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    Blackjack Books:
    1. Professional Blackjack
    by Stanford Wong
    2. The Worlds Greatest
    Blackjack Book
    by Lance Humble Ph.D.
    3. Beat The Dealer
    by Edward Thorp

    Good Rules:
    Late Surrender
    Dlr Stands on Soft 17
    Dbl After Split

    Bad Rules:
    Continuous Shuffle
    Dlr Hits on Soft 17
    No Soft Dbls
    No Resplits


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    Blackjack And Poker Book Reviews Plus Las Vegas Information



    Review of The World's Greatest Blackjack Book by Lance Humble, PH.D. and Carl Cooper, Ph.D.



        The book, The World's Greatest Blackjack Book by Lance Humble is an excellent resource for the game of 21. It covers everything from the history of Basic Strategy to the advantages and disadvantages of various counting systems. The only negative notes are the fact that the author is paranoid about getting cheated and the material is somewhat dated. Overall the book does an excellent job of explaining the strategy behind the game.

        The author points to Professor Edward O. Thorp as someone who made key contributions to blackjack by refining Basic Strategy with the use of IBM computers at MIT. Readers do not have to look far in the book to realize that advanced topics are covered. The author explains the logic behind counting cards by saying, "After lengthy research, Thorp found that when the unused portion of the Blackjack deck had a disproportianately high number of 10-value cards in it, the player would actually have the advantage." [pg 5] The history of blackjack development is pointed out when the author reveals that Thorp's book, Beat the Dealer even made the NY Times best-seller list in 1963. [5] It is later explained that the Hi-Opt I counting system was published in 1974 by International Gaming, Inc.[6] It is noted that the system was developed with the help of Braun's computer programs.

        The author explains that an appropriate bankroll should be setup. He states, "Accumulate a bankroll fifty times the size of your usual large bet." [20] The author explains that one can lose his or her bankroll very quickly by ignoring the chapters on cheating dealers, sitting down at higher-stakes tables and not learning Basic Strategy thoroughly. [21]

        Throughout the book it is emphasized that choosing the right table is an important part of the game. The process of choosing a table should be at least party based on the rules. He ranks the favorable rules in order as early surrender, doubling on any number of cards, doubling on any three cards, doubling on any two cards, doubling on any number of cards to split aces, doubling allowed after pair splitting, surrender, observerer betting, surrender. He ranks the unfavorable rules in order as hard doubling restricted to 11, two or more decks, dealer hits soft 17, hard doubling restricted to 10 or 11, no soft doubling, no dealer hole card, no resplitting of aces. [55] The rule lists are also given for various casinos but this information is outdated since the book was published in the 1980s. It is possible for some tables to be shuffled more than others. "...The result is an occasional situation where a dealer will give regular deep-deck penetration. This is a game you must not pass up." [65] Losing more often against some dealers than others is not always coincidence or luck. Humble recommends remembering bad dealers and avoiding their tables in future sessions.

        In addition to selecting the right table, the author talks about the pluses and minuses of various seats. He explains that 3rd base should be avoided because cheaters often sit there and it can make the dealer suspicious. He says the seat next to 3rd base is not a bad choice because you have more time to think about your hand than the first people out. [68-69]

