Tag Archives: Basic Strategy

BJRNET Launches the Encyclopedia of Blackjack

The Encyclopedia of Blackjack by Michael DaltonPRESS RELEASE:

The Blackjack Review Network, a website that provides information and resources for blackjack players, has announced the launch of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack, a free online edition of a 1000+ page book by Michael Dalton, which is the most comprehensive resource available anywhere for everything blackjack related.

The Encyclopedia of Blackjack covers topics such as rules, variations, odds, betting and basic strategies, counting systems and strategies, blackjack history, personalities, and more. It features over 2000 references and product reviews of blackjack books, reports, videos, and software.  It even has a historical publication index of some of the best blackjack publications.

The Encyclopedia of Blackjack is the result of over three decades of research and writing by Michael Dalton, a semi-professional blackjack player and the author/publisher of Blackjack Review magazine in the 1990s. Dalton has updated and expanded his original book, which was first published in 1991, to reflect the latest developments and innovations in the field of advantage blackjack and advantage gambling.1) The Encyclopedia of Blackjack by Michael DaltonThe Encyclopedia of Blackjack was originally titled Blackjack: A Professional Reference and underwent two name changes since 1991.

The Encyclopedia of Blackjack is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and it is constantly updated with new information and feedback from the readers. Dalton invites anyone who has a blackjack product or item that they want listed or reviewed to contact him and send their materials to his address.

The Blackjack Review Network aims to be the ultimate destination for blackjack enthusiasts, offering them a wealth of information and resources to help them improve their skills and enjoy the game. The Encyclopedia of Blackjack is a testament to Dalton’s dedication and passion for the game of blackjack.2)EDITOR NOTE: Ahhhhh… the age of artificial intelligence is here!  The majority (>90%) of the above press release was written by AI.  There were a few mistakes which I corrected, but in general, the ability to create content is amazing.  FYI: The image shown was created by AI and is not real!

Website: https://www.blackjackreview.com

IMAGE CREDIT: Created by AI (DALL-E 3) from copilot.microsoft.com

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1 The Encyclopedia of Blackjack by Michael DaltonThe Encyclopedia of Blackjack was originally titled Blackjack: A Professional Reference and underwent two name changes since 1991.
2EDITOR NOTE: Ahhhhh… the age of artificial intelligence is here!  The majority (>90%) of the above press release was written by AI.  There were a few mistakes which I corrected, but in general, the ability to create content is amazing.  FYI: The image shown was created by AI and is not real!

Blackjack Tips from the Silver Fox: Ralph Stricker

The Silver Fox: Ralph StrickerBy Ralph Stricker.

EDITOR NOTE: Here is a collection of blackjack tips of the week (circa 1996) from blackjack expert Ralph Stricker, otherwise known as the Silver Fox.  He was a former blackjack instructor and a well known card counter in the Northeast USA.  Arnold Snyder once commented that he was a “Master in camouflage betting” and Don Schlesinger has commented that “Ralph Stricker (was) a gentleman, a world class player, and truly our ‘elder statesman’ of the game today”.  The Silver Fox passed away in 2012, at the age of 81.  He is sorely missed. 1)Ralph Stricker was the author of The Silver Fox Blackjack System – consisting of a book and tapes.  This excellent product was reviewed in the Spring 1996 issue of Blackjack Review,  but is no longer available.  Please take into account that these tips were written in 1996, and may no longer be applicable.

  • When making bets for the dealer, don’t place the bet in front of your bet. Place it on top of your bet, so that if you win, he can not take the entire bet. He must pay you. You then give him “one” of the bets and you put the other on top of your bet again. You are reducing the amount of money bet for the dealer by half the amount. This saves you money.
     
  • If you are a counter, do not get in a game until you have a TC [True Count] of 1. You are then reducing your over-all negative hands by 20%.
     
  • If you are a card counter and are playing a shoe game — if you see the back card of the shoe and it is a 2,3,4,5,6,7  cut the shoe towards the front as thin as you can and you will “cut” that card out of play. Therefore your count would start at a +1 [Running Count] because that card never comes into play. If the back card is a 9,10,A  cut near the back of the shoe.  This will insure that these cards come into play. [9,10,A help the player] 
     
  • When playing basic strategy you should know that you are playing with a negative expectancy. Therefore, the less hands you get, the less money you are expected to lose. You should sit at crowded tables where you will get less hands per hour. Also, bet the least amount of money —  table minimum.   When you card count, reverse these playing scenarios.
     
  • If you are a small limit player and want to find one of the best games of blackjack offered go to any casino in Colorado, USA  They offer low limit games and offer the most favorable option in blackjack called EARLY SURRENDER. This adds .663% to the player’s expectancy, so that just by employing flat betting, you will have an advantage.2)Well, this was true in 1996.  Anyone care to update us on Colorado rules?
     
  • When you first sit at a table, do not ask to be rated until you have put up a bet bigger than your minimum. It will be that bet that you will be rated on. If you back count, and get in on a positive count, your bet should be higher than your minimum. You will now get a better comp.
     
