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HOW TO MASTER BASIC STRATEGY AND

CARD COUNTING

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.

What a far cry from 35-years ago, when I first learned how to master the basic playing strategy and a card counting system. There were a few places where the novice, such as me, could go back then and have a competent teacher explain how to assimilate this immense task. There were no computer programs written at that time to help novice players master these blackjack strategies, and the resources and materials that were available were very basic.

There were a few good books on card counting systems on the market, but for the average novice player who didnít know (and no one could tell them) which system was a viable one to learn, it was tough to pick the right book (or course). The other problem was the author of these books and the few blackjack instructors in business at that time didnít know how to put the information together so that readers or students would have a daily lesson plan to follow to master basic strategy and card counting system.

For example, I remember going to a four-day blackjack course in Los Angeles, CA that consisted of four hours of class time per day for a total of 16 hours of lessons. There werenít any student manuals, students had to write everything down on note pads, and the only materials given to students were single deck and multiple-deck basic strategy sheets. The instructor gave their students "flash cards" for single-deck games (no flash cards for multi-deck games because this counting system was geared for single-deck blackjack games). The instructor advised students to play single-deck games since that was the best game to play back then (as far as getting an advantage was concerned).

I resolved to become proficient at blackjack and someday teach and play for a living. The blackjack school I attended in Los Angeles was interested in awarding franchises to ex-students who could prove that they mastered its system, was credit worthy, and had some business experience.

After a month of practicing their system, I went back to Los Angeles, demonstrated to them that I had mastered their counting system, and they awarded me a franchise in my home town of Marlton, NJ. The problem I had right off the bat was that Atlantic City only offered multiple-deck blackjack games that included a great option called "Early Surrender." I notified the school about these rules and they responded by sending me the basic strategy for this Atlantic City blackjack game.

After I opened the school, it became an immediate success because Atlantic City had opened their first casino about this time (Resorts International). I decided to change the method of teaching because I felt that the students should have the strategy and counting methods printed out in a manual rather than on sheets of paper where they could possibility lose some of them. However, I did require students to take notes during the entire course as I felt it reinforced what they were eventually going to read in the manual. I kept the same course schedule, four hours each day for a total of sixteen hours. I also offered my students the following money back guarantee: after they completed the course, they could come back for a refresher where I would "check them out" at no additional cost.

Compared to today, where students could use blackjack computer programs to practice and play whatever system they are learning, it was a lot of work and dedication for students back then to learn and assimilate a counting system (some more than others). I remember one student becoming so frustrated with "Flash Cards" that they used to learn the Basic Strategy that he threw them in the air in disgust. (It looked like it was snowing in my classroom, and we all laughed.)

I insisted that all of my students master the single-deck strategies before learning the strategies for multiple-deck games, even though Atlantic City did not offer single-deck games when casinos first opened there. My reason was that it was easier to learn single deck so the switch to multiple decks would be a lot easier. I also reminded my students, "How do you know where you are going to play blackjack?" If you were to travel to Las Vegas, Reno, etc. you would want to play the best game with the best advantage, and that happened to be their single-deck games.

Eventually, casinos opened in many other States and some of them offered better blackjack games than what was being offered in Atlantic City after they eventually dropped "Early Surrender" and went to six- and eight-deck games. (This made the AC game much more difficult to beat.) Therefore, around 1980, I felt the need to teach and play a different counting system. I wanted one that was as efficacious and easier to learn and play as some of the more well known systems during that time. (In my previous articles in the BJI, I described how this came to fruition.)

To sum it all up, new students wanting to learn blackjack have more tools at their disposal than when I (and many other players) first started our blackjack journey. That doesnít mean that they are better players because sometimes a little more work makes for a better student/player. (Note: Youíll find plenty of drills and flash cards in my book/manual, "Silver Fox Blackjack System.")

Editorís Note: Like Stricker, I have taught blackjack players how to become skillful card counters for over 30 years. Some of the counting systems that I have taught students include Hi Opt I and II, Uston Advanced Point Count, Hi Lo, K-O, Speed Count, and a few others. More recently, I have used the blackjack training software developed by Dan Pronovost in my courses to help students master the basic playing strategy, the counting system, and level of risk and bankroll. Students find the drills easy to use and valuable to help them master these skills. I highly recommend Pronovostís software to anyone who wants to become a successful card counter. For more information on his software for Windows, Pocket PC, Palm OS, Android, and IPhone, go to www.deepnettech.com.

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