the Thorp 10 Count. The Hi Lo System was Ed’s second count system and Blackjack players instantly took a liking to it because the +4’s and -9’s of the 10 Count were replaced by -1’s and +1’s. The increased accuracy and reliability of the Hi Lo System made it one of the premier card counting strategies for many years, and it is still used today by some players for single deck Blackjack. The Hi Lo Count was featured in Ed’s book Beat The Dealer in 1962. This book was a featured best seller in the New York Times and it really brought Blackjack card counting strategies to the public’s attention on a large scale for the first time.
The casino industry was forced to develop measure to negate the increasing use of systems like the Hi Lo Count at the Blackjack tables. Casino games are designed to guarantee a profit in the long run. This is true for Blackjack but to a much smaller degree. Mistakes in Blackjack account for more of the casino’s profit than the small house edge. This is why understanding the optimum strategies for Blackjack should come first and foremost.
How To Use The Hi Lo Count System
Unlike the 10 Count, the Hi LO System can be used at tables that use more than one deck.
Keeping a running count using the Hi Lo System is relatively easy. This method factors Aces in so you will not need to keep a side count for them. You will have to calculate the true count however. To ascertain the true count you will divide your running count by the number of decks remaining to be played. Estimating the number of decks left is not as hard as it may seem at first. Do not try to count the number of played cards because it will almost certainly increase the difficulty of the running count. Here is an example you can practice with.
- Player 1: 4d-3c-2c-6d
- Player 2: Js-10d
- Player 3: 4s-2d-Ah
- You: 7c-9h
- Dealer: 10s-6d-8h
If you had started at 0 your running count using the Hi Lo System would be +3. If there are two decks left in the shoe your true count will be +1.5 so increasing your bet would be advantageous. You don’t want to go from $10 to $100 though. You also do not want to go back and forth between higher and lower. Most players will hold off on increasing the size of their wager until the true count is greater than 2. You should always increase your wager in increments that reflect the size of the running count. If you have been wagering $10 per hand and the true count goes from +1 to +5 you should bump your wager up to $20-$30. All it takes is a few hands for the true count to go from good to bad so you will want to take advantage of the advantage as much as you can but never bet over your means. Practicing a healthy bankroll management is an important part of being a successful Blackjack player.
The KO System
The KO System is a Blackjack card counting method that combines the positive aspects of several popular counting systems without also picking up the unpopular aspects. The Knockout Count System is one of the newest card counting strategies. Most systems were developed in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but the KO Count was developed in 1998 although the 1992 book titled The Book Of British Blackjack is said to contain a system called the All Sevens Count, which should not be confused with the Red 7’s Count developed by Arnold Snyder. In any event the KO System has been thoroughly tested over the years and it is one of the best counting systems for beginner and intermediate card counters. The simplicity of the KO System is what makes it so popular. Side counts and true counts are not necessary when you use the KO Method. This system was featured in the popular Blackjack strategy book: Knock-Out Blackjack.
How To Use The KO System Blackjack Count
Some Blackjack card counting methods require users to maintain three different counts as well as a sometimes complicated conversion in order to find out if the remaining cards hold an advantage for the player. Some force the user to quickly add and subtract by 4’s, 9’s and even fractions. The KO System only requires one count; the running count. The running count in the KO method utilizes -1’s and +1’s, as shown in the chart below.
Keeping a running count using the KO System is the only thing you have to do. The running count will tell you if the unused cards left in the deck or shoe are favorable to the player. The basic principle behind Blackjack card counting strategies is that low cards are bad for players and high cards are good for players. When your KO Count is greater than 0 it means that there are more 10’s and Aces in the deck than the 5 to 13 ratio found in a fresh deck. This is not a theory. It has been mathematically proven countless times over the past 50 years. The advantage stems from the fact that the dealer has set rules for hitting and standing while you do not. The primary purpose of the KO System is to find out when you should increase or decrease your bet. The count can go both ways so if it is far enough in the negatives you should probably just get out of the game all together and come back later. The KO System is extremely easy, but let’s do a quick test to ensure that we are on the same page. In the example below we will assume that the running count was -2 at the end of the previous hand. Figure out what the running count will be after the following hand.
