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Uston SS Count

The Uston SS Count, in a sense, came out of necessity for Ken Uston, one of the more well-known blackjack experts of all time, who may have been the first author who ever described in detail the process of "team blackjack" for pubic consumption, through his first book, "The Big Player" as well as his classic work, "Million Dollar Blackjack," which came out long before the movie "21" that has gained widespread appeal.

Around the time that "Million Dollar Blackjack" was published, Uston had all of his team members play that count system, because it was maybe the most powerful that was available on the market. What Uston discovered over the course of time, as he described, it was very difficult for his team members to play with any degree of speed and accuracy using his Uston Advanced Point Count. Specifically speaking, converting to true counts was particularly rough. Besides, as Uston rationalized, there was no way to ever have a satisfactory degree of exactitude when it came to doing the deck estimation. The complex count led to mistakes, and even though a lot of people talk about that trade-off now, I'm not sure there were that many people who were using that as a major consideration to simplify a system.

Uston's objective was to put his team members in a position where they could play quicker, keep the count easily, and have time free to executing playing variations and manage money. So he sat down with other experts, including Arnold Snyder, of "Blackbelt in Blackjack" fame, and devised a count that would not only carry a considerable amount of strength, but also obviate the need to make bothersome calculations that would contribute to errors.

The result of all this was the Uston SS, where the "SS" stood for "strongest and simplest." That was his goal, and by all accounts, he accomplished it. This count is level-three, which might make it difficult for some people to keep, but that is the only thing that really has to be calculated.

Take a look at the card tags:

Ace (-2)
2, 3, 4, 6 (+2)
7 (+1)
8 (0 - neutral)
9 (-1)
10-value (-2)
5 (+3)

We used the five last because the value that is placed on the five makes this a level-three count. What you have to do with this system is practice counting the card combinations a little more, but the trade-off is that you aren't going to have to do any true count conversions. That's because the sum value of the cards in the deck is +4. What you are looking at is that when the deck comes back to zero, you are going to have an advantage over the casino at that point. So you start your count at -4 for a single deck game, and multiply -4 by the number of decks that are in play. So for example, if there is a six-deck game, you start the shoe at -24 and work your way to zero. When you get to zero, you know that enough small cards have been removed from the deck to get you there, and that is a good thing. This is called an "unbalanced count," and when it balances out the other way, you know that you are getting a more favorable shoe.

Therefore, the true count conversion is not necessary, and because that imbalance is built into the deck(s), such a thing is already accounted for. This count is also "Ace-reckoned," which means that it accounts for the difference between the number of Aces that have been removed and the number of Aces that should have been removed. So there is no need to keep a side count of cases, either.

Does this simplification of a blackjack system have an effect on the power it contains? Well, yes and no. The Uston SS does not have an awful lot of playing variation indexes, and the nature of the count don't make it as conducive to changing Basic Strategy as do others. That gives the Uston SS a playing efficiency rating of .54, which is not very strong as it stacks up against some other multi-level systems. But as Uston is quick to point out, efficiency in betting is much more important than efficiency in playing decisions.

This is certainly a system that is optimized for betting. In fact, it is so good that it carries a betting correlation of .99, which makes it as high, if not higher, than anything that has come since. In fact, when Snyder, a year or two later, did additional efficiency calculations on the Uston SS, he found that the number actually rounded up to 100%, which made it unique, approached only by the Revere Advanced Point Count, which is quite a bit more complex.

There are other counts that have come out that are much simpler, and come relatively close to the power of the Uston SS, and many players have gravitated toward those systems. Some have improvised with the count, taking out the counting of the nine, which improves the insurance correlation but may give up something on the betting end. The bottom line is that it is your decision as to whether to undertake a level-three count like this, but if you master it, the Uston SS will probably make playing blackjack worth your while.

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