Omega II Card Counting

A relatively new arrival on the card counting scene, the Omega II method first appeared in Bryce Carlson's 2001 book, Blackjack for Blood. The system is a bit more complex than other methods out there because it is balanced, meaning that the count will be 0 again once an entire deck of cards has been counted. While Omega II can be more difficult to learn, it offers a greater level of accuracy than unbalanced systems.

How the Omega II Count Works

First and foremost, as a balanced system Omega II requires a bit of calculation to get a true picture of the potential advantage in any hand. To get a true count, players in a multi-deck game must take the running count and divide it by the number of decks yet to be dealt in the game. For example, let's say you're playing a 4-deck game. One deck has been fully dealt, leaving three decks in the shoe. The running count is plus-3. Dividing the plus-3 running count by the 3 remaining decks (3/3) yields a true count of plus-1. This extra step adds calculation time during game play, raising the system's difficulty. It takes plenty of practice to get to a calculation speed quick enough to make a difference in a fast-paced game of blackjack.

There are a few changes to the traditional plus-1, 0, minus-1 point scheme in Omega II. The method also assigns a plus-2 to some cards. Here are the Omega II values:

Omega II Card Point Values

 2         3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10        A

+1      +1        +2         +2       +2      +1          0         -1          -2         0

Example Running Count Using the Omega II System

The following is a brief example of these point values in action:

  • 1st card is a 10, so the running count is -2.
  • 2nd card is a 4, so the running count becomes 0.
  • 3rd card is a 2, so the running count stays +1.
  • 4th card is a 5, making the running count +3.

In a single deck game, the running count is sufficient for making betting decisions. If this were a four-deck game, though, as mentioned above, a true count is necessary.

The final step for Omega II, though not officially part of the system, is the side count of Aces. Side-counting the Aces isn't required for Omega II to work, but it's still a good idea. Knowing how many Aces have been dealt, and how many are still in play, is an incredibly valuable piece of information when playing blackjack.

Because the Omega II system has this higher level of complexity, it's best for beginners to start with a simpler system and work their way up. Unbalanced systems eliminate the need for a true count, so calculations can be made more quickly, but they sacrifice some accuracy for that extra speed. A balanced system like Omega II may be a little slower, and a little harder to master, but it offers much more accuracy during game play.

Books about the Omega II Count

Blackjack for Blood, by Bryce Carlson, is perhaps the best book for learning about the Omega II card counting system.