Card counting strategies: best card counting systems and methods for blackjack

The best blackjack counting system has two important, but unfortunately very contradictory requirements:

  1. The system must be effective, it must catch as many moments as possible when it is reasonable to raise the bets.
  2. The system must be easy to use as the human ability to verbal count is limited, and the method of excessive overcounting affects other aspects of the game negatively and inevitably.

Blackjack card counting system

Choosing the Best Blackjack Card Counting System

The goal of the card counting system is to assign point values to each card that roughly correlate to the card's effect of removal (EOR). The EOR is the intended effect a single card has on the house advantage once removed from the game. A blackjack player can estimate the effect of removing all dealt cards and estimate the current house advantage based on the remaining cards. This method works because larger ratios between point values can better correlate to actual EOR and improve system efficiency. Such systems use more different numbers and may be referred to as Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and so on, based on the ratio between the highest and lowest assigned point values. 

The most ideal system for blackjack

It is a system a player can use, and it offers the best average dollar return over some time when dealing at a fixed rate. Keeping it in mind, systems aim to achieve the best balance of efficiency in three categories: 

  1. Betting Correlation (BC). When the sum of all the permutations of the undealt cards offer a positive expectation to a player using optimal playing strategy, there is a positive expectation to a player placing a bet. A system's BC gauges how effective a system is at informing the user of this situation.
  2. Playing Efficiency (PE). A portion of the expected profit comes from modifying playing strategy based on the known altered composition of cards. Therefore, a system's PE gauges how effectively it informs the player to modify strategy according to the actual composition of undealt cards. A system's PE is important when the effect of PE has a large impact on the total gain, as in single- and double-deck games.
  3. Insurance Correlation (IC). A portion of the expected gain comes from taking the insurance bet, which becomes profitable at high counts. An increase in IC will offer additional value to a card counting system.

Best blackjack system

Here are 6 different observations used to choose an effective strategy:

  1. Some strategies count aces (ace-reckoned strategies) and some do not (ace-neutral strategies). Including an ace in the count improves betting correlation because an ace is the most valuable card in the deck for betting purposes. However, because an ace can be marked as one or eleven, including an ace in the score decreases the accuracy of playing efficiency. 
  2. Because PE is more important in one- and two-deck games and BC is more important in shoe games, the ace counting strategy is the best choice in shoe games. 
  3. One method to deal with these tradeoffs is to ignore the ace to get a higher PE, while still maintaining a side count strategy, which is used to detect an additional change in EV that the player will use to detect additional blackjack betting opportunities that are not normally indicated by the primary card counting system. 
  4. The most common card with a side count is the ace, as it is the most important card in terms of achieving BC and PE balance. 
  5. In theory, a blackjack player can keep a side count of every card and achieve nearly 100% PE, but the methods that involve additional side counting for PE become increasingly difficult at an exponential rate as you add more side counts and the ability of the human mind is quickly overtasked. The player becomes unable to make the necessary computations using this method. Without any side strategies, PE can approach 70%. Since there is the potential to create an overtaxing demand on the human mind when using this strategy, another important design consideration is the ease of use of such strategies.
  6. Higher-level systems and systems with side counts will become more complex, and in an attempt to make them easier, unbalanced systems eliminate the need for the player to keep tabs on the number of cards/decks that have already entered play, usually at the expense of lowering PE.

Comparing card counting systems

Compare Card Counting Systems

Above we have mentioned 6 different factors on how to choose the best strategy. You should know that there are different types of blackjack strategies depending on the level of success and difficulty. Naturally, some strategies will give you the best success rate, but they are, as you can expect, more complex and require several months of learning. Let us compare them:

Hi-low system

Basic 21 Card Counting (simple)

Here each available card is assigned a positive, negative, or zero value. When a card of that value is dealt with, the count is adjusted by that card's counting value. Low cards increase the count as they increase the percentage of high cards in the remaining set of cards, while high cards decrease it for the opposite reason. For instance, the Hi-Lo system subtracts one for each dealt 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace, and adds one for any value 2–6. Values 7–9 are assigned to zero and do not affect the count.

The Light High-Low system is considered a Level 1 counter because the running count never increases or decreases by more than a single, predetermined value. Besides, it is considered as the most easy comparing to other 21 game systems.

Multilevel counting (advanced) 

It is a 21 game strategy that makes finer distinctions between card values to gain greater play accuracy. Rather than all cards having a value of +1, 0, or −1, an advanced count strategy might also include card ranks such as +2 and −2, or +0.5 and -0.5.

Wong-halves system

Among the best blackjack systems of this level are:

  • Zen Count,
  • Wong-halves, 
  • Hi-Opt II.

Counting Side Cards in decks

Advanced blackjack players can also keep side card (separate) counts of certain cards, such as a side count of aces, to deal with situations where the best count for betting accuracy differs from the best count for game accuracy. 

Counting side cards

There are many blackjack side-counting techniques and methods, including special counts used best when attacking games with nonstandard profitable-play options such as an over/under side bet. The disadvantage of higher-level counting is that keeping track of more information can reduce the ability to play quickly and accurately. Some card counters make more money playing a simple count quickly. More hands per hour played - than slowly playing a complex count. 

Use statistics to choose the most easy card counting method 

Blackjack factors

There are several factors to consider:

  1. When it comes to correlation betting (BC), the Halves have the best correlation. This is used for betting predictions.
  2. Hi-Opt II and Omega II have the highest playing efficiency (PE). This determines decisions and deviations (when switching from the base strategy) in the game.
  3. Hi-Opt II has the best insurance correlation (IC). This can tell you when it is best to buy insurance (which is why Hi-Opt II has the extra Advantage).
  4. As you can see, Hi-Lo is not mentioned anywhere. That's because it's in the middle according to every factor. Hi-Opt II has an extra Advantage, the halves are just tedious (adding further distraction), and Omega II's playing efficiency does not match the betting correlation. If you're not the best blackjack player, stick with Hi-Lo and other simple methods mentioned and compared in this article.