Characteristics of Blackjack Card Counting Systems

There are many kinds of card counting systems. Since Edward Thorp published his "Beat the Dealer" in 1962, many other people have developed their own systems. Some of these systems are valid; others do not make any sense. To be able to choose the right card counting system, you must know what kinds there are and what to look for.

Characteristics of Card Counting Systems

Balance - Balanced card counting systems always end with a count of zero at the end of a deck. Unbalanced systems finish with a positive count. Both these kinds of systems have their advantages. Unbalanced systems can be used in running count systems and work well with single deck and double deck blackjack tables. Balanced systems are more accurate and easier to count with.

When you are learning how to count cards, use a balanced system. It is easier to tell when you are counting wrong because the final count won't be zero.

Ace - The ace is special in blackjack because it can have a high or low value. When the ace is considered favorable in a card counting system, that system is known as "ace-reckoned" since the ace is counted as a -1 when it is dealt. When the is disregarded, it is "ace-neutral." For shoe games, it is better to reckon the aces. For single or double decks, it is better to regard them as neutral.

Level - An obvious way of telling how complex a card counting system is is by its level. A single level system assigns a -1 value for each good card that is dealt and a +1 value for each bad card. But in a multi level system, some numbers get -1, -2, +1, +2 and so on. The multiple level systems are more accurate, but they are also harder to use. The extra profits you make may be canceled out by the mistakes you make while counting.

Side Count. With ace-neutral systems, it is helpful to make a side count for aces, that is, a separate count. Aces are big cards for wagering but small cards for playing if you do not have a blackjack. Remember, aces can be 1 or 11.

Which Card Counting System to Use?

There is no one answer to this. It depends on you, the game and decks you play. Generally, you should use a single level system that is balanced when you are starting out. The High/Low counting system is a good choice. Later you can experiment with more complicated systems. Do not make card counting more complex than it has to be when you are new.

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