Category Archives: History

Five Key Lessons from Card Counting Masters

Do Your ResearchBy Alicia Davis

Those with a passing interest in blackjack have likely looked into card counting legends like Edward Thorp and Al Francesco. Most gaming enthusiasts know that blackjack offers the best odds to win against the house—but card counting is a surefire way to beat the dealer.

Even better, it’s not illegal. Though most casinos will track suspected counters and the skill doesn’t exactly translate to online play, that doesn’t stop pros and newcomers alike from checking out the ropes. But first, players have to learn the basics, like knowing when to split, when to double down, or when to take a break. 

But when it comes to card counting, knowing when to stay at a table is even more important—and it’s not always dependent on when the count is in or out of their favor. Similar to how sports bettors will cross-reference odds from a variety of sportsbooks, blackjack pros may also choose to remain loyal to one company in search of exclusive offers. 

For example, one FanDuel sportsbook review highlights the group’s same game parlay capabilities. Punters who bet with FanDuel will have more competitive offers on the table for their loyalty, which could lead to competitive bonuses on parlays or other bets, leading to much higher payouts.

Similarly, a card counter may choose to stick around at a table with a cold deck, looking for a larger payout in the future—or, in some cases, to avoid raising suspicion. In other words, the standard advice may not always apply to those diving into card counting.

Let’s take a look at five key lessons from history’s most successful card counters.

Al Francesco: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

There’s plenty for the average blackjack player to admire in pro Al Francesco. First of all, he wasn’t a natural-born mathematician. Instead, he spent hours and hours learning to count cards and battling headaches. 

Eventually, Francesco turned his hobby into a money-making endeavor in Reno and Tahoe using the Ten Count strategy. However, his biggest contribution to blackjack was forming card counting teams to alleviate the demands on a single counter. Francesco and his ever-shifting team brought home hundreds of thousands throughout the late 1960s and early 70s.

Edward Thorp: Stats > Emotion

So who did Al Francesco learn to count cards from? The original strategy came from Edward Thorp, regarded as the father of card counting, and his debut work Beat the Dealer (1962). Thorp was a mathematician who drew on his probability skills and applied them to blackjack.

Many consider Thorp to be the first true master of blackjack. Similar to his work in the financial sector, Thorp’s message for card counters is this: hard stats will yield reliable probabilities. The most successful players don’t rely on emotion or even experience but stick strictly to the numbers.

Build a team that’s skilled and trustworthy
Build a team that’s skilled and trustworthy!


Tommy Hyland: It Pays to Know the Rules

As mentioned above, card counting isn’t illegal—but that doesn’t mean casinos like or tolerate the practice. And it certainly doesn’t mean large companies losing hundreds of thousands to experienced card counters won’t attempt to hold them accountable.

Back in 1979, blackjack enthusiast Tommy Hyland formed his own card counting team. Over the years, over two hundred different players moonlighted as part of his team, and more than one attempt has been made at taking Hyland to court. However, no charges have ever stuck, as Hyland knows the rules related to card counting, signaling and more—and has never officially broken them.

Ken Uston: Know Who to Trust

As one of the most high-profile card counters in the world, Ken Uston is regarded for his high IQ and card counting precision. His skills landed him on Al Francesco’s card counting team but exposed the team’s secrets in a 1977 tell-all book, The Big Player

What’s the lesson to be learned from Uston? Don’t be overly trusting with team members and make sure everyone is incentivized to toe the line.

Peter A. Griffin: Keep it Basic

Similar to Uston, Peter A. Griffin is hailed for his intellect. But rather than card count himself, Griffin preferred to observe other counting teams and take notes. In fact, he never opted into blackjack but preferred to construct theories from the sidelines.

Griffin’s lesson is to keep it basic—both for the purpose of enjoying what you’re doing and to keep complex strategies as simple as possible. In the end, blackjack has only one goal: to beat the dealer!

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Blackjack Variants From Around the World

By Bruna Freire

Queen of Spades

History

Blackjack is but the latest popular variant in a long line of games that are typically referred to as Twenty-One, due to this being the best hand total a player can get in the game. The earliest existing reference to a direct ancestor of blackjack comes from Spain during the late renaissance period. Referred to as Ventiuno, literally Twenty-One, the game was played on a Castilian deck of 48 cards that took influence from Arabic decks that were then arriving in Europe along the silk road trade route. The game made its way across Europe, appearing in France, then Britain, under the French name Vingt-Un. 

