Hi Opt 1 Method of Card Counting

Short for Highly Optimum,the Hi Opt 1 system was first developed by Charles Einstein in 1968. It is sometimes also known by another name, The Einstein Count. Hi Opt 1 is similar to the Hi-Lo Count developed by Edward O. Thorp, with one distinct difference: 2's and Aces are valued at 0. It does require a higher level of counting skill, though, making it a better option for more advanced blackjack players.

While the Hi Opt 1 method can provide greater mathematical accuracy and a higher edge for the player, it can be more difficult to master because it requires a second side-count of the Aces that have been played.

How Hi Opt 1 Works

As stated above, the Hi Opt 1 method assigns a value of 0 to 2's and Aces. The values are as follows:

Hi-Lo Card Point Values
2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10        A
0         +1         +1        +1        +1        0          0          0          -1         0

This means a running count starts at 0, and would be calculated as in the example below:

1st card is a 10, so the count is -1.
2nd card is a 4, so the count becomes 0.
3rd card is a 2, so the count stays 0.

Because the Aces are excluded from the running count, a side count is necessary to keep track of the Aces that have been played. This extra count makes Hi Opt 1 a little more difficult, but does offer the opportunity for more strategy variations. Hi Opt 1 is also a balanced system, meaning that the count should return to 0 by the end of the deck.

The Ace side-count makes up for the lack of change in the running count when an Ace is dealt. The more Aces that have been played, the lower a player's advantage. Keeping track of the Aces and the running count can make the Hi Opt 1 system a great asset to a skillful blackjack player.

Of course, the best way to master the Hi Opt 1 method, like any card counting system, is practice! Grab a single deck of cards and go through it several times, keeping the count in your head. Speed will come with time. When you feel confident in your counting skills and can count through a whole deck in about 40 seconds, you're ready for the casino!

The Hi Opt 1 method also needs a true count when its used in multiple deck games. To calculate the true count, take the running count and divide it by the number of decks left to be dealt. Most of the time, the number of decks is an estimation, but you can practice estimating by looking at the size of one deck, then two decks, and so on. Check the discard pile at the table when you're playing, decide how many decks have been dealt so far, and subtract that from the total decks used in the game. This means, in a six-deck game, with a running count of 12 and four decks left to be dealt, the true count would be 12 divided by 4, or 3.

When starting out, the best betting strategy is a basic unit scheme. One unit is equal to the table minimum.

                                                                Betting units
True Count                                          2 Decks                                                   6-8 Decks
0 or less                                                1 unit                                                       1 unit
 +1                                                        2 units                                                     2 units
 +2                                                        3 units                                                     4 units
 +3                                                        4 units                                                     8 units
 +4                                                        5 units                                                    10 units
 +5 or more                                          6 units                                                    12 units

Once you've become better acquainted with the Hi Opt 1 method, you can begin side-counting the Aces in play and adjusting your betting based on that count in addition to the true count. The more Aces left in the deck, the better the advantage for you!

Books About the Hi Opt 1 Method

You can find out more about the Hi Opt 1 method in the book The World's Greatest Blackjack Book by Julian Braun and Lance Humble. Not only do they cover the Hi Opt 1 method, but they refined the system for the book's first publication in the 1970s.