A Mindful Card Counting System
The Zen Card Counting system first appeared in Arnold Snyder’s 1983 book “Blackbelt in Blackjack”. Snyder, one of the original inductees into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, has written a number of books on blackjack and other casino games as well as editing and contributing to the ‘Blackjack Forum’, a trade journal now just found online which he originally created in 1981.
A recognized expert card counter, Snyder has published details of many of systems he has created, which have been suitable for all different levels of experience. The Zen Count is really for players who have some prior experience with easier systems and not strictly intended for beginners, although the count has been designed to be simply enough for anyone to adopt if they are willing to put in some practice. Here you can find out how to use the Zen Count, why it works and what its limitations are.
The Zen Count – How to Use the Zen Count
The Zen Count is a balanced system where once you have counted your way through the deck you should end up with a 0 count. Like all counting systems you will be using basic strategy to determine your playing decisions.
Using the Zen Count is similar to simpler systems such as the Hi-Lo Count, in that you start with a zero running count in your head when you get to the table or the shoe is reshuffled. The count values of the cards are then added or subtracted from your running count.
In the Zen Count the cards are valued as:
- 2, 3, 7 = +1
- 4, 5, 6 = +2
- 8, 9 = 0
- 10, Jack, Queen, King = -2
- Ace = -1
Note the aces are included in the count so there is no need to keep a separate count as you would do in other advanced strategies. You will however need to convert your running count into a true count to determine how much you have to wager. This is done by dividing your running count by the number of decks left in the shoe, or at least a rough estimate.
When your true count is at 0 or less you will be placing your minimum bet, then the idea is to increase your bets by 1 unit, or minimum bet, each time the count goes up. This steady increase is designed to not catch the attention of the casino, although you still have to be aware.
The Zen Count – How the Zen Count Works
While the Zen Count keeps track of all the 10s and Aces in the deck, which are favorable to the player, its graded values provide you with greater accuracy. The 10 cards and aces are given negative values as having them in the deck benefits the player the most, and the low cards are score with the highest value cards, 4, 5 and 6 damage the players edge the most. Therefore the count is highest once most of the damaging cards have been taken from the remaining deck.
As your bets then increase with the true count you are then risking more money when the odds are more favorable towards you, and when the count goes down you will be risking less.
The Zen Count – The Drawbacks of the Zen Count
The main problem the Zen Count has is its difficulty to keep track of when you include the different values and then converting it to a true count. This is why it is not necessarily aimed at beginning players, although with a decent amount of practice you should be able to keep the counts confidently.
You may also want to watch your betting when the true count starts getting really high. While betting 5 or 6x your initial bet will correctly push your edge, these large bets may catch the attention of the casinos. Therefore you have to regard it as a balancing act, where you are trying to both profit as much as you can without exposing yourself.
Other than that, once you adapt to the Zen Count, it is a great mid-level count and unlike other counts can work accurately whether you are playing a one deck game or a multi-deck game.