  • The Las Vegas Hilton3)The Las Vegas Hilton became the Westgate Las Vegas in 2014. has (had) a fantastic game. The rules are (were) LS, DAS, double on any first two cards, and resplit 4 times. The other great feature is that the tables have (had) only 5 spots, consequently you do not get as many people playing. It is a marvelous game for the counter.
     
  • The Las Vegas Hilton has (had) a table for the handicapped that has (had) only 4 spots. It is a dream situation for a counter because there are less hands to “eat” up the cards.
     
  • Do not ever play a form of Blackjack known as Double Exposure. People think that they have an advantage because both dealer’s cards are “exposed.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The house takes the pushes (tie hands) and 7% of your hands in blackjack are pushes. You are adding 7% to your disadvantage, plus the house pays even money on blackjack, therefore adding to your disadvantage.
     
  • When you do not want to stand in line at one of the buffets, ask for a “line pass” at the table you are playing at. This will allow you to enter the preferred customer line, thereby avoiding having to stand in line.4)Here is another tip: Having an Mlife Mastercard automatically gives you Pearl status and a line pass to the buffet on MGM properties.
     
  • Resorts Hotel and Casino has (had) the best blackjack game in Atlantic City. The deck penetration in their 8 deck games is 80-85%. The 6 deck games in the “pit” are (were) also great. The rules are (were): Double after splits, split and resplit pairs including Aces. Double on any 2 cards.
     
  • When playing, always wear a cap or a hat that has some kind of a visor, e.g., a baseball cap. This will prevent the “eye in the sky” from getting a look at your face. Remember to wear different style and color caps/hats on successive nights.  Also, do not wear identifying jewelry.  Change watches, necklaces, etc. frequently.5)Of course, today casinos have facial recognition and other ways to identify you.
     
  • Casinos believe that card counters do not drink and play, therefore to have additional “cover” in the casino, put a little alcohol on your skin or beard. You will have a scent of alcohol, and the floor people will have less suspicion of you being a counter. You can also order a drink from the cocktail waitress and make believe that you are sipping it. Then go to the rest room and dump it, and fill the glass with water.
     
  • If you are ever ID’d (asked for identification) in a casino do not ever show any ID. The only ones having a right to ask for this, is Metro (Las Vegas) or the local police department. (Unless you are under age.)
     
  • Many people have stated that they “practice” at casino nights sponsored by local charities. Most of these affairs the rules consist of the House taking the “pushes.”  In blackjack 9% of all hands are pushes, therefore you are adding an additional 9% to your disadvantage. The place to practice is HOME.
     
  • Any time you have a multi-card (more than 2) total of 16 vs. the Dealer’s 10, you should stand as opposed to hitting. This is called “Composition Dependent” strategy.  Of course a card counting system would supersede this.
     
  • When playing single deck with Strip rules, there is a slight advantage off the top.6)Well, there used to be.  All single deck games today only pay 6 to 5 on blackjack. Assuming you are counting, you would bet 2 units off the top. If the count went up, you would raise your bet accordingly. If the count went down, you would go to another table where the dealer was shuffling up, and you would then repeat the scenario. You are now “Wonging” a single deck game.
     
  • I recommend Casino Verite as one of the finest simulators and practice programs.
      
  • In single deck we double down 4,4 and 5,3  against the dealer’s 5,6 if no double after splits is allowed.  Why not 6,2?  Answer:  Because when we have 5,3  or 4,4 — we have cards in our hands that help the dealer and he has less chance to make his hand. Conversely when we have 6,2 in our hand, all of the 5’s and 4’s are left in the deck and they help the dealer.
     
  • The Mirage and Treasure Island Casino (sister casino) are now exchanging information on known card counters previously identified at the respective casinos. Until July 1996 neither casino exchanged information.7)Yes, it appears that the modern world began in 1996, where many casinos started sharing information.
     
  • If you are planning to play the “Graveyard Shift”  do not look wide awake. Appear as if you have been up all night. No one gets up in the wee small hours of the morning to play blackjack except a card counter or insomniac.
     
  • Do not “open” a table where the cards are already in the shoe. The dealer could have put them in the shoe in a way as to favor the house.  Always make sure the cards are laid out on the table before starting at that table.
     
  • When “back counting” a table, do not stand too long at any one table. If  the running count goes to minus five or more, go to another table. You should never “circle” a pit more than twice in any one hour. This avoids you getting attention from the pit and possibly “making” you as a counter.
     
  • Until you become confident of your counting. It is advisable to sit in the middle position of the table. This enables you to see cards on the left and right of you without “straining.” You are less obtrusive to the “pit.”
     
  • In order to help avoid the floor people from detecting your betting:  If you are betting $50.00 for example at a small minimum table, put the green chip on the bottom and red chips on top. “Tilt” the red chips slightly  towards the dealer.  BE SURE that when you get paid that the dealer pays you the correct amount. You can use this formula for any table amount.8)I’ve tried this several times and it has worked, however, a good dealer will often catch it and straighten your chips up.

