Card counting Strategies

Strategies for Counting Cards - How Tos

How to Create a Blackjack Strategy - Card Counting Techniques

Card counting strategies range from fairly simple to absurdly complex. This page provides instructions on creating a card counting strategy and in doing so describes the various characteristics of counting systems. It may be of interest even if you don't wish to create a strategy but want to learn about the make-up of such systems.

Creating a new strategy is not difficult if you start with an existing strategy. If you wish to start from scratch there is a bit more work. There are plenty of strategies in the books. (See Card Counting Strategy Comparison for a list of popular strategies and for advice on selecting a strategy.) But, many people do like to at least modify a current strategy to better fit their needs.

Card Counting Tools

The following tools are needed:

  • Efficiency Calculator - Tells you how efficient a particular count is
  • Index Generator - To create new playing indexes
  • Simulator - To fine-tune and measure the effectiveness of the new strategy

All three of the above exist in CVData. If you wish to create optimal betting ramps and make very quick comparisons with existing strategies, you can also use CVCX.

Tag Values for Counting Cards

First you need to settle on the card point values. If you have already done this, you can skip to the Index Generation section. Although reading this section may add to your understanding. Each card has a point value like +1 or -1. There are several characteristics of counts as follows:

  • True Count vs. Running Count - As cards are seen, you keep a running sum of the card tag values. Running Count systems use this count for both betting and playing decisions. True Count systems require that you divide the RC by a number representing the number of cards that have been seen. There are various methods of converting RC to TC (e.g. division, multiplication, tables.) TC systems generally use this TC for all playing decisions. Most also use it for betting decisions. There are exceptions to both of these rules. RC strategies are generally easier to use and TC strategies are generally more accurate.
  • Balanced vs. Unbalanced - In a balanced strategy, all of the point values sum to zero. In an unbalanced strategy, the sum of all the cards is positive. Unbalanced strategies have an advantage because they can be used in the easier running count systems. Although they can also be used in TC systems. Balanced strategies have an advantage in that they are generally a bit more accurate (there are exceptions) and the count hovers around zero making counting easier and betting strategies easier.
  • Ace-Reckoned vs. Ace-Neutral - Generally the Ace is counted as a negative number (Ace-reckoned) or zero (Ace-neutral.) Ace-Reckoned strategies are generally better for shoe games and Ace-Neutral strategies are generally better for single and double deck. (Not always true.) There are compromise strategies (e.g. Zen, UBZ II) where the Ace is counted at half of the normal value. This is particularly good for double-deck and not bad for single deck or shoes. These days, Ace-reckoned strategies are more popular.
  • Level - The level of a strategy refers to the highest value assigned to cards. Level 2 and 3 card counting methods are more efficient, but quite a bit more difficult for most people. Level 3, 4 & 5 strategies also exist. But this is overkill. The most popular strategies these days are level 1. In a level 1 strategy, tens are counted as -1 and some or all low cards are counted as +1.
  • Side Counts - Some strategies use one or more side counts. The most common is counting the Aces in a separate count to make betting more accurate in Ace-neutral systems. This is because Aces are large cards for the purposes of betting but small cards for the purposes of playing when you don't have a Blackjack. There are several methods of side counts described at Side Card Counting Techniques.
  • Suit/Color Aware Counts - Some count will have different tag values for red and black cards. Examples are Red7 & KISS. The attempt here is to gain most of the advantage of a higher level strategy without the higher range of counts. I would expect the error rate would increase somewhat but have no figures for this.
  • Other ease of use considerations - The fewer the number of cards counted the easier it is to count cards. Also, the more card pairs that add to zero the better. This is because most counters count pairs of cards when possible. If you see a +1 and a -1 card at the same time, you automatically ignore them since they sum to zero.

Now, how do we decide on the card tag values? First you need to decide on the above characteristics. Second, it is good to take a look at the popular strategies that exist. See Card Counting Systems Comparison for a list along with their tag values. Next, you need to understand Betting Correlation, Playing Efficiency and Insurance Correlation. These are terms created by Peter Griffin in Theory of Blackjack. Reading this book will help you a great deal. These terms are defined as:

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