The Zen Count is definitely one of my favorite card counting strategies. It was developed by the brilliant Arnold Snyder and he first published details around it in his book “Blackbelt in Blackjack”. What stands out for me is how he has developed a number of really accurate strategies as they are complex enough, but they are actually relatively easy to learn and aply when playing.
It is safe to say that the Zen Count is not the most difficult strategy you will come across, nor is it the easiest. It fits in between in terms of how difficult it is to learn. Something that should be remembered always however is that you should not assume because you have started learning about a strategy that you will become invincible instantly. It requires a lot of practice and most of this you can do at home before you even go to a regular casino. You can also practice by playing online.
The basics of the Zen Count card counting strategy
Before we get into the finer details, you should always remember that you should base your decisions while playing on the blackjack basic strategy. It would cover you in terms of ensuring you play optimally and make the right plays. Where the card counting comes in is in helping you determine when you should change your bets to get the maximum possible wins, while minimizing losses.
Something that really helps in keeping the Zen Count relatively simple is the fact that it is a balanced counting strategy. This means that you will always start your count on a 0 after the cards are shuffled. If you work through all of the cards in the deck and count according to the values of the cards (as in the Zen Count strategy chart below) you will end on 0 again. You can do this at home with a single deck of cards to help you learn the strategy by heart.
When playing using the Zen Count card counting strategy you should employ a running count. This means that you should count every card that gets dealt and either add to your count or subtract from your count. Bet sizes then depend on the value your count is at. If you run into a negative count (-1 and lower) you should bet the smallest amount allowed. On the other side of the scale if the cards are adding up to a positive count (+2 and higher) you should increase your bets. The higher the positive count, the higher you can take your bets.
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The card values for the Zen Count strategy
As you can see from the count below Mr. Snyder didn’t try and over complicate the count. The values of the cards were however calculated to ensure as much accuracy and effectiveness as possible without making it too difficult.
The values are not too wide and confusing at all. What I really like is how they took the Aces into consideration as well by giving it a value of -1. With so many other card counting strategies players often need to keep a separate count going for the Aces. This often becomes a bit confusing and miscounts are the result as you try and keep to many balls up in the air.
Something often employed to make the counting more accurate and eliminate small fluctuations in the count is to work out the true count as you go along. You should always keep your running count going when playing blackjack and you are using the Zen Count. You can however improve your accuracy by determining a true count through taking your count and multiplying it by the number of decks you think are still in play.
This will give you a VERY clear picture of whether or not the odds are in your favor. You will still be able to stay profitable when just using the Zen Count using a running count. I would suggest however that you get a hang of the true count as it can really just improve the overall strength of the strategy.
As with other strategies, we suggest that you put in as much practice as possible so that you can ensure you have a solid grasp of the strategy before moving to bigger limit games. One of the best places to get in some practice are at the online casinos as they offer such a wide variety of blackjack games and it is by far the most convenient option.
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