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counting cardsThe Zen Card Counting system is another contribution from recognized card counting master, Arnold Snyder. The Zen system is one of several that were detailed in Snyder’s authoritative book, Blackbelt In Blackjack. He also introduced the RED 7 method and others.

While Snyder was a master card counter, he did not neglect the beginning counter when developing his systems. The Zen system is complex enough to create a significant edge for the player, but at the same time it simplifies the point values assigned to each card in order to make the method easier to use in live blackjack play.

We would characterize the Zen system as a middle-of-the-road option for card counters. In order to use it successfully your skill level should probably fall somewhere in between beginner and mildly experienced. There are a few elements of the Zen system that will require some practice at home before they can be executed in a quick fashion.

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The Basics of the Zen System

An important thing for would-be card counters to understand is that all card counting methods, including the Zen system, depend upon a sound comprehension of basic blackjack strategy. If you do not know when to properly execute the options available to you as a player, card counting won’t help you very much.

The Zen system and all other card counting methods rely upon creating a running count derived from numerical values assigned to each card in the deck. The running count is your signal to increase or decrease your blackjack bets. In the Zen system a positive running count (+2, +3, +4) demands a bet increase and a negative running count (-1, -2, -3) demands betting the minimum allowed at the table.

The Zen system is balanced.

Card Values in the Zen System

Each card in the deck has a numerical value in the Zen system. These values are known as indices. Here are the indices for the Zen system:

Card Value

2345678910JQKA
+1+1+2+2+2+100-2-2-2-2-1

The indices of the Zen system are fairly uncomplicated and can be committed to memory after a few sessions of practice at home.

Aces in the ZEN System

The manner in which a player handles aces in the Zen system deserves some explanation. Aces in the Zen system are not side-reckoned or counted separately. They are simply accounted for in the running count along with the other cards.

To compensate for the reduction in the percentage edge which occurs as aces are removed from the deck, Arnold Snyder assigned the aces a value of -1 in the running count. Snyder believed this method was just as effective as eliminating them from the running count and counting them separately. It does make the Zen system easier to use because the player has one less thing to track during live play.

The ZEN System and the True Cout

Arnold Snyder also believed that using a true count made the Zen system more efficient. This is the only wrinkle in the Zen system which can pose a little difficulty for beginners.

In order to determine the true count of the deck in blackjack, some math is involved. A player must first use the numerical values of the Zen system to determine a running count. Once the player has the running count he must then estimate the remaining number of decks in play. The final step is to divide the running count by the number of decks remaining. The resulting number is the true count.

A true count is designed to give the player a more accurate representation of the deck and how favorable it is. The efficiency and accuracy of the Zen system is increased by using the true count and this translates to a greater edge for the player.

You should understand that using a true count is not required to use the Zen system. The Zen system can still be profitable when only using the running count, but the power of the method is reduced.

Summing up the ZEN System

At CountingEdge.com we believe that The Zen system is for players that are mildly experienced at card counting but also want to expand their counting skills to the next level. It is a very basic method in terms of the indices used, and is simplified somewhat by not requiring a side count of aces. The inclusion of a true count will necessitate a few extra hours of practice before you become skilled enough to use the Zen system at the casinos!

11 Response Comments

  • travJuly 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    you’re dumb….look at the ace value again and your tidbit about it….

    • countingedgeJuly 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Hello Trav, no reason to use such language. As stated above the value of the ACE is -2. Many sites online sites list the ACE with a value of -1. That is incorrect, the correct value is – 2 and you can reference it in Snyder’s authoritative book, Blackbelt In Blackjack. The reason many sites give ACE a value of -1 is because they are all copying each other hence the error just moves from one site to the next.

      • RyanOctober 20, 2013 at 3:11 am

        I just looked at the book “Blackbelt in Blackjack” and it says the ace has a value of -1.

        • countingedgeOctober 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          Hello Ryan, thank you for bringing this to our attention. The Zen System is one of those which has been incorrectly explained by many websites, and multiple scans of the original book are in existence online. I had a pdf version. After reviewing hard copy of the Blackbelt in Blackjack, I found that the Aces are indeed valued at -1 and have corrected the page accordingly.

  • countingedgeJuly 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Hello Trav, no reason to use such language. As stated above the value of the ACE is -2. Many sites online sites list the ACE with a value of -1. That is incorrect, the correct value is -1 and you can reference it in Snyder’s authoritative book, Blackbelt In Blackjack. The reason many sites give ACE a value of -1 is because they are all copying each other hence the error just moves from one site to the next.

  • countingedgeJuly 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I see I had a typo in the text under the table. That is fixed though.

    Was “Many online sites list the ACE with a value of -1. That is incorrect, the correct value is -1”

    changed to “Many online sites list the ACE with a value of -1. That is incorrect, the correct value is -2”

  • JustWonderingJuly 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I’m confused, if the Zen system is a balanced count, meaning it starts and ends with 0. By having the Ace be -2, it’s not a balanced count. I would start with 0 and end with -4. Please explain

    • countingedgeJuly 17, 2013 at 12:46 am

      Thank you for pointing out an obvious error in our description of Arnold Snyder’s Zen Count. We have edited the page accordingly.

      At Counting Edge we pride ourselves on giving the most accurate information available about card counting. While you will find that many websites give the Ace a value of -1 in the Zen Count, this is not accurate. Arnold Snyder published the Zen method in Blackbelt In Blackjack, where he assigns the Ace a value of -2. Rather than trust what may be inaccurate information online, we choose to go directly to the source for information on our counting methods.

      The Zen Count is indeed an unbalanced count, owing to the point values assigned to the Aces.

      We appreciate your visit to our site and wish you the best at the blackjack tables.

    • countingedgeOctober 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      ACE value was incorrect, it has now been corrected. -1 is the correct value.

      • StuAugust 10, 2015 at 2:27 pm

        True counting the zen I thought are the indices based upon TC per halve deck or whole deck or 1/4 deck?

        • countingedgeAugust 11, 2015 at 8:16 am

          Hey, Stu! Thanks for your question. If we are understanding it correctly the answer would be that the true count for the Zen is based on the indices for one entire deck. Snyder, in fact, defines the true count as a “count per deck.” We sincerely hope this helps.

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