The Red 7 Card Counting System

The Red 7 System is a powerful system for counting cards in blackjack and is considered to be the most effective method for the level of simplicity it offers. It is an unbalanced, level-1 system that is often compared to the classic Hi-Lo count but it is even easier to implement without mistakes even for beginners.

The Red Seven or Red 7 method was devised by one of the most famous card counters in history, Arnold Snyder who described it in his 1983 book Blackbelt in Blackjack. Snyder, who also invented the Zen Count, created the Red 7 to eliminate the need to convert the running count into a true count. As a result, this method is clean, simple, and easy to use, while at the same time, it is profitable when applied perfectly and in combination with basic strategy, proper bankroll, and a relatively aggressive betting spread.

Blackjack players who decide to use this system to count cards will have only a couple of things to remember before testing their counting skills in real casinos.

The Red 7 Card Counting System Fundamentals

Basics of the Red 7 System
How to Use the Red 7 Count?

Basics of the Red 7 System

Arnold Snyder’s Red 7 count is similar to all other methods for counting cards in blackjack. It helps players track the ratio of high to low cards in the deck. The principle is quite straightforward – high cards that form the strongest hands in the game offer better odds for the player, which is why a shoe with more high than low cards is considered to be favorable. Conversely, if more high cards have already been dealt and the shoe is rich in low ones, the casino has the advantage.

Similarly to all other counting systems, the Red 7 assigns point values to the different cards in the deck. Here, low cards are worth +1, high cards are counted as -1, and 8 and 9 are neutral with the value of 0. The interesting thing about this system is how it approaches the 7s in the deck – half of them are worth +1 and the other half have a point value of -1, based on their color.

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Red 7 – +1
  • 8, 9, Black 7 – 0
  • A, 10, J, Q, K – -1

Red vs Black 7s

As you can see, there are more cards with a positive value in the deck than high cards with a negative value. The 7 is either neutral or positive number, which makes this system different from the majority of methods. The total sum of all values is not 0 as it is in balanced systems but +2. This means that whenever we count down to the last card in the shoe, we must get a final count of +2 – otherwise, we have made a mistake.

Usually, the final count or the total of all point values in a standard 52-card deck is not important to the style of play or betting. It is important, however, for unbalanced systems as players need to estimate the so-called initial running count – or the count, from which they start the game. In this system, the red 7s are instrumental for this process.

Final Count and Initial Count

As we have already mentioned, the final count when using the Red 7 System is +2. However, the final count will change as we add more decks – while in a single-deck game, it is +2 due to the additional two red 7s, in a double-deck game, the final count will be +4. So, for a 4-deck game, it will be +8, for 6 decks, it is +12, and it jumps to +16 in 8-deck games.

The initial count or initial running count (IRC), on the other hand, is the value we use to start the counting. In balanced systems, it is 0 but here, we need to compensate for the additional positive values, i.e. for the two red 7s per deck. This makes the system much more accurate. To have the right initial count for games with more decks of cards, we simply multiply the number of decks by -2.

How to Use the Red 7 Count?

The Red 7 system, presented by Arnold Snyder, is quite easy to follow in real-life games, which are played very quickly and against professional dealers. Using the fundamental principles, described in the sections above, we start counting when the cards are shuffled. The initial count will depend on the number of decks in use. For instance, we play a 6-deck game and the cards appearing in the first round are 7 (red), 6, Ace, 2, 5, 5, King, 8, and 4.

We start at an IRC count of -12 and start adding and subtracting the point value of each card for a total running count of -10. After several more rounds, the running count is still negative at -6. The recommended betting tactic is flat betting, wagering the minimum (1-unit bets). Once the running count becomes positive (+1, +2, +3), the bet size should be raised – a point in the system, known by blackjack pros as the “pivot”. The higher the count, the higher the bets should be. If the running count dips below 0, players are advised to bet their minimum.

Basic Strategy Deviations

Clearly, it would take more than just a few hands to get a positive count with the Red 7 method. Players should be prepared to make flat bets until at least half of the entire shoe has been dealt. The system is, therefore, quite safe and conservative but it manages to bring several changes to the basic blackjack strategy.

Running Count Changes to Basic Strategy
0 or higher Player 16 stand against dealer 10
0 or higher Player 12 stand against dealer 3
+2 or higher Player 15 stand against dealer 10
+2 or higher Player 12 stand against dealer 2
+2 or higher Player 10 stand against dealer Ace

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Red 7 System


The main advantage of using the Red 7 System is that it can be learned within a few hours and applied successfully in real-money games even by beginner-level counters. It is a level-1 system where players only add or subtract 1 from the running count. The method does not require a side count for Aces, 10s or any other card to be kept, although the color of the 7s should be taken into account.

Although the system is quite simple, compared to other professional methods for counting cards in blackjack, it features a few details that could confuse and intimidate beginner-level counters. The first thing is that they need to focus on the color of the 7s, which may sound easy but in a noisy, crowded casino and a table where the cards are dealt really quickly, this could be a daunting task.

At the same time, the Red 7 count is very efficient in signaling the player when to raise his bets. This system allows players to make changes to the basic strategy when the odds are in their favor. In addition, it is suitable for both amateurs and blackjack pros, as well as for shoe and pitch games.

The need to always know the initial running count of the game could also be frustrating for less experienced players. Besides, some people simply do not feel comfortable dealing with negative numbers. But with this system, the count will remain negative for most of the time. Some players would also probably question whether deviating from the basic strategy is a good idea. In certain cases, it is, and with only a few changes to it, players can increase their advantage even more.

Just like all card counting systems, the Red 7 System has its strengths and weaknesses that should be considered before using it in a real, live blackjack game. This is a wonderful method that even recreational players can try, although to be effective, it should be used with no mistakes and after practicing it for some time. Overall, Snyder’s Red 7 card counting system is relatively easy, safe in real-money games, and profitable with a large bankroll and medium betting spread (1-10 or 1-15).

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