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.
The Canfield Expert System has fallen out of favor for 2
It’s not as effective as the Hi-Opt I System.
It’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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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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