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by Joe Pane

Joe Pane is a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over a million dollars in blackjack tournaments. Joe has continued his overall tournament accomplishments with a recent 2nd place finish in the Las Vegas Hilton $100,000 Dice Tournament, and his multiple recent cashes in poker tournaments in the 2009 Wildhorse Resort and Casino Spring Poker Round Up held in Pendleton, Oregon, and also at Binions and Treasure Island in Las Vegas. He recently finished second and won $10,000 in a craps tournament in Biloxi, and he hosts the "House of Pane" message board on His peers consider him to be one of the strongest and most feared blackjack tournament players on the circuit.

When I lived in Brooklyn, NY, if someone was known as a "wise guy", it was like a badge of honor. This is because a wise guy could get things done (while others face one road block after another in their attempt to acquire even something as trivial as a reservation to the current "HOT" restaurant during prime dinner time). It also meant you know all the right persons who would go out of their way to accommodate your request.

Now I live in Las Vegas. If you are known as a wise guy here, just the opposite is true. You might even have a hard time keeping your seat at the blackjack table (or even at the buffet). Think I am joking? Well, I was once escorted out of the buffet at the Palms Casino a few years ago because some overzealous casino suit recognized me and informed security that a known card counter had the nerve to attempt to dine in their buffet. Four security guards surrounded me before they escorted me off the premises (I figured they didnít even want me to "count" the stuffed shells that were being served at the buffet).

Have no fear, however, because there is a safe sanctuary for known wise guys in Las Vegas. Except, this sanctuary is not open to everyone. In fact, itís by invitation-only, and in order to be on the very short list you must be an established professional player or gaming author who has had their resume approved from the living members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame to attend this annual secret party for wise guys known as the Blackjack Ball.

The man behind this Blackjack Ball is the #1 wise guy himself, Mr. Max Rubin. He is such a wise guy that not only does he work our side of the tables he has even been hired by a number of casinos to help them work the "other" side of the tables. (Now that is a wise guy at his best; he is paid by the enemy and then goes out and beats them on their own tables.)

I have had the honor and privilege to be invited to this wise guy party since 2003 when I met Max while I was playing in the World Series of Blackjack show on the GSN Network (Max was the expert blackjack commentator).

For the last 8 years, I have taken the test that is given at the Blackjack Ball, and once again, I will share with you the questions that Max asked the blackjack pros in attendance. I will also state that I found this yearís test to be the hardest in the eight years I have attended this party. In fact, I am embarrassed to say that I had the lowest score in the room (How embarrassing was it? My only claim to wise guys status this night was back in Brooklyn New York some 2,500 miles away where not even one phone call that most wise guys in Brooklyn could make to make things right was not going to work for me on this night.)

In previous years my scores were about average, and two years ago my score was high enough to qualify for the finals of the Blackjack Ball where the winner receives a secret wise guy play from non-other than James Grosjean (that was guaranteed to net you a fancy pay day from one unsuspecting casino).

By the way, if you didnít know, James Grosjean is not allowed to participate in the test at the Blackjack Ball. This is because he is the ultimate wise guy because he has won this championship so many times that he has been 86th from participating. (His new assignment is to assist Max in coming up with a few of the questions in the Blackjack Ball test that drives all the wise guys in attendance crazy.)

Keep this in mind if you want to simulate taking this test under the same conditions as we had at the Blackjack Ball, you have 10 seconds to write your answer to each question without using any mechanical devices or cheat sheets or books, and once you submit your answer on paper, it cannot be changed.

Are you ready to test your skills and compare you results with the world greatest professional blackjack players? (Hey, you should have no problem beating my score, wink wink.)

Note: Max Rubin reads each question. The top six scores at the Ball qualify for the final table. Would your score have been high enough to get you there? I will provide the answers to the test in the next issue of the Blackjack Insider and you can score your results.

Blackjack Ball 2010

Round One Questions...

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