        The author devotes a large portion of the book to help the reader look out for cheating. Cheating was probably more of an issue in days past when cameras were less common and there was more hand dealing(less shoes). Nonetheless, it is naive to think that the possibility of getting cheated does not exist. The author opens his chapter on cheating by quoting Mario Puzo, "The whole recorded history of gambling shows that when you have gambing, you have cheating." [98] The casinos have too much to lose to allow cheating, but individual dealers are another story. If a dealer secretly pays out extra money to his friends then he has to make up for it or the casino will notice. "Dealers must consistently show a normal table win rate despite dishonestly losing to their friends. In order to recover dishonest losses, honest players like you and me must pay for it." [108] Humble theorizes that when dealers are cheating with their friend(s), it is a good time to sit at the table because everyone might win more often than usual. He explains that the dealers start making up for the losses after the friend(s) leave. [111-112] The author also explains that the winnings he and his students made over the years do not match up with the mathematical computer models. He thinks the difference is due to being cheated. [110] He explains that insulting the dealer is a stupid thing to do and that it can lead to being cheated. [112] The author theorizes that there is more cheating at higher minimum tables. [114] Humble identifies multiple signs that could signal cheating. Some of the signs are empty tables, dealers with excessive jewelry, dealers constantly checking the time, dealers who never bust, dealers who get a disproportianate number of up 10s and aces after shuffling, dealers who get a disproportianate number of 21s after shuffling and players losing a disproportiante number of double downs. [113-117] It is suggested to ask players if the dealer is 'hot', smile and interact with dealers, avoid dealers in bad moods. [124-128] If tipping, the author recommends placing a bet for the dealer instead of just handing the money over. [128]

        A large portion of the book is devoted to playing with common sense and observing everything going on. The author emphasizes that one should never stop laying while on a winning streak. [132] It is repeated that if players on a potential table do not have many chips in front of them then one should ask if the dealer is hot and avoid the table if the answer is yes. [134] It can be beneficial to make conversation with the pit boss, get change for tipping early and use the hit and run approach(often players will do well the first 15 minutes or so and then start losing). [135] The author explains that when the dealer checks the hole card because a 10 or ace is up, the player should be mindful of the number of times the dealer checks(the author contends that if the dealer needs to look more than once then the hole card is probably not a face card). [136] Because the dealer has to peak every time an ace or 10 is the up card, the author explains that the 10 and ace cards can start to bend more than the other cards over the long run. [142] The author states several times that the 3rd base player could be a cheat. He explains that the 3rd base player could be working with the dealer to control what cards are available for the dealer. He says that if the 3rd base player is making unusual decisions then it might be best to leave the table. [149] Lance Humble mentions throughout the books that the computers play a minimum of one million hands before coming to conclusions. This means a weekend trip to Vegas is an extremely short run trip(the player could follow Basic Strategy and Hi Opt I counting perfectly and still lose on a short term trip). [155]


        The book clearly documents that numerous Blackjack strategies have been tested over the years. Humble points out that Edward Thorp discusses Basic Strategy in his 1963 book, Beat the Dealer. Humble notes that Julian Braun and others have refined Basic Strategy and tested it with various computer programs. The Basic Strategy chart below is similar to some of the Basic Strategy charts in The World's Greatest Blackjack Book: [404]
    Humble's Basic Strategy Chart:
    Basic Strategy for 21 With Multiple Decks, Double Down Ok After Splits
    Dlr Up Dbl Down Dbl Down Pair Split Stand on Stand on
      Soft Hard   Hard Soft
    A NA NA 8,A 17 19
    10,J,Q,K NA 11 8,A 17 19
    9 NA 10,11 8,9,A 17 19
    8 NA 10,11 8,9,A 17 18
    7 NA 10,11 2,3,7,8,A 17 18
    6 13,14,15,16,17,18 9,10,11 2,3,4,6,7,8,9,A 12 18
    5 13,14,15,16,17,18 9,10,11 2,3,4,6,7,8,9,A 12 18
    4 15,16,17,18 9,10,11 2,3,6,7,8,9,A 12 18
    3 17,18 9,10,11 2,3,6,7,8,9,A 13 18
    2 NA 10,11 2,3,6,7,8,9,A 13 18


        Humble states that adjustments when doubling is not allowed after splitting are as follows:
  • 4s are never split
  • 6s are only split against Dealer 3,4,5,6
  • 2s and 3s are only split against Dealer 4,5,6,7.

        Humble explains that if a player does not follow Basic Strategy he or she might win in the short run but in the long run the laws of probability cannot be ignored.


