Blackjack betting systems - Part 2


This article contains the following categories:


How to Count Cards Using the Hi-Lo Method
Hi-Lo Blackjack System
Red Seven Count Blackjack System
HI-OPT II Blackjack Card Counting System
Silver Fox Blackjack Count
Blackjack Switch Strategy
Uston Advanced Point Count
Uston SS Count
Kiss III - Blackjack Counting System
Uston Advanced Plus-Minus
Mentor Blackjack Counting System


How to Count Cards Using the Hi-Lo Method


Players who engage on casino blackjack are always contemplating a way to beat the house. That's no surprise. There is a way to approach it, and really only one way. It is a two-tiered approach.


The first tier involves learning a Basic Strategy, which constitutes the most mathematically correct way to play each hand, according to your hand against that of the dealer. The Basic Strategy is the foundation for any game plan to beat blackjack. There is no escaping that.


After mastering it completely, you can move on to the next step, which is blackjack card counting. This method has proven to be a successful way to gain a long-term edge against the house, and thus there have been a number of systems that have been devised and offered to the public. 


One of these is the Hi-Lo blackjack system, which, with regard to the card values involved, has become almost a generic way to attack the game. The basic rudiments were formulated by Harvey Dubner, but they were later refined by noted blackjack authority Stanford Wong. 


One of the things that has made the Hi-Lo so popular is the fact that it is relatively simple to learn the card values. It is a one-level system, which means that nothing goes higher or lower than plus-1 or minus-1. That, in and of itself, is a "plus," because other systems are much more complicated. 


In the Hi-Lo blackjack system, the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are all assigned a value of +1; Aces and ten-value cards (10, J, Q, K) are all minus-1 (-1), and 7, 8 and 9 were neutral, which means that they are not counted at all.  At that point what the player does with this information is literally "counts" the cards, adding and subtracting and coming up with a count that will determine how rich the deck is with cards that are valuable to him. The richer the deck, the higher the bet. That, in very simplified terms, is the basis for the advantage to blackjack card counting. 


Of course, there are various subtleties. For example, you will not count individual cards on the original deal but would instead count them in pairs, to save time. And there are playing variations that will be employed, and these are laid out on charts that would come with the system. You would hit bad hands more with a negative count than with a positive count, for instance, and would double, split and take insurance more with certain positive counts. 


You will also begin to employ a "true count," which involves dividing the running count by the number of decks in a show that are remaining to be played. 


It is important to point out that whatever system is going to be used, there is nothing that is going to come easy. All of the systems require a lot of work, study and practice to master, and perfect play is mandatory if there is going to be any long-term success at blackjack card counting.


Hi-Lo Blackjack System


The Architect of the Hi-Lo Blackjack System


The High-Low blackjack system was published by Stanford Wong, whose real name is actually John Ferguson, in a book called "Professional Blackjack" that he authored in 1975. Ferguson was a university professor who advocated a professional approach to playing blackjack for profit, hence the book's name, and he presented the High-Low as a strong one-level count that could be the next step up for intermediate players. Note, the blackjack betting system was spelt High-Low on Stanford Wong`s book, but many use the spelling "Hi-Lo".


Stanford Wong acknowledged that the genesis of the blackjack system came from Harvey Dubner back in 1963, but he supplied some refinements to it, and performed many independent calculations, as computers were becoming a great boon to any and all blackjack systems developers.


The Hi-Lo Blackjack System


The card values of the Hi-Lo blackjack system were not hard to remember: 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were all counted as +1; Aces and ten-value cards (10, J, Q, K) were all counted as -1, and 7, 8 and 9 were neutral and not to be counted. A running count was kept, and a true count conversion was required. Wong referred to it as the "count per deck," which obviously used fractional parts of the deck in the case of a single deck game.


Insurance is a very important playing decision for the player to make, and in the Hi-Lo blackjack system, the count per deck at which insurance would be taken by the player was +1.4 for a single deck game, +2.3 for two decks, +2.8 for four decks and 3 for six-deck games.