Copyright © 1997 – 2023 All Rights Reserved
Originally published in the Winter 1997 issue of Blackjack Review Magazine

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1Ralph Stricker was the author of The Silver Fox Blackjack System – consisting of a book and tapes.  This excellent product was reviewed in the Spring 1996 issue of Blackjack Review,  but is no longer available.  Please take into account that these tips were written in 1996, and may no longer be applicable.
2Well, this was true in 1996.  Anyone care to update us on Colorado rules?
3The Las Vegas Hilton became the Westgate Las Vegas in 2014.
4Here is another tip: Having an Mlife Mastercard automatically gives you Pearl status and a line pass to the buffet on MGM properties.
5Of course, today casinos have facial recognition and other ways to identify you.
6Well, there used to be.  All single deck games today only pay 6 to 5 on blackjack.
7Yes, it appears that the modern world began in 1996, where many casinos started sharing information.
8I’ve tried this several times and it has worked, however, a good dealer will often catch it and straighten your chips up.

The Best Blackjack Books of All Time

By Michael Dalton

There are many good books1)Of course, there are many bad blackjack books as well. Check out my blackjack book collection. that have been written about the game of blackjack. Here are my personal favorites for the best blackjack books of all time. These books have stood the test of time and provide outstanding advice on how to improve your blackjack skills. As a collection, these books cover everything you need to be successful at beating the casinos. Books are listed in order of the year they were first published. If you buy any of these books, be sure you get the latest edition. 2) Michael Dalton is author of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and editor/publisher of the Blackjack Review Network. Looking for other good blackjack books? Check out the product review section of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and the online book catalog on this site.

Beat the Dealer by Edward ThorpBlackjack Hall of FameEdward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer (First published 1962)

Why? This is the classic that changed the way we all view the game of twenty-one. This book presents, for the first time, a validated winning strategy (a ten-count) based on the results of computer simulation. The 1966 version has a practical point count (Hi-Lo) that was later revised by Julian Braun. Is this required reading for the aspiring card counter?  Probably not…. but if you are a history buff, it is a must read. Edward Thorp.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Edward O. Thorp: Beat the Dealer ]

Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Revere Blackjack Hall of FameLawrence Revere’s Playing Blackjack as a Business (First published 1969)

Why? The classic text that many early card counters were taught by including myself. Contained nice color charts that made it easier to memorize basic strategy. Included four counting systems developed by Lawrence Revere with computer simulation data from Julian Braun.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Playing Blackjack As A Business ]

Professional Blackjack by Stanford WongBlackjack Hall of FameStanford Wong’s Professional Blackjack (First published 1975)

Why? The best book to learn the very popular Hi-Lo card counting system. Be sure to get the 2011 (or later) version for updates and corrections to the count variation charts.  The Hi-Lo count is the most recommended count of all time. Stanford Wong.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Professional Blackjack ]

Theory of Blackjack by Peter GriffinPeter Griffin’s The Theory of Blackjack (First published 1979)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This book is considered the bible on the mathematics of blackjack. Probably not required reading unless you are really interested in math.  None the less, this book included ground breaking information on the game including the most complete basic strategy ever published. Peter Griffin.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: The Theory of Blackjack ]

 

World's Greatest Blackjack Book by Lance HumbleLance Humble & Carl Cooper’s The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book (First published 1980)

Why? Introduces the very popular Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II card counting systems.  The Hi-Opt counts did not assign a value to the Ace, thus requiring that they be side-counted. Lance Humble and Carl Cooper.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: The World Greatest Blackjack Book ]

Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken UstonKen Uston’s Million Dollar Blackjack (First published 1981)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? At the time, this was one of the most complete books on advantage play blackjack ever published. Discussed everything from card counting to team play. Included the Uston Simple Plus/Minus, Uston Advanced Plus/Minus and Uston Advanced Point Count systems. Also, chapters on the art of single- and multiple-deck play, team methods, front-loading, spooking, cheating, getting barred and tournament blackjack. Ken Uston.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Million Dollar Blackjack ]

Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold SnyderArnold Snyder’s Blackbelt in Blackjack (First published 1983)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? Introduced the easier unbalanced Red Seven count and the two-level Zen count. Topics included depth charging, money management, the true count, camouflage techniques, toking guidelines, hole card play, cheating, team play and the effect of table conditions. Written by the editor/publisher of the outstanding card counters resource, Blackjack Forum magazine. Arnold Snyder.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackbelt in Blackjack : Playing 21 as a Martial Art ]

Blackjack For Blood by Bryce Carlson Bryce Carlson’s Blackjack For Blood (First published 1992)

Why? The best part of this book is Bryce Carlson’s insight into what I call the art of twenty-one. Introduced the advanced ace neutral two-level Omega II count.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackjack for Blood ]

Knock-Out Blackjack by Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuch Olaf Vancura & Ken Fuchs’ Knock-Out Blackjack (First published 1996)

Why? Introduced the very popular K-O unbalanced card counting system. This count ranks as one of the top single-level counts available to players today. The K-O card counting system eliminates the mountain of mental arithmetic necessary to win at blackjack. Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Knock-Out Blackjack ]