- Player 1: 3d-6d-2c-5h
- Player 2: Qs-Kd
- Player 3: 5s-7d-Ah
- You: 6s-8h
- Dealer: 10s-5d-8c
The cards above equal +4 using the KO System and you started at -2 so your new running count is +2. There is one aspect of card counting methods like the Knockout System that are open to debate. These systems tell you when it is advantageous to increase your bet, but they do not touch on how much that increase should be. As far as I know there are no concrete formulas that everyone agrees with so I typically recommend that players develop their own systems for determining bet size changes. Some argue that the number of decks used should determine how much you of an increase you should make. Most agree that when the running count is +1 you should double the size of your initial bet. If you are at +2 betting 2 or 3 times your initial bet is practical. I always suggest using caution when increasing your wager. The KO System is very simple and straightforward, but mistakes can be made especially when you first start using it at a casino. Keeping the size of your bankroll in mind when making larger bets is always a good idea.
The Omega 2 Count
The Omega II Count is the Blackjack card counting system outlined in the book Blackjack For Blood, by Bryce Carlson. This card counting system has a moderate difficulty level, but it offers a high level of accuracy. The purpose behind Blackjack card counting systems like the Omega II Count is being able to determine when the remaining cards in the shoe provide better odds than a fresh shoe. There are many different card counting systems in Blackjack. Some are less complex than the Omega II Count system and others are more complicated. This system was first introduced to Blackjack players in 2001 so it is relatively young. Some of the older counting systems predate modern computers, but are still quite reliable in some cases. I personally prefer some of the newer systems like the Omega II Count because super-computers are regularly used to test the numbers. Card counting systems come in three main difficulty levels: easy, moderate and hard. The difference in accuracy between easy and moderate systems can be significant, but the difference between moderate and hard systems tends to be negligible.
The Omega II Count will challenge novice card counters so I usually recommend learning the ropes with one of the easier systems. If you feel up to the challenge you can save a lot of time and possibly even money by skipping the easier systems and mastering the Omega II Count. This would be like skipping a level in school. If you can swing it you will save a year of your life and time is definitely money when it comes to casino gambling.
How the Omega II Count Blackjack System Works
Blackjack card counting using the Omega II Count involves a two step process unless you are playing single deck Blackjack. Casinos usually use 4-6 decks at the Blackjack tables so you will likely need to follow both steps. The first step is basically the core of the Omega II Count system: the running count. Every used card at the Blackjack table will factor in to the running count. The Omega II system assigns one of four different values to each card, as shown in the image below.
You will add or deduct one or two points for each played card. The actual math involved in the Omega II Count is fairly simple. Some Blackjack card counting systems require users to add or subtract larger numbers like 7. The ones and twos use in the Omega II Count cut down on the required concentration. In a single deck game this is all that you would need to do, but for multiple deck shoes a true count is necessary. To determine the true count you will need divide the current running count by the number of decks remaining in the shoe. This can complicate matters because you will have to keep track of the number of played cards. Here are some examples on how to calculate the running count and the true count using the Omega II formula.
Example 1:
- Total decks in shoe: 6
- Cards used: 165
- Running count: +12
To determine how many decks there are remaining you simply divide the number of cards used by 52. The half-way point in a 6 deck shoe is 156 cards so in the example above a little under 3 decks remain. So the true count would be +4 which would indicate that a slightly disproportionate number of low cards have been used. The concept behind Blackjack card counting systems like the Omega II Count is simply to determine if there are more high cards remaining in the shoe than average.
- A true count greater than 0 – The remaining cards in the shoe favor the player.
- A true count lower than 0 – The remaining cards favor the dealer.
When the remaining cards favor you it is a good idea to raise your bet or vice versa if they favor the dealer. Ace counting is optional in the Omega II Count but I do encourage it. Being aware of the number of Aces left will help you determine how much you should increase you bet. The Omega II Count is good for telling you when you should increase or decrease your wager, but it does not tell you how much your wager should be changed. Obviously a true count that is between +1 and +5 means the edge is fairly small so you shouldn’t jump from betting $10 a hand to $100 a hand.
Counting Aces will give you a better picture of how much your wager should change when combined with the Omega II Count. If 3 out of 6 decks have been used there should be 12 Aces remaining. If you have only counted 8 Aces that means that the Ace to card ratio is 50% higher than it was at the start of the shoe. This is a very favorable situation for you. That wraps up the Omega II Blackjack card counting system. I highly recommend practicing before you attempt to use this system at the real money Blackjack tables.
