Omega II System

Omega II System for Card Counting in Blackjack

The Omega II System is a card counting methodology popularized in Bryce Carlson's excellent book, Blackjack for Blood. It's a relatively hard system to use, but it's not as hard as the Wong Halves System. It's certainly harder to use than the Hi-Lo or KO System, though.

The Omega II System is considered an expert system, not appropriate for beginners. One of the aspects of this system that makes it harder than most systems is that it's a 2 level system. It also encourages the keeping of a side count for aces, which adds quite a bit more to keep up with—in our opinion, for not enough mathematical benefits.

It is, however, quite powerful, especially when evaluating decisions about whether or not to take insurance.

How to Count Cards Using the Omega II System

Card counting systems use a heuristic system to keep up with the ratio of high cards to low cards left in the deck. They do this in order to make adjustments to playing strategy. More importantly, they do this so that you can raise your bet when you're more likely to be dealt a blackjack. Since "a natural" pays off at 3 to 2 instead of at even odds, it's to your benefit to get more money into action when it's more likely to happen. And since the aces and 10s are what make a blackjack possible, a deck with a large ratio of those cards compared to lower value cards is a better deal for the player.

Most counting systems are "single level" systems. That means they only use the addition and subtraction of 1 to keep up with this ratio. The Omega II System, though, is a 2 level system, which means that some cards are worth + or -1, and other cards are worth + or – 2.

If you want to learn how to count cards using the Omega II System, the first step is to memorize what the cards are worth. Here are the values for this system:

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

This is a balanced count, which means you have an equal number of positive values and negative values. So if you count through a deck of cards—or even multiple decks—accurately, you'll wind up with a total of 0 when you finish. In that respect, it's not too difficult. Unbalanced systems seem to be less intuitive, although really, they're not that much harder.

It's the multiple values that make this system harder than many others.

You'll notice that 10s are very important, and that's true. The more 10s are left in the deck, the bigger the player's edge is over the casino. You'll also notices that 4s, 5s, and 6s are also important. These cards are really bad for the player, because they increase the chances that she'll bust.

In fact, 5s are so bad for the player that if you removed all of them from the deck and made no other changes, you'd have a positive expectation game for the player.

Running Counts & True Counts in the Omega II System

Most card counting systems, including the Omega II, require you to convert the running count into a true count. This means that you're going to take into account how many decks are in play when deciding how big your advantage is.

This should make obvious sense, but in case it doesn't, imagine a single deck game in which all the aces have already been dealt. You'd have a 0 chance of being dealt a blackjack, right?

But in a game being dealt from 8 decks, if 4 aces were dealt, you'd still have 28 aces in the deck. Those dealt aces still hurt, but they don't hurt as much.

The conversion to a true count compensates for that.

And it's not hard to do, either. Here's how:

You take the running count, and you divide that number by the number of decks that are left in the shoe. (This is something you'll have to learn how to estimate.)

You then use the true count to determine your bet sizing and your playing strategy deviations.

Sizing Your Bets and Adjusting Your Playing Strategies

The bulk of the edge you gain using the Omega II System comes from raising your bets when the count is in your favor. This isn't a complicated process, either.

1You decide how much of a bankroll you have first
2Then you decide what your minimum bet is going to be.
3Then you decide how big a betting spread you're going to have.

Let's say you're a conservative player, so you decide that you need a bankroll of at least 1000 times the minimum bet at the table. So you're going to play for $10 a hand minimum, and you have a bankroll of $10,000.

You also decide that you're going to be pretty aggressive with your betting spread. If the count warrants it, you're willing to bet as much as $100 per hand. That's a betting spread of between 1 and 10 units.

When the count is negative or 0, you'll flat bet the $10 on each hand until the count is in your favor.

Then depending on how high the count is, you'll raise your bet as a multiple of the true count. If the true count is +5, for example, you'll bet $50 per hand until it changes.

Playing strategy changes are determined in card counting systems by various "indexes". These indexes are published in the book providing the system. In the Omega II System, there are multiple indexes to take into account. This has the effect of providing more accurate deviations from basic strategy, but it's a lot to keep up with for a relatively small amount of gain

By comparison, the sizing of your bets can result in a gain of between 1% and 4% when the deck is in your favor. But changing your strategy based on the count might only add between 0.2% and 1% to your edge, and even then, only in about 10% of the situations you'll encounter.

Summary

The Omega II System for counting cards in blackjack is a good strategy for intermediate players. Full details for how to use the system can be found in the excellent volume, Blackjack for Blood by Bryce Carlson. It's not the easiest system in the world to learn, but it's not as hard to use as the Wong Halves System, and it's almost as powerful.

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