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Uston Advanced Plus-Minus (APM) Card Counting System

The Uston Advanced Plus-Minus count system was invented by none other than Ken Uston himself. He wrote about it in his famous book called "Million Dollar Blackjack" in the early 1980s. The advanced plus-minus (APM) is actually one of the easier systems to learn because it is a level I (level 1) strategy. This means that the only numbers that players need to keep track of will range between plus and minus one (-1,0,+1).

Ken Uston designed this system to work well with beginners and novices since they only need to keep track of three numbers in the indices. In case you didn't notice, The Uston plus-minus is actually very similar to the Hi-Lo count system. The only difference is the Uston gives the 2 point cards a 0 count where the hi-lo gives it a +1 count. Otherwise the indexes are the same.

The indexes for this strategy are shown in the table below. This chart lists the cards and the numbers that you need to count that are assigned to those cards. When you see these cards dealt onto the table, you just count the corresponding points to your running total by adding or subtracting.

Card Value Points
2 0
3 +1
4 +1
5 +1
6 +1
7 +1
8 0
9 0
10 -1
J -1
Q -1
K -1
A -1

This system is also balanced, which means that you start your count at zero and your ending count should also be zero. Knowing this fact is great when you are first learning how to count cards because you can gauge whether you were keeping the correct count all the way through the deck. The only drawback is you have to make a conversion in the game which depends on the number of decks. Luckily, this is a simple calculation made by dividing the running count in your head by the total number of decks. For example, if you have a count of -20 and you are playing at a four deck blackjack table, your true count would actually be -5.

Uston designed this advanced plus-minus system to work well with hand-held games rather than large shoes (multiple decks). A hand held game usually consists of one or two decks (whatever the dealer can hold in their hand). Most casinos uses the shoe with 6 or 8 decks because card counters can easily take advantage and get huge odds with hand held games. Because of this fact, the Uston APM is not used as often by many players unless they are lucky enough to find a hand held game to count cards.

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