KISS Systems

KISS Systems for Card Counting in Blackjack

Fred Renzey answers an interesting question in his book Blackjack Bluebook II – The Simplest Winning Strategies Ever Published.

How easy can you make a card counting system and still have it work?

If you've read our main page about counting cards, you probably already have a basic understanding of how counting works. Having lots of high cards in the deck is good for you, the player. Having lots of low cards in the deck is good for the casino.

Here's why:

High cards (aces and 10s) lead to more blackjacks. And since you get paid 3 to 2 for a blackjack, it makes sense to put more money into action when the odds are better for getting that hand. And indeed, that's how most card counters get most of their edge—by raising their bets when there are lots of high cards in the deck.

Renzey's KISS counts get increasingly harder to use as the numbers go up, but all 3 of them are relatively easy. The harder the system is to use, in this instance, the more effective it is.

We outline how all 3 systems work in the appropriately titled sections below.

The KISS 1 Card Counting System

This is an entry level system that ignores almost half the cards in the deck. In fact, the only cards that have values to keep up with in this system are the face cards—the jacks, queens, and kings, and the 4s, 5s, and 6s. Here's what the cards are counted as using this system:

  • Face cards are worth -1 point each.
  • 4s, 5s, and 6s are worth +1 point each.
  • All other cards count as 0.

But there's one more wrinkle. The KISS 1 System is an "unbalanced system", and it's also a "suit dependent" system.

What do those phrases mean?

If you only used the values listed above, the KISS 1 system would be a balanced card counting system. You'd have just as many +1 values as -1 values. When you count through an entire deck with a balanced system, you end up with a total of 0.

But with the KISS 1 System, you also count black deuces (2s) as +1 each.

This unbalances the system, which is done to avoid the need to convert a running count into a true count. Here's what that means:

When you're counting a deck of cards, the relative edge is based on those values if you're using one deck. But if you're playing in a game with multiple decks, the effect of each card being dealt is diluted.

That might not make sense at first, but think about it this way:

If you're playing in a single deck game, and all the 16 cards worth 10 are dealt, it's impossible to be dealt a blackjack, right?

But if you're playing in a game using 8 decks, dealing out 16 cards worth 10 doesn't reduce the odds of getting a blackjack to 0. The odds are reduced, but not by nearly as much, because there are still a lot of 10s left in the deck.

Most card counting systems require you to divide the running count by the number of decks left in the shoe in order to get a true count. You use that true count to determine when to raise and lower your bets and when to adjust your strategy decisions.

Unbalanced systems eliminate the need for that conversion.

Division is hard for a lot of people. And estimating how many decks are in a shoe can also be hard for a lot of people.

Renzey estimates that the KISS 1 system will net you a 0.5% edge over the house. This is not impressive to most card counters, who are looking for more of an edge. In fact, the KISS 1 System isn't even listed on the comparison chart at QFIT, which is the authoritative source for the math behind these counting systems. Wattenberger, the author of that site, mentions that KISS 2 is so much superior math-wise with so little extra effort that KISS 1 isn't even worth listing.

The KISS 2 Card Counting System

The KISS 2 Card Counting System is still super easy. It works just like the KISS 1 system, but it adds 2 more cards to the ones you're going to keep up with. You're going to start tracking the 3s as +1, too, and also the 10s as -1. So all the values to count are as follows:

  • Face cards and 10s are worth -1 point each.
  • 3s ,4s, 5s, and 6s are worth +1 point each.
  • Blacks 2s are worth +1 point each.
  • All other cards count as 0.

Wattenberger rates all the card counting systems compared on his site according to how easy they are to use. The KISS 2 System is a 7/10 in terms of easiness, which is one of the highest scores on the site. Since it eliminates the need for a running count to true count conversion, it's also comparable to the Knockout System and to the Red 7 System.

The KISS 3 Card Counting System

The KISS 3 Card Counting System, like the KISS 2 System, simply adds more cards for you to keep up with. You're now going to count aces as -1 in addition to the 10s and face cards. You're also going to count the 7s as +1. Everything else about the system stays the same, making the full list of values as follows:

  • Face cards, 10s and aces are worth -1 point each.
  • 3s ,4s, 5s, 6s and 7s are worth +1 point each.
  • Blacks 2s are worth +1 point each.
  • All other cards count as 0.

One of the measurements that Wattenberger uses when comparing card counting systems is "betting correlation". The KISS 3 System has one of the highest betting correlations on the site, 0.98 out of a possible 1.0.

What does that mean?

The betting correlation is basically a measurement of how well a card counting system reflects your actual advantage when raising your bets. Some systems do this more accurately than others.

Of course, most counters also use their card counting system to decide whether or not to take insurance. When the count is positive and the deck is rich in 10s, it makes sense to take insurance, even though it's considered a sucker bet for non-counters. The KISS 3 System also earns high marks there, with a 0.78 "insurance correlation".

Please Note

Other hands are also played differently from basic strategy based on the count. One example is a hard 16 versus a dealer 10. Normally you'd take another card in this situation, but if the count is positive, you'll usually stand here.

The playing efficiency for each system measures how well the system reflects the accuracy of those strategy adjustments. In the case of this counting system, the playing efficiency is 0.56. The KISS 3 System is designed to get most of its edge from ranging your bet sizes, not from adjusting your playing strategies. Both tactics still work, but card counting systems—including the KISS III—focus on one or the other, depending on player preference.


The KISS Systems for counting cards are a fun way to gradually increase the difficulty of the card counting system that you're using gradually. Many systems have so few similarities that learning one after another might be similar to learning a foreign language, but in the case of the KISS Systems, you learn one really simple system and incrementally increase the difficulty and accuracy of the systems.

These are unbalanced systems, which we tend to prefer, because we don't enjoy converting the running count into a true count. If you prefer balanced systems, or if you have trouble with a suit aware counting system, then you might be better off looking elsewhere.

But in terms of an easy card counting system that will help you win against the casino, the KISS 3 System is right up there toward the top of the list, along with the Hi-Lo System, the Red 7 System, and the KO System.

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