Blackjack Systems

by James Carter on February 19th, 2015.

Card Counting Systems Explained

All blackjack card counting systems have the same basic idea: They track the amount of high and low cards already dealt. The purpose of card counting systems is to tell players when to bet big and when to bet small. When the count reaches a certain point, it's either time to start betting more or start betting less, depending on the score and the system.

System Level Balance
Ace-to-Five Count Multi-Level Balanced
Hi/Lo Count Single-level Balanced
Hi Opt 2 Count Multi-level Balanced
Knockout Count Single-level Unbalanced
Omega 2 Count Multi-Level Balanced

Best System for Counting Cards in Blackjack

But what is the best card counting system for you?

The best blackjack card counting system for you the one that makes you the most money. And yes, it is different individually because which blackjack counting system is the best for you depends on your skills as a card counter.

Using a system that has the biggest edge on the house is meaningless if you're unable to play perfectly according to the system. The more complicated a system is, the harder it is to play perfectly. If you can play perfectly, then the more complicated a system is, the more money you'll make.

Your ability to handle different aspects of card counting should be considered when determining the best card counting systems. Some of these aspects are following:

  • How well can you keep up with running count?
  • How well can you convert running count to true count?
  • How well can you keep up with side counts?
  • How seriously can you take card counting?
  • How many decks do you prefer to play with?

The best blackjack counting system for beginners is the Hi/Lo Count. It's the easiest card counting method and allows you to start counting as mistake-free as possible. I recommend avoiding other systems until you can use the Hi/Lo Count perfectly. Only then it would be time to move on to more advanced and profitable systems for counting cards in blackjack.

Many card counters agree that simple systems, which are easy-to-use but not as profitable in theory as the more complicated ones, actually make them more money in the long run. Complex card counting systems are more prone to player errors.

On the flipside, the casino staff will have more difficulties recognizing a complicated counting method, which definitely adds value to more difficult systems.

Regardless, the general idea of all successful blackjack card counting methods remains the same: Track the ratio of high-to-low cards, so even if they don't know exactly how you're counting, they might understand that you're betting more when there are loads of high cards left.

Single-level and multi-level systems

Single-level card counting systems have +1, 0 or -1 values on all of the cards which makes them easier to use. Multi-level card counting systems have different kinds of values such as +4 and -2 which makes them more challenging (although in theory, more profitable too).

The Hi/Lo Count and the KO Count are popular single-level card counting systems, whereas Hi Opt 2 is a popular multi-level card counting systems.

Balanced and Unbalanced Systems

The difference between balanced and unbalanced card counting systems is very simple: the sum of all card values in balanced card counting systems is zero whereas in unbalanced systems the sum isn't zero. Unbalanced systems are more difficult to use in general and therefore more profitable in general when executed perfectly.

You never need to worry about running count vs. true count when dealing with unbalanced counting systems since the system already takes the amount of decks into account. With balanced counting systems, on the other hand, you have to convert running count into true count. (The K-O Count is an example of an unbalanced system and the Hi/Lo Count is an example of a balanced system.)