The Omega II Card Counting System

The Omega 2 (or Omega II) card counting system is a relatively advanced blackjack card counting system (created by Bryce Carlson) that was more popular in the 1990s than it is now. It’s most effective when used with an additional side count of aces. Like most of the more advanced card counting systems, the Omega 2 is a multi-level system. Some cards are worth 2 points, while others are worth 1.

The difficulty of the system might be well worth it, because it’s one of the most accurate and effective card counting systems available. The betting correlation is 0.92 without the optional side count, but if you can keep up with the aces, too, then you can achieve a betting correlation of 0.99. The trick is being able to manage the count.

The most detailed explanation of the Omega 2 can be found in Carlson’s 2001 book, Blackjack for Blood. This page highlights most of the details of the system, but we recommend buying a copy of the book if you’re serious about putting this card counting strategy into action for yourself.


The Basics of the Omega II

Half of the low cards are worth +1, while the other half of the low cards are each worth +2. The 2, 3, and the 7 are worth +1. The 4, 5, and the 6 are each worth +2. 9s are worth -1 and 10s are worth -2.

These values should make intuitive sense. Obviously the 10s are more favorable to the player than the 9s, because a 10 can make a natural; a 9 can’t. And everyone knows that the 4s, 5s, and 6s are the worst cards in the deck for the casino. If you made no other change to a deck than to remove all of the 5s, you would change the game of blackjack from a negative expectation game for the player to a positive expectation game. (I learned this from Lance Humble’s The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book. He claims that Lawrence Revere would filch 5s from the deck and throw them away in some of the underground cards games in which they used to play. It’s an entertaining anecdote. I don’t know if it’s true or not, though.)

You’ll notice that this is a balanced card counting system. If you count through a single deck and make no mistakes, you’ll have a total of 0 when you reach the end of the deck.

Like other card counting systems, you want to use these values to keep a running count, which, when converted to the true count, will serve as an estimation of how favorable the deck is to the player. The higher the positive count is, the more you bet.


Counting Aces on the Side

Unlike in some of the other, easier card counting systems, aces have a value of 0 in the running count using Omega 2. But Carlson recommends keeping a separate count of how many aces are still in play. When the deck is still rich in aces, you have a better chance of being dealt a blackjack, so you should increase your bets correspondingly. Since a blackjack (or natural) pays out at 3 to 2, it’s important that you get as much money into action as possible during those situations.


Some Definitions and How They Apply to the Omega II Card Counting System

If everything on the page above seems like gibberish to you, then read through the short glossary below and give it another try. The page was written with the assumption that the reader understands the basics of card counting, but if that isn’t the case for you, then the following definitions should help you get up to speed quickly.

Balanced vs. Unbalanced – In a balanced card counting strategy, the positive and negative values balance out. This means that a running count through a single deck will result in a total of 0 if you correctly counted the cards. Most systems are balanced, but some unbalanced systems exist. The goal of most unbalanced systems is to eliminate the need to convert the running count into a true count, but they do so by sacrificing a certain amount of accuracy.

Betting Correlation – The betting correlation is a measure of how well a card counting system reflects the advantage or disadvantage to the player. Remember that all card counting systems simply ESTIMATE the player’s advantage over the house. It’s not 100% correct. The higher the betting correlation, the more accurate the system.

Levels – Card counting systems are categorized into multi-level and single-level systems. That’s just an indication of how much the cards are worth. In a single level system, the cards are worth +1 or -1, with no variations. In a multi-level system, some cards are worth more than +1 or -1. In the Omega 2, cards can be worth + or – 1 or + or – 2. Some systems have even more values. Multi-level systems are more accurate, but they’re also harder to learn and master.

Running Count vs. True Count – The running count is the total that you’ve counted. But when you’re dealing with multiple decks in a dealer’s shoe, the effect of each card is diluted by the large number of cards you’re dealing with. Most systems require that the counter convert the running count into a true count. This is done by dividing the count by the estimated number of decks still in the shoe.

Side Count – A side count is a count that you’re keeping up with separately from the running count. In most card counting systems, it’s a count of aces. Why aces are important should be obvious—you can’t be dealt a blackjack (with the 3 to 2 payout) without any aces in the deck.