Carlos Zilzer, developer of the Easy OPP card counting system, tells advanced players how to increase the power of the OPP.
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The Advanced OPP Card Counting System

 
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Increasing the Power of the Easy OPP Count: The Advanced OPP Count

By Carlos Zilzer
[From Blackjack Forum Vol. XXVI #1, Winter 2007]
© 2007 Carlos Zilzer

It's been about a year since I first presented the OPP count to the public. The Easy OPP is the simplest card counting system available, and the easiest to learn. Since the publication of my article presenting the OPP, I have learned a lot, but the most rewarding thing has been the hundreds of letters and emails from grateful people who are now going to the casinos with a different view of the game.

In this article, I will provide information on how to improve the efficiency of the Easy OPP count without increasing the difficulty of use. The proposals and simulations in this article are oriented to six-deck shoe games. I will present the data for eight-deck games in a future article.

Card Counters' Basic Strategy to Increase the OPP Count's Power

One of the simplest ways to make the Easy OPP more powerful is to use a different basic strategy geared toward the card counter. A counter-oriented basic strategy increases winnings by making the strategy correct for when the counters' biggest bets are placed. For example, standard basic strategy calls for a player to hit his 16 versus a dealer's 10 of the dealer. In more advanced card counting systems, playing strategies call for players to stand on a 16 versus a dealer's 10 once the count reaches a certain level.

A counters-oriented basic strategy will call for you to stand all the time on 16 versus a dealer's 10, because the counter's winnings at high counts will be larger than the losses at low counts for this play. Many other deviations from standard basic strategy have the same effect.

Card-counting analyst T. Hopper has developed a basic strategy that optimizes the winnings for card counters without changing strategy with the count. At the end of this article, you will find charts of T. Hopper's counters-oriented basic strategy from his free e-book T-H Basic Blackjack. To go straight to the charts for T. Hopper's counters' basic strategy, click here.

A simulation of one billion rounds using standard 6 deck S17 rules shows an increase of return on investment (ROI or "score") in the range of 15.2% to 16.7% (depending on the bet spread) for using T. Hopper's counters'-oriented basic strategy rather than standard basic strategy. This represents an increase in winnings of greater than 0.2 units/100 rounds.

Insurance Bet for the Advanced OPP Card Counting System

Although the OPP does not count the 10-value cards, for counts equal to or greater than +11 in six-deck games (or +17 if starting the count from +6 as my original article suggests), the insurance bet is recommended. Taking insurance at these counts will increase your ROI (or score) 4% more.

The Penetration Effect on the Power of the OPP Count

One thing I have learned about the OPP from the feedback I've received from players is that, with the OPP, there is more risk to high bets early in a shoe.

Kim Lee's article, "On the Math Behind the OPP", helped me to understand many things about the differences between the OPP and other card counting systems. Even though the OPP is an unbalanced count, it is very different from an unbalanced count like the Red7.

For example, with the Red7 count, it is possible to make a true count conversion or true edge adjustment using fractional methods to estimate the true count or true edge at any running count in any part of the shoe. But with the OPP, this is a very difficult task because the OPP does not have a "pivot" that equates to the same edge at any level of penetration.

With the OPP, the counter's edge will increase different amounts at the same count at different levels of penetration. A running count of 12 (starting the count at 6 as recommended in my first article) will represent a larger edge after 3 decks out of 6 have been played than the same running count of 12 if it happens at the beginning of the shoe.

Some time ago, I began suggesting to players to avoid any bet increase until the first deck was in the discard tray; it was easy to explain that a deck is approximately the width of the middle finger. After that I started to receive good reports from the same people telling me that they had noticed a significant increase in their winnings after applying that simple rule.

Now I will present a more comprehensive analysis and advice.

To develop advice for improving the performance of the OPP, I modified ET Fan's PowerSim Card Counting Simulation Software to report sim results deck by deck. Then I ran simulations of 6-deck shoe games with a very deep penetration (the maximum possible to avoid shoe overflow with a 1 billion round simulation).

At the end of the simulation I got six charts indicating the running OPP count, the number of rounds played in that count, the edge for that count and the variance for that count per deck played. The simulation also returned a seventh chart with the overall results of the one billion rounds. All the simulations were run using T. Hopper's counters' basic strategy, and insurance at counts of 11 (17) and above.

The tables below are extracts of these simulation results, showing the part of the tables for running counts 0 to 11. The running count numbers assume an initial count of 0 (not 6).

