Have you ever wondered whether there are people really making a fortune at blackjack?
Is card counting really the only way to win at blackjack?
If you remember the blackjack scene in Rain Man, you'll recall that the Dustin Hoffman character was winning every hand at blackjack because he had memorized every card as it was dealt and therefore knew exactly what cards remained to be dealt.
Here's the truth about card counting . . .
Casinos did not know their actual edge over the players in blackjack even as late as the 1930s. A blackjack book by Joe Treybal "Handbook on Percentages," published in 1930, has some very vague and mostly inaccurate statistics about blackjack.
This is quite understandable, as blackjack did not develop a more standardized set of rules until after World War II. In the 1930s, some clubs paid bonuses for 21 totals made up of certain cards such as a 6, 7, and 8 of the same suit, three 7s and seven card totals of 21, to name just a few of the
In the early 1950s four U.S. soldiers, Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantery, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott, defined a "correct" way to play blackjack. Using only simple desk calculators, they examined every play option at blackjack and came up with a suggested playing strategy. They published an article "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack" in 1956 which became the basis for today's basic strategy play. This group had developed for the first time a reasonably accurate strategy that allowed the player to play even with the house. This event marked the beginning of the systematic study of blackjack.
A professor at New Mexico State University, Edward O. Thorp, followed the Baldwin study by developing a computer program which would analyze the composition of the remaining cards
after certain cards were removed during play. Thorp discovered that the player could gain an advantage over the casino after certain cards had been removed from play. Thorp published his finding in the famous "Beat the Dealer," published in 1962. Thorp's new basic strategy was good
enough to eliminate any house advantage at all, allowing the basic strategy player to gain an edge over the house. By using this basic strategy with several card counting systems that Thorp developed, a player could gain a significant edge over any single-deck game in Las Vegas. Blackjack was
The way blackjack was played before Thorp's publication had many liberal rules favoring the player. The house dealt from a single deck and the cards were hand held. Many times, every card was put into play. This would allow a counter to know the exact composition of the remaining cards in the deck
and be able to make considerable money using this knowledge in skillful end play. Players were allowed to double down on any two cards, split Aces repeatedly, and take as many cards on split Aces as they wanted. Some casinos offered bonuses in addition to the 3 to 2 payoff for player blackjacks.
Some casinos paid higher bonuses for blackjacks. Bonuses or automatic wins were offered for a player drawing more than a specified number of cards without busting, and many casinos offered generous surrender options. Casinos also had to put up with cheats who would mark the cards or switch their own cards into the game. Players were allowed to handle their own cards and to scrape the table surface when a hit was desired.
Overall, the casinos were racking in large profits from blackjack. Only a small group of players had the skill to take advantage of the casinos' liberal rules. The average person did not understand the game well enough to win very often, and as yet there was not a consensus on the correct playing strategy.
Thorp's book hit the casino bosses like a bombshell. They had visions of armies of card counters, armed with the knowledge imparted by Dr. Thorp, invading the casinos and cleaning up at the blackjack tables. The obvious defenses were to shuffle cards more often, to eliminate end play and
to change some of the more player favorable rules. Still the bosses were not satisfied that the threat was contained. On April 1, 1964 the bosses acted yet again. The Las Vegas Resort Hotel Association announced that two major rules of blackjack were being changed. Aces could no longer be split
and doubling down was restricted to hard 11s only. The blackjack playing public had had enough. They reacted by staying away from the blackjack tables in droves. Blackjack revenue plummeted. Dealers were upset over the drastic rule changes because the major source of their income, tips, had
disappeared. Within a couple of weeks, the casinos caved into the pressure and abandoned these two rule changes.
However, the casinos were not finished with changing the game of blackjack. Multiple deck games were introduced which devastated the card counters chances of winning. With multiple decks used, the number of cards seen by the counters was reduced. In addition, a new cutting procedure was used
with the plastic insert card inserted cutting off the last one quarter to one third of the cards from being dealt. This virtually eliminated the profit from end play. The combination of multiple decks and a large number of unseen cards effectively reduced the significance of the running count used by card counters.
