Learning to Keep The K-O

To maintain the running count (or "RC"), we continually update it according to the cards that we see played. Based on the previous table, we add 1 for each low card (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7), and subtract 1 for each high card (10, jack, queen, king, or ace) that we see. The RC is the important count that we need to remember, even during and in-between hands, and keep updating until the next shuffle.

The running count begins at the IRC. For reasons that will become clear in a moment, after a shuffle, we start with a standard initial running count that conforms with the following equation: 4 - (4 x number of decks). We adopt the term "standard" here as a reference point for discussion; later we will discuss ways to customize the K-O system (for example, to avoid the use of negative numbers).

Applying our equation, we start with a standard IRC of 0 for a single-deck game, IRC = 4- (4 x 1 deck). For a double deck, it's 4 - (4 x 2) for an [RC of-4. For a 6-deck shoe, =I - (4 x 6) equals a standard IRC: of -20. The lowest standard IRC you will he(,in with is-2K for an 8-deck- shoe game.

By starting with an IRC equal to 4 - (4 5 number of decks), we will always end with a count of +4 after all the cards in a pack have been counted. Because of the unbalanced pointvalues, each deck has a net count of +4, so the net count of the entire pack will exactly cancel Out the "4 x number of' decks" initially subtracted and leave us with +4 as the sum.

Let's look at a 2-deck game as an example. The IRC for a double decker is 4 - (4 x 2) _ -4. As we count through the deck, the running count will generally rise from the IRC of -4 toward the final count, which will be +4 after all cards are counted. In practice, the running count will jump around on its journey, sometimes dipping downward below -4 and at other times cresting above +4. But at the end, it must equal +4 if we've counted correctly.

Figure 4 shows what a representative running count distribution might look like in the 2-deck game. We'll soon see that these statistical variations are what we, as counters, will take advantage of while playing.

The average running count behaves quite differently. In this case, the assumption is that we've played a great many hands, rendering the statistical variations negligible. On average, we expect the running count to rise linearly with the number of decks (total cards) already played, such that the rate of increase is +4 per deck.

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As with book authors, the quality of the columnists is quite uneven, but you'll figure out who's good and who isn't, and who's writing about subjects that interest you and who isn't, pretty quickly. I have my favorites, but a lot of the columnists are my friends and the subsets "Andy's friends" and "the best columnists" aren't identical, so I'll just tell you my favorite Card Player writer whom I don't know: Rolf Slot boom. He's pretty new at the column writing game, but you wouldn't know it to read his work.

You can't always carry a laptop, so print magazines and newspapers will always have their place (remember all the people who thought TV would kill radio, yep, they were right about that one). There are, though, now e-periodicals available.