Development

It was this version that crossed the Atlantic and took root in the United States, where it became known as Blackjack among prospectors of the Klondike gold rush. Over time, Blackjack became the most popular form worldwide. It is said that 75% of all table games played in Las Vegas casinos are blackjack. Around the world, you’ll find countless variations in play style and rule-sets for this classic parlour game.1)Editor note:  According to the University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research:  In 1985, 77% of casino games were blackjack. In 2019, just under 50% were. In 1985, the game accounted for over half of all table game revenues: in 2019, it accounted for 11% of table win.

Below are just a couple for you to explore.

Pontoon

Pontoon is a British card game that shares the same ancestry as Blackjack. It is believed that its novel name is in fact a corruption or mis-translation of the French word Vingt-Un. The game was taken up through co-mingling on the continent and quickly became a favored pastime of the British, who brought it back to their shores.

One clear difference you’ll notice is that a hand of five cards that do not bust is the second most valuable hand in the game, unlike in Blackjack. This is referred to as the Five Card Trick, and it’ll catch you out if you’re coming to Pontoon cold. Another core difference to get used to is the concealment of the dealer’s cards, which remain face down throughout. This affects your ability to strategize, as you’ll be working with less information. 

Siebzehn und Vier

This is a German relative of Blackjack that first began to take shape as a distinct game in the lands of Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire by the 1850s. The name translates as Seventeen and Four, hinting at its Twenty-One heritage.

This variant is traditionally played on German spielkarten, which features smaller decks numbering between 32 and 36 cards. Additionally, while the suit of hearts remains, diamonds, clubs and spades give way to leaves, acorns and bells. Siebzehn and Vier, like its French ancestor, also does not allow splitting the hand. This makes more a slower rate of play with less dynamism when compared to the variants below.

Spanish 21

Fast forward to the modern day, and Blackjack’s popularity has led to many new variants and subtle rule changes that affect the pace and nature of play. Among the most popular of these is Spanish 21, a licensed game more broadly based on older Twenty-One variants that developed in the Spanish speaking world.

One of the key distinctions in this variant is a side bet commonly referred to as Match the Dealer. In order to win this side bet, the player is required to match the dealer’s up card with one or both of the cards in their initial hand. If the player succeeds, they are entitled to a larger payout on completion of the hand.

Super Fun 21

Another well loved modern variant for you to try, this one’s DNA is that of true Blackjack. Super Fun 21 was patented as a distinct rule-set in the latter years of the 20th century.

What distinguishes it from other play styles is that Super Fun 21 forgoes the traditional payout of 3-to-2 in favor of 6-to-5. The player may also split a hand up to a maximum of 4 times and automatically secures a winning hand if they have six or more cards with a total of 20. This makes for a more flexible and dynamic play style in comparison to traditional blackjack and is a popular variant in modern casinos.

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1Editor note:  According to the University of Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research:  In 1985, 77% of casino games were blackjack. In 2019, just under 50% were. In 1985, the game accounted for over half of all table game revenues: in 2019, it accounted for 11% of table win.

How blackjack has changed throughout the years

Blackjack HistoryBy James Daniels

Blackjack is one of the most thrilling card games to play around the world. Many people love the simplicity of the game that still delivers a lot of tension as a card is flipped over. Here’s a look at how the much-loved game was first created and how it’s changed over the years.

What it looks like now

Before we look back at how it’s changed over the years, it’s important to look at how big a game blackjack has become. No longer do you need to gather around a group of friends to play at home. You merely need to load up the game on your laptop or phone and you can play against the computer. You don’t even have to visit a casino hall to be able to play for cash. Websites like SBOBET allow you to play a wide range of games, like blackjack, online for the same cash prizes as you’d expect to be winning in some of the biggest casino halls in the world.

The power of the internet has increased the popularity of this game massively. This is because you no longer have to seek out a game. Instead, even the most novice of players can enjoy a game thanks to the power of technology. There are many online games and software tools that will teach you step by step how to play and can advise you of all the possibilities of your next move, meaning you can learn how to become an expert gamer in no time. 

