The Uston SS Card Counting System

The Uston SS is a complex, multi-level system for counting cards aimed at professional gamblers who have a deep understanding of card counting. Created by some of the most famous blackjack players in history, the Uston SS Count is a powerful method for eliminating the small house edge in this game and offering players a sufficient advantage to generate solid profits over time.

It bears the name of its creator, the legendary player and masterful card counter Ken Uston who was one of the first people to successfully exploit the idea of team card counting. Uston, who had made millions of dollars from his blackjack skills, was banned from casinos around the world but this did not stop him from developing and perfecting various strategies for card counting. After introducing the Uston Advanced Plus-Minus and the Uston Advanced Point Count in his book Million Dollar Blackjack, he was seeking to devise a new system that would be equally strong but without this high level of complexity.

Eventually, Uston joined forces with other successful blackjack players, Arnold Snyder and Sam Case, and the Uston SS Count was born. It was first published in 1986 and although SS stands for Strongest and Simplest, the system can hardly be described as simple. Many blackjack players, especially those who have only tried basic counts such as the Hi-Lo or the Ace/5 Count, struggle to even understand it. This system was clearly developed with experienced blackjack pros in mind.

The Uston SS Card Counting System Fundamentals

Basics of the Uston SS System
How to Use the Uston SS Count?

Basics of the Uston SS System

In its basics, the Uston SS functions like all card counting methods – it assigns cards with different numerical values so that by keeping a running count, the player can track high against low cards in the deck. This is one of the few level-3 systems, however, and players should know that learning the structure and values in this system would probably take more than a few days. These are the numerical values used in the Uston SS:

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

The disproportion here is easy to notice – there is no -3 assigned to any number to even out the value of the 5s in the deck. In addition, there are four cards worth +2 against five cards with the value of -2. As a result, the system becomes unbalanced. This can be tested very easily – when we count down all cards with a single deck, we end up with a final count of +4 rather than 0. The starting count will not be 0 and this lack of balance actually simplifies the system and you will see why in a while.

As with all unbalanced systems, we do not start counting at 0. In the Uston SS, the initial running count (IRC) depends on the number of decks used in the game and for a single-deck variation, the IRC is -4. It reaches -32 for a blackjack game played with 8 standard decks of cards.

Number of Decks IRC
1 -4
2 -8
4 -16
6 -24
8 -32

This may sound too difficult for those who are encountering an unbalanced method for the first time but it makes the system more convenient to use in real-life games. There is no need to convert the running count into a true count – something that is necessary for balanced systems. The Uston SS is accurate enough with the IRC values listed above.

How to Use the Uston SS Count?

Despite its name, this is not the easiest method to count cards in blackjack. The most difficult aspect of it is to memorize the numerical values of all cards in the deck and be able to quickly make calculations in your mind. The system begins with a freshly shuffled shoe and players initially make 1-unit bets or their minimum bets ($1, $5, $25, etc.). Let’s take a 6-deck game as an example – the count starts at -24 and as cards are dealt on the table, their respective value is added to the count.

If the following cards appear – 7, Ace, 3, 3, 10, 5, 2, Jack, and 6, the -24 IRC drops down to -18. As this is still a negative count, players should keep betting the minimum. Once the running count goes above 0, it is time to increase the bets. The pivot point here is +1 and it signals that the shoe is rich in high cards (A, 10) and that the odds are in favor of the player. Bets should be raised as the running count gets higher (+1, +2, +3, etc.). When the count falls within the negative territory, players should reduce their bets and wager the minimum.

The exact betting spread will depend on the player’s experience and bankroll. Of course, the large betting spreads (when a gambler suddenly bets 32 times the original stake, for instance) are clear telltale signs for card counting. So, counters who prefer making such bets should learn how to disguise their style of play and pretend to be recreational blackjack players.

Here is an example for a more conservative betting spread of 1-5, where the maximum wager is 5 times the original bet or 5 units. In this case, the player would start increasing the bet size on a running count of +2 and try to maintain a safer betting pattern to camouflage his true intentions.

Running Count Betting Units In $
+1 or below 1 $15
+2, +3 2 $30
+4, +5, 3 $45
+6, +7 4 $60
+8 or higher 5 $75

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Uston SS System


Ken Uston’s Strongest and Simplest system is the easiest, yet an advanced method for counting cards. Although it is a level-3 system, is takes the Aces into account so players are not required to track them separately. More importantly, the Uston SS Count is an unbalanced system and there is no need to estimate the so-called true count. Overall, this is a professional and straightforward system for experienced counters and it works best with basic strategy and a good betting spread.

Obviously, the Uston SS was not intended for beginners. In fact, many blackjack pros would probably find it too complex for actual application in real-life games. Theoretically, the system is easy to understand but keeping a negative count with five different numerical values (+/-1, +/-2, and +3) is quite the challenge. This is why players need a lot of practice before they decide to actually use this method to gain an edge when playing blackjack.

When used correctly, this method not only eliminates the house edge but it also promises a player’s advantage of nearly 2%. The variance with the Uston SS is lower than on a simpler system but players who are confident in their counting skills can improve their odds even more by tracking the Aces. Keeping a side count, whether it is for Aces or for any other type of card, is quite difficult but it is possible.

Moreover, players should know that most of the time, the running count will be negative. So, they will be betting the minimum for a long time. If the count rises from -2 to +3, however, and they place a bet that is several times the amount wagered so far, the casino staff will get suspicious. To avoid that, good counters also apply camouflage betting – something Ken Uston himself was a true master of.

In addition, this method could be applied to various pitch and shoe games. To maximize their profits, players should look for blackjack variations with more favorable rules – 3:2 payout for player blackjack rather than 6:5, dealer stands on all 17s, Surrender allowed, etc.

The Uston SS is an incredibly powerful and accurate system for counting cards in blackjack. However, it is not for those who are just making their first steps into the world of counting. This method requires a lot of practice, dedication, and a strong understanding of basic strategy and the main principles of card counting.

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