The Original Single and Double Desk System from Ken Uston

It has been said that the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus (APM) system is the method which really pushed the practice of card counting into the public eye. The system first appeared in the book “Million Dollar Blackjack” in 1981, which was written by famed blackjack hall of famer Ken Uston. This system is a straightforward one, the Uston APM being classed as level I, which means that the player will only have to use +1 and -1 values in the count. This means that on many occasions two cards will cancel each other out, making the counting much easier than found in many alternative systems.

The Uston APM is a balanced system. This means that the count will start at zero and when all the cards have been dealt, the count will return to zero. Many claim that balanced systems offer a greater level of accuracy than unbalanced ones – although the relative simplicity of this one means that the edge over the house is smaller than you might find elsewhere. The Uston APM does have a major downside however, as it was designed for use at single or double deck games. In this day and age, it’s rare to be able to find these games on the casino floor, so many claim this system has been rendered obsolete.


The Theory Behind the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Blackjack Card Counting System

The idea behind card counting is not as complicated as you might think. When playing blackjack, the more higher cards there are in the deck, the better it is for the player, as there is a greater likelihood of the dealer busting. When card counting, a positive count tells you that there is a greater proportion of higher cards left in the deck than there should be. This means that the house edge has now become an edge in favor of the player. A negative count tells you that the remaining cards are better for the dealer, so the house edge increases.

Of course, knowing that the remaining cards are good for the player is one thing, but how do you profit from it? This one is simple – you increase your bet size when the conditions are in your favor.

How the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Blackjack Card Counting System Works

Being a balanced system you’ll start the count at zero and then add or subtract the following values to keep your running count:

Any 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 adds 1 to the count.

Any 10, J, Q, K or A subtracts 1 from the count.

Any 2, 8 or 9 is considered a neutral number, so the count remains unchanged.

Most balanced systems will require the further step of converting the running count into a true count, although with the Uston APM being designed for single and double deck games this step is not required.


The Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Blackjack Card Counting System – Example

You’re sat at a table with a new deck of cards in the shoe, so your running count is automatically zero. You see a succession of lower cards dealt in the first hand, so your running count moves quickly from 0 to +4. Straight away the count indicates that conditions are now favorable to increase the bet size. If the opposite had happened and the count had gone to -4, the remaining cards are poor, so you’ll want to decrease the bet size. You could even leave the table at this point, although you could potentially be missing out on opportunities down the line, especially if the count swings back to positive.


Practicing the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Blackjack Card Counting System

There might be little opportunity to use this system in a casino today, but learning it can have some advantages. Firstly, being a balanced count, you can practice it easily in the home or in a game amongst friends – if you get to the end of the deck and the count is zero, you’re doing it right. The Uston APM is a lot like a number of other systems too, so once you get to grips with this one, just one or two small changes can see you adapt to using another system.

Uston Advanced Plus-Minus Blackjack Card Counting System – Summary

Ken Uston has come up with several card counting systems and of them all, this one is perhaps the most straightforward. As such, if you can find a casino to test the system out, you will find that the edge is a smaller one than you might find using many other systems. Nevertheless, as a starting point, this system is easy to pick up and offers a great introduction to card counting, while also bringing you a little bit of profit along the way.