Where it started

Of course, when blackjack was first invented, things were a lot different to how they are today. Nobody is quite sure when the first game of blackjack was played. The first time it was widely recognized as a game was in France during the 1700s. It’s believed the game (which they called Vingt-et-Un) became so popular in France during this time that during the reign of King Louis XV many of the royal family enjoyed playing it as a way of unwinding from their duties. Other people believe that the first game of blackjack was actually played by the Romans. Instead of the traditional playing cards, it’s thought that the game was played with pieces of wood with different numbers painted on them. No matter which explanation you believe, it’s clear that the game we all know and love is probably over 300 years old.

How it developed

One of the surprising things about blackjack is that for many years it wasn’t actually called blackjack. Many people knew the game by a different name, 21, or a regional variation or translation of that same name. Instead the name was a result of a promotion that casino halls put on when the game came to America in the early 1900s.

Many halls would offer an extra prize if the player managed to make 21 by using either the jack of spades or the jack of clubs, i.e. the two black jacks in the pack. It’s believed that the nickname then stuck with the game until this present day.

Blackjacks pay 3 to 2

One of the biggest changes to today’s game is the unfortunate proliferation of games paying only 6 to 5.  Prior to 1999, all regular blackjack games paid a natural 21 (a ten valued card and an Ace) at 3 to 2 odds.  For more information on the history of blackjack be sure to check out BlackjackHistory.com.

About the author

James Daniels is a freelance writer, business enthusiast, a bit of a tech buff, and an overall geek. He is also an avid reader, who can while away hours reading and knowing about the latest gadgets and tech, whilst offering views and opinions on these topics.

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12 Legendary Blackjack Players

12 Legendary Blackjack PlayersBy Jonathan Roob

Blackjack, formerly called Black Jack and Vingt-Un, is an American member of a global family of banking games known as Twenty-One. It involves comparing cards between a player and a dealer. The goal of the player is to beat the dealer by obtaining a hand of 21 or less or allowing the dealer to bust over 21. Blackjack is considered the most widely played casino banking game globally.

The experts stated here below have all made an impact on the world through the game.

  1. Bryce Carlson
Bryce Carlson had always wanted to beat the casinos and for that reason, he began playing the game. He got better by smartly playing with other players that he met and developing a strong relationship with other experts.

Carlson wrote one of the best books on blackjack and titled it, Blackjack for Blood. He also developed a sophisticated blackjack and card counting computer program called the Omega II Blackjack Machine.

  1. Lance Humble
Lance Humble, aka Igor Kusyszyn, started as a teacher at York University in Toronto. His course was supposed to be about horse racing, but the students seemed more interested in learning about the games at casinos. So he started to do some research of his own.

Soon he became well versed in the game of blackjack and he was able to make a profit with his new skills. So he decided this game was for him and decided to continue to hone his skills. He wrote a book with Kenneth Cooper titled The Worlds Greatest Blackjack Book. He is most well known for his development of the Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II card counting systems.

  1. Arnold Snyder
Arnold Snyder is one of the best blackjack players in the world and an expert teacher in the field. He wrote several outstanding books that relate to the game of blackjack and published Blackjack Forum magazine for over 20 years.

Arnold also developed software called PowerSim Blackjack Card Counting Simulation Software that helped players learn all the basics of the game. It is available to players who need to learn how to play the game free of charge. A 2003 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Stanford Wong

Born in Georgia during World War II, Wong’s real name is John Ferguson. He always loved games and always tried to figure out a way to beat the games using different tactics. He was not interested in competing with other people until he had figured out the best way to win on his own first.

After turning 21, he went to Reno and kept making trips to other casinos playing blackjack professionally. Wong is best known for publishing the card counter’s resource Current Blackjack News and several excellent blackjack books. A 2003 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Ken Uston

Ken stumbled into the game accidentally. He was never interested in playing cards until the day he decided to make changes in his life.

One night after work, Ken met Al Francesco, who got him introduced to blackjack. Soon he tried out his skills in small games until he became an expert in Las Vegas. When he saw the amount of money he could gain playing this game, he quit his job and played full time. Uston and his teams won millions in Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. A 2003 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Keith Taft
Keith Taft is renowned for the first blackjack computer in 1972. He produced lots of electronic ways for players to beat the game. This included smaller calculating machines and cameras, used to see the dealer’s hole cards. At the time, these devices were used legally to beat the casinos through 1985.

