The Unbalanced Zen card counting strategy is easy to use but
relatively old, having been sold as an affordable proprietary
system since 1995. It is an unbalanced, 2-level count (we’ll
explain both of those phrases later on this page) that works for
both single deck and multiple deck blackjack games. It’s
slightly more accurate and useful than the Knockout System, but
it’s also a little harder. The creator of this system is George
The purpose of this page is to explain in a general way how
to count cards and then how to apply this specific system to
blackjack. We go on to analyze how well this system works
compared to other systems.
How to Learn to Count Cards
Card counting works because of a couple of factors that are
intrinsic to the game of blackjack. The first has to do with the
3 to 2 payout for a “natural” or “blackjack”. That’s a 2 card
hand with a total of 21. It always wins unless the dealer also
has a blackjack. There’s only one combination of cards in the
game that can total 21 with just 2 cards’a card worth 10 and an
Winning hands in blackjack pay even money except in the case
of a natural.
That 3 to 2 payoff is important.
The other factor has to do with the deck having a memory of
sorts. In most gambling games, the odds don’t change from one
bet to another. But in blackjack, once a card is dealt, it’s no
longer in the deck, and the odds change. Imagine if you were
playing in a game where all 4 aces had been dealt already. You’d
have a 0% chance of getting a natural at that point, right?
But what if a deck still has lots of aces and 10s in it,
while most of the lower cards have already been dealt?
Can you see how, in that situation, you might have an edge?
After all, you have a better chance of getting a hand that
pays off at 3 to 2.
What card counters do is assign a value to the low cards and
another value to the high cards. (Sometimes they assign multiple
values.) They keep a running count based on those values, and
this running count enables them to estimate the edge they either
have or don’t have. When the deck is relatively rich in aces and
10s compared to low cards, a card counter will raise her bets.
When the reverse is true, the card counter will reduce her bet
to the table minimum.
Card counters also use basic strategy to make sure they’re
facing a game with the lowest possible edge to begin with. Basic
strategy is just a shorthand term used to describe the
mathematically best play in every situation. But when the
composition of the deck changes, so do some of the correct
decisions. Card counters know when to deviate from standard
basic strategy based on the count.
Insurance is another example. Normally this is a sucker bet,
because it’s basically just a side bet that the dealer will have
a blackjack. But when the deck is rich in aces and 10s, the odds
of the dealer having a blackjack improve. So a bet that would
have a negative expectation in some situations has a positive
expectation in others.
Simpler card counting systems only have one level—usually
signified by + or -1. In these systems, you adjust the count by
1 based on which cards are being tracked. These systems are
usually “balanced”, too. That means if you count through an
entire deck of cards, you’ll wind up with a 0. There are just as
many positive values as negative values in that situation.
More complicated counts have multiple levels and might or
might not be balanced. These more complex systems are supposed
to get a player more of an edge. The game of blackjack already
has one of the lowest house edges in the casino, at 0.5%, but
when you’re counting cards, you can gain another 1% to 2% on top
of that. The Unbalanced Zen 2 System falls into the more complex
Here’s how the UB Z 2 System works:
How to Get an Edge Over the Casino with the UBZ 2 System
The first step in learning a card counting system is to learn
the values assigned to the cards. In the case of the Unbalanced
Zen 2 System, the following values are in place:
Aces = -1
2s and 7s = +1
3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s = +2
8s and 9s = 0
10s = -2
In balanced card counting systems, you start the count at 0
and move the count up or down based on the card counting values.
But in unbalanced systems like the Zen 2, you start the count by
multiplying the number of decks by -2. So in a single deck game,
the count would start at -2 and move up and down from there. In
an 8 deck game, the count would start at -16.
The reason for this wasn’t immediately obvious to us when we
first started learning about counting cards, but it makes sense
when you think about it. The effect of a particular card being
dealt out of multiple decks is not as pronounced as it would be
if it were dealt out of a single deck. Let’s use an example that
we already used to illustrate why:
Remember how we said that if you dealt 4 aces out of a single
deck of cards, your chances of being dealt a blackjack are
reduced to 0%. But if you’re playing in a game with 8 decks,
there are 32 aces to begin with. Dealing 4 of them only leaves
28, which reduces your chances of getting a blackjack. But it
clearly doesn’t reduce the odds to 0%.
Most card counting systems compensate for this by converting
the running count into a true count. That’s accomplished by
dividing the count by the number of decks left in the shoe. So
if the count is +6, and the shoe still has 6 decks left in it,
the counter makes her decisions based on a true count of +1.
The count is important, because based on how high or low it
is, your bet will be correspondingly higher or lower.
The higher the count, the more you bet, and vice versa.
Also, strategy decisions only change when you hit certain
QFIT (and presumably some other sources) measure the
effectiveness of various card counting techniques based on
how well they estimate how much you should raise your bets
(betting correlation), how well they advise you on changing
your strategy decisions (playing efficiency), and how well
they indicate whether or not insurance is a good bet
The Unbalanced Zen 2 System has a betting correlation of
0.97, which is probably as close to perfect as you might
need. (A perfect score, of course, would be 1.) The playing
efficiency is always a significantly lower number, and that
holds true in the case of this system, too—it’s 0.62, which
sounds low, but is actually high compared to many other
systems. And the insurance correlation is 0.84, which is
also quite high.
You pay for those high numbers, though, in terms of how
hard it is to learn and use this system. Other systems are
much harder, but there are also plenty of systems which are
much easier and offer much better numbers. The Knockout
System, for example, is significantly easier to learn and
implement. And it actually providers a higher betting
correlation (0.98). But the playing efficiency of 0.55
is significantly lower, and the insurance correlation of
0.78 is also not as good as the Unbalanced Zen Count.
Some of this relates back to what kind of card counter
you want to be. We know some counters who are content to get
almost all of their edge just from raising and lowering
their bets. They don’t even bother with basic strategy
adjustments. If you fall into that category, you’re probably
better off using a simpler system.
But if you love a challenge and want to get every tenth of a
percentage in edge that you can against the casino, you could do
a lot worse than the Unbalanced Zen 2 System. As with many
gambling techniques, much of making the correct decision depends
on understanding your own temperament and tendencies as a
The Unbalanced Zen 2 card counting system is a relatively
hard-to-use system. It has 2 levels, and it’s also unbalanced.
But in terms of accuracy, it’s more efficient than most other
systems of similar difficulty. We don’t recommend this to
players just starting off as counters, but if you’ve been doing
this for a while and want to get a bigger edge, this one is
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.