There is no such thing as a
"best" card counting system unless you are a robot, in which case you would be
keeping track of each and every card. Humans, on the other hand, have limitations. For
shoe dealt games, all card counting systems perform within a tenth of a percent (or so) of
each other. For single deck games, a balanced multi-level count with an ace side-count can
show a significant theoretical improvement over unbalanced and single-level counts,
however, the player runs the risk of mental fatigue and errors. The bottom line for most
players is that "simple is best!" I recommend the Hi-Lo, Red Seven, K-O or Zen for shoe games and the Hi-Opt I, Zen or Omega II for
single-deck. What is the best all around count? I like the Hi-Lo because it allows me to
concentrate on more important things... like convincing the pit boss that I am a loser!
Obviously, the answer to this question is not as easy as it appears.
Several approaches have been used in the past to evaluate card counting systems. One
analytical approach is the calculation of several performance parameters (e.g., playing,
betting, and insurance efficiencies). The results are then used to approximate the
potential of one system over another. Another approach that is used is to simulate each
system against typical game conditions on a high speed computer. Simulations can provide
an accurate real-world estimate of the advantages and win-rates that are possible in
playing a particular system.
However, the problem with coming up with a best card
counting system is that you can always come up with a better card counting
system. Instead of a single-level* unbalanced count you could assign more
accurate point values to each card and determine true counts by the exact number of decks
or cards remaining. You could improve playing efficiency by assigning a
zero to the Ace and side counting each of them. You could also side count
other cards such as 7s, 8s, and 9s thus improving your play against specific hands. You
could also incorporate play variations (changes to basic strategy) based on specific
counts by remembering every index number for every play possible.
To improve the accuracy of your insurance decisions you could also keep a separate count
of all the tens in the deck or shoe. Of course, you dont wont to forget all
the practical advice each system offers in regard to betting, playing,
camouflage, and other tips and tricks of the trade.
Peter Griffin, author of the classic text The Theory of Blackjack, wrote
"If ones ambition is to raise overall strategic efficiency beyond the 70%
level, perhaps as high as 90%, it is imperative that the primary system be quite simple
and hence allow great flexibility for incorporating several auxiliary, independent sources
I believe the above comment was one of the most important suggestions
ever made about card counting. Griffin suggested that it may be better to keep your base
count simple to allow your brain the ability to perform other tasks and to utilize other
sources of information. These other sources of information can often improve the potential
of a single-level count over an advanced 2- or 3-level count that doesnt use this
information. This information includes side counts, shuffle tracking, ace location
strategies, key card techniques, and dealer errors. My own experience at card counting has
shown that Griffin was probably right.
Human error is another reason to keep it simple. The most advanced card
counting system in the world is not going to do you any good if you cant play it
accurately. Thus, the best card counting system may be one that perfectly balances
theoretical power and your human ability to execute it accurately.
*Footnote: A single-level count assigns point values in such a
manner that the non-zero point values are the same in absolute value, namely +1 or -1. The
single-level Hi-Lo count, for example, assigns 2 - 6 as +1, 7 - 9 as 0, and Tens and Aces