There are many good books 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. 1)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.
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.
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 Revere with computer simulation data from Julian Braun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why? This two-volume book is massive. It was written by the author of the outstandingCasino Verite suite of blackjack software which he used to provide highly detailed information and analyses of every aspect of the game.
Blackjack is as much a game of skill as it is of chance, and this is one of the reasons why it has consistently remained so popular. From measuring your bet to calculating the odds and far more, the elements which make up a good strategy are wide and varied.
In this article, we want to look at how you as a player might balance all of the available factors so you can maximize the daily expected value you can get from the game. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be well on your way to a better gaming experience.
Before we can even think about helping you pursue the best value, we first need to be able to define exactly what, in your mind, counts the most. For some players, value is all about being able to place a wide range of bets, from small bets to huge investments. For others, the value lies in being able to enjoy the experience for as long as possible, regardless of the winnings on the table.
In order to move on, you need to decide what counts as your value. Some of these tips might not apply for your game style, or in other instances, they all might be equally important.
EDITOR NOTE:Expected value(EV), as defined in Dalton’s Encyclopedia of Blackjack, is the theoretical outcome per wager and a measure of how much the player (or casino) can expect to lose (or win) in a particular game. For a basic strategy player, your EV is usually negative. Card counters and advantage players strive for positive EV when playing. This article looks at an alternate definition of EV from the gambler’s perspective. For the gambler, EV can be a combination of how much one enjoys playing, the ability to play longer, the quality of bonuses and comps given, etc. To someone who is not an advantage player (AP), expected value has nothing to do with a theoretical return on investment.
Bang for Your Buck
For players who wish to spend a long time at the tables, it can be difficult to track down the experience which is best catered to you. Even in the cases where you can find a table which enables low bets to be placed, not all are created equal.
Take a regular brick and mortar casino for example. For these locations, you’ll be playing with your money all day, and this can limit even the most contained spenders. Compare this to the online betting opportunities available which often come with enormous bonuses. These bonuses like deposit matches are found on many websites and can keep you engaged on the service’s dime far longer than any older casino could manage.
If you’re in it for the long-haul, note that online casinos will always have the edge in this regard.
Learn Your System
While we can’t recommend turning to card counting as a way to get ahead, at least in this instance, we absolutely recommend becoming familiar enough with your systems that they become second nature. Every player has their own tendencies, but those who wish to really make their mark are those who understand the statistical realities of the game.
There are a lot of different strategies you can use here for multi-deck, double-deck and single-deck. Players already intimately familiar with the game will undoubtedly already have their preference for game type picked out, but even in this case, it can be a good idea to widen your horizons.
In some places, your preferential type of blackjack might not be available, so being able to rely on a strategic fall-back can ensure a more sustained level of play.
If you do use blackjack strategy cards, then we understand it can be annoying to have to consult them every time, but after just a short while these concepts and numbers will easily become second-nature.
The final component we need to look at is the surrounding environment of where you choose to play. Our environment often affects our mental state, so uncomfortable or frustrating surroundings can cause us to lose focus, or otherwise growing tired prematurely.
It’s not just decoration and noise which needs to be taken into account either, as food availability, comfort, and fellow players also need to be considered. Some players out there might be lucky enough to live in areas with a lot of options from which to choose, which can be great for these random elements.
For the rest of us, it can be useful to instead create our own little corner haven for online play. Remember, live casino games are also available online for those after a more visual experience.
Only by examining all of these aspects together should you be able to generate some idea of how you might get the best daily value out of your blackjack experience. If you’re not yet sure or haven’t experienced all that this world has to offer, then it might be a good idea to go and see some of these options for yourself.
Wherever you settle, there are no wrong answers. Do what is right for you, and your experience will be all the more valuable for it.
In blackjack, a lot of players make some pretty significant mistakes. What might seem like a “common sense” play is actually a pretty serious misplay if you consider the odds.
Here are four commonly misplayed blackjack hands that you should avoid.
While you might feel tempted to take an insurance offer when the dealer reveals an ace, you should resist the temptation. The logic behind this play is that there are four cards (10, J, Q, K) that will give the dealer blackjack. If the face-down card is one of these, you will be able to regain your original bet.
So why exactly is this a bad play? Well, the odds are actually in the dealer’s favor by a significant margin. If you choose this option, there is a much bigger chance that the dealer actually doesn’t have blackjack.
In this situation, you are much better off turning down the even money insurance bet. Instead, you should try for the 1.5x win.
Not doubling on 11 vs 10
If your dealer is showing they have a 10, there is a good chance they will also have another one in the face-down position. If you have an 11, the chances of getting a 20 or a 21 are significantly higher than the chance the dealer has a second face-down 10.
While you might think that doubling down when the dealer has 10 is a counter-intuitive strategy, according to comparison site CasinoGuide, you are actually playing to the odds. Let’s say you bet £10 and hit your 11. In this situation, you will win 56% of your hands according to the statistics. If you doubled your bet amount for £20, you will win this bet 54% of the time (remember that doubling means you only receive one more card, and then automatically stand).
Since there’s a small difference in these bets, it wouldn’t hurt to double your bet, as you’d get a significantly higher return for just 2% less of a chance of winning.
Standing on a 16 vs 7
In this situation, drawing a small number such as a 2 or a 3 can significantly increase your chances of winning. You should always hit on a 16 when you are playing against a dealer with 7. You might get lucky and hit a low enough card to get you the win. This will improve your odds to the point that it should mitigate your losses over time.
The following is a good rule of thumb to follow: An 18 against a dealer’s 10 is somewhat better than a 16, whereas an 18 vs a dealer’s 7 is significantly stronger.
Standing on a soft 18 vs 10
While you might feel like an 18 is a hand you can’t improve on, this is not always the case. While an 18 may bring you a win more often than not, the odds are not necessarily in your favor.
For example, against a dealer’s 10, the odds are not on your side. If you were to stand on a soft 18 in this situation, over time, you would lose more hands than you would ever win.
This is also true if you were to hit, but you wouldn’t lose quite as much. This means you should be brave and give yourself the best chance of winning: always hit on that soft 18.
Practice, practice, practice
Being good at blackjack can take time. You need to have an acute understanding of the rules and you need to be able to estimate the odds on the fly. Or just use a blackjack strategy card.
A great way to practice and refine your strategy is to play online blackjack games at live dealer casinos that allow you to experience the fun atmosphere and face-to-face interaction of the game, within you own home. Away from the pressure of being in a real casino surrounded by experienced gamblers and impatient dealers, you can take the time to get comfortable with your own blackjack strategy.
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 hard 16 (but not 88 pair) vs dealer 9, 10 or Ace. Surrender hard 15 vs dealer 10.
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 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.
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.
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: 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. 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 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 [email protected], 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 [email protected].
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.
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 [email protected].
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.
Yes… 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 Blackjack Review’s Internet Web site.
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.
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%.
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!
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.
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.