Knockout (KO) Method of Card Counting

Developed by Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancura in 1998, the KO method of counting cards is perhaps the best known unbalanced card system, which means the count does not equal 0 after an entire deck has been counted.  It has even been endorsed by the father of card counting, Edward O. Thorp. Knockout was designed specifically to avoid the complicated conversions between running counts and true counts. Since the conversions are no longer necessary, the KO system reduces the estimation errors that can crop up during calculations in other balanced systems.

How the KO (Knock Out) Card Counting System Works

Like any card counting system, the KO method assigns values of +1, 0, or -1 to the cards in a game of blackjack.

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

Unlike the Hi-Lo system, KO assigns a +1 to 7s, which is the source of imbalance in the card count. Because there are four 7s in a deck, the final count of a single deck using the KO method results in a 4, rather than a 0. That's no mistake, either. The added value helps circumvent the need for converting the running count to a true count. Therefore, the Knockout system is incredibly easy to use—all it requires is that you maintain a single running count!

Learn the Knockout count just as you would any other, by testing yourself with a deck of cards. In order to become a viable card counter, you have to make counting second nature. Go through each card in a deck, practicing the count on your own, such as:

  • 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 becomes 1.

And so on, until you've made your way through the entire deck. You'll know you've got it figured out if your final count is 4 by the end of the deck.

For betting through the Knockout system, it's best to wager between 1 and 6 units during a two-deck game. The higher the count, the more you should bet. Six or eight deck games need a higher spread, making between 1 and 12 units the best option. Keep in mind that 1 betting unit is equal to the table minimum. Here's a table to help out:

                                                                Betting units
Running 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

The betting strategy is just to get you started using the Knockout card counting system. Once you've had a bit of practice using it you can devise your own betting system to use with the KO count.

Books about the Knockout Method

The best resource for learning about the Knockout system would be Knock-Out Blackjack written by this method's creators, Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs. The book, first published in 1998, describes the method in detail, and has received praise from both Edward O. Thorp and professional gambler Arnold Snyder.

Another book with information about the Knockout card counting system that's worth checking out is The Theory of Blackjack by Peter A. Griffin. This resource offers deep insight into not only the KO method, but provides background on some of today's other great card counting systems, causing some people to consider The Theory of Blackjack the premier resource for serious players.