Canfield Expert and Master Systems

Canfield Expert and Master Systems for Card Counting in Blackjack

The Canfield Expert System and The Canfield Master Systems are the brainchildren of Richard Canfield, a former casino pit boss who wrote Blackjack: Your Way to Riches in 1977. He published a revised edition in 1994. The first of these 2 systems is a simple, single-level, balanced system that focuses more on improving your playing decisions than on betting efficiency. The second of these is a proprietary system similar to the Omega II Count.

Don't worry if you don't understand what all the jargon and lingo (like "single-level" and "balanced" mean in this context. We're going to explain those terms in the sections for each counting system below.

Canfield Expert

The Canfield Expert System has fallen out of favor for 2 reasons:

1It's not as effective as the Hi-Opt I System.
2It's meant to be used with a single deck.

But if you're interested in learning how to count cards with the Canfield Expert, we've included most of what you need to know below.

The first thing you should understand is how card counting works. We cover that in detail on our main card counting page, but briefly, here's how you can get an edge over the casino by counting cards'this information applies to all card counting systems, the Canfield Expert included.

Blackjack is unique among casino games in the fact that it has a memory of sorts. The composition of the deck changes as the cards are dealt. This changes the odds, sometimes in favor of the house, and sometimes in favor of the player. An experience card counter can raise his bets and adjust his strategy decisions based on those changes.

Example

Suppose you're playing in a single deck blackjack game where all the aces have been dealt already. It's impossible to be dealt a blackjack at this point, which means you have a 0% chance of getting that 3 to 2 payout. It's not rocket science to see how this hurts the player's odds.

Card counters use a heuristic system to track the ratio of high cards to low cards. When the deck has a relatively large number of 10s and aces in it compared to low cards, you can make different playing decisions and raise your bets. This gets more money into action when you have a better chance of getting that 3 to 2 payout for a blackjack.

It's similar to the way expert poker players bet and raise when they have a good hand, and then they fold when they have lousy cards. By getting their money into the pot when they're more likely to win, they create a positive expected value situation. Casinos do this all the time, too.

In order to count cards with this system, you simply assign the following values to the following cards and keep a running count:

  • Aces, 2s, and 8s are all worth 0.
  • 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, and 7s are all worth +1.
  • 9s and 10s are worth -1.

You'll notice that there are 20 cards worth +1 each, and there are also 20 cards worth -1 each. So if you count through an entire deck, you'll wind up with a total of 0. That's what makes this a "balanced" count. You have the same number of positive values as negative values.

You'll also notice that you only add and subtract 1. You don't have different values for different cards, as in some other card counting systems. That's what we mean when we say that this is a single level system.

You're going to get an edge over the casino in 2 ways using this system. The first way is by raising your bets when the count is positive. On QFIT, which is one of the best sites for researching card counting systems, the "betting correlation" for this system is listed as 0.87. The best possible score is 1.0, which means that the count is 87% accurate when determining when you should raise your bets.

By comparison, the Hi-Lo System, which is the plain vanilla card counting system that most players start with, has a betting correlation of 0.97. That means you're getting more of an edge when raising your bets when using that other system.

Where the Canfield Expert System shines is in the 2nd way you get an edge over the house—by adjusting your playing decisions according to the count. When the count is positive, you're going to take insurance, which is normally a sucker bet. You're also going to change how you play certain difficult hands, like a hard total of 16 when the dealer is showing a 10. Normally you'd hit in this situation, but you'll stand when the count is positive using the Canfield Expert System.

QFIT measures this, too, using a score called "playing efficiency". The playing efficiency for the Canfield Expert System is 0.63. That doesn't sound so great, but when you compare it with the other counting systems listed there, you'll find that it's actually one of the best scores you'll find.

The Canfield Expert System is also relatively easy to learn and use.

Norm Wattenberger rates how hard it is to use various systems on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the most difficult and 10 being the easiest. The Canfield Expert earned a 6, which is better than most of the card counting systems out there. It's not as easy to use as the Red 7 System or the Knockout System, but it's relatively easy nonetheless.

Canfield Master

The Canfield Master System is a "proprietary" system—that means you have to spend money to get a copy of the system in its full glory. We have the basics of how to use it here, and in principle, it works in a similar manner to all other card counting systems. But this one's a lot harder to use.

One of the reasons this system is harder to use is because it's a 2-level card counting system. In other words, you have to keep up with multiple values for the cards, as follows:

  • 2s, 3s, and 7s are counted as +1 each.
  • 4s, 5s, and 6s are counted as +2 each.
  • Aces and 8s count as 0.
  • 9s count as -1.
  • 10s count as -2.

If that seems a little more complicated, it's because it IS a little more complicated. But it's still a balanced system—if you count through an entire deck using this system, you'll still wind up at 0 at the end. That's because you have just as many cards with positive values and with negative values.

This particular system uses multiple side counts to improve its accuracy. The details of those aren't available, as we don't have access to the proprietary system. But we do know that keeping multiple counts at the same time increases the difficulty of using a system exponentially. And since this particular system is aimed (again) at single deck games, it's not used much anymore.

The Canfield Master System is an improvement over the Canfield Expert System in terms of betting correlation. A 0.92 is a lot better than a 0.87, although it's still not as strong in that respect as the Hi-Lo System. The playing efficiency for this system is even better than the Canfield Expert, which was already high—in fact, at 0.67, it's one of the highest playing efficiencies of all the systems compared on QFIT.

Where the Canfield Master System comes up short is in terms of how easy it is to use.

This system is NOT easy to use at all, really. Wattenberger gives it a 4 out of 10 in terms of ease of use. That's not a good score at all.

And since the system is mostly defunct, it's almost a moot point. As we indicated earlier, most players are more likely to use the Hi-Opt II system if they're interested in a card counting system that focuses more on playing decisions than bet sizing.

Conclusion

The Canfield Expert and Canfield Master Systems are seldom used any more, but they're interesting examples of card counting systems that focus more on getting an edge by adjusting your playing decisions rather than on bet sizing. Sure, bet sizing is still part of how you get your edge, but it's not the focus with these systems.

Richard Canfield, the author of these systems, sounds like an interesting character, too. We always enjoy stories of casino employees who switch sides and want to help players win. Since his heyday in the business was in the 1970s, he's most likely retired now. But his counting systems still warrant attention, and they're good examples of how a simple, easy-to-use system can be complicated and made more accurate with just a couple of changes.

Please Note

If you have any experience using the Canfield Expert System or the Canfield Master System, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us and share your experience, and we'll possibly expand this page with your observations.

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