"The Rookie System"
Note: The excerpt that follows originally appeared in Casino Player magazine. It is part of a new chapter in Knock-Out Blackjack which describes the easiest-to-use version of the K-O system: K-O Rookie. The introduction that precedes it was written by Anthony Curtis, who is the president of Huntington Press, the book's publisher.
Introduction (by Anthony Curtis)
In November 1986, I'd reached what was then the pinnacle of the career I'd chosen for myself. I'd just earned the unofficial title of "the world's greatest blackjack player" by winning the Las Vegas Hilton's "World Matchplay Blackjack Championship." There were congratulations all around. Champagne flowed. And the $76,000 winner's check helped to validate the moment.
Of course, I wasn't really the world's greatest player. The Matchplay Blackjack Championship was the most skill-oriented blackjack tournament ever engineered, and I'd won it. But it was still just one tournament on one day. No matter; I was a 28-year-old on top of the world, and I could trace my good fortune back to one little book handed to me a dozen years earlier.
I was a sophomore in high school when
a friend of the family gave me the book How to Win at Blackjack
by Einstein. (Not Albert. Charles.) I read it, understood it,
and embarked on my great blackjack adventure. I quickly devoured
Thorp, Revere, Andersen, Wong, Griffin, and Uston, finally settling
on Uston's Advanced Point Count for my counting system. It was
Tussling with all the elements of this
powerful but complicated system made me realize why the casinos
weren't overrun by people like me. To master the Uston APC, I
found it necessary to go into a form of Rocky Balboa training
mode, practicing daily with stopwatches, flashcards, and stacks
of playing cards to perfect my ability to calculate the
Through the years I've had occasion to talk to lots of blackjack players who've confirmed my early assessment. Most players learn basic strategy and no more. The problem is, basic strategy alone cannot overcome the house edge. To do that, you have to alter your bets so that you wager more when you have the advantage. Money management can't tell you when you have the edge. The only way to know that is to count cards!
Two years ago, Olaf Vancura and Ken
Fuchs self-published a great book called Knock-Out Blackjack.
Their system uncomplicated the card-counting process in several
ways, the most important of which was eliminating the necessity
for the difficult true-count conversion. Finally, here was a
count that could be implemented by mere mortals. I was so intrigued
The Huntington Press edition of Knock-Out Blackjack
contains a completely new chapter outlining an easier-than-ever-to-use
system called "K-O Rookie." With this technique you
can improve your blackjack skills immediately. Imagine: A proven
card-counting system that anyone can handle that can actually
give you an advantage over the casinos. And here's the
The Knock-Out Rookie System
The excerpt that follows is the complete Chapter 5 from Knock-Out Blackjack (preceded by necessary supporting information from earlier chapters and edited slightly for brevity). Nothing is held back; for the first time ever, you can learn to count cards by reading a single magazine article. We recommend that you purchase the book, which will clarify the technique and enhance your results. But in truth, the information presented here, along with a little practice, is all you need.
The first step in any card-counting system is assigning values to the respective cards. The unbalanced Knock-Out system employs the following card-counting values:
|10, Jack, Queen, King||-1|
The astute reader will immediately notice
that there are more "+"
To become a proficient card counter,
you need to memorize the
The Knock-Out system requires only that
you maintain a "running
The running count begins at a point
called the "initial running
Four Steps to Keeping the K-O Running Count
To achieve proficiency at maintaining the running count, we recommend the following steps:
1. Memorize the Knock-Out card-counting value associated with each card.
Your recognition of the values of the
card tags should be as natural
Begin with a deck of shuffled cards.
As you turn each card over,
2. Count through an entire deck one card at a time and keep a running count.
For a single deck, the IRC is zero.
As each card is turned over, you
|Single Card||K-O Value||Running Count|
3. Practice with pairs of cards.
When you've become comfortable keeping
the count, practice by
Practice this until counting pairs is
second-nature and you don't
4. Count through an entire deck in pairs while keeping a running count.
Turning two cards over at a time, you
need to recognize (not
|Pair of Cards||Net K-O Value||Running Count|
How fast do you need to be? A good rule
of thumb, no matter
Many beginners find the prospect of counting an entire deck in 30 seconds a bit daunting. Don't worry. Once you master the technique of netting (and canceling) two cards at a time, you'll literally fly through the deck. In a short amount of time, counting cards will become as easy as reading.
Once you can count one deck, the transition
to multiple decks isn't
We recommend practicing with the number
of decks that you
The Knock-Out System-Rookie
The K-O Rookie system is a streamlined
ultra-simple manifestation of
Two subsets of players will benefit
from this incarnation of
The second subset comprises a much larger
group. It's made
The only time it's truly correct to
raise your bet is when
Knock-Out Rookie is a betting system,
too. But it's a choreographed
The Key Count
The "key count" is the count
at which the player first has the
What constitutes big and small
in your betting scheme? It's a matter
A Complete System
In essence, we now have the makings of a complete blackjack system. For playing we use the basic strategy. For betting, we use the K-O card-counting method and bet one of two values: We wager 1 unit below the key count, and an amount greater than 1 unit at or above the key count. Everything else about how we play the game remains the same. We've dubbed this system "K-O Rookie" because it's the most basic application of the concept of varying your bet according to the count. Still, with a big enough "jump" in the bet, it's enough to beat the game.
How well do we fare with the K-O Rookie
system? The table below
Expectation (in %) for K-O Rookie
These results are quite impressive.
An expectation of .88% means
Even at less-profitable spreads, however,
K-O Rookie will get you
Remember, there are no strategy plays
to learn; this betting method
As counters, we have the advantage when
betting and playing
Consider craps, which (for the pass
line wager) has a player
In blackjack, the situation is reversed.
While we know that we must
To do this, you must always bet within
your means. Though many
A good rule of thumb is to limit your maximum bet to no more than 1% of your total blackjack bankroll. For example, if your bankroll is $10,000, then your max bet might be $100. Keeping your maximum bet below 1% of your bankroll should reduce your risk of ruin to an acceptable level. We can't emphasize enough the danger of betting too much, even when you have the advantage.
The K-O Rookie in Game Conditions
Let's assume you're playing head-up
(just you and the dealer) in a
The dealer shuffles and you're ready
to go. At the start, the
Because the running count of -2 is still
below the key count, you
What Does It Mean?
Blackjack played according to basic
strategy leaves the player with
If every player were to employ only
this Rookie version of the K-O
By adding playing and betting enhancements
to the K-O system