        Card counting is explained in detail late in the book. It is noted several times that the higher the percentage of big cards in the deck yet to be dealt, the better the odds for the player. It is a common misconception that in order for a player to capitalize on this advantage, he or she must have a photographic memory and keep track of every card played. The reality is that card counting can be performed quite easily if the player chooses a simple system.

        One card counting system that the author encourages is the Hi-Opt I. [213] The player assigns a value of –1 to 10s, Js, Qs and Ks. A value of +1 is assigned to 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s. The player keeps track of the Running Count and divides the Running Count by the number of remaining decks to obtain the True Count.  The Hi-Opt I Table is shown below: [216]
    Card

    2

    3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A
    Value 0 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 0


        For example if Sam is the only player at a table and the first hand dealt in a new shoe gives him a hand of [J,Q] versus a dealer hand of [2,4,10,3] then the Running Count is equal to –1. This Running Count is calculated as follows:
    Player J -1
    Player Q -1
    Dealer 2 0
    Dealer 4 +1
    Dealer 10 -1
    Dealer 3 +1
    Running Count -1


        The higher the True Count, the better the odds for the player. For example, a Hi-Opt I player would most likely place a larger bet if the True Count is +5 and a smaller bet if the True Count is –2.


        The book compares multiple counting systems and shows them in a table. [207] The Hi-Lo Counting System expands on the Hi-Opt System by counting As and 2s.  We already know that a shoe rich in a high percentage of remaining 10s, Js, Qs and Ks benefits the player while a shoe rich in a high percentage of remaining 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s benefits the dealer.  The general idea is that high cards are good for the player while low cards are good for the dealer.  The Hi-Lo System shows this by including the A as another high card and the 2 as another low card.  In other words the A card is assigned a value of -1 and the 2 card is assigned a value of +1.  This can be seen in the Hi-Lo Table Below: [207]
    Card 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A
    Value +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1


        The Hi-Opt and the Hi-Lo Systems are very similar.  However, in the Hi-Opt System the A card and the 2 card do not affect the Running Count as they both have a value of 0. In the Hi-Lo System the A card is treated like the 10,J,Q and K cards in that it is assigned a value of -1.  In the Hi-Lo System the 2 card is treated like the 3,4,5 and 6 cards in that it is assigned a value of +1.  The Table Below shows the difference between the two systems:
    Card 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 J Q K A
    Hi-Opt Value 0 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 0
    Hi-Lo Value +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1


        The book stresses that Card Counting should be practiced with caution. Having a thorough understanding of Basic Strategy is imperative to winning Blackjack with Card Counting. In other words, a player who changes his or her bet in accordance with the True Count but does not have a thorough understanding of Basic Strategy stands a high chance of losing money even though he or she knows the correct count. If a player has not completely memorized the Basic Strategy then he or she should probably keep bets to a minimum regardless of the True Count. For example, assume Ted is playing Blackjack in a Casino that allows soft doubling. If Ted receives Ace, Seven against a dealer card of Five then Ted may not yet understand Basic Strategy if he does not double down in this situation.

        One way for a player to test the accuracy of his or her counting ability is to flip over all 52 cards in the deck one at a time, keeping a running count. The running count should be zero after flipping all 52 cards.  This test can be performed with either the Hi-Opt Counting System or the Hi-Lo Counting System, either way the running count should end in zero.  However, the player must stick with the same system throughout the entire deck of cards.

        The author stresses the fact that as there are more or less 10 in the deck, basic strategy can be altered accordingly. Before memorizing when to change basic strategy, the player should be aware of how often certain decisions are made. The table on page 273 shows the different options nicely as follows:
  • 53.1% Hard-standing hitting
  • 19.3% Hard doubling
  • 14.5% Soft standing and hitting
  • 13.1% Pair splitting
  • 03.7% Soft doubling
  • 03.6% Surrender

    The table on page 252 shows how often the game is in between a Hi Opt I True Count of -3 and +3
  • 1 Deck 69.3%
  • 2 Deck 70.8%
  • 4 Deck 84.1%
  • 6 Deck 86.6%