Results for the First Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
045099453-0.00489851.385056
122533049-0.00398731.382429
217437729-0.00236521.378858
312403039-0.00153941.373733
48301513-0.00055891.371465
552924190.00261381.368379
632059310.00219531.364121
718476780.00331421.359199
810121870.00596721.356724
95253660.00738251.354168
102585800.00489791.351327
111216080.00853561.346574


Results for the 2nd Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
015544347-0.00611631.388518
115711450-0.00411191.384026
215128594-0.00304991.380121
313898680-0.00117791.375426
4121981100.00038071.370685
5102206510.00233691.367378
681894360.00388521.362689
762686480.00447981.358611
845967610.00595381.352943
932258990.00867141.351015
1021665350.009171.346022
1113952260.01136441.342142


Results for the 3rd Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
013068780-0.00791091.392763
113538813-0.00565081.387848
213543243-0.00339951.381609
313059870-0.0017427 1.376070
4121647310.00033121.370765
5109362760.00298751.365025
694916700.0046452 1.359720
779539350.00662281.354781
864298970.00760031.349389
950173690.0103951 1.343530
1037769070.01124561.339024
1127457900.01252431.332236


Results for the 4th Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
012302783-0.00999981.400835
113067271-0.00691781.394555
213400161-0.00391551.385639
313286241-0.00123461.378854
4127214860.00109271.370608
5117669740.00405541.363121
6105121810.00672841.356291
790603930.00847231.348629
875454020.01249841.341781
960610630.01353481.333774
1047008030.01573031.326587
1135186650.01865121.320435


Results for the 5th Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
012344303-0.01646261.41875
113715205-0.01122531.406535
214617344-0.00652451.393547
314920325-0.00198191.381162
4146036980.00310371.36922
5136790860.00708171.356935
6122690320.01095321.345168
7105310090.01484281.333483
886391790.01771641.322816
967855820.02102331.312948
1050908880.02418711.301468
1136568730.02683881.290593


Results for the 6th Deck
RCFrequencyWin RateVariance
05964172-0.02953931.455209
17198634-0.0196331.431447
28166379-0.01056341.409773
38695839-0.00201131.387818
486990570.00515751.365654
581564220.01225961.34639
671585200.01835771.326588
758883410.0243831.307584
845256890.02877811.289022
932526170.03188851.272016
1021805760.03608911.255976
1113625310.04085191.240604

One thing I learned from the simulation results was that even in the first deck, there is an edge at counts of +5 and higher (or +11, if starting from 6). However, closer analysis of the simulation results shows that the edge is too small to justify a bet increase. This is typical behavior for any unbalanced count: There is an edge at the pivot, no matter the number of decks played. But what we really want to know is when that edge justifies a bet increase.

When to Increase Your Bet with the Advanced OPP Count

A look at the numbers indicates that the count at which a player obtains an edge equal or greater to 1% gets lower with the number of decks played. In the first deck, the running count (RC) must be 14 to get a win rate of 1%; in the second you get that edge at an RC of 11; and in the third deck you get it at an RC of 9. In the fourth deck you have a 1% edge at an RC of 8, while in the fifth and last deck the 1% edge comes at 6.

Another way of looking at this is to say that the deeper we are in the shoe, the higher a win rate any particular RC represents.

As modifications to the SCOCALC program to calculate the optimal bet ramp from the data by deck was a major work, I introduced the data into a spread sheet and used a recursive trial and error macro in Visual Basic to determine the optimal bet ramp and score.

The optimal bet ramp shown below rounds the optimal bet to the nearest whole number.

1:16 Optimal Bet Ramp
RC1st deck2nd deck3rd deck4th deck5th deck6th deck
<4 111111
4111135
52234611
623461016
734681316
8557111616
9789121616
104810141616
1181011161616
1261014161616
1331416161616
14161616161616
15161616161616
16161616161616
>16161616161616

  • The score for this game (91.35% penetration) and this bet ramp is $28.36
  • The same game but with standard bet ramp independent of the depth returns a score of $24.47
  • A game with the same conditions but using standard basic strategy returns a score of $20.13

So, the counter's basic strategy, with insurance and a deck-dependent bet ramp, provide an increase of 40% in score from the simplest version of the OPP.

Using the same spread sheet I tested my initial recommendation to my readers to avoid increasing the bet until after the first deck had been dealt (bet 1 unit during the first deck). The results were as follows:

  • The score changed from $28.36 to $28.30
  • The win rate changed from 3.414 units/100 rounds to 3.403 units/100 rounds
  • The standard deviation was reduced from 64.12 to 63.9

As you can see, there is very little cost to this simpler betting method.

The next step was to find a simpler optimal bet ramp and an easy way to remember it, keeping in mind that the principal objective of the OPP count was that it should be exceptionally easy to learn and to implement. The following is an easy-to-remember table using multiples of 2 units that are shifted up with each deck played.

IRC= 6 IRC=0 1:16 Optimal Bet Ramp
RC1st deck2nd deck3rd deck4th deck5th deck6th deck
<4111111
4111246
5112468
61246810
724681012
8468101214
96810121416
1081012141616
11101214161616
12121416161616
13141616161616
14161616161616
15161616161616
16161616161616
>16161616161616

This simpler betting ramp returns a score (now is better to call it ROI because it is a real-life rather than “optimal” bet ramp) of $27, a win rate of 3 units/100 rounds and a standard deviation of 59.7.

As a final test, and in order to compare “apples with apples”, I performed a simulation of the same game, same penetration, same seed but using the Red 7 count with the counter basic strategy and only the insurance index. The SCORE of that game is $42.5631. So we can say that the OPP with the proposed bet ramp and strategy has 63% of the performance of Red7 in the same conditions, which is much better that the 47.9% performance of standard OPP.

