Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II Systems
The Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II systems for counting cards in blackjack are presented in Lance Humble's book, The World's Greatest Blackjack Book. When we were working in corporate America, the corporate attorney at our office suggested that we start there if we wanted to learn about counting cards. So this was the first blackjack book of our experience, and this is where we learned how to count cards.
In spite of the similarities in names, these are 2 different systems. But they're similar enough that we can cover the pros and cons of each system on the same page. Most people who are interested in one will also be interested in the other.
The rest of this page is dedicated to analyzing how well these systems work compared to how hard they are to use. If you want more details about either or both systems, we highly recommend The World's Greatest Blackjack Book. The language is dated, and the author seems too concerned with cheating on the side of the casinos, but it's an entertaining and informative introduction to counting cards. Humble does an excellent job of teaching basic strategy and explaining the concepts behind counting cards.
How the Hi-Opt Systems Work
All card counting systems resemble each other. The goal with one of these systems isn't to memorize which cards have already been played. The goal isn't to predict with any degree of accuracy which cards are yet to be dealt, either.
When there are more high cards in the deck, you're more likely to be dealt a blackjack (or a "natural"). Since that hand pays out at 3 to 2 instead of even odds, your goal is to get more money into action when you have a better chance of getting such a hand.
All counting systems assign a value to each card in the deck. You add or subtract that value during your blackjack session in order to be able to estimate how much of an advantage you have and bet accordingly. When you have a significant advantage, you want to bet big in order to take advantage of those better odds. When you don't, you want to bet small in order to minimize your exposure to the house edge.
In most blackjack games, the house edge hovers between 0.25% and 1%. That's the amount the casino expects to win from you on every bet over the long run.
But if you're counting cards, you have an edge of between 1% and 4% when the deck is rich in 10s and aces. By raising the size of your bets in proportion to this edge, you eliminate the house edge and then some.
The Hi-Opt I System
The Hi-Opt I System is a simple, single-level, balanced card counting system. That's a lot of jargon to describe a gambling strategy though.
What do those phrases mean?
- Single Level System
A single level system is one in which you only have to add and subtract by the number 1. Some harder blackjack counting systems require you to add 2 for some cards, 1 for others, and even 0.5 for others. A single level system is, for obvious reasons, easier to use.
- Balanced System
A balanced system is one in which the number of cards worth +1 are equal to the number of cards worth -1, so that if you count through an entire deck, your total will be 0 when you finish. Some players might find a balanced card counting system easier to grasp and use, but we don't think a balanced system is necessarily easier to use.
At any rate, Hi-Opt I is intended to be as easy to use as the Hi-Lo system while also being more accurate.
One option that makes the Hi-Opt I system more powerful is to keep a side count of the aces left in the deck. This changes the strategy from an easy, beginner-level system to a harder, intermediate-level system.
Here's what the cards are worth using this system:
- Aces, 2s, 7s, 8s, and 9s are all worth 0.
- 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s are worth +1.
- 10s are worth -1.
You'll notice that you have fewer cards with values in this count than in most other systems. But since it's a balanced system, you'll still get 0 if you count through the deck.
The main difference between the Hi-Lo System and the Hi-Opt System is that you don't take into account the 2s or the aces in the Hi-Opt I System. This gives you fewer cards to keep up with, making it slightly simpler as long as you're not counting aces.
At Norm Wattenberger's QFIT site, you can view statistical measurements related to how well various systems correspond to changes in both your betting strategy and your playing strategy. The Hi-Opt I has a betting correlation of 0.88, which is significantly less than the KO System or the Hi-Lo System. But it also has a playing efficiency correlation of 0.61, which is somewhat better than either of those other 2 simpler systems.
If you like the idea of changing your basic strategy playing decisions based on the count, then this system might be for you. It's a good system for beginners, and it's no more difficult to learn than KO or Hi-Lo.
The Hi-Opt II System
The Hi-Opt II System is significantly harder to use but also more accurate than the Hi-Opt I System. This system has 2 levels, which means there are 2 values to add and subtract by. This system is a proprietary system available in the form of the Hi Opt II Report.