Blackjack Attack by Don Schlesinger Don Schlesinger’s Blackjack Attack (First published 1997)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? The ultimate blackjack reference book for professional players. Covered topics such as back-counting the shoe game, betting techniques and win rates, evaluating new rules and bonuses, statistical insights, the “Illustrious 18”, the “Floating Advantage”, team play, camouflage, risk of ruin, and more. Don Schlesinger.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros’ Way ]

Burning the Tables in Las VegasIan Andersen’s Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (First published 1999)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This was the long awaited sequel to one of the best-selling blackjack books ever written, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas. Included powerful camouflage strategies to avoid detection by casino staff while card counting. Ian Andersen.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Burning the Tables in Las Vegas ]

Blackjack BluePrint by Rick BlaineRick Blaine’s Blackjack BluePrint (First published 2006)

Why? Think of this book as everything you need to know about team play that Ken Uston never told you. Anyone even considering joining a team must own this book. Revised and updated in 2014. Rick Blaine.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackjack Blueprint: How to Play Like a Pro … Part-Time ]

 

Modern Blackjack by Norm WattenbergerNorm Wattenberger’s Modern Blackjack (First published 2009)

Why? This two-volume book is massive. It was written by the author of the outstanding Casino Verite suite of blackjack software which he used to provide highly detailed information and analyses of every aspect of the game. Norm Wattenberger.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Modern Blackjack Second Edition Volume I ]
[ BUY ON AMAZON: Modern Blackjack Second Edition Volume II ]

Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved
Michael Dalton / Blackjack Review Network

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1Of course, there are many bad blackjack books as well. Check out my blackjack book collection.
2 Michael Dalton is author of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and editor/publisher of the Blackjack Review Network. Looking for other good blackjack books? Check out the product review section of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and the online book catalog on this site.

What is correct basic strategy for blackjack?

By Michael Dalton

Example Basic Strategy ChartThere is only one correct basic strategy for blackjack given a set of established rules. However, since all casinos don’t offer the same rules the basic strategy can be slightly different from game to game. Also, the number of decks used affects the basic strategy slightly. Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack and Stanford Wong’s Basic Blackjack are the player’s best resources for the “correct” basic strategy for any number of decks and rules. Basic strategy charts can also be found in Michael Dalton’s online book The Encyclopedia of Blackjack (Twenty-One)

The example card shown on the right reflects a correct basic strategy for multi-deck blackjack games with double after splits not allowed and dealer stands on soft 17.

CORRECT BASIC STRATEGY 1)This is a generic multi-deck basic strategy where the dealer stands on soft-17 and double after splits is allowed.  Refer to full charts in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack for all rule variations and fine points for single, double and multi-deck games.  When trying to make a decision, first decide if surrendering is an option, then whether to split or double and finally whether you should hit or stand.

SURRENDER

Surrender hard 16 (but not 88 pair) vs dealer 9, 10 or Ace.
Surrender hard 15 vs dealer 10.

SPLIT

Always split Aces and 8s.
Never split 10s and 5s.
Split 2s and 3s vs dealer 4-7.
Split 4s vs dealer 5-6.
Split 6s vs dealer 2-6.
Split 7s vs dealer 2-7.
Split 9s vs dealer 2-6 and 8-9.

DOUBLE DOWN

Double hard 9 vs dealer 3-6.
Double hard 10 vs dealer 2-9.
Double hard 11 vs dealer 2-10.
Double soft 13 or 14 vs dealer 5-6.
Double soft 15 or 16 vs dealer 4-6.
Double soft 17 or 18 vs dealer 3-6.

HIT OR STAND

Stand on hard 12 vs dealer 4-6.
Stand on hard 13-16 vs dealer 2-6.
Stand on hard 17 or more.
Stand on soft 19 (A8) or more.
Hit hard 11 or less.
Hit soft 17 (A6) or less.
Hit soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 9, 10 and Ace.

IF DEALER HITS SOFT 17

Surrender 15, 88 and 17 vs dealer Ace.
Double 11 vs dealer Ace.
Double soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 2.
Double soft 19 (A8) vs dealer 6.

The correct basic strategy is a proven winning system for the game of twenty-one. It is a strategy which maximizes the player’s expectation given only knowledge of the player’s hand and the dealer’s up-card. In the good old days when single deck was plentiful and rules were great basic strategy could actually give the player a small advantage. Today, casino managers are aware of the power of basic strategy and generally do not offer games that can be beaten off the top of the deck. However, players should keep their eyes open for promotional games which do surface from time to time!

Basic strategy is powerful! All card counters must master it before moving on to the fine art of card counting. Basic strategy is not difficult! A person with average intelligence can memorize it in just a few hours. Basic strategy is the way to play! Every time you make a play on a hunch or intuition and ignore the “correct” basic strategy play you increase the casino advantage against you.

For example, a pit boss witnessing a player standing on an A-7 versus a ten valued dealer up-card would generally consider this player a novice or an idiot. If you stand on this hand you will win it about 41% of the time. If you hit the hand you increase your chances to 43%. Why would anyone not hit this hand? You can’t bust (at least not initially) and you stand a good chance of improving it. But every time I play this game I witness players standing on A-7 vs 10 with the hope that the dealer doesn’t have a nine or ten in the hole. Don’t be an idiot! Trust in basic strategy and play it perfectly. Your bankroll will thank you for it.

