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by Ralph Stricker 

Ralph Stricker has been a successful professional blackjack player for many years, developer of the famous Silver Fox Card Blackjack System, and one of the blackjack legends described in the book, "Legends of Blackjack." In his articles for the BJI, Stricker describes his blackjack career, specifically how and where he started playing, teaching, and managing blackjack teams, as well some personal experiences that affected him along the way. You can purchase a copy of Strickerís "Silver Fox Blackjack System" through Gamblerís Book Club in Las Vegas. If you want the book autographed, send a check for $32.95 made payable to Ralph Stricker (price includes priority mailing in US), and mail to Ralph Stricker, 500 Adams Lane, Ste.14R, North Brunswick, NJ 08902.

Note: The events described in this article occurred circa 1981.

I had been teaching the "Stanley Roberts System" (a 10-count counting system) in my blackjack school (I had a franchise under Robertís auspices). However, after the playing rules changed in Atlantic City, specifically the elimination of the player-favorable "early surrender" option and the switch from four-deck games to the less favorable six-deck games, I knew that the Robertís system was no longer viable and/or effective for this game. It was strong enough for single-deck play; however, Atlantic City now only offered multiple-deck games. I tried three other counting systems but they were not any better and or they were too difficult to teach and use by average players.

Before I continue with the story of how I invented the Silver Fox Blackjack System (an easy and powerful card counting system), let me pause for a moment and tell you about what else I was doing during this time. I had been working on a count system called the "ITA GREEN FOUNTAIN SYSTEM." However, this system had an issue: the developer had not computed any of the strategy deviation indices (he only had a count based on the value of each card). I knew that the value of each card had to be proven and the indices would also have to be defined.

Coincidentally, on one of trips to the Bahamas with Bobby Fisher (a math genius) and two other team members, I decided to try to work out the indices in my head. I spent four days and many hours just trying to use logic, and referring to other counting systems. (Knowing that eventually I would have to mathematically prove what I came up with.)

I was fortunate to have Bobby Fisher on my blackjack team because after I purchased one of the first Apple computers, I asked Bobby to run the figures. He explained to me that it would take a long time to prove my counting system (in 1981, computers were not very fast). I told him this is something that had to be done. In the meantime, Bobby used HI-OPT 11 and I used the Silver Fox system with the indices that I had come up with.

Our team started playing, initially to cover expenses. The best game on the Island was at the "Old Playboy Club" (now called "The Ambassador Club"). They offered great games, including a single-deck game, and excellent penetration.

Our team played more frequently during the day when the casino was less crowded (thatís because most of the tourists were on the beaches or sight seeing). Back then, locals were not allowed to gamble in the casinos.

The dealers in those days were mostly from England. Some were nice; however, there were some who were not tolerant of the "American Tourist," let alone good blackjack players.

We quickly determined the good dealers from the bad. In fact, there was a rumor going around that the Ambassador Casino was going to close because they were planning a new casino. This made some dealers very angry. This led to a few of them making "mistakes" on payoffs. For example, one of my team players had a run-in with a dealer because when he late surrendered, the dealer took the entire amount wagered (not 50% of the wager). The player reminded the dealer that he had "surrendered his bet:" however, the dealer said, "You did not say surrender; you just made a hand motion." When I heard this, I signaled the player to leave the table rather than start a controversy and bring undue attention to us.

I want to emphasize that my team never stayed at the same property or ate together when we played. We knew that certain casino security employees were looking out for teams (and also good blackjack players). I was fortunate to have a previous blackjack student on my team, who had five condominiums on the Islands and was well respected there. (He had previously owned land there and sold it ... the airport now sets on that property.) I knew that if I played blackjack with him on the same table that he was good cover and there would be no heat from the pit.

Our trip was a "financial success," and we decided to leave for home and make plans for the next team trip. In the meantime, Bobby "cranked up" the Apple computer and started running trials of my counting system. After approximately two weeks, he felt that he had done sufficient computer trials to determine the strategy indices. After all was "said and done," I was off on five indices/departures compared to what his computer data showed.

Iíve asked many times how I derived the name "Silver Fox Blackjack System" for my counting system. It was the result of one of the best casino card-counter catchers in Atlantic City. He named me the "Fox" because it took him a long time to catch and bar me. The irony is the night that he barred me, I wasnít even card counting. I was playing basic strategy and analyzing one the play of one of my students (this is something I felt was my duty as a teacher, namely, to evaluate a student who had taken my course). When my beard and moustache eventually grew in, it was gray, ergo the name "Silver Fox Counting System." (I felt it sounded better than the "Gray Fox Blackjack System.")

Iíve played blackjack professionally for approximately 27 years and I have never used any other counting system. Along the way, I added different betting and playing scenarios, one of which was Charles Einsteinís "Rhythm Betting Scenario." Due to my high profile, I also cut down playing solo and played 90% of the time with teams, using a "Big Player."

Unfortunately, my health started to decline. I developed COPD/EMPHYSEMA, and I must be on oxygen 24/7. Because of this, I have not played blackjack, or been in a casino, since 2002 (except for one short stint in 2005). However, I keep up with the game even though I miss playing. I also miss the ambiance of the casinos, and as a former professional musician, I also miss the entertainment that some casinos offered in their lounges (particularly in Bellagio, with their many atriums of diverse music). But most of all, I miss the thrill of beating the casinos at their own game.

Editorís Note: You can order an autograph copy of Strickerís "Silver Fox Counting System" by sending a $32.95 check made payable to Ralph Stricker, 500 Adams Lane, Ste. 14R, North Brunswick, NJ 08902

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