Silver Fox Card Counting System
When you start looking for blackjack counting systems you often see names like Knock Out, Hi Lo, Uston, and Revere. But one of the easiest balanced systems ever designed is the Silver Fox system.
It was developed in the early 1980's and has been used by a small percentage of players ever since. The manual for the system has been out of print for quite some time and is fairly rare. You could also buy two cassette tapes to accompany the manual, and these are probably at least as rare as the manual. The full title of the manual is The Silver Fox Blackjack System – You Can Count On It.
The last manual we saw was spiral bound and had a silver cover and the tapes look like they were done at home, but with a decent job of making and applying labels. Occasionally you'll see the manual show up on Ebay. The last one we saw was listed for around $150.
If you're just curious about the system, that's a fairly steep price because you can learn the way the count works below. But if you need the indexes, covered below, the only way you may be able to get them is pay the high cost of a used copy of the manual.
Ralph Stricker is the man responsible for developing the Silver Fox blackjack counting system. He played blackjack as an advantage player for 27 years before being forced to stop playing in casinos because of a lung condition. He died in 2012 according to bjrnet.com.
He developed the system on his own, even though a similar system had been used before. When he developed the indexes for the system, discussed in a little more detail below, he first did them by hand and in his head, before having Bobby Fisher work on them on an Apple computer in 1981.
This Bobby Fisher is the math genius and blackjack player, not the chess player. While it's not a stretch for a master chess player and a winning blackjack player to have some of the same traits and the two of them are often thought to be the same person by people who just read the stories, they're two different people.
Stricker started in the blackjack industry by buying a franchise for the Stanley Roberts School of Winning Blackjack. He and his wife taught gamblers in the Philadelphia and New Jersey area how to count cards.
The Atlantic City casinos soon learned that card counters were winning more than they were losing and changed the rules and started banning profitable players. Later Ken Uston won a law suit in New Jersey that no longer allowed casinos to ban card counters in the state.
After the casinos changed their rules Stricker decided the system being taught through the Robert's franchise was too weak and he discussed changing it with Roberts. Roberts refused so Stricker quit teaching for Roberts and started developing his own system.
That's how the Silver Fox system was developed.
The name of the system is based on Stricker being called a fox by a pit boss that eventually banned him from playing at a casino in Atlantic City. When he started turning gray he decided to call his system the Silver Fox, because it sounded better than gray fox.
The following are a couple quotes about Mr. Stricker.
- "Master at camouflage betting" – Arnold Snyder
- "A good friend, and a great blackjack player" – Bobby Fisher
The Basic Count
The Silver Fox basic count assigns:
- -1 for every 9, 10, jack, queen, king, and ace
- +1 for each 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7
You start counting at zero and add or subtract one based on the cards you see to form the running count.
This is a balanced system, which means that if you count all the way through a standard deck of playing cards you should end up back at zero. Because the only card that isn't counted is 8, many players find it easier to learn this system than many others. You know that you'll count almost every card you see.
One trick that card counters quickly learn is which cards cancel each other out.
If you see a hand with a king and a 7 you don't add one for the 7 and subtract one for the king, you just ignore it because they cancel each other out.
Converting the Count
Whenever you use a balanced counting system like the Silver Fox you need to convert the running count to a true count based on the number of decks remaining. If your running count is a +4 and the shoe has four decks remaining your true count is +1. This is important because you need to know the ratio of small to large cards on average per deck.
If you play with a single deck of cards and one jack is removed from the deck it's equal to 25% of the jacks being removed from the deck. If you're playing with eight decks and one jack is removed it's only a little over 3% of the jacks being removed.
If you don't want to convert to a running count you need to find an unbalanced count to use. A popular unbalanced count is the Red 7. In an unbalanced count you start your running count with a number other than zero based on the number of decks the game starts with.
Most card counting systems use a set of plays based on the count that vary from traditional basic strategy. These are called indexes or index plays. When the count reaches a certain level you do whatever the index says instead of what traditional basic strategy calls for.
If the count goes high enough it becomes profitable to take insurance when the dealer shows an ace. When you're using basic strategy you never take insurance because it's a bad bet. But when the ratio of 10 value cards is higher than low cards the bet becomes profitable. This doesn't happen often, but the indexes for the system tell you when you should do it.
We mentioned in the section on Ralph Stricker above that Bobby Fisher helped him develop the indexes for the system. Stricker actually developed the indexes in his head and on paper and was successfully using them before Fisher did the hard mathematical work on a computer.
It turned out that Stricker was able to develop his indexes and was only off on four or five items. This is quite impressive. Today all blackjack system indexes are developed by computer because of the deep mathematical analysis that needs to be completed to make them as accurate as possible.
If you want a copy of the Silver Fox indexes you'll need to find a copy of the original manual, as they aren't available anywhere else that we know of.
If you want to try the Silver Fox system and don't have the indexes you can use Don Schlesinger's illustrious 18 to see how you do. It's not perfect but it'll work well enough to help you get a feel for using indexes and if you like the Silver fox system.
|Quick Overview of the Illustrious 18|
|Insurance: Take insurance with a converted count of +3 or higher.|
|Player 16 against a dealer 10||Stand at 0 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 15 against a dealer T||Stand at +4 or higher, hit otherwise|
|Player two 10's against a dealer 5||Split at +5 or higher, stand otherwise.|
|Player two 10's against a dealer 6||Split at +4 or higher, stand otherwise.|
|Player 10 against a dealer T||Double at +4 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 12 against a dealer 3||Stand at +2 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 12 against a dealer 2||Stand at +3 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 11 against a dealer A||Double at +1 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 9 against a dealer 2||Double at +1 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 10 against a dealer A||Double at +4 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 9 against a dealer 7||Double at +3 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 16 against a dealer 9||Stand at +5 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 13 against a dealer 2||Stand at -1 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 12 against a dealer 4||Stand at 0 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 12 against a dealer 5||Stand at -2 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 12 against a dealer 6||Stand at -1 or higher, hit otherwise.|
|Player 13 against a dealer 3||Stand at -2 or higher, hit otherwise.|
Though it's far less popular than most card counting systems, the Silver Fox system is one of the easiest balanced systems to learn and use and is as powerful as most systems that are more widely used.
If you're just learning to count cards and are willing to use a system requiring a count conversion we recommend considering this system. Even if you ultimately decide to use a different system like Hi Lo or Red 7, what you learn while looking into the Silver Fox system won't go to waste.