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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. Although most casinos have banned Joe from live blackjack play and blackjack tournaments, he still applies his tournament skills in all table-game tournaments, and has made multiple final tables in Poker and Dice Tournaments, along with two final tables in Baccarat. He has recorded impressive wins in multiple games. Last year Joe took down two Poker Tournaments in the same week, winning Event #1 at The Mesquite Open at the Eureka Casino on Friday, and then he took down the Tuscany Monday Night Poker Tournament three days later (Las Vegas). His peers consider him one of the strongest and most feared blackjack tournament players on the circuit, and "All In Magazine" named him the #1 Blackjack Tournament Player. Joe currently hosts a weekly radio show on The show is named Vegas Banter and it airs every Friday from 3 to 6PM Pacific Time. Previous shows are available to listen to on the web site.

"The Doctor Is In the House"

Thatís what you would say when a personís educational training and background goes something like this. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1958, and worked at M.I.T. from 1959 to 1961. He was a professor of mathematics from 1961-1965 at New Mexico State University, and then joined the University of California at Irvine where he was a professor of mathematics from 1965 to 1977, and a professor of mathematics and finance from 1977 to 1982. Not to shabby credentials, do you agree?

You would assume that this is a brilliant man, who dedicated his life to the ungrateful (and for the most part low paying) profession of education (which requires a dedicated person with a brilliant mind). Someone who is willing to share his secrets with his young students, who clamor for his willingness to share his bestowed brilliance. (And while this may be true of this professor, you certainly can say the same for the many dedicated teachers that have chosen to educate our young, and help them become the leaders of fortune 500 companies and the politicians in leadership positions with our federal government in Washington D.C.)

This professor, whom Iím talking about, is still teaching to this day without ever leaving his home. His students are a special breed that are not registered as full time or part time students at any university; for the most part, they travel alone, and have no set class schedule or final exams like most students. Nevertheless, once a year their class meets in a secret location to share homework and compare grades/results that they have endured and earned during the past 12 months. Attendance at the class (letís call it a gathering) may be the only thing that represents a final exam to these special students of the "Professor." Nevertheless, these students make the trek to Las Vegas, year after year, in the hope that their beloved and revered "Professor" will be there to look over their work, and make suggestions as to what they need to do to make sure their results are being maximized to its fullest. However, over the last 15 years they have gathered, THE PROFESSOR never showed up to administer their final exam. Until now.

To the delight of his students, this year THE PROFESSOR finally appeared after 16 years of invitations, phone calls, emails, and letters from the "Las Vegas Santa" (aka Max Rubin). It was a special evening for the attendees at this gathering that they will never forget as long as they live (and those who couldnít make it will always regret). On this special night, the one and only Dr. Ed Thorp ("The Professor") finally attended the Blackjack Ball.

For those that havenít been on this planet the past 50 years, Dr. Thorp is the legend who wrote the NY Times best-selling book "Beat the Dealer," which inspired many players to become semi- and professional-card counters. (His book, in fact, continues to be the bible for many professional blackjack players.)

They say, "What goes around comes around," and such was the case with the professional blackjack players who attended the Blackjack Ball and finally got to meet and thank the man, who essentially created their careers as professional players.

The Blackjack Ball, as most of you know, is a party for a select, invited group of professional blackjack players and author/writers. Max Rubin is the host and the event is sponsored by Barona Casino. The Blackjack Ball has been held every year for the past 16 years at a secret location in Las Vegas.

You might be wondering why in the world a casino would sponsor a party consisting of the most feared blackjack/advantage players in the world. The reason is simple and it actually makes perfect business sense when you think about it. When a player receives and accepts the sought-after-invitation to the Ball, he or she solemnly promises to never use their blackjack skills at Baronaís Casino (meaning, they promise not to play there).

Every person in attendance at the Ball has some connection to Dr Thorp in some way, shape, or form. He has given all of them the building blocks on how to beat the game of blackjack. He proved to them (and all who would take the time to listen), that blackjack is a beatable game because the math doesnít lie. Everyone at the Ball knows that to be true and accurate. In fact, the net worth in todayís dollars for each of the attendees is the result of the good Doctor. (In a nonprofessionalís way to look at this, Thorp has put a lot of bread on many tables of his students, many of whom he never set eyes on.)

In the last 10 years that I have attended the Blackjack Ball, I have never witnessed any one receive a standing ovation from this group. (May I remind you, this is a group of players who are deserving of their own standing ovation because of their accomplishments, and for being feared by every casino in the world.) They all have unique talents that provided them with many varied ways to beat the casino at their own game. Their accomplishments, both past and present, may not be well documented because they travel in a secret world, share very little information with the outside world, but trust me when I say that casinos know what potential damage they can and will do with Dr. Ed Thorp as their leader. Therefore, it was not surprising when Max introduced Dr. Thorp to the attendees; every blackjack practitioner in the room stood up and gave him a rousing and well-deserved round of applause, in respect and admiration of this brilliant man. It was a moving moment, well deserved, and a long time coming. I was grateful to be there and so were the other 70 advantage players present at this historic moment in the world of blackjack.

If you have read my previous articles on the Blackjack Ball in the BJI that I wrote over the past ten years for the Blackjack Insider Newsletter, you know that there is a test of 21 questions that is given to the Blackjack Ball attendees. As in past years, you, dear reader, will be able to take the same test that the most brilliant minds in blackjack had to take.

Here were the rules that host Max Rubin went over with the attendees. Each question is read once, repeated a second time, and you only have 10 seconds to write down your answer on the answer sheet. You are not allowed to go back and change your answer. You may use a scratch pad to do calculations but you are not allowed to use any electronic devices, including smart phones. (This group of 70 prides itself on playing by the rules but I will admit they always look for rules that are in their favor. Max makes sure by his rules to keep the boys in line.) The top five attendees with the most correct answers advanced to the Blackjack Ball Final.

How many questions will you get right? Remember if you really want to compare how you would have done against this group, be honest with yourself, and stay within the rules that we all had to follow. Good luck Ö you will need it because once again Max has gone to various corners of the world for gaming related topics and questions to stump us. Youíll see that this is not an easy test Ö but then we donít want anything easy because we live for the challenge.

Here is the test 21 questions Ö will you make the cut for the final table?

(Note: Iíll publish the answers to the question in the next issue of BJI.)

(Editors Note: Newsweek sent a reporter to the Blackjack Ball. You can read his article at by clicking here.)

Blackjack Ball 2012

Round One Questions

To prevent, ahem, advantage play, or cheating, as you fill out your game card, you must mark every true or false question or multiple choice question and fill in the blank before we move on to the next question. You cannot change your answer once you have marked your card. If there are any blanks or changed answers on your card when it is graded or handed in, you will be disqualified

You may use the back of your card as a worksheet.

I will repeat each question twice. Ready...

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