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The Uston APM Card Counting System (Advanced Plus/Minus) is arguably the counting method which exposed card counting in blackjack to the masses and increased the overall popularity of blackjack 21. Ken Uston, a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, published the method in his landmark blackjack book titled Million Dollar Blackjack in 1981. Before the publication of Million Dollar Blackjack there were a lot of blackjack players who didn’t have the first clue about counting cards. Ken Uston changed all of that.

counting cards

As pioneering as the Uston APM was it suffered from a few flaws that affected its long-term popularity. First of all, the Uston APM was designed to be used in single deck or double deck games. In 1981 it was still possible to find several of those blackjack tables in a casino. As the casinos have gotten more wary of card counters the number of single deck and double deck blackjack games has decreased. This has rendered the Uston APM pretty much extinct today. It is rarely used by today’s card counters. The Uston APC on the other hand is a much better alternative!

Even though it is a dinosaur among card counting methods, familiarizing yourself with the Uston APM is still a good idea because it will give you a strong foundation in the fundamentals of card counting. You can then apply your knowledge of the Uston APM to learning systems that are more commonly used today.

The Basics of the Uston APM

The general idea of the Uston APM is the same one which was first introduced by Edward O. Thorp. Each card is assigned a specific numeric value and the counted during play to form what is known as a running count. This running count is expressed in a positive (+) or negative (-) number, hence the system’s name.

When Ken Uston developed this system he made a concerted effort to preserve simplicity so that the beginning card counter could easily use the method. Therefore, there are only three indices in the Uston APM–+1, 0, and -1. This greatly simplifies the counting process.

Unlike the other systems developed by Ken Uston, the Uston APM is known as a balanced system. This means that the running count always begins at 0 when a new shoe is dealt. If all cards were to be dealt from the shoe (something that never happens in the casino) the ending total would also be 0. Many people argue that while a balanced system is simpler to execute, it is not as reliable due to short term swings in the game of blackjack.

The Value of the Cards in the Uston APM System

It doesn’t get much easier than this. Here are the card values assigned by the Uston APM:

Card Value


As you can see, in the Uston APM five cards are valued at +1, five cards are valued at -1, and three cards receive a value of 0 and are not added to the running count. This makes things very easy for the beginning card counter because every card that is counted can be cancelled out by the presence of another card. When using the count in live blackjack play the player simply eliminates pairs of cards that offset or cancel one another. What is left over in a round of play is added to the running count.

Of course, simplicity does not always equal efficiency. The Uston APM provides one of the lowest edges to be found among card counting systems.

It should also be noted that the Uston APM does not require a player to keep a side count of the aces in play. With a system this simple, however, you could easily maintain a side count of the aces with very little difficulty. If you do that you will actually increase the edge of the Uston APM.

Summing up the Uston APM

It isn’t fancy and it isn’t the most efficient, but if you want a card counting system that will introduce you to the basics of card counting without relying on the difficult concepts found in other systems, the Uston APM is for you. You might not make a killing with it, but the Uston APM still creates enough of an edge that will allow you to win consistently.

With only three indices to track and count, this method can be learned in one evening of serious practice. The transition to live play is not difficult for the blackjack player because there are fewer numbers to count. Test our card counting app.

Despite being outdated and not even close to the efficiency of other, more modern card counting systems, the Uston APM will never completely disappear from the blackjack scene. To play blackjack for real money online we recommend that you try one of the safe casinos listed on CountingEdge.

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