Working under the penname Stanford Wong, famous author and professional blackjack player John Ferguson was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002. Apart from writing some game-changing blackjack books and developing computer programs and techniques that have furthered blackjack strategy, he’s also the inventor of a level three card counting system referred to as “Wong Halves.”
First introduced in Wong’s 1975 book “Professional Blackjack,” the “Halves Count” has been simultaneously described as one of the most accurate and most complicated methods of card counting, definitely not recommended for beginning card counters. Where level one systems assign cards three heuristic values of 0, 1 or -1 and level two systems use five values of 0, 1, 2, -1 or -2, this approach requires the assignment of six different values of 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, -0.5 or -1.
How to Count Halves
As with most card counting systems, Wong Halves gives negative values to high cards as they are removed from the deck and positive values for low cards. The five highest ranking cards—Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks and Tens—are worth -1 point each. Nines are given a value of -0.5 points, while eights are valued at zero. Twos and sevens receive +0.5 points each, and threes, fours and sixes are worth +1 apiece. Fives are valued at +1.5 points, and there are no cards assigned -1.5 points.
Because maintaining a running count with fractional amounts can be confusing, in practice many players choose to double these values to whole numbers: -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 and 3. Either way, the total value of all 52 cards in a deck will still add up to exactly zero, just as it does in most other systems. The key, of course, is to practice diligently with this method of counting by going through deck after deck at home and mastering the system before trying it out in a real casino environment.
Card counters who evaluate systems upon the statistic known as “betting correlation” will be pleased to learn that their hard work in learning Wong Halves will pay off with an accuracy rating of 99%—among the best in the business. Compare that to the Omega II system, for example, which yields a betting efficiency of just 92% unless Aces are tracked with a side count to raise the betting correlation up to 99%.
Putting the Halves in Play
As with almost all card counting systems, Wong Halves requires a conversion from the running count to the true count during play. That means dividing the raw number of the running count by the number of decks remaining to be dealt. This compensates for the dilution effect of having so many cards in the deck. When the true count is high, the deck is favorable and bets can be raised. When it is low or negative, wagering should be decreased accordingly.
Specifically, against an eight-deck shoe wager no more than the table minimum, a single unit, when the true count is +1 or less. Double the bet to two units whenever the count reaches between +2 and +5. And make a three-unit bet for a true count between +6 and +9. For higher counts that this, it is possible to bet the maximum that the bankroll and betting spread will allow, typically four units.
In all fairness, however, it should be noted that most professional players who have tried Wong Halves no longer use it. The reason, quite simply is that the difficulty involved in maintaining an accurate count simply isn’t warranted by the slightly greater efficiency obtained. A simple level one Hi-Lo Count has a betting correlation of 97% and is much easier to employ over the course of dozens of hours spent at the tables.
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