Blackjack card counting is often portrayed as a mysterious technique that only math geniuses can pull off. In reality, though, nothing is mysterious about card counting.
This advantage play method revolves around systems. When properly used, a given system will result in profits.
However, card counting can still be confusing due to all of the available systems. These strategies differ based on their accuracy and complexity.
You may be willing to sacrifice accuracy and achieve your profits with an easier system. But if you’re searching for the absolute biggest card counting edge, then you may want to know about the most-accurate system.
The following guide discusses more on card counting strategies in general. It also covers the specifics behind judging the most-powerful systems.
Most Gamblers Start With the Hi-Lo
Counting cards can be as easy or hard as you want to be. Some extremely simple systems exist that provide a thinner edge over the casino, such as the Knockout (K-O).
Of course, you can still enjoy a higher degree of accuracy along with simplicity. The Hi-Lo offers a nice balance between profit potential and ease of use.
Depending upon your skill level, you can gain between a 0.5% and 1.5% edge with the Hi-Lo. You also won’t need to put much work into learning it either. For these reasons, the Hi-Lo is the most-popular card counting system.
This guide provides a detailed look at the Hi-Lo. I’ll also offer a brief primer on this counting system below.
The basic jest is that you want to break cards down into the following groups:
- Low cards (2-6) = +1
- Neutral (7-9) = 0
- High cards (A-10) = -1
From here, you count every card that comes out of the shoe. You need to convert this “running count” into a “true count” following each hand.
Once the true count reaches +2, you raise wagers by one unit (e.g. $25). You add another unit for every +1 that goes on the count.
Many Other Card Counting Systems Exist
If you’d just like to dive into card counting right away and enjoy a solid edge, then the Hi-Lo is a perfectly fine choice. But you can also explore the vast world of other systems.
Expert gamblers have collectively developed lots of accounting strategies over the years. The result is numerous different strategies to choose from.
Here are some of the many systems that are available:
- Canfield Expert
- Graham 2
- Graham 7
- Griffin Ultimate
- J. Noir Count
- Olsen TruCount
- Red Zen
- Revere Five-Count
- Thorp Ultimate
- Wrong Halves
- Zen Count
This list is just the tip of the iceberg regarding how many counting systems are out there. You might even feel overwhelmed when researching the numerous counting strategies.
Luckily, though, you don’t need to do much research yourself. I’ll cover the best systems in terms of accuracy in the next section.
What’s the Most-Powerful Card Counting System?
The most-accurate card counting systems are those that can only be used and run through computer systems. The Griffin Ultimate, for example, falls into this category.
It uses the following insane point value system:
- Ace = -60
- 2 = +37
- 3 = +45
- 4 = +52
- 5 = +70
- 6 = +46
- 7 = +27
- 8 = 0
- 9 = -17
- 10-K = -50
With sharp mathematical abilities, you may be able to keep up with this count for a hand or two. Unless you’re somehow a supercomputer, though, you can’t keep up with it for an entire shoe.
The truth is that the Griffin Ultimate and other highly accurate systems are too complex to use on the fly. Given that casinos ban computers from the floor, you can’t realistically use such counting strategies.
Regarding shoe games, every card counting strategy lies within 0.1% to 0.3% of each other in terms of edge. You won’t gain a massive advantage just because you’re using a more-complicated system than the Hi-Lo.
In fact, you could actually ruin your chances of winning. By making too many mistakes with a system, you effectively swing the advantage back over the casino.
Accuracy, rather than complete accuracy, is the goal. This is the reason why so many gambling experts recommend the Hi-Lo or an even simpler system like the K-O.
Some systems are slightly better for single-deck games, like the Omega II and Zen Count. Of course, you also need to find a single-deck game with 3:2 natural blackjack payouts (versus 6:5).
These games are becoming increasingly rare throughout land-based casinos. Therefore, you’ll need access to quality single-deck games to profit from a different system.
To recap, more-powerful systems exist beyond the Hi-Lo for shoe games and Zen Count and Omega II for single-deck tables. However, they exist more in theory as computer simulations than for practical use.
You’re better off using basic strategies that works consistently than throwing your mind in knots trying to count an ace as -60, a jack as -50, a 2 as +37, and so forth.
Combine Card Counting With Shuffle Tracking
If you really want to boost your chances of winning, then shuffle tracking — rather than a more-accurate system—is the answer. You can combine it with basic card counting to produce up to a 5% edge over the house.
As explained earlier, counting cards is fairly easy to master. Shuffle tracking, on the other hand, takes a great degree of skill. Due to its challenge factor, it works best with a simpler counting strategy.
You begin by tracking cards just like you would with the Hi-Lo or any other system. The goal is to find clumps, or “slugs,” with a large proportion of high cards.
Here’s an example:
- 13 cards are dealt during a hand.
- This slug features 7 high cards (aces & 10’s).
- On average, only 4 high cards would be dealt in this span.
- This particular slug offers a +3 count.
By tracking this slug during the shuffle, you stand a better chance of winning when it comes out during the next deal. You can raise your bets accordingly and have stronger odds of winning money.
Of course, just like with advanced counting systems, shuffle tracking ramps up the difficulty level. The difference, though, is that this advantage technique is at least feasible when compared to counting strategies that only computers can use.
What I Recommend
I’ve tried using many different counting systems and have found that the only way I can avoid making costly mistakes is to use a fairly simple system. You might be able to use a more complicated system without mistakes, but most gamblers can’t.
I recommend using either the Knock Out or Red 7 system. These are both good systems and they don’t use a conversion for true count. If you don’t struggle with a conversion, the hi lo is the system I recommend.
Remember, it’s more important to count without mistakes than using a more powerful system.
The most-accurate card counting system isn’t necessarily the best one. You can surely come up with more-accurate systems than the Hi-Lo thanks to computer technology. But will you actually be able to use them in a game?
Blackjack games move at a quick pace. Trying to add up numbers like -50, +20, -17 on the fly doesn’t work well.
You may be able to pull off an extremely complex system for a few hands. Eventually, though, you’ll make mistakes and ultimately lose money over time.
Therefore, you’ll likely do better when using the KO or Hi-Lo. In a single-deck game, the Zen and Omega II are quite effective.
If you really want to gain a bigger advantage than with counting alone, then shuffle tracking is worth considering. It’s a difficult technique to use, but it at least works with enough practice and dedication.
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