For more information read Michael Dalton’s complete article on “Basic Strategy” in the Summer 1995 issue of Blackjack Review magazine.

For more information on the correct basic strategy and complete charts for blackjack, check out the basic strategy section in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack (Twenty-One). Also, check out the basic strategy app at the bottom of this page.

 

Copyright © 1994 – 2018 All Rights Reserved
FAQ 3: Originally published in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Blackjack Review Magazine

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1This is a generic multi-deck basic strategy where the dealer stands on soft-17 and double after splits is allowed.  Refer to full charts in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack for all rule variations and fine points for single, double and multi-deck games.  When trying to make a decision, first decide if surrendering is an option, then whether to split or double and finally whether you should hit or stand.

Blackjack Basic Strategy – Is It Important?

From Bill Zender’s email discussing his upcoming activities and events.

July 5, 2017

Dear Friends and Business Associates,

I hope everyone is doing well.  First off, I want to give the University of Nevada Reno’s Extended Studies course in Casino Management a recommendation, especially the Table Game Management course that is scheduled to be held in Reno Nevada September 18th thru 21st.   Earlier this spring the course was pushed back to September because it lacked participants.  I’ve been involved with this University of Nevada program for the past fourteen years, and I feel that it is the best casino management program in the country, if not the world.  The week session in which I will be participating, features two other individuals involved in that week’s presentation whom I believe do an outstanding job. 

On Monday, September 18th, Bob Ellsworth presents a session regarding the overview of casino table games.  Bob Ellsworth shows the students all aspects of table games and procedures that the gaming professional needs to understand in order to operate an efficient table game operation.  On day 2, September 19th, Bob Del Rossi presents an outstanding session on table game protection.  He covers all the common methods used to attack table games, and drills down into the different “indicators” that table game and surveillance personal need to identify in order to catch and stop both legal and illegal intrusions.  On September 20th and 21st, I conduct my presentations on table game mathematics and methods for better managing table games (see descriptions of those session below).  As you can see, the four days of table game training are quite invaluable to the novice table games and surveillance executives, as well as the more experienced individuals looking for ways to improve their operations.

Second, I want everyone to know that you have a rare opportunity in August and September in which I have plenty of weeks open to conduct work.  If you are considering in-house training sessions on game protection, or areas table game management, please contact me.  Right now I have about six weeks open this late summer.  It’s also a golden opportunity to have me come to your property to conduct a table game operation evaluation.  I have conducted a number of these evaluations over the past several years for several casinos throughout North America.  If you want to know how to better position your table games to be safer, and at the same time create opportunities for greater revenue potential, please let me know.

Remember, I always have time to conduct “winning” player evaluations.  Just recently I conducted an evaluation on some high limit Pai Gow tiles play that indicated that the players involved were passing along hand information in order to determine the dealer’s hand.  Sometimes it a good thing to get a second opinion.

Blackjack Basic Strategy
Blackjack Basic Strategy: Is it Important? 

During a casual discussion with a table games manager in a Northwestern casino, he asked me how important it is for the floor supervisor to know basic strategy.  His contention was that since most ratings systems in blackjack don’t require a player skill evaluation, he didn’t understand why the floor supervisors should learn basic strategy and be tested on that knowledge.  He also related that his casino had recently given all floor supervisors and pit executives a basic strategy test, and the result was dismal at best.  He also experienced a lot of negative feedback from his staff regarding being tested in the first place.  Is knowledge of the “exact” plays regarding basic strategy really that important?

Based on my 40 years of experience in blackjack as dealer, floor supervisor, casino executive, professional level advantage player, and a game protection expert, the answer is YES!  The foundation of the game of blackjack is anchored around the customer’s ability to make hand decisions accurately.  Without knowing how the customer should play each and every hand decision, the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance operator will not be able to determine a customer’s level of blackjack skill.  Subsequently, they will be unable to detect most situations of advantage play and cheating. 

Experienced blackjack customers use two different types of strategy to play their hands; (1) basic strategy, the computer calculated best hand strategy based on the player’s two-cards (or sometimes more) and the dealer’s up-card, and (2) common strategy, the more popular strategy derived from some understanding of basic strategy and table observation of other players.  I will go out on a limb and suggest that approximately 90-95% of all blackjack players use common strategy when deciding how to play their hands, and only a small percentage of players (1-2%) use perfect basic strategy.  What the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance professional need to be able to do is identify which strategy style each blackjack player uses.  Customers who use a common strategy are normally no threat to the casino while basic strategy players know more about the game than the casual blackjack player, and may extend their knowledge further into areas of advantage play, and possibly cheating.