Here's what the cards are worth in this system:
- Aces, 8s, and 9s are counted as 0.
- 2s and 3s are counted as +1.
- 4s and 5s are counted as +2.
- 6s an 7s are counted as +1.
- 10s are counted as -2.
This is a balanced strategy. If you count through an entire deck of cards using this system, you will wind up with a total of 0.
The more intricate details of using this system are available to anyone who's willing to buy The Hi-Opt II Report.
The betting correlation for this system is 0.91, which represents mathematically how accurately the system gauges the effectiveness of raising your bets. The best score you could have here is 1.0, so 0.91 is on the high end. It's not as impressive as the Hi-Lo System, but betting correlation isn't the only factor to consider when analyzing a card counting system.
The playing efficiency measures how accurately the count can inform your playing decisions. In about 10% of the hands you play, the count can demand strategy adjustments for whether or not to hit or stand. Most of the systems we've covered on this site have a score here in the 0.5 range, but the Hi-Opt II has a 0.67, which is significantly better than the KO System or the Hi-Lo System.
How to Count Cards Using Either of the Hi-Opt Systems
Counting cards using either of these systems is as simple as learning which cards are worth which amounts and then practicing at your kitchen table. We've written extensively about how to practice counting cards on the main page of this section.
Once you're comfortable using this system at your kitchen table, you can move on to trying it in a casino. The trick is to become so proficient at counting with this method that the casino is unable to detect what it is that you're doing.
Running Count vs True Count & the Hi-Opt Strategies
Both the Hi-Opt I and the Hi-Opt II strategies were originally designed for and still work best for single deck games. You can find such games, but they generate more heat and are watched more closely by the dealers and pit bosses.
That being said, either of these systems can also be used in a game with multiple decks. We've written about this before, but in order to use a card counting system in a game with multiple decks, you have to convert the running count into a true count.
The reason why should be obvious, but if you're confused, think about it this way:
- In a single deck blackjack game, you have 4 aces in the deck. If those 4 aces are gone (they've already been dealt), it's impossible for you to get a blackjack.
- But if you're playing in a game with 6 decks, you can have 4 aces dealt and still have 20 aces left in the shoe. Your odds of getting a blackjack are lower, but they haven't been eliminated.
That dilution effect of having those extra decks in play is why you have to convert your running count into a true count. It's not that hard to do, either.
You simply divide the running count by the number of decks you estimate are left in the shoe, then you make your bet sizing and playing strategy decisions based on the true count instead of the running count.
Sizing Your Bets & Managing Your Bankroll
Much of the Hi-Opt strategies' appeal lies in its ability to help you make changes to your playing strategy, but at their heart, both strategies still rely on your ability to raise your bets when the count is in your favor.
In this respect, this system doesn't differ much from any of the others. You decide on a bankroll, a minimum bet, and a betting spread. Then you raise your bets according to how high the count has gotten.
Here's an example:
- You have a bankroll of $25,000.
- You decide to play for between $250 and $1000 per hand.
- When the count is negative, 0, 1, or 2, you bet $250 per hand.
- When the count is 3 or 4, you bet $500 per hand.
- When the count is 5 or 6, you bet $750 per hand.
- And if the count is 7 or higher, you bet $1000 per hand.
Remember: the goal is to get more money into action when you have a better chance of being dealt a blackjack and getting a 3 to 2 payout for it.
The Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II strategies for counting cards are an interesting addition to the list of card counting systems available. The first is a system that's easy and aimed at beginners, although it can become more powerful quickly if you can handle keeping a side count of aces. The 2nd system is an advanced technique that's only available if you buy Humble's proprietary report.
If you're ready to spread your wings a little bit and try something more interesting but admittedly harder than the KO System or the Hi-Lo System, consider giving the Hi-Opt I System a try at least. If nothing else, you'll enjoy the entertainment value of The World's Greatest Blackjack Book.