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counting cards

Most newcomers to card counting for blackjack crave an easy to learn method. The KO or Knockout System was developed to be both simple and effective. It is actually based on an earlier British system but was adapted by Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs in their book Knock-Out Blackjack: The Easiest Card Counting System Ever Devised. There are also some unique strategy modifications which make the KO System especially attractive for beginners.

Basics of the KO Card Counting System

The first thing to note about this system is that it is unbalanced. This means that a complete count of all the cards in the deck will not result in a 0. The reason for this is that more cards in the deck are given a value of +1 than those which receive a value of -1. Some contend that an unbalanced system minimizes the need to maintain a true count. Our opinion is that a true count is always going to be more accurate, but you can use this system as it is described by Vancura and Fuchs.

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Cards are given the following values:

  • Cards 2-7 are valued at +1
  • Cards 8 and 9 are valued at 0 and not counted
  • Ten-value cards and aces are counted as -1

These point values are used to establish a running count which then becomes the basis for raising or lowering one’s bets at the blackjack table. The running count begins at 0 and is adjusted for every card dealt at the table in real time.

There are some similarities between this system and the Hi-Lo, except that the 7’s are given a +1 total. Here the British influence is revealed. In the Book of British Blackjack, published in 1992, there is a system described as “All Sevens” which closely mimics the KO.

In this particular system, the deck assumes a slight advantage for the player beginning at a running count of +2. Of course, the higher the running count becomes the more advantageous the deck becomes for the player.

Money Management and the KO System

The most simple money management strategy you can employ with the KO is to raise your bets as the running count increases and lower them to the table minimum when the deck is below +2 in value. However, you can find a far more detailed description of what Vancura and Fuchs recommend by picking up a copy of their book.

The important key to remember is that some type of money management system must be used in order to reap the benefits of any card counting method. You simply cannot throw money blindly at the game of blackjack and hope to walk away from a session as a winner.

The thing is that some recommended money management strategies for card counters can become quite complex. It is advised that you consider the elements of basic strategy, card counting, and money management independently of one another but maintain a sense of their individual necessity.

Strategy Variations for the KO System

As mentioned, this is a simple system. What makes it perhaps more effective in some regard than other simple systems like the Hi-Lo is that some strategic variations are recommended based on the count. One of these involves the decision to take insurance.

You are probably familiar with the general assertion that insurance is a bad bet. The authors of the KO card counting system, however, rightly assert than taking insurance can be beneficial under the proper circumstances. Specifically, Vancura and Fuchs recommend taking the insurance bet whenever the running count is +3 or greater. This applies whether one is playing a single-deck game or a game with six or eight decks.

It would be possible to use the KO system without the strategic modifications mentioned, but tweaking the system with these advanced strategies makes it more utilitarian and applicable to a variety of skill levels.

To practice the Knockout Card Counting System, Counting Edge recommends that you create an account with one of our online casino partners. Playing online blackjack is a great way to sharpen your card counting skills for a minimum amount of money. You can often play for as little as $1 per hand, and most casinos offer generous welcome bonuses.

2 Response Comments

  • gratianusJuly 19, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I believe that the author is incorrect about KO and insurance. It’s stated above that “the player always takes insurance if the count is over +3 times the number of decks in play…” My edition of Vancura and Fuchs (1998 edition) says that you take insurance whenever the running count is +3 or more “regardless of the number of decks in use. Whether we are playing at a single-deck or an 8-deck game, if we have the opportunity to take insurance and the present standard RC is +3 or more, we make the insurance wager.” (pg. 83). Intuitively this seems strange, but I’m just quoting what V&F clearly state.

    • countingedgeJuly 26, 2017 at 5:43 am

      First of all, thanks so much for being a Counting Edge reader. We so much appreciate the comments made by our visitors, especially when they point out an error that we have made! It is our goal to offer the most reliable blackjack information we can. You are precisely correct and we appreciate the direct reference to the book. As a result, we have rewritten our description of the system to reflect the strategic variations you pointed out. Thanks and good luck at the tables!

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