Zen Count Method of Card Counting

The Zen Count system of card counting is a unique creation by Arnold Snyder. Originally published in 1983, Blackbelt in Blackjack outlines Snyder's Zen Count method, as well as other information about card counting and methods. Snyder's advancement in card counting and prowess at the game led to his being one of the seven original players elected to the Blackjack Hall of Fame by fellow professional players.

Snyder has been the editor of Blackjack Forum, a quarterly blackjack trade journal, since 1981. In addition to Blackbelt in Blackjack, Snyder has also published The Blackjack Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook, The Blackjack Formula, The Poker Tournament Formula, The Poker Tournament Formula 2, How To Bet Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms, Big Book of Blackjack, and The Over/Under Report. When Ontario put blackjack team manager Tommy Hyland on trial, Snyder's testimony was influential in preserving the right to play team Blackjack in U.S. and Canadian casinos.

A balanced system, when the Zen Count system is used properly it leads to a count of 0 after an entire deck has been counted. Like most multi-level systems, it can be difficult for novice players to keep track of the running and make conversions to the true count in a timely manner. For the more experienced players, however, this system can be incredibly accurate.

How Zen Count Works

Zen Count card counting uses more than the traditional +1 and -1 values you'll find in other systems, like the Hi-Lo or Knockout methods. In addition to those values, it also includes values or +2 and -2, weighted to provide a greater advantage to the player. The values are distributed as follows:

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

To practice the Zen count, first grab a deck of cards and simply state the value of each card as you flip them over. This will help familiarize you with the card values, drilling them into your memory. Once the values are securely in your mind, you can start practicing the running count. The running count starts at 0, and increases or decreases based on each card played. Here's an example:

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

Once you've managed to maintain a running count in your head using a single deck, you can start training to calculate the true count for multiple deck games. The true count is determined by dividing the running count by the number of decks left to be dealt. So a running count of 12 in a six-deck game, with three decks left in the shoe, would yield a true count of 4.

With the Ace included in the count, the Zen Count gives similar playing tendencies to the Hi-Lo system, but many believe it to be more accurate, making it perfect for more advanced blackjack players. As with any system, the idea is to bet larger amounts when the count is higher. There's even a betting scheme for the Zen Count system, based on betting between 1 and 10 units.

                                                                Betting units
True Count                                                                                             Wager
0 or less                                                                                                    1 unit
 +1                                                                                                            1 unit
 +2                                                                                                            2 units
 +3                                                                                                            3 units
 +4                                                                                                            4 units
 +5                                                                                                            5 units

In fact, betting can increase up to 10 units with a true count of +10. This is, perhaps, one of the widest betting spreads seen in card-counting methods.

Books About the Zen Count Method

The greatest resource for the Zen Count system would be the book in which it first appeared ­ Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder. Another great book by Snyder is The Big Book of Blackjack, which covers many aspects of blackjack, in addition to card counting.