An Advanced Blackjack Card Counting for Experienced Players from Stanford Wong

Whichever form of blackjack you play, the dealer has a built-in edge. However, knowing which cards have come from the shoe and which are remaining can turn the edge around in favour of the player. Card counting keeps track of those cards and lets the player know exactly when to increase or decrease the bet sizing.

‘Wong Halves’ is one such card counting system. This system is deemed to be more difficult than many others, as not only does it require two different stages to come to the final ‘true count’, but the system also uses fractional numbers too. Due to this added difficulty, this is not a recommended system for those just starting out with card counting, but once a player can get to grips with the system, it is one of the most accurate and winning systems out there.

How the Wong Halves System Works

Every single card has a value and the player will keep a ‘running count’ every time a card appears. The value for each card is as follows:

5 has a value of +1.5

3, 4 and 6 have a value of +1

2 and 7 have a value of +0.5

8 is a neutral card and has a value of 0

9 has a value of -0.5

10’s and an Ace have a value of -1

As an example, if the current ‘running count’ is +2 and the cards three, seven and a queen appear, you’ll add 1 for the three, add 0.5 for the seven and subtract 1 for the queen – meaning a new running count of +2.5.

The Wong Halves system is a balanced one which means that by the end of the deck(s) the count should be zero. To gain a feel for the system you can practice with a deck of cards and if you do end up with a zero count, you’re doing it right!

Having evaluated the ‘running count’, you’ll now need to find the ‘true count’, this number being the all-important one. The ‘true count’ is found by dividing the ‘running count’ by the number of decks left in the shoe. This can be difficult to evaluate, although using a good ‘guesstimate’ will suffice. For example, if you have a ‘running count’ of +6 and you evaluate that there are approximately 3 decks left in the shoe, your ‘true count’ will be +2.

The higher the ‘true count’ the more likely you should be to increase your bet size, while conversely, if the count is negative you should consider lowering your bet size. The bet sizing is down to the individual, although obviously the higher the ‘true count’ is, the more you should be betting. A player also has to ensure that the betting strategy is not too obvious to the house, so mixing it up a bit can be a good move as opposed to something more systematic.

Advantages of the Wong Halves System

The biggest advantage of the Wong Halves System is the size of the edge you’ll have over the house. The fractional element of the system means that you’ll have a more exact guide to the rest of the shoe than you’d find with other systems. The fact that the system is balanced ensures that it remains accurate throughout – not all systems are balanced and these systems won’t have the same level of accuracy.

Disadvantages of the Wong Halves System

The big disadvantage of this system is that is so complicated. Many beginning card counters have difficulty with keeping both a ‘running count’ and a ‘true count’ and this system has both. But with the Wong Halves system you have to throw in the range of values too. Less complicated systems such as Hi/Lo simply give a value of +1 to low cards and -1 to low cards, but here the majority of cards have different values. Add in the difficulty of keeping a running count which includes fractional numbers and this becomes even more difficult. To ease this difficulty some players will double the values for each card to lose the fractions.

The Wong Halves System Overview

As you can see from the larger size of the ‘disadvantages’ paragraph over the ‘advantages’, many consider the Wong Halves system a little too complicated to make it a ‘go to’ system. Consider that you’ll be counting the cards in the middle of a casino, with all of the associated distractions, so the addition of fractions just makes it that little bit tougher. There are a number of other simpler systems where the results are similar, even if the edge is negligibly smaller. This is certainly not a system for the novice, but the experienced card counter can make it pay.

To find out more about the Wong Halves system read ‘Professional Blackjack’ by Stanford Wong.