Many casinos eventually terminated the player's ability to double down on any two cards and restricted them to doubling on tens and elevens only. Many casinos also removed the surrender options as well as the bonus payoffs for different hands as previously discussed.
Following Thorp, the correct playing strategy was refined even more. Most notably, Julian Braun of IBM developed computer software which played every possible blackjack hand randomly against every possible dealer up-card for millions of hands. He then compared the different rule changes with
how they effected the outcome of different hands. By extensively analyzing his results, Braun came up with a very accurate playing strategy with variations for each change in
playing rules. Thus, different playing strategies were developed for single-deck games versus multiple deck games
and for different casino rules, such as the rule regarding
whether a dealer would hit or stand with a soft 17. Braun's work formed the basis for virtually every card counting
system which has arisen since then.
In 1970, Lawrence Revere published "Playing Blackjack as a Business" and presented a simplified card counting system as
well as easy to read basic strategy charts. His count,
called the High-Low count, is still popular and is used by card counters.
It Is Hard To Win Counting Cards
Casinos have made it extremely difficult for card counters. In addition, counters have to contend with a strategy which
requires a huge bankroll and allows for huge fluctuations in the bankroll. I would not attempt to earn a living counting
cards with less than $250,000 as my permanent bankroll. I would have to be prepared to see the bankroll decline as much
as $100,000 and still have faith in my system. And, with card counting, I would have to be prepared to play on a daily
basis, putting in many hours of play, as card counting only gains an advantage over long term play, and may not help at
all in any individual session. Many persons believe that card counters always win. Just the opposite is true. A very
advanced card counter might win 60% of his sessions, losing
40% of the time. In addition, the counter is faced with the possibility of long losing streaks. If you are a weekend
player using a typical counting system, you might easily lose four weekends in a row.
It is hard not to become discouraged about card counting once you know the grim truth. If you become very proficient at
counting, you may be asked to leave a casino, or even barred
from playing there.
While the casinos have created a number of formidable
obstacles for would-be card counters, their latest weapon may spell the end for card counting if its use becomes wide
Many casinos are now using a "continuous shuffling machine" (CSM). This machine is a device that randomly inserts
discards back into the deck. When one is used, it is like playing against a freshly shuffled shoe every hand. Please
don't confuse this with the automatic shuffler used for
shuffling the entire deck or shoe.
Most players don't like the CSM, and at this time, it is mostly being used at tables with lower minimum wagers, so as
not to offend high rollers at the higher minimum wager tables. The effect of the CSM on card counting should be
obvious. If a CSM is used, card counting is rendered totally ineffective.
In addition to eliminating any risk from card counters, using a CSM actually speeds up the game allowing more hands per
hour. Since most players play at a disadvantage to the house, increasing the number of hands played per hour
increases the house profit. You can begin to see why casino
bosses like CSMs.
However, a computer simulation run on billions of hands showed that using a CSM actually lowers the house edge. This
was true regardless of the number of decks used.
There is another way to win at blackjack that is far superior to card counting.
Interestingly, our strategy actually does very well against CSMs. The software used by most online casinos offering
blackjack mimics a CSM and the strategy I use to win at blackjack does very well against these Internet casinos.
Blackjack Strategy Is Not Another Run-of-The-Mill Blackjack
It is not a variation of card counting like nearly all of the blackjack strategies devised in the past forty years.
It has nothing to do with card counting and is superior to any card counting method ever created.
It is not some old-time betting progression, like the "double-up system" or d'Alembert, that wins most of the time but causes you huge losses when it does lose.
It does not use a fixed betting progression.
It is a method that is superior to just about every gambling strategy used by professional gamblers. Yet, it is so easy to learn that a twelve-year old can learn it in a couple of hours!
Called The Automatic Blackjack Strategy Because Winning With It
Is Virtually Automatic!
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