The Red 7 Count
The Red 7 Count was created by professional Blackjack player, author and Blackjack Hall of Fame member Arnold Snyder. It was featured in Snyder’s book Blackbelt in Blackjack. The Red 7 Blackjack card counting system is unique because it is one of the few simple systems that can be used at 2+ deck Blackjack games. It combines the simplicity of a single deck running count system with accuracy that is close to the more complex systems like the Uston Advanced Count. The Red 7 Count is the perfect system for beginners to card counting in Blackjack. Snyder is also wrote the Big Book of Blackjack and has published several other articles and treatises about Blackjack, poker and casino games in general. The Red 7 Count is still well respected amongst Blackjack enthusiasts and will help you to negate the small edge that enables casinos to always win money on the long run. Using a card counting system like the Red 7 Count does not guarantee a profit. Using the optimal strategy based on the specific rules for the version of Blackjack you intend on playing should be your first priority.
How To Use The Red 7 Blackjack Card Counting System
The Red 7 Count can be used at both single deck and multi-deck Blackjack tables. The basic principle behind the Red 7 Count and other systems is to help you determine when it is propitious to increase or decrease your wager. Most Blackjack card counting methods start the initial count at 0, but this count is different. You will need to determine which number to begin your running count on by using the following formula. You take the number of decks used and multiply it by -2. If you are playing at a 4 deck Blackjack table you will start your running count at -8. A six deck table will begin at -16. As you play Blackjack you will need to maintain a running count of the used cards based on the chart below.
The Red 7 Count is one of the only systems that factors in the suit of a card. This is only done for 7’s, hence the name of the system, so it really doesn’t add any complexity to this formula. The 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s and red 7’s will be counted as +1. Ten point cards and Aces will be counted as -1. You will not count any other cards, including the two black 7’s. Here is an example hand that you can practice counting. To simplify things please assume that you are playing at a table using 2 decks and this is the first hand.
- Player 1: 4h-7s- 8c
- Player 2: 10c-9s
- Player 3: 3s-7d-Ah
- You: 5c-Kd
- Dealer: 8s-6d-Qc
In the above example you would start out at -4 because you are using two decks (-2 X 2). After you plus and minus the points for the used cards you should end up with a Red 7 count of -3. Obviously it is still far too early in the shoe to base any betting decisions on your count total.
When you start off in the negatives it can be hard to determine when you should lower your bet due to a negative running count. My advice is to start lowering your bets if you have used at least 10% of the cards and the running count is still negative. If your count is in the positives that means you should increase your wager regardless of how many cards have been used thus far. The Red 7 Count can also be used to correct your Blackjack strategy. This isn’t the primary purpose of the Red 7 Count and I do not have any exact mathematical formulas for you to utilize so you will have to use common sense if you do this. Even a slight variation from the accepted Blackjack strategies can drastically increase the edge in the house’s favor.
In certain circumstances you can use the Red 7 Count to decide if you will hit or stand. If the running count is fairly high the odds of the next card being a 10-pointer is higher than normal. It may be worthwhile to stand on hands that you would usually hit on. For instance, if you have 16 and the dealer is showing a 9 you may be better off standing since the odds of you catching a 5 or less are lower. The same is true for the dealer having a 10-pointer in the hole so use caution when basing decisions on the running count.
The Revere Plus-Minus Count
This Blackjack card counting system was developed by Lawrence Revere in 1980. The Revere Plus-Minus Count is an easy to understand and implement card counting system for single deck Blackjack. It has been proven to be very effective over the past three decades. The only setback to using the Revere Plus-Minus Count is that it only works at single deck Blackjack tables. Casinos use multiple deck shoes at their Blackjack tables to make it more difficult to count cards so you may not find too many opportunities to use this card counting formula. Lawrence earned a mathematics degree at the University of Nebraska. He has pioneered several other Blackjack card counting systems including the 10-Count and the Revere Point Count. The Revere Plus-Minus Count system may seem somewhat primitive when compared to some of the more modern count systems but it is both reliable and easy to use, ideal traits for a card counting system.
Lawrence Revere is well known for playing both sides of the fence. His books trained early card counters but he also shared his knowledge with casino security teams and taught them how to spot card counters. Some of the counter-measures used to combat card counting systems like the Revere Plus-Minus Count were created using Lawrence’s inside information. Single deck Blackjack may be rare, but this system is a great starting off point for players who are not mathematically inclined.
How To Use The Revere Plus-Minus Count Blackjack System
The Revere Plus-Minus Blackjack formula only uses a running count since it was designed for single deck tables. Each card rank is assigned a -1 or +1 so if you know how to count you can use this system. Revere did not include Aces in this card counting scheme, but you can gain an additional edge by doing so on the side. I will explain how in more detail later in this article. In the Revere Plus-Minus Count cards ranging from 2 to 6 should be counted as +1. Nines and ten point cards will be counted as -1. All other cards will not be counted, as is shown in the image below.