One of the most challenging factors about Stanford Wong's Hi-Lo blackjack system is that it includes an awful lot of blackjack strategy indices. These cover almost all the blackjack games available for all venues that were around at the time ( Las Vegas Strip Blackjack, Downtown Blackjack, Northern Nevada Blackjack, Atlantic City Blackjack, etc) and any number of decks that would customarily be played. Players are well-advised to concentrate on one type of blackjack game, so as not to be overwhelmed. There are twenty pages in the back of Wong's book that are devoted to blackjack strategy variations depending on the rules of the game played.


Hi-Lo Vs. Other Blackjack Betting Systems


The Hi-Lo system is an introductory professional-level count, with a degree of power that is roughly comparable to the Hi-Opt I or the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus. It has a .97 betting efficiency figure, which is excellent for a one-level count.


Due to its relative simplicity from the standpoint of card values, it is one of the more preferred blackjack systems for a lot of blackjack players, although some players do not want to be involved with an excessive amount of strategy variations. That's not the end of the world, because bet variation on each and every hand is far more important than strategy variation.


Wong has enhancements that can be used. He suggests that a ten-count for insurance purposes can be used in addition to the Ace side count, which would add .2 bets per hour to what Wong says is 1.5 bets-per-hour win rate that can be achieved with proper execution of the High-Low.


Proper execution means just that, however. Wong stresses that there is no room for error, or for improvisation. "If you know what to do but refuse to do it, you are a gambler for certain," he wrote. Truer words were never spoken.


Red Seven Count Blackjack System


The Architect Behind the Red Seven Count Blackjack System


Arnold Snyder, author of "The Blackjack Formula" among other books, and editor/publisher of "Blackjack Forum," a popular journal for card counters, recognized the difficulty that was involved in true count conversion. It is indeed an inexact science when it comes to estimating the number of decks that are remaining to be played, and this leaves a lot of players making mistakes from a mechanical standpoint.


Arnold Snyder saw that there were unbalanced ten counts, which did not carry a high betting correlation, but no unbalanced point count. As Snyder pondered the situation, he came up with a solution that he couldn't believe no other author had come up with before. What Arnold Snyder did was devise a count that required no true count adjustments and no strategy index, with the objective to minimize errors, while at the same time offering some strength.


The Red Seven Count Blackjack Betting System


The "Red Seven Count" was the product of this contemplation. Arnold Snyder assigned the card value of +1 from all 2', 3's, 4's, 5's and 6's, with ten-value cards and Aces counted as -1, and the 8's and 9's as neutral. Snyder then made the assignment that made this count a little different than any other, and it was here that the genesis of the system's unusual name could be found. He called for red sevens (the seven of hearts and the seven of diamonds) to be counted as +1, with black sevens (the seven of spades and the seven of clubs) not counted (neutral). That meant that the sevens did not cancel each other out, but instead would be "sided" toward being a favorable card for the player when removed.


This is what created the desired imbalance in the count - desired because it would preclude the need to keep a true count. When you counted this blackjack deck down, you would come to +2, which would be the pivot point on a per-deck basis. That would be multiplied by the number of decks, so in a six-deck balckjack game, the pivot point would be +12. What you would do then, if you were going to be counting down that six-deck blackjack game, was start at -12, and when you got to a positive number (+1 or higher), you be at an advantage against the casino.


Choosing the seven (7) as the card to "split up" in terms of count values is not arbitrary. It is indeed a card that is advantageous for the blackjack player if it is removed, though it is not as advantageous as the small cards (2 through 7) are. Snyder points out that the player doesn't necessarily have to count the red sevens at +1. He could count just the black sevens, count every seven as +1/2, or count every other seven. The bottom line in the Red Seven Count is to count them in such as way as to affect the imbalance that is intended by the count value assignment.


Red Seven Count Vs. Other Blackjack Betting Systems


The Red Seven blackjack betting system called for very few blackjack strategy variations; only the basics. The key to the Red Seven Count was not to offer a guide as to how to play hands, but how to bet money. According to Arnold Snyder, the strength of this blackjack system is a 97% betting correlation which put it right up there along with the Hi-Lo blackjack system when it came to identifying favorable blackjack betting situations. That is one of the higher betting correlations of any other of the popular blackjack systems.


