The Illustrious 18

Card counting systems have significantly grown in popularity over the past years and this is the reason why a great number of strategies of this kind have been developed and improved in order to meet every player’s needs. In general, these systems are considered to be more advanced as they require more concentration, effort, and time.

They can be extremely beneficial only on the condition that they are applied correctly throughout the course of the game but sometimes this can be a very challenging task as the casinos are full of distractions. It is no secret that card counting systems work best in combination with the basic strategy which is the reason why players shouldn’t learn any of them if they lack the needed knowledge.

Importance of Altering the Basic Strategy

The basic strategy provides players with the opportunity to make the best possible bets and moves in a particular situation, taking into account the dealer’s up card and their hand’s total. Card counting gives players valuable information about the ratio between the high and low-value cards which in some cases requires altering the basic strategy as its suggested moves aren’t the most beneficial ones.

This is the reason why they should be ready to change it according to the true count of their chosen system as this is the only way they will be able to take advantage of its accuracy and efficiency.

In this sense, if players were to alter their decisions for their bets and moves at the time of playing, they still need to be prepared beforehand for these possible changes. It is true that to be able to recall the basic strategy and keep track of the cards at once is a really challenging task and remembering any additional variations of it can worsen the situation.

However, players need to understand that it is compulsory for them to be flexible and adjust their bets according to the particular situation as this is the only way they can make the most of it. This is the reason why the term index number was created as it shows which move is the best in a particular case from а mathematical point of view.

Basic Strategy Chart
Players’ HandDealer’s Up Card
H = Hit, D = Double Down, S = Stand, SP = Split

What is the Illustrious 18

Card counters need to take into account a few important things if they want to make the best possible move and bet in every situation. It is essential to know the chosen system besides the basic strategy backward and forward so that they will be able to apply them when needed. Also, players should be able to understand how to use the true count as it gives them valuable information regarding their bets – whether it’s better to increase or decrease them.

However, as already mentioned there are some situations in which the best move is based on the true count as well as on the index number. The Illustrious 18 are eighteen extremely efficient variations of the basic strategy which were invented by Don Schlesinger.

The reason why they have become so popular is that thanks to them, players can make the most of every hand by altering the basic strategy accordingly and taking into account the valuable information the card counting system provides them with. The index numbers of his chart play a crucial role and if players want to be able to take advantage of these variations, they need to fully understand them.

How the Illustrious 18 works

The Illustrious 18 was developed in order to improve the expected return of money depending on the moves players make. Just like any other strategy, in order to apply it correctly, they need to take their time to memorise the index numbers, the suggested by the chart moves and of course the particular situation they should be used in. Even though these variations are more information to remember on top of everything else, they give players a really good chance of winning and making a profit.

This way they will be able to make the most of every system and apply the valuable information it provides them with in the best possible way. Players need to understand that every little subtlety can make the difference between winning and losing a particular hand. One very important thing that should be taken into account is the number of decks involved in the game as they also require altering the players’ strategy to some extent.

‘Illustrious 18” Hi-Lo Card Counting Indices
216 vs. T0Hit/Stand
315 vs. T4Hit/Stand
4T-T vs. 55Stand/Split
5T-T vs. 64Stand/Split
610 vs. T4Hit/Double
712 vs. 32Hit/Stand
812 vs. 43Hit/Stand
911 vs. A1Hit/Double
109 vs. 21Hit/Double
1110 vs. A4Hit/Double
129 vs. 73Hit/Double
1316 vs. 95Hit/Stand
1413 vs. 2-1Hit/Stand
1512 vs. 40Hit/Stand
1612 vs. 5-2Hit/Stand
1712 vs. 6-1Hit/Stand
1813 vs. 3-2Hit/Stand

About the Creator of the Illustrious 18

Donald Schlesinger is a very successful author as well as а prominent mathematician who is a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame. His works are read by many players worldwide as they have proven to be extremely beneficial and interesting.

One of his best books is Blackjack Attack – Playing the Pros’ Way as it includes both theory and its practical application and his observations are worth reading. Mr. Schlesinger is most well-known for establishing the Illustrious 18 as these play variations became an inseparable part of every card counter’s strategy.

What is the “Fab Four”

As we already explained above, Illustrious 18 are different variations to the optimal strategy. To make things even more beneficial to players, Don Schlesinger introduced the so-called Fab Four. It describes the best surrender actions based on the Hi-Lo card counting system. In the lines below, we will describe the situations in which you have to surrender according to the Fab Four:

  • The player’s hand is 15, the dealer’s upcard is 9, and the true count is +3
  • The player’s hand is 15, the dealer’s upcard is 10, and the true count is 0
  • The player’s hand is 15, the dealer’s upcard is an ace, and the true count is either +2 (in S17) or -1 (in H17)
  • The player’s hand is 14, the dealer’s upcard is 19, and the true count amounts to +4


Card counting systems are famous for their accuracy and efficiency and this is the reason why many advanced players rely on them. If applied along with the basic strategy, they can be extremely beneficial and give players the opportunity to gain an advantage over the casino.

However, there are a number of other factors which should be taken into account as they also play a crucial role in the players’ performance. It is true that both strategies work very well together. However, the card counting provides blackjack fans with valuable information about the upcoming cards which can be used to make even better decisions about their bets and moves.

The moves suggested by the basic strategy are based on the condition that players don’t know what the upcoming cards will be. The card counting systems are especially designed to provide such information and this is the reason why the basic strategy should be adjusted accordingly as this way, the players’ edge will be significantly increased. Also, if blackjack fans want to succeed in winning, they need to be very disciplined and organised in order to manage to apply the systems in a casino setting.