The Knock Out System, also known as the KO count, is one of the most popular methods for counting cards and for its simplicity, it is often preferred by recreational blackjack players. It is widely considered to be less accurate than other, more advanced methods. Still, it is good for estimating when the odds are good or bad.
The KO count was introduced in 1998 by electrical engineer and cryptographer Ken Fuchs and astrophysicist Olaf Vancura in their book Knock Out Blackjack – The Easiest Card Counting System Ever Devised. Coming from purely scientific backgrounds, the authors have researched and proved the efficiency of this method. Fuchs and Vancura based the KO count on an earlier, unrefined system for counting. Their version, devised scientifically, aims at allowing players to count cards without having to do complex mental arithmetic.
The simplicity of the method, however, comes at a price – it is not the most accurate, efficient, or profitable system for counting cards. The article below explains how the KO works, how it is applied in practice, and what weaknesses should be considered by blackjack players.
The Knock Out Card Counting System Fundamentals
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Knock Out System
Weighing in the pros and cons of the KO method, the first thing to consider is its simple structure. Since it is a single-level system and has no side count for the Aces - unlike many other systems, it is easy to apply in an actual game of blackjack. Before using it, however, players need to make sure they can quickly calculate the sum of all cards visible on the table. This takes a little practice at home – first with a single deck and then, with two and more decks simultaneously.
Compared to most systems for counting cards in blackjack, the Knock Out method seems plain and straightforward but it is not completely effortless. To use it properly, players should always know the accurate initial running count (IRC) for the type of game they are playing. Of course, they should also know the key count, which indicates that the shoe is favorable and the bets should be raised.
The Knock Out system is also very convenient to use because it eliminates the need for a true count estimation. Typically, converting the running count into a true count is a difficult and tricky process that requires determining the number of decks that remain in the shoe. With this method, players skip this step altogether and proceed to bet sizing.
Another weakness of this system is that it is less accurate and effective than some advanced systems for counting cards. The creators of the method have calculated that even when playing with perfect strategy and standard blackjack rules, players will not be able to eliminate the house edge with the KO count with a conservative betting spread of 1-2. This is true for 6 and 8-deck games, in particular.
Under the best conditions and with a more aggressive betting spread (1-10), blackjack players can achieve a mathematical advantage of up to 0.43% (in 8-deck games), 0.54% (6 decks), or 1.24% (single deck). More complex systems, however, can increase the player’s advantage to around 2%.
Learning the Knock Out system is a must for all blackjack players who are just starting to count cards with the hope to gain an advantage over the house. The system is suitable for all types of counters as it clearly shows the fundamental ideas of card counting. When used in combination with perfect strategy and a larger betting spread, the KO method could help serious players generate good profits in real blackjack games.