HI-OPT II Blackjack Card Counting System


The Architect of the HI-OPT II Blackjack Card Counting System


The Hi-Opt II is a computer generated blackjack counting system that was spearheaded by Lance Humble. Humble's Hi-Opt II counting system sounds like it was an expansion upon the work that had been done to develop Hi-Opt I and there is some truth to that as Humble enlisted the help of Julian Braun in compiling some of the computer programs that were necessary to make the tests of the blackjack system. That was also Lance Humble's objective to take what he had done with Hi-Opt I and bring it to a new level.


The Blackjack HI-OPT II Card Counting System


While Hi-Opt I was designed as a system that could be used by the intermediate player and produce a profit, Hi-Opt II was engineered as something that could be used by those who wished to be at more of a professional level. The card values are different for this blackjack system and they make this system one that is a "multi-parameter" count because the values of the cards go beyond +1 or -1.


The idea behind multi-parameter systems is that the count values that are assigned to the cards more accurately reflect what those cards really mean to the player. For example, let's go through the card values for Hi-Opt II and the difference between those and the Hi-Opt I.


In Hi-Opt I, the values (+1 for 3 through 6, -1 for all ten-value cards) is basically an interpretation of the idea that the removal of high cards is bad for the player, while the removal of low cards is good for the player, and that the 2 and Ace are relatively neutral in terms of their value to the player. It is a simple count, reflecting simple theory.


The Hi-Opt II seeks to take this to another level entirely. Here, the 4 and 5, which are the best cards for the dealer are counted as +2 because the dealer can make a lot of hands with these cards, with the 3 and 6 at +1 because the removal of these cards are more advantageous to the player.


Hi-Opt II also assigns the value of +1 to the 2 and the 7, and this is obviously a by-product of more sensitivity of the precise value of cards to the player, as would be expected by a count that was moving more toward a professional level. The tens and face cards are all counted as -2, which was appropriate in a multi-parameter system, and once again the Ace was neutral. The Ace side count was a part of it, as was the conversion to a "true count" - the count per deck, which offers a "truer" view of what the count really is.


HI-OPT II Count Vs. Other Blackjack Betting Systems


Obviously the multi-parameter blackjack systems are going to be more difficult to use than the single-parameter systems, because the card combinations (count pairs, combinations of cards, etc and not single cards only) are naturally a little more difficult. So the strength of the system has to be able to prove worth the trouble. Hi-Opt II had a very strong playing efficiency quotient, which at .671 made it at least as good as anything that had come out before 1980. However, the betting correlation, which is actually more important because it operates on every hand, was .91 which still lagged behind other winning blackjack systems, including the Braun Plus-Minus which was a single-level count. It may not have been perfect, but it was stronger than Hi-Opt I, and it offered Humble the opportunity to do one thing in particular - sell it for more money than the Hi-Opt I!


Silver Fox Blackjack Count


When searching for a blackjack system to play, many beginners don't really know that they are looking for. They know that they may not be able to handle something to complicated, but at the same time they want to make sure they can get an edge on the game. For those players, the Silver Fox blackjack counting system may be the right solution.


The Silver Fox blackjack counting system was developed by Ralph Stricker, who has been no stranger to most folks in the blackjack world. Stricker, a New Jerseyan, traveled the country giving seminars on winning blackjack, and used this simple strategy with his students. He also included the system in his book "The Silver Fox Blackjack System - You Can Count On It" which was given generally favorable reviews.


The Silver Fox is relatively easy to use. It is a level-one blackjack system that is balanced and ace-reckoned. The card values are very easy to remember. The 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are all counted as +1. The nine and the Ace, along with all of the ten-value cards, are counted as -1. The Ace is at a minus figure mostly because it is valuable to the player from a betting standpoint, and this is a count that is "optimized" for betting.


That makes it a level-one system, which means that there is anything higher or lower than +1 or -1, and when you have a blackjack system like this it usually makes counting down a deck that much easier. Please remember that simplicity is a virtue in a card-counting strategy; when something can be done simply, it has a tendency to help the player cut down on mistakes. You are not counting individual cards but instead combinations of cards, and it is not hard to add or subtract the value of one (or two, in the case of having two +1's or -1's in a combination) from a number. While the Silver Fox may not be the most powerful system in the world, it is not a bad way for a player who has not counted cards before to introduce him or herself into the world of winning blackjack.


