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Perfect Pairs


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21 Blackjack


Most people don’t need much introduction to the game of 21 since it’s the blackjack version that most people are familiar with.

21 Blackjack

Zen Count

Blackjack Zen Count

Invented by Blackjack Hall of Famer Arnold Snyder in 1983, the Zen Count method for counting cards is an advanced balanced multi-level system. The biggest difference between Snyder's Zen Count and more traditional blackjack card counting methods is that Zen Count includes +2 and -2 values as well as the traditional +1 and -1.

Zen Count Point Values

Like other balanced card counting methods, Zen Count point values are such that a deck of cards has an overall value of 0. If you want to test that out, count through a deck of cards giving each card the following point values:

2  (+1)
3  (+1)
4  (+2)
5  (+2)
6  (+2)
7  (+1)
8  (0)
9  (0)
10 (-2)
A  (-1)   

Keep counting through a deck, maintaining a running count in your head to get used to the addition of a +2 value to the standard +1 and -1 values. Once you can keep the count with a single deck at speed, it is time to start calculating counts based on multiple decks. That's what Zen Count is built for--calculating how aggressive you should make your bets in multiple deck games of blackjack.

The Zen Count "true count" requires you to divide your running count value by the number of decks in the show that haven't been dealt. Let's say you're playing a six deck shoe that's half dealt, leaving three decks. If your count is 9, you'll divide this count by 3 to get a true count of 3.

How to Bet Zen Count Style

If you're familiar with the High-Low counting system, you'll notice that the Zen Count method has a lot of similarities. The whole idea behind the Zen Count method is to make smarter large bets and to back off your bets when the deck is less advantageous. The Zen Count method comes with a series of suggested wagers based on the true count.

When the count is +1 or less, Zen Count says you should bet only one unit. For every point above +1, you add one unit of wager, so that +2 means wagering two units, +3 means wagering 3 units, etc.

Why Zen Count Works

According to eggheads who understand this sort of thing, using the Zen Count properly adds about 0.1 or 0.2% to your advantage over other counting methods. As with all other counting methods, you only have an edge against the casino when you get up into the +2 or +3 true count range, that's why you start increasing your bets the higher your true count goes.

No counting system is a guarantee that you'll win--it is really just a tool you can use to tailor your bets to the way the game is moving. Zen Count is like a barometer of the blackjack shoe you're playing against, helping you identify times in a blackjack session when it would benefit you to bet more, expecting higher value hands, and when you should bet less, expecting hands that put you at a disadvantage. Being able to spot when the "good cards" are disappearing is the best (and only) betting system that can lead to more winning.

The Zen Count can alert you to the presence of lots of high card sin the show, which should automatically set off alarm bells inside you that tell you to bet high. When the opposite is true, and cards that help the dealer are in high supply, Zen Count helps you know when to cut your losses by betting less, ideally the table minimum.

No card counting method is fool-proof. You still have to play the game according to basic blackjack strategy, and if you're playing in the casino, you need to do your best to convince the casino that you're not counting cards. This may mean occasionally taking a beat when you could have easily won, or backing off a table even if you're smoking hot. It is better to win a little less cash than to be asked to leave a casino you're winning at. Remember, card counting isn't illegal, but it also isn't illegal for a casino to ask any player to leave for any reason.

The Zen Count method is tried and true, and variations exist for different game situations. Don't try to use this form of Zen Count on single or two-deck games, as the smaller number of cards and decks throws off the strategy. Use a simpler count for those situations. But when you're playing a multi-deck game, the Zen Count is probably the easiest "advanced" card counting strategy out there.

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