Following is a link to a blackjack strategy examination I have created.  The purpose of this examination is to determine whether your table game or surveillance employees can spot the difference between a non-threating blackjack customer who uses a common strategy, or that of a potential threating customer who follows basic strategy.  The link to the blackjack strategy examination and answer sheet are as follows:  Blackjack Strategy Examination.1)Bill Zender’s Blackjack Strategy Examination appears to be no longer available.  It was previously at http://billzender.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1a57e68a82b308dad579ff3af&id=b117a76687&e=dffc884c7f .  Please feel free to download and use this blackjack strategy examination at your property.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Note: A professional level card counter will use basic strategy 4 out of 5 hands while deviating that one hand out of five based on the count.  Advantage players will also use perfect basic strategy, however APs obtaining the dealer’s hole-card may use neither basic nor common, but exhibit hand strategies based on advanced knowledge of the hole-card.  Cheaters will use basic strategy up until the point where their cheating technique require them to do otherwise.  The cheater uses basic strategy to give back the minimum amount of money to the casino until they can apply their illicit trade.

Why we can't beat this guy
Why can’t we beat this guy!!!

Here is an email correspondence that needs to be passed along to everyone on my email list.  I received this email from a casino executive regarding a winning higher limit player in blackjack.  For a consultant like myself, this type of email is very common.  A higher limit customer is winning a large amount of money, and upper management does not understand why anyone could be beating the house, especially if the house losing streak has continued through several of the customer’s visits.  The executive’s question and my answer to his situation are as follows.

Question:
I believe I know the answer to this but it would be great to hear it from the expert.  Assuming we can rule out collusion, card marking, card counting, and shuffle tracking.  Can a player with a large bankroll overcome the HA by only attempting to win a small amount.  
 
We are under new ownership and I would like to give the new ownership some piece of mind other than “it’ll come around”.  We have a handful of regular, well known, lifetime losers with that play style.  They will win 20K several days in a row and historically will blow 200-300K when they lose.  We are playing unlucky in 2016 with our top 3 players and the questions are coming in.  There hasn’t been any rule or procedural change.   I look forward to hearing from you.
 
My answer:
Don’t think for a moment you are the only Table Games Director with this problem.  I guess the basic answer is that some players win for periods of time, and that’s why it’s called “gambling”.  There will always be an “element of uncertainty” in the business.  Statistically, within 10,000 hand decisions in a game like blackjack, 16% of all players will be below -1 standard deviation.  This usually means those players are beating the casino, and doing so while still playing against the casino’s natural mathematical edge.  Taking the normal distribution curve further, 2-3% of your players will be winning below even the -2 standard deviation point.  If you have 100 higher limit players, based on statistics, two or three of those players will be big winners.
 
What I usually suggest in this situation is that you use two primary strategies; first, conduct an evaluation of all possible and logical ways of gaining a player’s edge over the game in question.  In blackjack that would be card counting, hole-carding, location play, marked cards, collusion, etc.
Put together a concise report to present to upper management with your findings that nothing can be detected.
 
Second, go back historically and build a profile of the player or similar past players to show that the games will “turn around” eventually.  Be sure to point out periods when a player has lost back a lot of his winnings.  Players who gamble with an advantage or down right cheat, do not gamble back a large percentage of their past wins.  I would use periods of loss-back of 50% of previous winnings or better as strong evidence the player is a desirable gambler and not playing with an advantage.
 
Another course of action could be the need to “educate” non-table games executive in the games and the slime mathematical edge of the games.  Right now with your region’s BJ rules the average high limit BJ player is subject to a mathematical house advantage of 0.3% to 1.0% depending on how good or poorly he makes hand strategy decisions (baccarat is around 1.2%).  In comparison with slot machines, the average slot machine “floor PAR” in your region is about 10-12%.
 
Statistically speaking, the average 1% H/A% player could be winning at maximum risk after about 8,000 hands while the guaranteed win point is around 40,000 hand decisions.  If the BJ player was a good hand strategy player and drove the expected H/A% down to 0.5%, the maximum risk and guaranteed win point could be as much as 16,000 hands and 80,000 hands respectively.
 
There’s my two cents on the topic.  If you want me to conduct a player evaluation, let me know, and if you need me to conduct a table game evaluation at your casino, feel free to contact me so we can set something up.  Take care and good luck with your situation.
 
Seminars and Workshop

I am still considering conducting a seminars on the cost of casino promotions along with a section on Dead Chip/Rolling Chip programs somewhere in the USA, preferably in Las Vegas.  I’m also looking to conduct another Optimal Baccarat Seminar somewhere in the East or Midwest.  Please watch for future eBlast to find out what seminars, dates, and locations will be offered.

University of Nevada Reno Extended Studies: Table Game Management – September 18th thru 21st, 2017 – Reno Nevada

I always enjoy presenting at the UNR Extended Studies Gaming program regarding table games management.  The students are from different gaming regions throughout North American, and occasionally, from around the world. I will be covering the topics of Casino Mathematics and Table Game Management on September 20th and 21st.  Following are the topics covered during my portion of the four-day program:
 

  • Hold-percentage analysis as a management tool
  • Game probability and profitability factors
  • Game selection, location, mix and pricing
  • Marketing strategies and customer development
  • Customer service strategies and applications
  • Maximizing department profitability and efficiency
  • Casino database management for table games

As I mentioned previously, these are the days I will be presenting; however, to attend you need to sign up for the entire week’s program.  I truly believe that price and time spent in this University of Nevada Extended Studies program is well worth it.
See the Gaming Management Series overview for a full schedule of upcoming courses.  Email gaming@unr.edu, call 1-800-233-8928 or visit the website for information about gaming management education from the University of Nevada, Reno.