The betting correlation for this system is solid, at .96, although there are systems out there, as easy to use, that score a little better. The playing efficiency is not super-strong, and is measured at .53. The insurance correlation, which measures how well a system identifies situations where the player can profitably take insurance, is .69.


One thing to keep in mind is that this is a balanced count, which means that when you count down a deck, using all of the card values that are assigned by the Silver Fox count, you will come up with zero. As a result, this is a system that is going to require something called "true count conversion," which involves converting the running count you compile into a "per-deck" figure before making your betting decisions. This sometimes complicates the game, and in many cases, people who don't want to do that simply go to an unbalanced count - even people who play at a professional level.


Try the Silver Fox blackjack count system using our free blackjack game or visit one of the most recommended online casinos to play blackjack and other entertaining casino games.


Blackjack Switch Strategy


Blackjack Switch is a very exciting variation on the game of blackjack, where you are dealt two hands, and you actually get to make the decision to switch the second card you've been dealt between each hand, in order to improve it, before having to make any strategy decisions of your own. In fact, you then make your Basic Strategy decision based on the "new" hands you have constructed for yourself.


There are some things that have to be noted, however. In an unusual twist, when the dealer gets a hand of 22, that is going to constitute a "push" or tie with any hand you are holding, with the exception of a two-card 21 (i.e., a natural). Some of the other rules are the same as you would find in a regular game, including doubling down on any two cards and doubling down after splits, but the dealer also customarily hits soft 17. Also, blackjacks pay off at even money instead of the usual 3-to-2. It is obvious that you are required to play two hands at the same time in this game.


What is critical in this game, then, is being able to determine when it makes sense to make a switch. Some of the situations are patently obvious; for example, if you are dealt a 5-9 on one hand and a 10-6 on another, it makes perfect sense to switch the nine and the six to create a doubling situation on the one hand and a "pat" hand on the other. In other cases, it's a little more subtle.


You're going to evaluate the strength of the dealer's hand based on the upcard. The best upcards, obviously, are the ones where the dealer can make a pat hand (a standing hand) with a ten-value card. Those are anything from the seven through the Ace. The upcards of three through six are weak dealer upcards because they create busts more than the others (5 and 6 are especially bad for the house). The two is an upcard that is very dangerous for the player to go up against, even in normal circumstances, but in Blackjack Switch, it can be especially bothersome because unlike regular blackjack, the dealer does not bust out with two tens but achieves 22, which as mentioned, pushes anything except your two-card 21.


The general rule is that you are certainly going to want to switch in situations where you can improve the chances of both hands to beat the dealer, and this may include taking "stiff" hands that could be improved just a little, as long as they give you a shot to win, as opposed to keeping hands that have a much lesser chance. There are a number of principles you can put into play, many of which have a strong basis in blackjack logic. One you've switched, you will plug into the basic Blackjack Strategy for the most part.


Using the correct switching techniques in Blackjack Switch will reduce the house edge to about 20%-50% of what it would be otherwise, which means that the perfect Basic Strategy player will be even closer to a dead-even game with the house. It goes without saying that while online, many of the sharp players prefer to engage in Blackjack Switch over the other conventional blackjack games.


Uston Advanced Point Count


Ken Uston, who was probably known as the "king of blackjack" at one time, published his landmark book "Million Dollar Blackjack" for several reasons, and one of them was to unveil what was to that point his crowning achievement in terms of blackjack systems.


The Uston Advanced Point Count was complicated blackjack betting system, for sure. Complicated systems take a lot of time and energy to master to the point where they can be used in the fast pace of the casino. In his book, though, Uston maintained that the time required to master it was no more than that which was required to be an average chess, backgammon or bridge player.


