Counting Systems and Other Factors in Blackjack Card Counting

It is perhaps the most immediate question a beginner to card counting has: "Which counting system is the best?" But it is not an easy question to answer, as every blackjack player you ask will naturally recommend his or her preferred system, and their preferences vary. Further the "better" counting systems are often too difficult for beginners to use.

There are different types of counting systems, some more complex than others. A complex system will assign different numbers to each card, not just +1 or -1 or 0. Generally the more complex a counting system is, the more accurate it can be (theoretically). A simple counting system is the Hi Lo system. It is the system most recommended for beginners owing to its simplicity and ease of use. The Hi Lo system assigns values to the cards as follows:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1

But this is not considered one of the best counting systems as it is too simple to reflect the true value of the cards. A more advanced system is the Uston counting system, named after its inventor Ken Uston:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A +1 +2 +2 +3 +2 +2 +1 -1 -3 0

This system is considered one of the most accurate counting systems available. But it can be much harder for the budding card counter to use. More mistakes could be made thus negating its benefits. If the card counter makes mistakes with a system, it doesn't matter how good it is; he or she must not use a system that cannot be executed perfectly.

Furthermore, a counting system alone cannot make a blackjack player succeed. There are other factors that determine success or failure such as bankroll management, playing accuracy, hours of play, risk of ruin, the quality of blackjack games played and playing discretion.

A card counter must have sufficient funds to fuel their blackjack career first and foremost. It takes money to get this show on the road. Lots of it.

The card counter must also be able to play blackjack full time like any other job. This requires commitment and sacrifice.

Playing accuracy is a must. No room for error is allowed since the player's potential advantage is very small.

The player must understand all about risk of ruin, expected return, standard deviation, the house edge and the Kelly generalization. The success of casinos are founded in the mathematics of the game; it is also through the math that they can be beaten.

A card counter must know how and where to find good blackjack games. He or she must not settle for whatever is in town. Again, blackjack takes commitment and nothing less.

Finally, a card counter must be able to do all these under cover. The casino must never suspect him or her of advantage playing. It would mean the end of their blackjack career.

So it isn't just the counting system. In blackjack, there is more to winning than counting cards.