# The Wong Halves System for Card Counting

The Wong Halves System is a complex, level-3 method for counting cards and it is suitable for professional, highly experienced blackjack players. Bearing the name of its creator, Stanford Wong, this is one of the most complicated, yet exceptionally accurate and powerful systems for counting cards.

This method was first introduced in 1975 in Stanford Wong’s book Professional Blackjack, which has since then become a classic. Wong, whose actual name is John Ferguson, is one of the most prominent blackjack authors and researchers of the past several decades. His system was devised with skilled blackjack pros in mind so before trying it, players should be able to easily deal with simpler and more basic methods for counting cards.

## The Wong Halves System Fundamentals

Basics of the Wong Halves System
How to Use the Wong Halves System?
True Count

### Basics of the Wong Halves System

The Wong Halves is a standard, balanced system for counting cards in blackjack, which allows players to track the ratio of high to low cards in the shoe and know when they have the advantage. The idea, of course, is that decks rich in high cards (Ace, 10s) are more favorable to the players, whereas decks with fewer high cards favor the house. The Wong Halves is a rather complicated, level-3 method, which means that there are three different numerical values assigned to the cards, positive or negative.

Moreover, this system uses fractions so compared to most methods, it is significantly harder to apply. Here are the numerical values used in the Wong Halves count:

• 2, 7 – +0.5
• 3, 4, 6 – +1
• 5 – +1.5
• 8 – 0
• 9 – -0.5
• 10, J, Q, K, A – -1

As we can see, the highest value is assigned to the 5s (+1.5). These cards have been proved mathematically to offer the worst odds for the player. The high cards forming hands of 20, 21 (including blackjack), on the other hand, are worth -1. The method also assumes that the 9s in the deck shift the odds slightly in favor of the player, which is why they are also given negative value (-0.5).

The sum of all card values for the deck is exactly 0, which makes the Wong Halves a balanced system. This means that before placing their bets, players will need to convert the running count into a true count but more on this below.

### How to Use the Wong Halves System?

Before starting to count cards, players should determine their bankroll, as well as the minimum and maximum bets they are comfortable with. A good betting spread for beginners is 1-5, while larger spreads such as 1-10, 1-20 or more, offer more profitability and greater risk at the same time. Players start off the game with 1-unit bets after a reshuffle. They begin the count at 0 and add or subtract numbers from it as the cards appear on the table.

As the structure of this system is a bit more complicated than usual, let’s take a 6-deck game as an example. The first cards dealt on the table are 7, 2, Queen, 4, and 8, corresponding to +0.5, +0.5, -1, +1, and 0. This means that our running count is +1, indicating that the player has a slight advantage over the house. However, these are just the first five cards dealt out of all 312 cards in the six decks used in this game.

If even 2 cards with a negative value are drawn in the next deal, the count will dip below 0. This lack of uncertainty caused by the many cards still remaining in the shoe makes the running count of +1 completely irrelevant. In order to provide players with a more adequate count, the system requires conversion to the so-called “true count”.

### True Count

Unlike the running count that is constantly kept by players during the game, the true count takes the number of decks still not played into consideration. There are several different ways to determine the true count but most players stick to a simple and proven method – they just divide the running count by the number of decks in the shoe.

Following the same example, we have a running count of +1. Assuming some cards have been burnt and some have been dealt, there will be around 5 decks and half still left in the shoe. If 5 decks of cards are remaining (at best), we need to divide 1 by 5 for a true count of +0.20.

Since higher counts indicate better odds for the player, the true count we have is not impressive at all. In fact, we need a minimum true count of +2 to gain some actual advantage over the house. This means that we keep placing our minimum wager until the count becomes +2 or higher. Then, we increase the bet size to maximize the potential profits resulting from a favorable situation. The higher the count, the greater the bets should be. Of course, players should bet less when the count is low.

## Simplified Wong Halves Count

Before applying this system in real games, players should practice it for some time. It is quite complex mainly because of the fractions that are used in calculating the running count. To avoid this difficulty, some card counters have simplified the Wong Halves system in two major ways.

Doubling the Card Values
Hands with Eliminating Values

### Doubling the Card Values

A good way to eliminate the fractions is to double all numerical values assigned to the cards – 2s and 7s will count as +1; 3s, 4s, and 6s will be worth +2; 5s will be +3; 8s will remain 0; 9s will count as -1; 10s and Aces will be -2. This does not change the plating strategy or the betting of the player. Rather, it simplifies the adding and subtracting of values during the game. Before converting to a true count, however, players need to cut the running count in half.

### Hands with Eliminating Values

This is a great trick that could be used in all card counting systems. Players simply memorize particular hands with values that cancel each other out such as 4-K (+1 and -1). Since their total is 0, the hand is irrelevant to the count. Here are a few hands you can easily remember – 2-9, 7-9, 3-10, 4-A, etc. This technique may sound too complicated but it requires only a little practice. After a while, your brain will automatically eliminate such hands the second you see them on the table.