The Uston Advanced Point Count was a three-level count, which made it more involved than single-level systems, for sure, and the combinations were certainly going to be a challenge. The card values are as follows:


* 2 and 8 are counted as +1
* 3, 4, 6 and 7 are counted as +2
* The 5 is counted as +3
* The 9 is counted as -1
* Ten-value cards (10, J, Q, K) are counted as -3
* Aces are not counted, and were to be the subject of a side count


This made it more difficult than the Hi-Opt II blackjack system, and less difficult than the Revere APC blackjack system.


The Uston APC contained over 163 strategy variations which had to be memorized by the player, and true count conversion was, of course, necessary. It used a half-deck conversion factor, meaning, for example, that if there are 3-1/2 decks remaining to be played, that constitutes seven half-decks.


Ace adjustment was required as well with the use of a side count. Prior to betting, the player must determine whether the remaining deck is Ace-rich or Ace-poor. For every Ace that it is rich, you would add +3 to the running count before the true count conversion. You will subtract -3 from your running count if the deck is Ace-poor. This becomes incredibly cumbersome without a lot of practice, and to jumble things even further, that ace-adjusted count only applies for betting purposes, not playing purposes, so you have to keep two different counts in your head.


What this amounts to is something that is very complicated in a blackjack game where things are moving at a rather swift pace, and this is the kind of count that is one of the most powerful in the world, on the surface, but is tailor-made for causing mental fatigue. As far as the efficiency of the Uston Advanced Point Count is concerned, you are looking at a .69 playing efficiency and a .99 betting efficiency, which puts it right up there with the Revere Advanced Point Count. The "ease of use" quotient on the Uston APC was not high, however.


Uston had players on his blackjack team using this blackjack system, but ultimately he admitted that they were getting tired and making mistakes, which was negating the advantages that could be culled from the blackjack system. He later got them off the system and into another blackjack betting system - one that he devised, of course.


Uston SS Count


The Uston SS Count, in a sense, came out of necessity for Ken Uston, one of the more well-known blackjack experts of all time, who may have been the first author who ever described in detail the process of "team blackjack" for pubic consumption, through his first book, "The Big Player" as well as his classic work, "Million Dollar Blackjack," which came out long before the movie "21" that has gained widespread appeal.


Around the time that "Million Dollar Blackjack" was published, Uston had all of his team members play that count system, because it was maybe the most powerful that was available on the market. What Uston discovered over the course of time, as he described, it was very difficult for his team members to play with any degree of speed and accuracy using his Uston Advanced Point Count. Specifically speaking, converting to true counts was particularly rough. Besides, as Uston rationalized, there was no way to ever have a satisfactory degree of exactitude when it came to doing the deck estimation. The complex count led to mistakes, and even though a lot of people talk about that trade-off now, I'm not sure there were that many people who were using that as a major consideration to simplify a system.


Uston's objective was to put his team members in a position where they could play quicker, keep the count easily, and have time free to executing playing variations and manage money. So he sat down with other experts, including Arnold Snyder, of "Blackbelt in Blackjack" fame, and devised a count that would not only carry a considerable amount of strength, but also obviate the need to make bothersome calculations that would contribute to errors.


The result of all this was the Uston SS, where the "SS" stood for "strongest and simplest." That was his goal, and by all accounts, he accomplished it. This count is level-three, which might make it difficult for some people to keep, but that is the only thing that really has to be calculated.


Take a look at the card tags:


Ace (-2)
2, 3, 4, 6 (+2)
7 (+1)
8 (0 - neutral)
9 (-1)
10-value (-2)
5 (+3)


We used the five last because the value that is placed on the five makes this a level-three count. What you have to do with this system is practice counting the card combinations a little more, but the trade-off is that you aren't going to have to do any true count conversions. That's because the sum value of the cards in the deck is +4. What you are looking at is that when the deck comes back to zero, you are going to have an advantage over the casino at that point. So you start your count at -4 for a single deck game, and multiply -4 by the number of decks that are in play. So for example, if there is a six-deck game, you start the shoe at -24 and work your way to zero. When you get to zero, you know that enough small cards have been removed from the deck to get you there, and that is a good thing. This is called an "unbalanced count," and when it balances out the other way, you know that you are getting a more favorable shoe.