    It is stressed that Humble's strategy variation charts are based on the Hi Opt I counting system which assigns the following values:
  • 3,4,5,6=+1
  • 7,8,9=0
  • 10=-1

    Some of Humble's greater than or equal to 0 changes based on the Hi Opt I count are as follows:
  • If True Count >= 0 Then Stand on 16 versus 10(assuming surrender is not allowed). [254]
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Stand On 12 versus 3. [254]
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 11 versus Ace. [256]
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 9 versus 2. [256]
  • If True Count >= 2 Then Stand On 12 versus 2. [254]
  • If True Count >= 2 Then Double Hard 8 versus 6. [256]

    Some of Humble's less than or equal to 0 changes based on the Hi Opt I count are as follows:
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 12 versus 4. [254]
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Don't Double 9 versus 3. [256]
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Hit 12 versus 5,6. [254]
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Hit 13 versus 2. [254]
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Don't Double 10 versus 9. [256]
  • If True Count <= -2 Then Hit 13 versus 3. [254]
  • If True Count <= -2 Then Don't Double 9 versus 4. [256]

        The book is a nice tool for beginners because it does a good job of explaining the importance of Basic Strategy without getting too caught up in the math. The book is also good for advanced players because it discusses changing strategy based on the cards dealt and strategies for keeping track of cards played.

    Review of Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong



        The book, Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong does a great job of covering playing decisions under different rules. There is no shortage of charts and the mathematical explanations are detailed.

        The computer analysis used in the book is very thorough, "Each of the win rates in this book is based on a sample of at least 30 million hands." [page 19]

        All good blackjack books cover basic stragegy and this one is no exception. The reader is reminded that surrendering is the right play with a hard 16 against 9,10,Ace or with a hard 15 against a 10. [26] Even though some gamblers like to take insurance when they have 21, Wong reminds the user that basic strategy says insurance should never be taken unless the true count is high(around +3 or higher). [28]

        The author recommends using the high-low counting system in which 2,3,4,5 and 6 cards are worth +1, 7,8 and 9 cards are worth 0 and 10,J,Q,K and Ace cards are worth -1. The history of the system is explained going back to 1963 when it was introduced by Harvey Dubner. Wong explains that Edward O. Thorp used it in Beat the Dealer. He also mentions that Lawrence Revere analyzed it in Playing Blackjack as a Business. Finally, the author states that Julian Braun used it in How to Play Winning Blackjack. [31] It is a relatively simple system yet the results can be quite powerful.

        Stanford Wong rates various rule variations as follows: [35]
  • dealer hits soft seventeen -0.20
  • double allowed after splits +0.14
  • double allowed on ten and eleven only -0.17
  • double allowed on nine, ten and eleven only -0.08
  • resplit aces(if four or more decks) +0.08
  • late surrender allowed +0.08

        Basic Strategy is based on a true count of 0. In reality, the true count is not always 0, sometimes it is higher and sometimes it is lower so strategy adjustments can be made. For example, if the player has a hard 16 and the true count is really high like +5 or so (this means there is a high disproportiate number of 10s and Aces in the deck about to be dealt out) and surrender is not allowed then a break from basic strategy is put in place and the player stands instead of taking the hit. Stanford Wong believes that bet variation is more important than strategy variation so the average player may not have to worry about strategy decisions beyond learning the basic strategy chart. [51]

        The author writes that for a short weekend trip, a bankroll fifty times more than the biggest bet is probably appropriate. [194] He goes into the mathematics of why it is not a good idea to overbet. The message to the reader is clear when he says, "Overbetting can be financially fatal." [206] Another part of managing money is explained when Wong says, "Always keep enough money to split a pair or to double down." [207] The author does not seem overly concerned about losing his bankroll through cheats, "Your chance of being cheated in a legal casino in Nevada or Atlantic City is close to zero." [208]