On the Move
Summer is a slower time for me so if you are looking for a game protection or table game management seminar, or need your table games evaluated, this is the perfect time to contact me.  Right now all my available time slots in July are filled, but my schedule is wide open for August and September.  If you have any questions, let me know wzender@aol.com
 
July
South Dakota
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Northern California
 
August
Open
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Open
Open
 
September
Open
Open
University of Nevada Reno
Open
 
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
 
Questions???
 
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate in contacting me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen email on gaming every day wzender@aol.com

Cheers and good luck.
 
Bill Zender
Bill Zender and Associates
702-423-5734

chips

 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1Bill Zender’s Blackjack Strategy Examination appears to be no longer available.  It was previously at http://billzender.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1a57e68a82b308dad579ff3af&id=b117a76687&e=dffc884c7f .

Are single-deck games better than multi-deck games?

By Michael Dalton

WARNING: This article assumes blackjacks pay 3 to 2.  Most, if not all, single deck blackjack games currently offered pay only 6 to 5 on a natural.  This makes the game unplayable.   For more information check the Numbers of 21 section.

The Theory of Blackjack by Peter GriffinYes… and no! A multi-deck game has an inherent 0.5% – 0.6% 1) According to Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack, the player’s basic strategy expectations in a standard Las Vegas Strip rule game are as follows: 1 deck = +.02%, 4 deck = -.48% and an infinite number of decks = -.65%.  disadvantage over a single deck game with the same rules. Much of this difference is due to the effect of removal of cards (i.e., removing one card in single deck has a big effect, whereas its removal in a shoe game is negligible). On the other hand, it is much easier to find good rules and conditions in shoe games. The bottom line is that although single- and double-deck games are inherently better than shoe games they are also easier to manipulate in the casino’s behalf.

Almost half of the 0.5% difference mentioned above is due to the reduced favor-ability of doubling down in more than one deck. Additional decks, however, make busts less likely, since you can draw to hands like 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2 (for 18) which are impossible in single and double deck. Busting less often helps the dealer’s hand more than yours, since the dealer is forced by the rigid rules to hit more often than you. Blackjacks are also less frequent, which is bad since you get paid 3 to 2 for those. The 0.5% cost to the basic strategy player is more than all but the very best package of favorable extra rules will give you. 2) This paragraph summarizes part of Michael Hall’s explanation on the subject found in rec.gambling’s FAQ file available at BlackjackReview.com.

Many of today’s card-counters have avoided the single-deck game. Although beatable single-deckers may still exist in the world it is hard to find games that will tolerate heavy action (i.e., bets of several hundred dollars and up) for very long. Low stakes players, however, can often find good games in places such as Reno and Las Vegas but players have to be careful and understand what a beatable single deck game is! Single deck penetration is directly related to the number of other players in the game and the rounds being dealt.3) See the Winter 1996 issue of Blackjack Review, page 7 for a chart outlining the minimum requirements for beating the single deck game.  Also, it is much easier for the dealer to cheat in a hand dealt game.

Beatable two deck games can be a lot easier to find. Casinos are usually not as paranoid about the double decker and you will often find yourself in a position to get money on the table without being shuffled up on.

“I will take a good cut and lousy rules any day!”

Of course, the shoe game can be found everywhere and given the right conditions these games can be beat as well. Many of the shoe games are better suited for team play and some can even be beaten with shuffle tracking.

The most important criteria to beating any game are the penetration level and rules, however, I will take a good cut and lousy rules any day! Each of these games must be approached differently and they require unique skills if you want to have any chance of bringing home the money.


Yes, the player probably should have hit that A7
 

Copyright © 1994 – 2023 All Rights Reserved
FAQ 7: Originally published in Volume 5 Issue 4 of Blackjack Review Magazine

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1 According to Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack, the player’s basic strategy expectations in a standard Las Vegas Strip rule game are as follows: 1 deck = +.02%, 4 deck = -.48% and an infinite number of decks = -.65%. 
2 This paragraph summarizes part of Michael Hall’s explanation on the subject found in rec.gambling’s FAQ file available at BlackjackReview.com.
3 See the Winter 1996 issue of Blackjack Review, page 7 for a chart outlining the minimum requirements for beating the single deck game. 

What is the worst play in blackjack?

By Michael Dalton

Ignoring abnormal plays such as hitting a 19 or 20 or standing on Ace-Ace, the worst play, expectation wise, is standing on 8,8 versus 7, rather than splitting them! You will lose about 70 cents on the dollar each time you make this play. If you stick to basic strategy you won’t have to worry about questions like this!

David Sklansky presented a short chapter on this very subject in his book Getting the Best of It 1)Getting the Best of It is an outstanding expose on the mathematics of gambling, general gambling concepts, sports and horse betting, poker, blackjack, and the other casino games. It is highly recommended. Sklansky writes, “Picking the worst play is not just a trivial exercise. This is because in order to reach the right answer it is necessary that one understand the underlying concepts used in determining the correct basic strategy. These concepts really all come down to one thing: mathematical expectation.