Therefore, the true count conversion is not necessary, and because that imbalance is built into the deck(s), such a thing is already accounted for. This count is also "Ace-reckoned," which means that it accounts for the difference between the number of Aces that have been removed and the number of Aces that should have been removed. So there is no need to keep a side count of cases, either.


Does this simplification of a blackjack system have an effect on the power it contains? Well, yes and no. The Uston SS does not have an awful lot of playing variation indexes, and the nature of the count don't make it as conducive to changing Basic Strategy as do others. That gives the Uston SS a playing efficiency rating of .54, which is not very strong as it stacks up against some other multi-level systems. But as Uston is quick to point out, efficiency in betting is much more important than efficiency in playing decisions.


This is certainly a system that is optimized for betting. In fact, it is so good that it carries a betting correlation of .99, which makes it as high, if not higher, than anything that has come since. In fact, when Snyder, a year or two later, did additional efficiency calculations on the Uston SS, he found that the number actually rounded up to 100%, which made it unique, approached only by the Revere Advanced Point Count, which is quite a bit more complex.


There are other counts that have come out that are much simpler, and come relatively close to the power of the Uston SS, and many players have gravitated toward those systems. Some have improvised with the count, taking out the counting of the nine, which improves the insurance correlation but may give up something on the betting end. The bottom line is that it is your decision as to whether to undertake a level-three count like this, but if you master it, the Uston SS will probably make playing blackjack worth your while.


Kiss III - Blackjack Counting System


The KISS II blackjack system was not one that necessarily invited implementation from people who wanted to play the game on more of a full-time basis. The count is not ace-reckoned, and did not lend itself to a high betting correlation (which measures the percentage of betting situations the count will recognize). The next generation of that count is the KISS III, which represents a great improvement and like the KISS II, was formulated by Fred Renzey.


Renzey is a veteran player with a strong understanding of the mathematics of blackjack. At the same time, he's said that many of the blackjack books out on the market today either contain inaccurate or useless information, or are written in such a away that they are too technical. So he tried to fill the void with something called his "Blackjack Bluebook" and "Blackjack Bluebook II."


The KISS III is a blackjack system that is included in the latter book.


The KISS III has a strong betting correlation (.98), which is close to a 10% advance over the previous version of the count. You are going to suffer a little bit with the playing efficiency (where you deal with playing variations), but most experts are of the opinions that variations on Basic blackjack strategy can be minimized without losing a whole lot of efficiency anyway. The insurance correlation (how many potentially profitable insurance situations it finds) is a solid .78.


The tags for the KISS III are a little different for the KISS II. There are five card ranks that will be counted as +1, and those are the 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. All ten-value cards (Ten, Jack, Queen and King) are counted as -1, and like the KISS II, Renzey has the player counting 2's of one color (e.g., the reds - hearts and diamonds) while leaving the others neutral (not counted). A departure from KISS II is that he has the Ace counted as -1, and this would account for the higher betting correlation.


What's good about the KISS III, as compared to the KISS II, is that it is almost as easy to learn and use. In fact, it is a level-one count because there are no card values that go to a higher level on either side of the scale than -1 and +1. Again, it is an unbalanced count (that is, it is not a zero sum per deck, but in this case, +2) but because of the ace-reckoning, there isn't a side count that is required, nor are there true count conversions. That's something that can make life easier for the counter, and even adds accuracy, because of the natural difficulty in attaining exactitude with that kind of exercise.


I would say that with KISS III, Renzey accomplishes his objective, in that he has come up with a count that improves his previous effort, adds power, and at the same time manages to "keep it simple," although you would not be "stupid" at all to adopt this strategy of play.


Uston Advanced Plus-Minus


Ken Uston was one of the more well-known blackjack players of all-time, as well as one of the game's more flamboyant personalities. He began playing as part of a cohesive blackjack "team" in the San Francisco area, and had so much success that he quit his job as a vice-president with the Pacific Stock Exchange to play blackjack full-time. He certainly got more publicity than anyone else, and much of it stemmed from the stories of his being barred from casinos.


Uston wrote several books. Perhaps the most well-received was "MIllion Dollar Blackjack," published in 1981 and immediately recognized as one of the premier texts on the game. It was a mammoth work, and included several different blackjack systems. One of them was something called the Uston Simple Plus-Minus, which was designed for average players to learn quickly and start playing the kind of game that could extract an edge over the casino.


