Blackjack Card Counting System

Blackjack Card Counting Guide 2024

Card counting in blackjack is a strategy that can help a player determine whether he has a good advantage in the game or not. This way, he will be able to lower the house edge.

The key aspect of card counting is following the ratio of high cards to low cards. This enables players to determine the likelihood of a high card appearing at a point in the game. Card counting is also used when people play derivatives of blackjack, like Spanish 21.

In card counting, players have to allocate a point score to the cards they come across.

There are different types of card counting systems that players can use. The systems differ from each other in terms of the value assigned to each card. Depending on the actual value of a card, the systems allocate a new value to it, which may be positive, negative or a zero.

The point value of a card loosely relates to its Effect of Removal. This pertains to the true effect that a card has on the house edge, if the card is removed. When they use balanced systems, players typically have to maintain a track of the total value, which is referred to as running count.

The principle for counting cards is that high cards – especially tens and aces – have a better potential of winning, when compared to low cards like 4, 5 or 6.  The higher the number of high cards, the higher is the running count. This means that the chances of the player getting a blackjack are high too.

Having a ten can increase the value of a player doubling down in most cases. Knowing this will enable players to determine whether they should make the bet or not. Card counting can also increase the profitability of an insurance bet.

In card counting, the true value or running total informs the player of the potential of the remaining cards. As a general rule, you can make large bets if the total is positive but stick to the minimum bet if it is negative. However, you should not forget that casinos typically frown upon players who use card counting systems, as it increases player edge.

Ace-Five System

The ace-five system of counting cards is quite simple. Using this, players new to counting cards can get familiar with the basic principles of the process and enhance their chances of winning. To ensure that the ace-five system is effective, you should apply it when conditions are optimal.

This means that the dealer should stand on soft 17. The game rules should offer players the option of surrendering and re-splitting aces. Also, the game should ideally use an 8-deck shoe.

To start, you should determine the maximum and minimum bets you can make. When the shoe begins, you should start with a card count of zero and minimum bet amount. If you see a five, add one and when you come across an ace, minus one from the count.

.With a count that is more than, or equal to two, double the bet to make it your maximum amount. On the other hand, when the count falls below, or is equal to one, opt for the minimum bet amount. The playing decisions you make – to hit, stand, surrender or split – should always be based on the basic strategy. When the deck is shuffled, re-start the count from zero.

Knockout Method

The knockout system of counting cards, also called the KO method, was developed in 1998 by Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs. This is an unbalanced system of card counting as the count does not return to zero after a complete deck is counted. As it does not require you to convert the values, the KO system reduces the estimation errors that may come up when you use other methods.

In this system, players have to assign a value of 1, 0 or -1 to the cards. +1 point is assigned every time a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 comes up. Don’t add any value to the total when you see an 8 or 9, and minus 1 every time you see a ten or an ace.

The key reason for the system being unbalanced is that 7 has a positive value in this. So, when the entire deck has been played through, the final value will be 4, unlike balanced systems which will have a zero. This makes the system quite easy to use.

When you use the KO system in a two deck game, it is best to bet 1 to 6 units – where each unit is the minimum bet. If the running count is less than or equal to zero, you should bet one unit. Wager 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 units when you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more as the running count.

In a game that uses 6 to 8 decks, bet one unit if the running count is zero or below, 2 units if it is 1 and 4 units if it is 2. When the running count is 3, you should bet 8 units, when it is 4, bet 10 units, and when it is 5 or more, bet 12 units.

Hi-Lo System

The first official record of card counting systems was of the Hi-Lo system by Edward O Thorp which he wrote about in his book ‘Beat the Dealer’. He developed the system on the basic principle of card counting that while some cards are advantageous for the dealer, others offer the player an edge.

His system enables players to determine which cards are remaining in the deck on the basis of those that have already been played.

+1 point value is assigned for cards from 2 to 6 in the Hi-Lo system. Cards from 7 to 9 get zero value, and those from 10 to A get -1. The positive values indicate the advantage the cards offer the dealer. As there is a balance in the assigned values of both high cards and low cards, the system is balanced. So, when the whole deck has been counted through, the total value will be zero.

With this system, players have to maintain a running count and true count. The latter offers players an idea of whether they have an edge in the game or not.

When you play at a casino that uses just one deck, you can employ the simplest method of calculating the true count – divide the running count with the number of remaining cards in the deck. This method loses its effectiveness when it is used in a game that has multiple decks.

For instance, in a situation where you play with just one deck, and the running count is 12 and true count is 4, the value is positive. This means that there are a high number of high cards in the deck and you can increase your bets.

On the other hand, when you use this system with a multiple deck game, you will not be able to rely on the positive value, as there are more decks, which means that there are that many possibilities for a low card to turn up again.

Each time you place bets according to the Hi-Lo system, you will have to consider the minimum bet as a unit. When the true count is zero or less than that in a 2 deck game, bet one unit, when it is one, bet 2 units and when it is 2, bet 3 units. Similarly, bet 4 units if the true count is 3, bet 5 units if it is 4, and bet 6 units if it is 5. Remember to use the true count when considering the potential for betting.

Zen Card Counting System

In 1983, Arnold Snyder published his book ‘Blackbelt in Blackjack’ which records details about the card counting methods that can increase player edge, one of which is the Zen system. His contributions have led to him being elected to the Hall of Fame for Blackjack.

Snyder has included +2 and -2 values in the Zen system, in addition to the +1, 0 and -1 values used in other systems. The additional values are weighted to ensure that they offer players an advantage in the game. 2, 3 and 7 are assigned +1, 4, 5 values and 6 gets +2. 8 and 9 get zero, 10 gets -2 and A gets -1. You can start the running count for this system from 0. You will then have to identify the true count for it. For this, you will have to divide the running count with the number of decks that are yet to be dealt.

The playing tendencies indicated by the Zen card counting system are relatively more accurate than other methods, making it apt for advanced players. When the true count for the system is +5, you should bet 5 units, when it is +4, bet 4 units, when it is +3, bet 3 units and when it is +2, bet 2 units. You should bet the minimum amount when the true count is +1 or less.