Keith worked alongside Ken Uston in a team to test his devices. A 2004 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Edward O. Thorp
Edward Thorp is the author of the book Beat the Dealer and several blackjack card counting systems. His book is considered a classic and revealed for the first time that the game could be beaten. Most professional players have read his book and used his card counting system at some point.

Thorp is considered by many as the “inventor” of card counting. A 2003 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Lawrence Revere

Unlike most other players on the list, Revere began his run on the other side of the table. He started dealing cards at the age of 13 and he fell in love with gambling. Revere was a leading blackjack expert during the 1960’s and early 1970’s and wrote the classic book Playing Blackjack as a Business, which provided players with the first color blackjack basic strategy charts. For many years, this book has been the inspiration for many card counters to start a blackjack career.

He later began work at the casinos as a dealer before going on to be a pit boss and eventually owned a personal casino. A 2005 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Al Francesco
Al Francesco went by several aliases. Some people knew him as Frank Fisano, others knew him as Frank Salerno or Frank Schipani. Francesco made his mark in the world of blackjack as the “Godfather of Blackjack”.

He established the first profitable blackjack teams, thus pioneering the concept of blackjack team play. Players were grouped into different teams and they would gather their bankrolls together to play, and in time, he had developed several techniques like the “Big player” concept and “The Drop”.

Blackjack players adopted Francesco’s techniques and won lots of money in casinos with them. The most prominent was a team of MIT students. Francesco also mentored several big names in blackjack like Ken Uston and many others. Francesco was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2003, to commemorate his incredible talent and daring moves.

  1. Ian Andersen
Ian Andersen is a blackjack star. The renowned author is known for his all-time classic books Turning the Tables on Las Vegas and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. He has kept his real identity a secret from everyone and has remained anonymous to this day. Ian Andersen was an alias he adopted.

He wrote Turning the Tables on Las Vegas in 1976, and in the book he described several techniques to help card counters disguise their skills from casino bosses. In 1999, he published the sequel Burning the Tables in Las Vegas, in which he proposed a risky betting strategy called the The Ultimate Gambit, which helped card counters increase longevity at the tables. Andersen was a master at blackjack camouflage betting and behavior decisions. A 2012 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Tommy Hyland
Tommy Hyland is a professional blackjack card counter and player. He once stated that he began playing blackjack in 1976, after reading Lawrence Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as a Business.

He began playing blackjack in 1979, and shortly after that, playing and managing blackjack teams was his full-time job. Hyland started his career with an initial team of three other players where each team member put $4,000 into the team’s bankroll; which multiplied to $50,000 in a couple of months.

Thanks to “Early Surrender,” the new rule introduced by the Atlantic City casinos, gave experienced players like Hyland a significant edge. Soon after Hyland’s first-team collapsed, he formed another team, recruiting and training new players for his team.

Hyland turned out to be an excellent team manager. Sometimes his team had up to 30 members and he managed them as well as he managed a team of four players. Hyland’s team is still active today. A 2003 member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

  1. Don Johnson

Some people see Don Johnson (not the actor) as a genius while others say he is a demi-god. Well, they could be right as he has a rich resume that speaks for itself. He is a corporate executive, a professional gambler, and a blackjack player who doesn’t count cards.

He won Atlantic City casinos for over $15 million without card counting. He exploited loss rebates to gain an advantage over the casino. For his bold tactics to beat the game, he was inducted into Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2017.

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A Brief History of Blackjack & the Best Place to Play Online

AK of DiamondsBy Emma Woodshut

The history of blackjack is a bit fuzzy. But one thing that experts agree on is that it’s been around for a long time.

Most believe that blackjack started in French Casinos as long ago as the early 1700s. Vingt-et-un or twenty-one seems to be the original French name – obviously, the rules and game-play were slightly different, but it seems to be the closest relative, along with Pontoon. Other historical evidence points to Veintiuna was being played in Castile (Spain) at the very beginning of the 17th century, so 1600 … perhaps even the last couple of years of the 16th century as a short story by Don Quixote written way back in 1601 mentions the card game.