This card counting system will tell you when it is fortuitous to bet more or when the house has an increased edge. When you’re running Revere Plus-Minus Count is greater than 0 it means that the unused cards have a higher ratio of 9’s and 10 point cards then a new deck has. Adjusting the size of your bet according to your running count has been proven to be beneficial to the player. The edge will be slight in most cases, but Blackjack games have a house edge ranging from .28% to .5%. Changing the amount that you wager to correlate with the probable advantage determined by using the Revere Plus-Minus Count can put the advantage in your favor. You can essentially switch places with the house. Card counting systems like the Revere Plus-Minus Count should not be used with the expectation of winning huge amounts of money quickly. These systems favor players that tend to play long sessions on a regular basis.
The Ace is the most important card in Blackjack. If an increased high card to low card ratio benefits the player the same is true for Aces, despite there being only four of them in a single deck. Since the Revere Plus-Minus Count is so simple you should not have any difficulty keeping an eye on the Aces. If half of the deck has been used but only one Ace has been played you will have a slight edge.
The Revere Point Count
The Revere Point Count is another great Blackjack card counting system developed by Lawrence Revere. This counting system is more accurate and viable than Lawrence’s Revere Plus-Minus Count because it can be used at both single and multi-deck Blackjack games. It is considerably more complicated than the Plus-Minus Count, but if you are serious about gaining an edge at the Blackjack tables this should not be a problem. The Revere Point Count made its debut in 1971 when Lawrence’s book Playing Blackjack As A Business was first published. Revere was a master mathematician and was also an innovative businessman. Developing Blackjack card counting strategies was only half of Lawrence’s business. After one of his counting strategies because popular he would work as a consultant for the major casinos to help them counter his own systems. It was really an ingenuous business plan because it created a demand for new counting systems. In this never ending cycle Lawrence was always the clear winner.
How To Use The Revere Point Count Blackjack System
Learning how to use the Revere Point Count requires a lot of study and practice. You will need to memorize the card point values first and foremost.
Maintaining a running count using the Revere Point Count strategy is going to be moderately difficult. Here are a chart of the card values for this system:
This count system assigns a value to every card except eights and nines, several more than the average card counting system. This is going to increase the number of calculations that you are going to have to make in the fast-paced and loud casino atmosphere. Many novice card counters underestimate the concentration required to use the Revere Point Count in the live casino environment. Many prematurely attempt to use this formula and end up losing the count after only a few hands. I recommend practicing at home with friends for quite a few hours before trying it an a casino.
The running count is not the only thing you have to do. You must figure out what the true count is before you can alter your bet to reflect any possible advantage or disadvantage. To find the true count using the Revere Point Count you will need to divide your running count by the number of half decks left in the shoe. Most card counting systems require you to divide by the number of decks so half decks will be a new concept to many of you. If you think about it though it will equate to a more accurate true count. Estimating the number of half decks left in the shoe will also take some practice but it isn’t that difficult.
If you have a running count of +7 and there are approximately 1.5 decks left you would divide +7 by 3. Your true count will be a little over +2.3, which can be rounded up to +2.5 to simplify things. Here is a practice hand you can use to make sure that you fully understand how the Revere Point Count works. Let’s assume that your running count was at zero previously and there are 3 decks remaining in the shoe after this hand was dealt.
- Player 1: 4h-5s-2c-5h
- Player 2: Js-Qd
- Player 3: 4s-5d-Ah
- You: 4c-9h
- Dealer: 3s-6d-8h
The running count will be +11 and there are three decks, which is 6 half decks. Your true count will be 1.83 which can be rounded up to 2. Rounding isn’t necessary but the Kelly criterion, a mathematical principle used in Blackjack card counting, indicates that you should adjust your bets in proportion to the value of the true count. If you have a true count of +8 the amount that you increase your bet to should be higher than it was when the true count was +2. It helps to have a game plan in regards to how much you increase your wager when the true count indicates a definite player advantage. The accuracy of the Revere Point Count is comparable to more complex methods like the Wong Halves Count but it will still take a considerable amount of time and effort to master.
The Unbalanced Zen 2 Count
This strategy was designed by George C back in 1995 and is slightly more advanced than other systems, being a cross between RPC and Zen, and an upgrade form the KO strategy. Cards are tagged according to a 2-level system. The Unbalanced Zen 2 Count offers a more accurate and efficient outcome and is great for experienced players looking for a bigger edge.