There are other variations to OPP that return higher scores but they mean modification of the tag values of the cards. These more advanced options will be presented in my next article. ♠

T. Hopper's Card Counters' Basic Strategy


HITTING AND STANDING

Stand

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

X

A S17

A H17

17

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

16

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

S

H

H

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

H

14

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

H

13

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

H

12

H

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

H

A7

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

S

H

RULES FOR HARD HANDS
Always stand on 17 or higher.

Always stand on 12-16 vs. 2-6 and hit 12-16 vs. 7-A except:
  • Hit 12 vs. 2
  • Stand on 16 vs. 10

RULES FOR SOFT HANDS
Always hit soft 17 or lower.

Always stand on soft 18 or higher, except:
  • Hit soft 18 vs. 9 and 10
  • Hit soft 18 vs. Ace if the dealer hits soft 17

Hitting or standing is considered only after all other options (surrender, split, and/or double down) have been exhausted.

DOUBLING DOWN

Double

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

X

A

11

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

10

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

9

D

D

D

D

D

8

D

D

 

DOUBLING DOWN, SOFT TOTALS

Soft Totals

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A

(A,9)

(A,8)

D

D

(A,7)

D

D

D

D

D

(A,6)

D

D

D

D

D

(A,5)

D

D

D

(A,4)

D

D

D

(A,3)

D

D

D

(A,2)

D

D

D



With 44, for a total of hard 8, when double after split is allowed, splitting is preferred over doubling down. All other hands clearly fall into one category or the other. Never double on hard 12 or more or hard 7 or less.

SURRENDER (LATE)

Surrender (Late)

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A

16

Sur

Sur

Sur

15

Sur

Sur

14

Sur

88

Sur

77

See separate chart


SURRENDER (EARLY)

Surrender (Late)

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A S17

A H17

Hard 17

Sur

Sur

16

Sur

Sur

Sur

15

Sur

Sur

Sur

14

Sur

Sur

Sur

13

Sur

Sur

Sur

12

Sur

Sur

8

Sur

4,5,6,7

Sur

Sur

88

Sur

Sur

Sur

77

Sur

Sur

Sur



When it is allowed, early surrender is the first choice the player needs to make, even before considering insurance when the dealer has an ace. Late surrender is considered before all other choices after the dealer checks for blackjack. There is no difference between early surrender and late surrender against a dealer 9 or less.

PAIR SPLITS
No DAS / DAS

Pairs

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A S17

A H17

(A,A)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

(T,T)

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

(9,9)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

N

N

/Y

(8,8)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

(7,7)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

/Y

N

N*

N

N

(6,6)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N

N

(5,5)

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

(4,4)

N

N

/Y

/Y

/Y

N

N

N

N

N

N

(3,3)

/Y

/Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N

(2,2)

/Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N


No Double After Split
Always split aces and eights.

Never split tens, fives, and fours

Split 99 vs. 2-9 except vs. 7

Split 77 vs. 2-7

Split 66 vs. 2-6

Split 33 vs. 4-7

Split 22 vs. 3-7

When Double After Split is Allowed
Split all of the pairs listed above, and also the following:

99 vs. Ace if the dealer hits soft 17

77 vs. 8
44 vs. 4-6
33 vs. 2 and 3
22 vs. 2

With the European No Hole Card Rule
Play as above except:
Never double down or split versus an ace or ten

When surrender is not available, splitting pairs is always the first choice to consider.

Note that 44 is treated as any other hard 8 unless double after split is allowed.


*77 VS. 10 AND ACE

Player 77 Hit/Stand

Decks

10

A S17

A H17

1

Stand

Hit

Hit

2

Hit

Hit

Hit

4+

Hit

Hit

Hit


Player 77 Late Surrender

Decks

10

A S17

A H17

1

Sur

Sur

Sur

2

Sur

Sur

4+

Sur


In single deck, when the player has 77, two of the four cards that could give him a 21 are no longer available. Even in double deck, the removal of two 7s out of the original eight is important. For this reason, 77 vs. 10 and 77 vs. Ace are the only two plays in the T-H Counters' Basic Strategy where the number of decks must be considered in playing the hand.

[Editor's Note: I'd like to thank T. Hopper for permitting his T-H Basic Strategy for Card Counters to be included in this article. —Arnold Snyder]


For the easiest card counting system, see the standard version of the Easy OPP Card Counting System.

For more information on card counting systems, see the Professional Gambling Library.

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  <h1>The Easy OPP Count: The Easiest Blackjack Card Counting System</h1><br>Many blackjack players have been unable to benefit from card counting because traditional card counting systems involve difficult calculations at the table. The OPP system involves virtually no calculations at the table. All you have to do with the OPP blackjack system is count the number of players before the round, then count the number of low cards dealt. That's it. You're now a winning blackjack player.  Summary: The OPP Blackjack Card Counting System is easier than the traditional card counting systems that many blackjack players gave up on.