KO Basics

The KO system is considered a slightly more advanced “unbalanced” card counting system. Here’s the core of how it works:

  • Unbalanced Count: The KO system starts with a running count that’s not at zero. Since more low cards are assigned a positive value, this adjusts the count to better handle decks being shuffled mid-shoe.
  • Starting Count: The starting count depends on the number of decks used:
    • Single Deck: 0
    • Double Deck: -4
    • 6-8 Decks: -20
  • Card Values: Similar but slightly modified from the Hi-Lo system:
    • Low Cards (+1): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    • Neutral Cards (0): 8, 9
    • High Cards (-1): 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace

Advantages of KO

  • Handles Mid-Shoe Shuffles: The unbalanced nature makes KO more resilient against casinos shuffling before the shoe is depleted.
  • Slight Accuracy Gain: KO is generally considered marginally more accurate than Hi-Lo due to the additional +1 value for 7s.
  • Widely Available Resources: While not as common as Hi-Lo, you can still find strategy charts, articles, and practice resources specific to KO counting.

How KO Dictates Play

Similar to other systems, KO uses the true count to adjust betting and basic strategy decisions:

  • Bet Sizing: You ramp up your wagers as the true count becomes more positive. The specific ramp will depend on your bankroll and the count.
  • Playing Decisions: KO-specific charts dictate deviations, like:
    • Doubling Down: Doubling more liberally in positive counts, similar to Hi-Lo.
    • Splitting Pairs: Slightly more nuanced splitting decisions tailored to the KO count.
    • Surrender: Uses both early and late surrender (if available) in high count situations.

Limitations

  • Increased Complexity: The unbalanced count and slightly altered values mean slightly more mental effort than Hi-Lo.
  • Practice Required: The uneven starting points for different deck numbers require practice to become second nature.

Learning KO Card Counting

The resources for learning KO might be slightly less abundant than Hi-Lo, but they still exist:

  • Books: Some blackjack strategy books include specific sections for the KO system.
  • Websites and Online Resources: Search for “KO card counting” to find charts, explanations, and sometimes practice tools.

Important Reminders

  • Practice is Crucial: Perfecting KO requires consistent practice and drills to perform it flawlessly under pressure.
  • Camouflage Matters: Casino countermeasures are the same regardless of your system, so learning to blend in is vital.

Should You Choose KO?

If you’re looking for a step up from Hi-Lo, and like the idea of a system that better handles mid-shoe shuffles, KO could be a good choice. Just be prepared for the slightly increased level of mental effort it requires.

Bad Example

  • Scenario: You’re at a 6-deck shoe. Several decks have been dealt. You hastily estimate three decks are left, and the running count is +10 (remember, KO starts at -20 for a 6-deck shoe).
  • Mistakes:
    • Incorrect True Count: With an ongoing count of +10, your true count is only around +1 (10 – (-20) = 30 / 3 ≈ 10). This isn’t a strong enough count to warrant extreme adjustments.
    • Overly Aggressive Bet: Based on an assumed high count, you double your normal bet size.
    • Sloppy Play: You’re making noticeable deviations from basic strategy. You double down on a hard 12 against a dealer’s 3, drawing attention.
  • Consequence: The pit boss notices your unusual bet sizing and aggressive plays. Even if the count was slightly favorable, your lack of camouflage and incorrect count application will likely lead to scrutiny or being asked to leave the table.

Good Example

  • Scenario: You’re at a double-deck game. The dealer reshuffles with around one deck left in the shoe. Your running count stands at +4 (recall, a double-deck game in KO starts at -4).
  • Good Actions:
    • Accurate True Count: You calculate a true count of +8 (4 – (-4) = 8 / 1 ≈ 8). This is a very strong count!
    • Significant Bet Increase: You confidently increase your bet according to a predetermined betting strategy appropriate for the count and your bankroll.
    • Subtle Strategy Shifts: You refer to your KO strategy chart and make a few minor adjustments, like doubling a soft 19 against a dealer 6, a play that would usually be incorrect with basic strategy.
    • Maintaining Composure: You remain focused but outwardly relaxed, avoiding drawing unnecessary attention.
  • Result: Your play goes unnoticed. You skillfully exploit the high true count and maximize your advantage.

Key Takeaways

  • Accuracy is Paramount: Miscalculating your true count leads to poor decisions, regardless of the system you use.
  • Bet Sizing Matters: Adjust your bets proportionally to the count and avoid extreme, sudden changes.
  • Camouflage is Key: Always blend in and bet in a way that mimics a regular recreational player. Even a perfect count won’t help if you get barred.
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