The Ten Count System was the first of it’s kind. It was the first mathematically proven system that blackjack players could use to take back the casino edge. In fact, it improved the house edge from 6 percent in the house’s favor, to about 1 percent in favor of the player.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to find the Ten Count System talked much about today, let alone used. That’s because the system is viewed as primitive and unnecessarily complicated to use. That may be true. However, we think that it’s still worth looking at the Ten Count System in more detail. Think of it as a history lesson.
Who Created the Ten Count System?
The Ten Count System was created by Edward Thorp. He’s held many titles over the years including mathematician, professor, hedge fund manager, author, and yes, a blackjack player.
Edward Thorp was known for many things. He created the first wearable computer in 1961, which he used to predict the outcome of roulette games. He also wrote the book Beat the Dealer in 1962, which sold over 700,000 copies and put him on the New York Times bestseller list.
Thorp was known in many casinos, too. So known, in fact, that he was frequently banned from casino properties. The casinos couldn’t keep him away, though, no matter how hard they tried. He used disguises to get past security and take the casinos for thousands of dollars. Thorp didn’t do it for the money, though, or so he claimed. For him it was all about the science and ideas.
He later used these ideas to create the Ten Count System, which paved the way for other blackjack strategies including the Hi/Lo Count.
How to Use the Ten Count System
First off, keep in mind that the 10 Count is irrelevant in today’s games because it was created for single deck games. Most casinos nowadays use multiple decks.
The premise to this strategy is like all others — each card is given a value, and a count is kept throughout the game. You’ll use this count to determine when and how big to bet. Here are the values that you assign each card:
- A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 = Count +4
- 10, J, Q, K = Count -9
For example, say you tracked the following hands:
3, 5, K, J, A, 2, 3, 3, 8, 9
The values would be:
4, 4, -9, -9, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4
When you add these up you would get +14. However, you’ll want to keep a running count because you won’t have time to add everything up once all the cards have been dealt.
In regards to betting, the higher the positive number the more 10-point cards there are in the deck. That favors the players, therefore you should bet more money. However, the closer the count is to 0, or if the count is negative, the less money you should bet.
It’s simple enough, sure. However, the problem with this system as pointed out by Peter Griffin (in The Theory of Blackjack) is that Thorp didn’t account for the removal of each card and the impact it would have on the house edge. So between the accuracy and the newer systems to hit the market, the Ten Count System eventually fell by the wayside.
How Hard is it to Learn the Ten Count System?
The system isn’t that hard to learn. You only have to memorize two values, +4 or -9.
The real challenge in using a system like this, like any blackjack system, is keeping track of the count while playing. Dealers are fast, so the cards will be dealt before you know it. Then each player has to act, including you, all the while having to keep track of every hand that is hit, split or doubled down.
To learn the card counting systems experts recommend learning at home first before heading to the casino. You want to practice with a deck of cards first, and should be able to count through a deck as quickly as you can recite the alphabet. Once your speed picks up without affecting your accuracy, you should find ways to distract yourself to mimic a real casino environment.
Older Version of the Ten Count?
While doing the research for the Ten Count System the majority of articles I came across mentioned the system above — apply a value of +4 to all non 10-point cards and a -9 to all 10s. But that didn’t come across as difficult to me. At least no more than the other card counting systems.
However, I came across an article from CasinoDetroit.net [Source: http://www.casinodetroit.net/patterson0302.html]. In this article the author mentioned that Thorp’s system was more complicated than that.
It used to be that you’d have to keep a count of both types of cards — your non-tens and ten-point cards. So in a single deck you’d have 16 tens and 36 non-tens. What you would do is then work your way backward (subtracting 1 from one or the other) as each card was dealt.
After each round was completed, you’d divide the count of non-tens by the number of tens left to get a ratio. This ratio would tell you your advantage over the casino (or lack thereof). Thorp presented a table where you’d plug in your ratio and from that table you’d be told how many units to bet based on a 1-5 spread.
This sounds significantly harder than the system I described above (and the one you find one every blackjack website online). If this was the original system I could definitely see why it was quickly improved on, and eventually replaced.
Books That Teach the Ten Count System
If you want to learn more about the Ten Count System you can’t go wrong with the original: Beat the Dealer. You can pick up the blackjack book for $5 to $20, in paperback or hardback, at Amazon.com. Although the Ten Count is out of style, there are plenty of lessons to learn in this book, as well as cool stories to read from Thorp putting all of his strategies into action. You can read about how he got his $10k bankroll, how he bet hundreds of dollars per hour and winning $17,000 in a matter of hours. All in all, there’s definitely good entertainment value here, and all for the price of a couple lattes.