In my book Blackjack: A Professional Reference, I define the term “expectation” to mean the amount (expressed in dollars or percent) that a player should win (or lose) based on the player’s statistical advantage (disadvantage). If you flip a coin and bet $100 on heads your expectation is exactly zero dollars. This is because you have an even (50%) chance of winning each bet. In the long run your expectation is to break even. If the coin was rigged to positively come up heads once every 100 flips your expectation would now be $1 (or 1%) each time the coin was tossed.

“…you have the wonderful appendices to the latest edition of Wong’s Professional Blackjack, in which every expectation is catalogued. For me, this has become the definitive source for this kind of study.”

One easy way to figure out how much of a mistake you would be making by deviating from basic strategy is to use Stanford Wong’s Blackjack Count Analyzer (BJCA) software. All you have to do is set up the game rules, turn basic strategy on and enter the game simulator. The software allows you to set up any hand you want. All you have to do is play the hand differently from basic strategy and you will be alerted that you have made a mistake along with the severity (in percent). In the example given above (8,8 vs 7) BJCA reports a 66.2% error in single deck and 64.4% error in multideck.

But what about plays that are very close? Could these plays be used for camouflage by an experienced card counter? The answer is, of course, yes. A good source for this information (at the time) was in Bill Brown’s 190,000,000 Hands of Blackjack2) After originally writing this article for Blackjack Review Magazine, renowned expert Don Schlesinger, author of Blackjack Attack, questioned my choice of Bill Brown’s book as a source of information. Schlesinger commented, “I was a bit surprised to see you quote, of all people, Bill Brown’s 190 Million Hands of Blackjack as a source for your 8,8 v. 7 study. There are so many other places you might have gone. The first person to print this kind of comparison was Braun, in his How to Play Winning Blackjack. Next, you have the wonderful appendices to the latest edition of Wong’s Professional Blackjack, in which every expectation is catalogued. For me, this has become the definitive source for this kind of study. Finally, I hope you haven’t forgotten my ‘Basic Strategy Camouflage: How ‘Dumb‘ Can You Afford to Appear’ article in the September 1993 Blackjack Forum. Ironically, on page 13, you will find a detailed analysis of the exact play you were discussing. But I consider splitting versus the next logical choice of hitting, not standing. Yours is somewhat of a “reach,” in that you compare the optimal play to the *third* best choice, instead of the usual second.” I commented as follows: You are right, Stanford Wong’s appendix in Professional Blackjack is a much better source for determining camouflage plays. which was published in 1990. Brown ran simulations on just about every hand possibility and reports the difference if you deviate from basic strategy. The only problem with the book is that the resulting percentages are not always accurate due to the limited number of trials for each hand possibility. But the close plays do stand out! Here’s an example: 16 vs 10. Always hitting this hand resulted in a -78131 loss versus a loss of -78755 for standing. The difference was +624 by following basic strategy or put another way, standing on 16 vs 10 is about a 0.8% error. As a comparison, BJCA reports an error of 0.2%. It doesn’t matter what the exact number is. All we are interested in is that the play is not a gross error (i.e., greater than 5% or so).

An interesting camouflage play in multideck might be to hit a 12 versus a dealer 4 when the count is neutral and you have a medium sized bet on the table. Both BJCA and Brown suggest this is less than a 1% error. Of course, if the count was negative you would be hitting this hand anyway but your bet would most likely be minimum.

Just remember, anything can happen in the short run. If you make too many errors you will assuredly go broke. Likewise, card counters who use too many camouflage plays run the risk of giving up their edge entirely!

Copyright © 1994 – 2020 All Rights Reserved
FAQ 6: Originally published in Volume 5 Issue 3 of Blackjack Review Magazine

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1Getting the Best of It is an outstanding expose on the mathematics of gambling, general gambling concepts, sports and horse betting, poker, blackjack, and the other casino games. It is highly recommended.
2 After originally writing this article for Blackjack Review Magazine, renowned expert Don Schlesinger, author of Blackjack Attack, questioned my choice of Bill Brown’s book as a source of information. Schlesinger commented, “I was a bit surprised to see you quote, of all people, Bill Brown’s 190 Million Hands of Blackjack as a source for your 8,8 v. 7 study. There are so many other places you might have gone. The first person to print this kind of comparison was Braun, in his How to Play Winning Blackjack. Next, you have the wonderful appendices to the latest edition of Wong’s Professional Blackjack, in which every expectation is catalogued. For me, this has become the definitive source for this kind of study. Finally, I hope you haven’t forgotten my ‘Basic Strategy Camouflage: How ‘Dumb‘ Can You Afford to Appear’ article in the September 1993 Blackjack Forum. Ironically, on page 13, you will find a detailed analysis of the exact play you were discussing. But I consider splitting versus the next logical choice of hitting, not standing. Yours is somewhat of a “reach,” in that you compare the optimal play to the *third* best choice, instead of the usual second.” I commented as follows: You are right, Stanford Wong’s appendix in Professional Blackjack is a much better source for determining camouflage plays.