The Uston Advanced Count
Blackjack Hall of Fame member Ken Uston developed the Uston Advanced Point Count and a variation called the Uston Advanced Plus Minus Count. Both are published in his book Million Dollar Blackjack. Ken was a legendary Blackjack player who was barred from playing at most of the casinos in the USA. Ken won vast sums of money using the Uston Advanced Count and Uston Advanced Plus Minus Count while in disguise at casinos that had previously banned him. In 1982 the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with Ken in his suit against a local casino that had banned him from playing Blackjack there. There are three popular and highly accurate count systems attributed to Ken Uston; the Uston Advanced Point Count, the Uston Advanced Plus Minus Count and the Uston SS Count. In this article I will cover both of Ken Uston’s advanced card counting systems. The SS Count was designed to be less complicated, but there are other equally simple methods out there that are more accurate like the KO System, so I will leave that method out.
How To Use The Uston Advanced Point Count Blackjack System
The Uston Advanced Point Count isn’t too difficult despite its name. You will keep a running count of the used cards based on the chart below. It is certainly more difficult than card counting methods that only use plus and minus 1’s but this should be a problem to most players.
This count method requires the user to calculate a true count. To do this you divide your running count by how many decks you think are left in the shoe. The Uston Advanced Count does not give a value to Aces so you should keep a side count. This can be hard to do while playing Blackjack at a casino. Dealers are trained to play as many hands as possible. I’ve even heard that dealers that maintain a high hands/hour rate receive bonuses. The point is that keeping a running count, an Aces side count, estimating the number of decks left in the shoe and calculating the true count may be beyond the abilities of some players, especially inexperienced card counters. You will also need to estimate the number of decks remaining in the shoe in order to make use of the side count for Aces.
If you are playing at a table that uses six decks and you are about halfway through 12 Aces should have been played which leaves 12 remaining. If only 10 have been played that means that you have a slight advantage. If 14 have been played that puts you at a slight disadvantage. By itself this knowledge isn’t very valuable but when you combine it with the true count you can strategically increase your bet. Whenever the true count is positive you should make larger bets. You can base the exact size of the increase on the true count and the Aces side count.
How To Use The Uston Advanced Plus Minus Count Blackjack System
Since the Uston Advanced Point Count is a little too complicate for some people Uston also created simpler method called the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Count. This card counting method is based on the Edward Thorp’s Hi Lo Count. The only tangible difference is that Uston’s count system values 7’s at +1 while Thorp’s system does not give sevens a value at all. This may seem like a small change, but it is why the Uston Plus Minus Count is unbalanced. If you counted every card in a single deck, or several decks, the last card will put your running count at zero in a balanced count method. This is not true for unbalanced systems like the Uston Plus-Minus Count. Here is a card value chart that you will use for your running count using this method.
The running count with this system will need to be divided by the number of decks that are left in the shoe. The result will give you the true count which you will use to determine if there is a player friendly advantage in the remaining cards.
The Wong Halves Count
The Wong Halves Count is one of the most complex Blackjack card counting systems ever created. When it comes to card counting formulas in Blackjack complexity usually equates to higher accuracy. The harder a count system is to understand and implement, the greater the potential advantage. The Wong Halves Count method was developed by John Ferguson in 1975 and detailed in the book Professional Blackjack. John preferred to use the pen name Stanford Wong so that is how I will refer to him in this article. Stanford is probably the most notable Blackjack expert in the world. In 1975 Wong developed one of the first computer programs that analyzed the odds in Blackjack. The terms “wong” and “wonging” are still widely used by Blackjack players. Wonging is basically watching a Blackjack table and counting cards. Once the count reveals an advantage to the player you sit down and start playing for as long as the advantage holds. Many casinos implemented a rule that prohibits players from getting into a game in the middle of a shoe.
The Wong Halves Count should not be attempted if you do not have any experience with card counting. The only exception would be for those who are naturally good at mathematics and experienced with Blackjack in general. Beginners should start out with the 10 Count for single deck Blackjack and the Red 7 Count for multi-deck games.
How To Use The Wong Halves Count Blackjack System
The Wong Halves Count is notoriously complex because the card values range from -.5 to +1.5. If you thought the -1 and +1 most systems used was tough then this is definitely a card counting system that you should avoid. There are five different values in the Wong Halves Count, so even gifted card counters will need to put many practice hours in using this formula before trying it at a real money Blackjack table. Here is a chart on the Wong Halves card values.
