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More Card Counting for the Vision Impaired: The Ultimate Vision-Impaired Count
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The Ultimate VIC, a Card Counting System for the Vision Impaired
By Arnold Snyder
[From Poker World , February 1996]
© 1996 Arnold Snyder
Last year, a player wrote to me about a card counting system he had developed for his own use, which he had devised because he had less than perfect vision. He called it the “Senior Count,” because his vision problem was something that had developed with age. I wrote an article about it because the system was so ingenious, and so effective. Prior to hearing about the Senior’s card counting system, had someone told me that they had poor vision, so much so that a substantial proportion of the cards dealt, even when face up, were difficult or impossible to read clearly, I would likely have advised that person to just stick to basic strategy and waste little effort attempting to count cards.
After publishing the “Senior Count,” I received a number of letters from other players who had devised their own variations of card counting systems to adjust for their limited eyesight. The player who invented the Senior Count wrote that his specific difficulty in seeing was mostly limited to his inability to distinguish the 7’s, 8’s, 9’s and 10’s from each other. He had no difficulty discerning the court cards (J, Q, K) because of the paint, but the pip tens looked like the same blurry mess as the 8’s and 9’s. The low cards (2,3,4,5,6) were fairly distinguishable because there was enough white space on the cards to make the patterns of the pips stand out. All traditional card counting systems value the pip tens the same as the court cards because the game of blackjack values them the same.
The letters I received from others with vision difficulties reported similar difficulties reading the 7’s, 8’s, 9’s and 10’s. One player had no difficulty reading the card values of his own hand, or of the players seated adjacent to him on either side, but the hands of the players two or more seats away blurred. Also, one player — who was in his twenties but was severely nearsighted — said he even had difficulty reading the dealer’s upcard if he was on either end of the table. This player also objected to referring to these types of card counting systems as “senior” systems, as he was far from being a senior citizen. He suggested calling them “VIC” systems, for Vision Impaired Counting.
The idea behind the “Senior Count” is simply to ignores the pip tens, balancing the painted court cards (-1 each) vs. the 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s (+1 each). It’s a balanced card counting system, sort of a streamlined Hi-Opt I, with a surprisingly high betting correlation and playing efficiency for its simplicity of use. The more advanced variation of the Senior Count, which we’ll call the “High-Low-Vic,” includes the ace along with the court cards as a -1 count, vs. the 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s (all +1). This variation raises the betting correlation to a strong 90%.
The most unusual variation on this type of card counting strategy came from a player who had used the high-low count for many years, and when his eyes began to fail, decided that the best way to play “conservatively” was to count any indiscernible card as a ten, knowing that it was actually either a 7, 8, 9, or 10 — but feeling “safer” with the assumption that the card was a 10, since the removal of a ten had the most negative effect on his expectation.
This seemed to work okay for a while, until he noticed that in shoe games he continually went into double-digit negative counts. He also noticed frequent wrong assumptions, when players played out hands incongruous with his assumption that one or more cards in the hand were 10’s.
His solution was to continue using all of the high-low values for the aces, court cards, and 2’s through 6’s, but to count all indiscernible 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, and pip 10’s as - each. This device raises the betting correlation to an impressive 93%. We’ll call this the Ultimate VIC System. The method strikes me as rather cumbersome to use at the tables, but the player who devised it claims little difficulty. What he likes most about it is that he feels most comfortable continuing to use his long-memorized high-low indices, since the Ultimate VIC has the same number of plus and minus points as the high-low. Actually, if you do not have access to a computer program which will figure out strategy indices for a VIC system, I’d suggest just using a set of indices for the high-low (Wong’s) or High-Opt I (Humble’s), depending on whether or not you elect to count the ace or neutralize it.
In any case, the development of these types of VIC systems, which allow even those who have poor eyesight to extract most of the value from counting cards, provides testimony to the ingenuity of players who refuse to give up the game they’ve learned to beat, and who also refuse to allow a handicap to seriously affect their skillful play. ♠
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