The Uston SS card counting system is an advantage play
technique in blackjack. It has much in common with other systems
for counting cards, but it’s an advanced system that requires
quite an investment from a player in order to use. Arnold
Snyder, Ken Uston, and Sam Case developed this system.
The “SS” stands for “strongest, simplest”, but we’re not
convinced that it lives up to either claim. It does a better job
of being a strong system than it does of being a simple system.
The purpose of this page is to explain how this system works
in general and in particular. To do that, we’ve repeated some
basic information about counting cards that you might already
know. Our goal was to make this page as comprehensive as
How the Uston SS System Work
All card counting systems in blackjack have some
similarities. One of these is the lack of a need to memorize the
deck. If you’re a fan of the movie Rain Man, you can forget all
about behaving like Dustin Hoffman. Another similarity between
all these systems is that they track the ratio of high cards to
low cards via some kind of heuristic system.
Why does the ratio of high cards to low cards matter?
The answer is simple. Most blackjack games offer an increased
payout for a “natural”, which is a 2 card hand that totals 21.
The only way to get a blackjack (which is also a name for a
natural) is to be dealt a card worth 10 and an ace, which is
counted as an 11.
This hand pays off at 3 to 2 instead of at even odds, which
is a significant difference.
And one way in which blackjack is unique when compared to
other casino games is that it has a memory. When you play craps,
the numbers 1 through 6 stay printed on each of the two dice no
matter what happens on the previous roll.
But in blackjack, once a card is dealt, it’s removed from the
deck until the deck is reshuffled.
This changes the composition of the deck and the odds of
getting a winning hand. It also changes your odds of being dealt
If you have better odds of being dealt a natural, you should
raise your bet. When you do so, you’re reducing the house edge
overall. In fact, if you’re good at it, you can get a tiny edge
over the house. In fact, good card counters can convert the 0.5%
edge that the casino has into an edge of 1% to 2% for himself.
On the other hand, if there are fewer aces and 10s left in
the deck, you should reduce the size of your bet to the table
minimum. In these situations, the house has a higher edge over
you. So put less money into action.
Counting cards in blackjack is similar to playing aggressive
When you play poker aggressively, you bet and raise heavily
when you have an edge over the other players. Blackjack is
similar, only you’re betting against the casino.
You do have to remember to start the count over when the
dealer reshuffles the deck, though.
If you’re still having trouble understanding how this concept
works, think about this. Suppose you’re playing in a blackjack
game with a single deck, and all the aces have already been
dealt. It would be impossible to be dealt a natural at that
But suppose all the aces and 10s are still in the deck. And
suppose all the 5s and 6s have been dealt. You can see how your
odds of getting a natural went up in one situation compared to
the other, right?
You won’t usually see such extremes, but you don’t have to in
order to get an edge. Smart players also make strategy
adjustments based on the ratio of high to low cards—insurance
makes sense when there are a lot of high cards in the deck, for
How to Use Uston Card Counting to Win at Blackjack
The first step in learning any particular card counting
system is to learn the point values for each card. In the Uston
SS System, aces and 10s are worth -2. 7s count as +1. 2s,
3s, 4s, and 6s each count as +2. 5s count as +3.
Any time you see an ace or a 10, you subtract 2 from the
Any time you see a 7, you add 1.
Any time you see a 6 or lower (with the exception of a
5), you add 2.
Any time you see a 5, you add 3.
If you know anything about card counting systems in general,
you’ll recognize immediately that this system is harder than
most. That’s because you’re adding and subtracting by 3
different values: 1, 2, and 3.
Systems which use more than one value for the cards that are
dealt are called multi-level systems. Most simpler systems only
have a single level—adding and subtracting by 1 depending on the
card, for example. This is a 3 level system, making it complex.
This is also an example of an unbalanced system. Most methods
of counting cards are balanced—you have as many +1s in a deck as
-1s. If you count all the way through a deck with such a system,
you’ll wind up back where you began—at 0.
Unbalanced systems are unbalanced in order to eliminate the
need to convert a running count into a true count.
Here’s what that means:
The running count is the actual count. You convert that into
a true count by comparing it with the number of decks still in
the shoe. This accounts for the difference in values from a
single deck to multiple decks.
Remember our earlier example, where we reduced the odds of
getting a blackjack to 0 by dealing out 4 aces? If you’re
playing in a game with 8 decks in use, and you deal out 4 aces,
you’ve definitely reduced the odds of getting a blackjack. But
you haven’t reduced the odds to 0—not even close, in fact.
The reduction in the effect of each individual card is an
example of dilution. The way most card counting systems take
that into account is by dividing the running count by the number
of decks left in the shoe. This gives you a true count, which is
what you use to determine the size of your bets and any strategy
adjustments you’re planning to make.
Unbalanced systems eliminate the need for this conversion by
starting at a different number than 0 and not using a balanced
system. This comes surprisingly close to providing a counter
with the appropriate number to raise and lower his bets.
In this system, you start your count at the number of decks
multiplied by 4, as a negative number. In a single deck game,
you start at -4. In a game with 2 decks, you start at -8. With 4
decks, you start at -16. And so on.
Since the Uston SS card counting system is a proprietary
system, you have to buy it in order to get the full details of
how to use it. But these are the basics.
The Pros and Cons of Uston SS Compared to Other Counting
One of the ways card counting experts measure the accuracy of
a counting system is by its betting correlation. This is a
measurement of how well the system tells you to increase and
lower your bet and get an edge that way. This system has a 0.99
out of a possible 1. That’s probably as accurate as you’re going
to get when it comes to a betting correlation.
This comes at a great cost, though, as this is one of hardest
counting systems to learn to use. And in terms of playing
efficiency, which is a measure of how well the system informs
your strategy changes, it’s significantly poorer. The playing
efficiency for this system is 0.54. That’s not as bad as you
might think, because you don’t compare it to the betting
correlation. But it’s still lower than it should be given the
difficulty of the system.
We think other systems, even the unbalanced ones, are easier
to use and just as effective if not more so. If the idea of
using an unbalanced system appeals to you, we suggest looking at
the KO System or the Red Seven System.
The Uston SS Card Counting System is an interesting
proprietary card counting system that’s hard to learn and hard
to use. We think it’s beyond the reach of most gambler. It has 3
levels, and to top it off, it’s an unbalanced system. Beginners
should definitely start with a balanced, single level system.
But even experts can find unbalanced, multi-level systems that
are easier to learn and use than this one.
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