As the game developed over the years, it hit a fever-pitch in the 1930s when Vegas “opened” for business in 1931. Back then it was still called twenty-one in English and the Casino owners offered some pretty fantastic odds to entice players to sit at the tables. Enter the term blackjack. Certain casinos would give ten to one odds for pulling the Ace of Spades and either black Jack to land on 21. These exceptional odds didn’t last for very long, but the name stayed: Blackjack.

In the 1950s, blackjack became known as one of the few Casino games that with some practice and skill, could be nearly the same amount of advantage for the player as it does for the house. Card counting hit the scene. At the time, casinos were still running games with one deck. After Edward O. Thorp’s book, Beat the Dealer became a mainstream success in the early 1960s, the casinos had to figure out a way to combat the fairly easy systems invented to keep track of the cards left in the deck and remove the house’s edge. So, they simply added a deck. This made keeping track more difficult, but not difficult enough. So, they added two more decks and made most standard games, 4-deck blackjack. Using Thorp’s Ten-Count, instead of dealing with 16 tens and 36 non-tens in the single deck, card sharks had to deal with 64 tens and 144 non-tens in 4-decks. So, only the greatest minds could do it effectively. Nowadays, we have 8-deck games and casinos shuffle the shoe earlier to severely reduce the risk of effective counting and retain their edge.

In the early 1990s, we saw the first online blackjack and poker games. Then in 2006, we saw the advent of live online blackjack with live dealers. Back in the day, they would just throw a webcam over the table and what you got was a live dealer experience, but horrible resolution and a ton of lag. Nowadays, they do it all in a custom studio room, so you get a crystal clear image and an experience that is close to sitting at the actual table.

But where are the best blackjack sites?

When you review the best sportbooks, you find that they have a handful of different online blackjack games, including single-deck and double-deck games. They have high-quality live dealer tables – upwards of 36 at any given moment and most have $10 minimum and $500 max. But there are also $5 tables with $100 limits, $15 and $750, $25 tables with $1000 limits, and $100 tables with $2500 limits as well.


Bovada takes US players. It was previously difficult to find a reputable place to sit at an online table because of the taboo nature of online gambling in the United States. Now that the legalization of sports betting and games of skill and chance are getting favorable legislation and it’s becoming easier to play your favorite table game online. Depending on the state you are in, you may have more options than others.

For example, Oregon has moved to fully operational online gambling and sports betting, so there are plenty of options in such a state. Bovada, BetOnline, and Vegas Casino are all online options that are A-rated and trustworthy. You might be thinking that you can grab a game of blackjack at famous sites like PokerStars but unfortunately, traditional twenty-one has been removed from their product list.

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Blackjack in Montana ???

Bill would legalize blackjack in Montana, tax tables

FREDDY MONARES, University of Montana School of Journalism Published 4:33 p.m. MT March 15, 2017

HELENA — Rep. Wylie Galt, R-Martinsdale, said generating revenue for the state can be as simple as counting to 21, meaning, playing blackjack.  House Bill 578 would legalize the card game, for both tabletop and video play.  The bill also allocates a $500 tax on each blackjack table to the state’s Department of Justice and a state special revenue account — $100 going to the DOJ, and $400 to the account.  … CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

Some history of gambling in Montana can be found at the Montana Department of Justice site.  From their site:

The Montana Legislature has authorized limited legal gambling in Montana. Poker, keno, bingo, and video line gambling machines are legal with a maximum $2 bet and $800 payout. Legal live games include: raffles, bingo, keno, panguingue, poker and shake-a-day. Sports pools, fantasy sports leagues and sports tab games are also legal. These are non-banking games in which players bet against and settle with each other rather than betting against and settling with the house.

The legal age for gambling in Montana is 18, with the exception of raffles conducted by churches, schools, charitable and nonprofit organizations. Children under 18 years old may participate in these.  LINK

Historical Events and Quotes

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Every day that you visit the Blackjack Review Network web site you are greeted with a historical event and/or quote of the day. 

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Review our two databases:

… and tell me what you think.  Suggestions for new events and quotes are always welcome.  

Events should have an “exact” date (month, day, year) associated with them.  Also, if possible, tell me the source of this fact. Ideas include:

  • Births and deaths of notable figures
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