Ace/Five count

Ace and five cards

The Ace/Five count developed by Michael Shackleford allowing players to overcome the house edge without being recognised as a card counter. This strategy is often used for building up casino comps (or just getting a couple more free drinks). In my opinion this is the most straightforward of all card counting strategies.

The strategy is to add one to the count when a five is observed, and to subtract one from the count every time an ace is dealt. Basic strategy is used at all times, but betting amount is increased when the count is greater than or equal to two. If the count is one or less, then the minimum bet should be placed. This method is used until the shoe is reshuffled and the count resets to zero.

Why track only the ace and five cards? Because the ace is important to the player because it forms the basis of ‘blackjack’ paying 3 to 2 (don’t play 6 to 5 or other variants). The five is useful to the dealer in turning stiff hands of 12 to 16 into good hands of 17 to 21.

When the count is plus two or greater the player should double their previous bet up to the maximum bet level. The maximum bet should therefore be established before sitting at the table. Normally this will be somewhere in the region of eight to 16 times the minimum bet but any spread can be used. The important part is establishing the maximum bet and not going above this level.

Here is a betting schedule that I would use for both ‘hit 17’ and ‘stand 17’ games. It assumes that the table minimum is $5:

Count Bet
1 or lower $5
2 $10
3 $20
4 or higher $40

While this may seem like an aggressive approach statistically while you are betting more with this structure than flat betting, you should actually lose less. Plus because of the larger bets, you will accumulate more comp points, which clearly have a monetary value.

Another ‘trick’ to using the ace/five count is to leave the table if the count drops to minus three or lower. By taking a bathroom break or stepping out for a few minutes until the shoe is reshuffled you can gain a significant statistical advantage. While it is not always possible to leave the table with a low count without looking suspicious, any time you do will save cash in the long run.

So while players should not expect to be ‘up’ after any length of playing time using the ace/five strategy, they have essentially made blackjack an even money game. The comp points which are offered by almost all of the larger casinos can be exchanged for meals, show tickets or even rooms for the night.

For the biggest advantage the ace/five count should be employed in combination with a liberal rules game. This means playing with the fewest decks possible in a game where the dealer stands on a soft 17. In Vegas, these rules are generally only available on tables with a higher minimum bet so shop around.

For more information about the ace/five count system please see the wizard of odds website.

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