Uston SS Card Counting System
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 possible.
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.
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 a blackjack.
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.
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 point, right?
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 example.
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 running count.
- 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.
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 Systems
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.