Card Counting Systems
by Ralph Stricker
Copyright © 1997 Ralph Stricker
Ralph Stricker was an internationally known blackjack expert. In 1978 he opened one of the first blackjack schools on the East coast. In 1981 he sold the school and has played blackjack professionally. He has appeared on many of the major talk shows throughout the United States. He had his own radio and tv shows for three years. He has also written a book on the playing of Blackjack entitled the Silver Fox Blackjack System “You Can Count On It“. Ralph Stricker passed away in 2012
In 1962, Edward O. Thorpe’s book Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One appeared. Thorpe through the use of computer trials proved that certain cards were favorable to the player, and other cards favorable to the dealer. He proved that “depending” on what cards had been played, one could determine what cards were left. Therefore if more cards were left that favored the player, the player had an advantage and could now raise the bet according to this advantage.
There have been over a hundred card counting systems published. This does not mean, because it is a mathematical valid counting system, that it is worth pursuing. The first counting systems were geared towards single deck, because at the time, the only legitimate casinos in the United States were in Nevada. Card counting systems are either Balanced or Unbalanced. Balanced means that we start on a number and at the end of the deck/shoe we arrive at that same number. This is because there is an exact ratio between “plus” and “minus” card values. Unbalanced means that we start on a certain number and at the end of the deck/shoe we arrive at a different number. In an unbalanced count there is a disparity between plus and minus cards.
Both balanced and unbalanced counts are mathematically valid, although can vary in strength depending on the count and amount of decks. Usually unbalanced counts are better suited for single & double deck games.
There are also single level counts and multi-level counts. Single level means only one value has been used for the plus and minus cards. (Usually +1 & -1) Multi-level counts means different values for different cards. (For example;The 2 & 3’s may =+1, the 4 & 5’s may equal +2. 9’s = -1, 10 & A’s = -2)
I recommend that the person who wishes to pursue card counting, learn a simple one level count where the Ace is reckoned. (a value on the Ace) Count systems that assign no value on the Ace, need to use a “side count” for betting purposes. This is extra work at the table. The object is to play as expeditiously as possible without holding up play of the game. This is so the pit personnel cannot “make” you as a card counter. The “Silver Fox” count is a balanced count which requires no “side” count of Aces & Fives. It is also effective in single,double and multiple deck play.
We all owe Thorpe a debt of gratitude for his work in defining card counting as a way to play blackjack.