Tip – Many Blackjack players that use the Wong Halves Count double all of the values listed above. Although larger numbers are always more difficult to add and subtract at a nosey and fast moving Blackjack table it may be worth it because you end up with whole numbers.
The Wong Halves card counting system does require a true count. You can find the true count by dividing your running count by the number of decks left in the shoe. If your running count is at +9 and there are you have gone through roughly three out of six decks your true count is +3 (+9 divided by 3).
Whenever your true count is higher than zero you are more like to win and should increase your wager. Here is a practice hand that you can use to test out the Wong Halves Count on. To keep things simple we will assume that there are four decks left in the shoe and your running count was at zero before this hand was dealt.
- Player 1: 2h-9s- 2c
- Player 2: 10c-5s
- Player 3: 3s-6d-Ah
- You: 4c-Kd
- Dealer: 3s-7d-Kc
Your running count using the Wong Halves formula would be +2.5. the true count would be a +.6. You should probably wait for your true count to be greater than 1 to increase your bet. I say this because a true count like .6 could easily be in the negative after next hand. It will look suspicious if you change your bet size every hand or even every other hand. If you use the doubling tip mentioned above you will need to double the number of decks remaining in order to maintain accuracy.
Risks Of Wonging At Brick & Mortar Casinos
Using the Wong Halves Count while you play isn’t as detectable as wonging. I would advise caution if you plan on wonging. As I mentioned above, wonging is watching a Blackjack game and counting cards using the Wong Halves Count system without actually playing. Jumping in the game when there is a definite player advantage and jumping out when there isn’t an advantage. Casino security personnel have been trained to watch out for this sort of thing. You may not get dumped in the alley beaten and bloody like some movies portray, but they may ask you to leave and/or ban you from the casino if they suspect you of wonging.
Becoming an Expert at Card Counting
Players can become experts only by practicing hard. Nobody becomes a successful card counter overnight; and sometimes, players will have to practice for months and years altogether.
Blackjack players can make use of tools such as counting charts that illustrate players’ hands and dealers’ hands. These tools can be easily carried in pockets, enabling players to practice card counting at any place.
Is Card Counting in Blackjack Legal?
It is definitely not legal for players to use electronic devices to cheat at the blackjack tables; but, it is perfectly alright to use one’s mental abilities to count cards. Casinos, however, are not fond of card counters and have a way of identifying them and turning them out.
While in the past, some casinos even went so far as to have their security personnel beat up card counters and kick them out, this kind of treatment today is condemned by the law. Casinos may still stop a card counter from playing or ask them to leave the premises, but there are ways to minimize this risk so the casino will be none the wiser.
Blackjack Card Counting FAQ
Do you need to have a perfect memory to learn card counting?
Luckily for those of us with the memory of a goldfish, card counting has absolutely nothing to do with memorizing all the cards in the shoe. This may have happened in the Rain Man movie, but that’s not to say that ordinary people without photographic memories can’t master card counting in a different way.
Do I have to be good at maths to card count?
The MIT students were undoubtedly mathematical geniuses and this definitely helped them with their card counting strategies. However, the average Joe with ordinary IQ can also become a successful card counter, with a little more practice.
Will I win at blackjack every time if I master card counting?
While it’s true that card counters have about a 1% edge over the casino, this blackjack strategy unfortunately does not guarantee that players win will every single time. Forget what you saw in the movies, and take on card counting with a realistic approach in order to avoid ending up disappointed.
Does it really take years to master Card Counting?
Traditional card counting systems do require a fair bit of time to understand and execute but luckily for you, more modern systems have been created that implement simpler techniques and are much easier to learn and use. The average blackjack player can in fact master card counting within just a few hours.
Is it true that card counters need to have huge bankrolls?
Not at all! You can undertake card counting even with a small bankroll by playing at a lower minimum bet size. Just ensure that your bankroll can withstand short-term losses in relation to your bet size, since we all know that winning every time is unfortunately not possible.
Does card counting only work in single and double-deck blackjack games?
No, card counting happens to work just as well in multi-deck games with 6 or 8 decks.
There’s no denying that card counting works. By keeping track of the number of high cards as opposed to low cards, you can make more informed decisions about what kind of bets to place and when. The concept is pretty straightforward in theory, but in practice, it takes longer to come to grips with and use successfully.
If you’re not quite sure if card counting is for you, there are other blackjack strategies you can make use of to try and beat the house edge. Remember to take into consideration the blackjack variation that you’re playing as well as your bankroll before choosing your strategy.