Ralph Stricker: AC vs LV

Atlantic City Versus Las Vegas
(Through the eyes of a professional card counter)

by Ralph Stricker
Copyright © 1996 Ralph Stricker

Ralph Stricker was an internationally known blackjack expert. In 1978 he opened one of the first blackjack schools on the East coast. In 1981 he sold the school and has played blackjack professionally. He has appeared on many of the major talk shows throughout the United States. He had his own radio and tv shows for three years. He has also written a book on the playing of Blackjack entitled the Silver Fox Blackjack System “You Can Count On It“.  Ralph Stricker passed away in 2012

      It has been eighteen years (1978) since the first casino,  Resorts International, opened it’s doors to the public. It was the advent of casino gambling on the east coast and was awaited by many blackjack players as “heaven.”  The reason being, the rules promulgated by the NJ Casino Control Commission were the most favorable rules in the world. Due to a misinterpretation of the Surrender option, this made the game advantageous to the Basic Strategy player without card counting. Naturally the card counter now had access to the most powerful blackjack game in the world. This led many knowledgeable players such as Ken Uston to make Atlantic City his playground.

     The other favorable advantage was that the Casino Control Commission stated that card counters would be allowed to play and not be excluded (barred) from the casino. In my opinion this was due to the one lone Republican commission member Al Merck who fought to have these rules initiated.

    To prevent collusion between the dealer and the players, the commission ruled that the players could surrender their first two cards before the dealer looked at the “hole” card. The dealers had to consummate the exchange of money IMMEDIATELY and put the player’s (who surrendered) cards from the surrender hand in the discard tray.  This now made the surrender option “Early” surrender, as opposed to “Late” surrender. 

    Early surrender is worth .623% advantage to the basic strategy player and worth even more to the counter in high counts. Therefore the knowledgeable player had an advantage without counting. At that time Resorts was offering a 4 deck game which included Double after Splits, Double on any two cards.  The net result was a .46% advantage.

    It did not last long. In February of 1979 the casinos without informing the general public, were allowed by the Casino Control Commission to “bar” counters. We refer to this as “Black Sunday.”  The casino set up  a few tables with Double Deck being offered.  The counters flocked to these tables not being aware that the casino was filming and keeping track of people who frequented these games. They then swooped down and started barring players. Even innocent bystanders who were just watching were included.

    Since the opening of the first casino and subsequent casinos opening (12) the game has deteriorated to something to less than worth playing. The casinos since 1981 do not offer Early Surrender.  Some offer Late Surrender. They now have as many as 8 decks, the deck penetration (how deep the cut card is placed) is horrendous. Even though card counters are allowed to play and not be barred (since 1982) it cannot compare with Las Vegas. I believe that it will eventually come back to haunt them.

    Though Las Vegas (Nevada) still retains the right to “bar” and or exclude a knowledgeable player, the casinos are less paranoid than in Atlantic City. There is a greater variety of blackjack games to be found. Single deck is still being offered and many casinos also offer double deck games. Except for a few casinos that are overly paranoid, Las Vegas (Nevada) is a much better place for the knowledgeable blackjack player.

    It is hoped by many that the casinos will not destroy the game as it has in Atlantic City. There are enough unknowledgeable players (95% of all blackjack players) to keep the casinos from destroying the game.  

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