Blackjack players often combine basic strategy with a card counting system to sway the odds in their favor. The choice of a system for counting is essential, though, as they vary in difficulty and overall profitability. Being relatively complex, yet extremely efficient, the Advanced Omega II System, is one of the best methods for advanced counters and the key to its success is mastering it.
The Advanced Omega II is one the most preferred ways to count cards for experienced, professional players, although it can be used by amateurs, as well. The system was described in detail by blackjack pro Bryce Carlson in his 2001 book Blackjack for Blood. Carlson, who started writing the book back in 1989, explains that this method is mainly aimed at serious players who are committed and skilled. Carlson himself is believed to be a professional counter who play at casinos under aliases and his true identity is still unknown.
The counting method he described, however, has become quite popular since it is known to outperform universally recognized systems such as the Hi-Lo, the K-O, and more. The Advanced Omega II System, often referred to as simply the Omega II System, is a balanced, two-level system for counting cards and if applied perfectly, it could help players generate huge profits over time.
The Advanced Omega II Card Counting System Fundamentals
Basics of the Advanced Omega II System
Unlike simple methods for counting cards, the Omega II is a multi-level counting system because while some cards are assigned with values of 1 and -1, others are counted as 2 or -2. It is also balanced because the sum of the assigned values of all cards is 0. In addition, it is more effective when a second count is kept for the Aces, although this part of the method is not necessary.
The Omega II system features a complicated structure and the values assigned to each card could be very confusing to players who are seeing the method for the first time. Once they memorize them, the system instantly becomes much simpler since the maths behind it is straightforward and easy to understand. More importantly, the Omega II is believed to be much more accurate than simple, level-1 systems such as the Hi-Lo.
- 2, 3, 7 – +1
- 4, 5, 6 – +2
- 9 – -1
- 10, J, Q, K – -2
- 8, A – 0
Separate Count for the Aces
Many multi-level counting systems keep a separate count for the Aces and the Advanced Omega II follows the same principle. In the main count, the Aces are neutral and are not added at all but they are actually among the most important cards in the deck. The reason is obvious – they form the strongest hand in the game, namely blackjack (Ace plus a 10-value card).
By keeping a second count only for the Aces, players can effectively track their odds of getting blackjack in the initial hand. This is very simple – players only need to count the Aces as they appear on the table. Then, they subtract that number by the total number of Aces in the game. For instance, one standard deck consists of 4 Aces, 2 decks have 8 Aces, and 4 decks have 12 Aces. The most common variations, namely 6 and 8-deck blackjack games, consist of 24 and 32 Aces, respectively.
How to Use the Advanced Omega II System?
Applying this system into a real-life game requires a lot of concentration and practice beforehand. Once players learn the card values, they should start using the method as soon as the cards are shuffled in the shoe. They start keeping a running count by adding and subtracting 1 or 2 as the cards are being dealt on the table. To illustrate the system, let us see this example:
After the cards are reshuffled and the dealer places the cut card, players make their bets. Omega II counters are advised to start with a 1-unit bet (it could be $5, $10, $50, etc.). The first cards on the table are 7, 5, Ace, 3, Queen, and 4, and the dealer’s upcard is an 8. They correspond to the values +1, +2, 0, +1, -2, +2, and 0, so the running count is +4 – we simply add and subtract the numbers starting from 0.
To estimate how favorable the shoe is to the player, we need to convert the running count into the true count by dividing it by the number of decks still left in the shoe. Since we started counting at the beginning of the new shoe, it contains the same number of decks – 4 or 6, for example. The exact number is irrelevant at this stage of the game since it will not be higher than +2. With this system, players increase their bet once the true count reaches +2. In this case, flat betting is recommended until the odds improve.
If the running count is +4 but after many hands have already been dealt and we have approximately 2 decks still in the shoe, we will divide 4 by 2 for a true count of +2. At this point, the player can place a 2-unit bet since the odds have improved. The higher the positive count (+2, +3, +4, +5), the higher the stakes should be. Once the true count drops below +2 (+1, 0, -1), the size of the bet is reduced to a single unit.
While the player keeps a running count during the game and estimates roughly the true count, he also counts the Aces that have appeared on the table. Shoes that are rich in Aces are more favorable to the player. When a high positive count is combined with a great Ace count, the bet size could be increased even more.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Omega II System
The variety of card values in the Omega II makes the system much more accurate than simpler and more commonly used methods for card counting. Players should, of course, consider variables such as variance and deck penetration but overall, they will be able to generate substantial profits if they manage to apply the system without making mistakes. In this regard, it is much more powerful than basic methods such as K-O or the Hi-Lo Count.
The biggest issue with this system is its complexity. Many blackjack players, both amateurs and pros, would find its structure too complicated and difficult to learn because they have to not only memorize the two levels of card values but also have to keep a side count for the Aces. Without the side count, the method is simply not as effective in pointing out the player advantage as initially intended.
Another good aspect of the Advanced Omega II is that it could be adjusted to the player’s skill level. Those who are not confident in their ability to keep a side count can stick to the main count without paying attention to the Aces. Adding a separate count for the Aces, however, significantly increases the effectiveness of the method and those who combine the two counts can afford to place much larger bets.
And this is where the other problem arises – Carlson’s Advanced Omega II System was designed for single and double-deck pitch games. In them, counting the Aces separately is much easier since we have either 4 or 8 Aces in total. The majority of modern blackjack games, however, use 6 or 8 decks where keeping a side count requires a lot more practice, skills, and concentration during play. Of course, it is possible to keep two counts simultaneously – it is simply hard for many people.
The Advanced Omega II System, published by Bryce Carlson, is certainly a useful, effective and potentially highly profitable method for counting cards. It is not the simplest one, nor the most difficult one to learn and use – there are, in fact, counting systems that are much more complicated and demanding. If players master the Omega II method, know basic strategy, and use an appropriate betting spread, they could earn a lot on the blackjack tables.