It was clearly an entry-level blackjack system, but it served as a strong fundamental basis for learning and maintaining a card count with proficiency. Uston also had something that was an upgrade. It was called the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus, and it constituted a blackjack system that was a little more complicated, but much more effective when playing blackjack.


The card values for this blackjack system called for everything from 3 through 7 to be counted as +1, with all ten-value cards and Aces at -1, and 2's, 8's and 9's as neutral. This reflected Uston's research - that the value of the two to the player and the house was relatively equal, and that the seven was a card that was favorable to the player when removed. This made it different than some of the other one-level blackjack systems, which might have counted the two as +1 or left the seven as neutral (uncounted).


Though the foundation of the Advanced Plus-Minus system was indeed simple, players had to convert the running count over a true count, using half-decks as the conversion factor (in other words, divide the running count by the half-decks remaining).


Uston's recommendation was that players take on the Advanced Plus-Minus (which he termed a "professional-level" system) only after they had mastered the Simple Plus-Minus, and this was a good idea, because with the card values the same, the player could concentrate on being able to keep the running count first.


Another big distinction between the Simple and Advanced versions of this blackjack strategy was the fact that there were quite a few strategy variations to learn - in fact, 155 in all - and Uston's notion was for the player to learn these strategy decisions with the use of sets of flash cards - something that was rather revolutionary at the time.


The Uston Advanced Plus-Minus blackjack system has a playing efficiency rating of .55, which is not especially strong, with a betting efficiency of .95, which compares to other one-level counts such as the Wong High-Low and the Hi-Opt I. It certainly is not at the same level of power as the multi-level counts that are available, but it is easier to learn, particularly with respect to determining betting situations.


Mentor Blackjack Counting System


The Mentor count was introduced in the book "Blackjack Bluebook II" by Fred Renzey, who had previously introduced his "KISS" system in the first "Blackjack Bluebook." It is a level-two count that is designed for players who are interested in a healthy balance between playing efficiency and betting efficiency, and also perhaps moving up to the kind of count that might make more conducive to play at a professional level.


There are blackjack systems and strategies that are more favorable for single and double deck games than for show games, and vice versa. The Mentor card counting strategy is designed to be flexible between the two. Obviously, because it is in fact a level-two count, is a more complicated count than then KISS series of counts (KISS I, KISS II, KISS III) that Renzey has also published.


As for the card tags, they require that the player count the 3, 4, 5 and 6 as -2, the 7 and the 2 as -1, the nine as -1, the ten value cards (10, Jack, Queen, King) as -2, and the Ace as -1. The eight is neutral and is not counted, which is the case with almost any other blackjack system.


Like most level-2 counts, the Mentor blackjack count attempts to be a more accurate reflection of what the value of the cards really is to the player. For example, while it is very beneficial that the cards that are 3 through 6 are removed, the removal of the 2 and 7, while beneficial, are not AS beneficial for the player. Therefore, they are tagged at +1. Likewise, removing a nine from the deck is not as detrimental to the player as removing the ten-value cards, which are of great benefit.


The Ace, of course, is another story in the Mentor count. Experts often disagree about the value of the Ace; there are some who think it should be neutral in the count because in playing situations, it can be of benefit to both the player and the dealer. Others believe it has much more betting value for the player, and so it should counted as a negative card. In this system it appears there is something of a compromise being made. That's why it is "priced: at -1; it is taking into account the value it has to both player and dealer.


The strength of any blackjack system is most strong tied to its ability to identify betting situations. In that way the Mentor Count scores points. This system has a pretty solid betting correlation (.97), which compares it favorably with some of the level-two systems. It is much better than Lance Humble's Hi-Opt II blackjack system, for example, which registers at .91. The playing efficiency rating is a .62, and the insurance correlation is nice, at .80. There is a true count required, and that is done by dividing the count by the remaining double decks. If you're switching over from another system, this will be somewhat awkward, but like anything else, the Mentor blackjack count calls for practice, practice, practice.

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