        Many players like to play more than one hand at a time when there is room on the table. The author goes into a lot of detail explaining when this is a good idea and when it is not. He sums it up nicely by saying, "Generally, if you are alone with the dealer you are better off playing one hand, and if there are other players you are better off playing two hands when you have an edge." [211]

        Towards the end of the book different counting systems are compared. The author implies that there is more than one successful system. He details why it is better to choose a simpler system over a more complicated system. He states that the high-low is the best of the simple systems. [214] He mentions that comparisons between high-low and hi-opt have been made(hi-opt is similar except that Aces and Twos are counted as zero). He says that the high-low system outperforms the hi-opt system. [215]

        The author stresses that betting properly is more important than changing strategy based on the count, "For winning money at multiple-deck blackjack, bet variation is much more important than strategy variation." [51] He stresses that it is probably not worth it to memorize strategy variation for true counts outside the -1 to + 6 range. [51] He says some of the important strategy variations are taking insurance when the count is high enough and standing on hard 16 or 15 versus 10 when the count is high enough and surrender is not allowed. [50]

    It is stressed that Wong's strategy variation charts are based on the high-low counting system which assigns the following values: [255]
  • 2,3,4,5,6=+1
  • 7,8,9=0
  • 10,A=-1
    Some of Wong's strategy variations are listed below. They are from the chart for 4 decks. Click Here to see more of Stanford Wong's charts.

    Some of Wong's GREATER than or equal to 0 changes based on the high-low count for 4 decks where the deler HITS on soft 17 are as follows: [259]
  • If True Count >= 0 Then Stand on 16 versus 10(assuming surrender is not allowed).
  • If True Count >= 0 Then Double 11 versus A.
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Stand on 12 versus 3.
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 9 versus 2.
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 8 versus 6.

    Some of Wong's LESS than or equal to 0 changes based on the high-low count for 4 decks where the deler HITS on soft 17 are as follows: [259]
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 12 versus 4.
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 13 versus 2.
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Don't Double 9 versus 3.
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Hit 12 versus 5.
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Don't Double 10 versus 9.
  • If True Count <= -2 Then Hit 13 versus 3.
  • If True Count <= -2 Then Don't Double 9 versus 4.

    Some of Wong's GREATER than or equal to 0 changes based on the high-low count for 4 decks where the deler STANDS on soft 17 are as follows: [259]
  • If True Count >= 0 Then Stand on 16 versus 10(assuming surrender is not allowed).
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 11 versus A. ***
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 9 versus 2.
  • If True Count >= 1 Then Double 8 versus 6.
  • If True Count >= 2 Then Stand on 12 versus 3. ***

    Some of Wong's LESS than or equal to 0 changes based on the high-low count for 4 decks where the deler STANDS on soft 17 are as follows: [259]
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 12 versus 4.
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 12 versus 6. ***
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Hit 13 versus 2.
  • If True Count <=  0 Then Don't Double 9 versus 3.
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Hit 12 versus 5.
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Don't Double 10 versus 9.
  • If True Count <= -1 Then Hit 13 versus 3. ***
  • If True Count <= -2 Then Don't Double 9 versus 4.

        Overall the book is a tremendous resource for understanding the mathematics behind basic strategy, counting systems and strategy variations based on different rules. This is not a book for beginners as the author jumps right into counting cards from the start. Advanced players should get a great deal out of the book as it is effective in communicating the results of extensive computer analysis.

    ISBN: 1566250439
    Book review by Amazon.com reprinted with permission
    Among the hottest casino games today are the video poker and related machines. Frank Scoblete knows and tells which machines offer the best odds and what strategies give you the biggest payouts on each. In some cases, the proper strategy will even tip the odds in your favor. Along the way he also explains machines for such similar games as video blackjack, video craps and video keno; wisely discusses money management and takes time out for bits of pure fun. Pay special attention to the chapter on whether casinos cheat at video games--it could influence where and how you play.