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HOW AND WHERE IT BEGAN- Part 2

by Ralph "Silver Fox" Stricker

 

Ralph Stricker has been a successful professional blackjack player for many years. He is the developer of the Silver Fox Card Counting system and author of "Silver Fox Blackjack SystemóYou Can Count On It." Note: This is the system that BJI contributing writer Barfarkel uses and mentions in his BJI trip reports.

 

In my previous article, I explained how blackjack became a part of my life and has been for the past 27 years. My wife and I started teaching blackjack after receiving a franchise from the "Stanley Roberts School of Winning Blackjack." We first began teaching card counting in conference rooms at various hotels because we wanted to see the ramifications of our new business venture. We advertised in local newspapers in the area between Philadelphia and Atlantic City since that was where we felt was the most conducive for attracting students.

It turned out that we were so overwhelmed by the response to our course we decided to look for a permanent location. We were fortunate to find a small house with four rooms located on Route 73 in Marlton, NJ that had been converted into an office building. Route 73 was a major route between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, which gave us great exposure to the traffic going and coming from Atlantic City.

Initially, Vivian did most of the teaching as I still had my music business to run. The days where she was free we would play in the casino. The only casino open at that time was "Resorts International." The game that was being dealt was known in blackjack terms as a "candy store." This meant it had rules that were so favorable to the players that just knowing "basic strategy" would give a basic strategy player and an edge of a quarter of one percent. This was due to an option called "Early Surrender." This gave the player the option to "surrender" before the dealer looked at his HOLE CARD. It would result in the players not losing to a dealerís blackjack and "saving half of his/her bet." Resorts was also dealing four decks with almost 90% "deck penetration." Like I said: it was a candy store.

I soon sold my business and started teaching classes and playing full time. We were ecstatic at the playing conditions, and our teaching school flourished. We were also doing a weekly television show on a local cable station. When we are on the air we wore black hoods or disguises so as not to be recognized by people working for the casinos since they watched the show each week. Unbeknownst to us, an investigative reporter named Bob Collins enrolled in one of our classes and wrote a very flattering article in a major newspaper after watching us play in the casino. The result of the publicity was overwhelming and we had to teach more than ever.

Unfortunately, it would soon change and we all knew that the "candy store" days were over. I was playing in the Resorts Casino on a Sunday afternoon when word went out that the casino was dealing a 2-deck game at a couple of tables. Friends were coming up to me and saying letís go to those tables because we will now have an even greater edge. I said to myself "the casinos donít give away something for nothing" and there had to be a catch. I didnít play those games; in fact, I kept my distance from those tables dealing the 2-deck games. Well, my instinct was right. What was happening is that the casino had set this game up just to tape the players going to those tables, even the ones not playing. It was to get tapes of the card counters and use them to identify these players in the future. It will always be known in the history of Atlantic City blackjack as "Black Sunday." The casinos could now bar card counters and or suspected card counters from playing. The barring of card counters continued until 1981 when Ken Ustonís class action law suit won in the New Jersey Supreme Court.

 When the rules were changed, particularly "Early Surrender," the "Roberts 10 Count" that were teaching was no longer effective. I flew to Los Angeles to discuss this with Stanley Roberts. I stated that he had to change to a stronger count system. He refused to consider it and I told him I could no longer teach his count system since I felt it was not fair to the students.

I had been working on a new counting system and now I had to prove it via computer simulation. During this time I had also started a blackjack team, and one of the members was a mathematical genius by the name of Bobby Fisher. I had done all of the "departures" from basic strategy in my head, so I had no idea of which ones were applicable. Bobby ran the complete system on an Apple computer (1981) which took days to get the results. He finally verified that the count system was good and I had only four or five departures wrong.

I named this new counting system the "SILVER FOX COUNT" and have used it exclusively through my years of playing. The name Silver Fox was a result of a famous card-counter catcher who named me the FOX since it took him a long time to catch me and bar me. Because my beard was grey, I put the two together to create "Silver Fox."

 

Editorís note: There is a chapter on Ralph "Silver Fox" Stricker in the new book, "Legends of Blackjack" by Kevin Blackwood and Larry Barker that you may find very interesting (I did). For details on this new book, click here.

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