2013 BLACKJACK BALL
by Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of five books on casino gambling, featured blackjack writer for dozens of magazines and web sites, editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and host ofwww.smartgaming.com.
For the 17th consecutive year, Max Rubin hosted the Blackjack Ball in January 2013 at a location somewhere in Las Vegas (which I canít reveal). This year 102 invited blackjack professionals attended the Ball to renew old acquaintances, make new acquaintances, exchange playing experiences, and compete against each other for the coveted Grosjean Cup.
Here is a partial list of some of the blackjack luminaries that attended:
Dr. Edward Thorp (author Beat the Dealer)
Tommy Hyland and Al Francesco (famous managers of blackjack teams)
Johnny Chang and Mike Aponte (MIT Team)
Don Johnson (we wrote about what Johnson did in BJI issue #138)
Colin Jones (player/manager of the infamous "Holy Rollers" card counting team)
Arnold Snyder (publisher of several BJ books)
Anthony Curtis (former blackjack pro and owner of Huntington Press and Las Vegas Advisor)
Blair Hull (poker pro and former blackjack pro)
Richard Munchkin (two-time winner at BJ Ball and author of Gambling Wizards), James Grosjean (three-time winner at BJ Ball)
Lawyers Bob Nersesian and Richard Loeb
Several players from the "Asian Assassins" blackjack team
Barry Meadow (author Blackjack Autumn)
Laurance Scott (roulette advantage player, and author of the books Profession Roulette Predictions Vol. 1 and II)
Bob Dancer (famous video poker pro)
There were a lot more celebrities at the Ball but I think you get the picture as to the quality of players that are invited to this annual event.
The gala included drinks and a delicious buffet courtesy of Barona Casino. (They sponsor the BJ Ball and in return, the players in attendance agree not to play blackjack in their casino ... pretty smart move on their part). The only requirement to attend the BJ Ball is that you must bring a bottle of "premium champagne" (preferably earned as a comp from a casino). The bottles of champagne are opened and consumed by the attendees, during and after the Ball (and in an after-the-Ball-party, which ended at 3 am).
Security is tight. A security guard checks that you are on the official list of attendees, and then Max greets you at the door (Max knows everyone, and according to him, the reason for the tight security is because, "If a casino employee can infiltrate the Ball, it would make his career.")
There was the usual Calcutta, which is a sort of a Para-mutual wagering, where the players can bet on who will win the coveted Grosjean Cup. (BTW: The reason the cup was named after James Grosjean was because he won three times and was banned from competing by Max; however, to recognize Grosjean for being the best of the best three times, the Blackjack Cup was renamed the Grosjean Cup in his honor). It was no surprise the most amount of money was wagered on Richard Munchkin to win the Cup (because he had won the event twice previously).
The competition began with a challenging 21 question written test. Here is a copy of the rules that Max strictly enforced.
"To prevent, ahem, advantage play, 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. In addition, anyone who looks at their cell phones for any reason, other than to take an emergency call, in which case we will all wait until that emergency has been dealt with, will also be disqualified from play.
You may use the back of your card as a worksheet.
Iíll repeat each question twice. Ready?
(Copy of the BJ Ball Test is at the end of this article.)
After the test was completed, the results were scored and the five players with the highest number of correct answers advanced to the next round of the competition.
The player with the most number of correct answers (14) was my friend Bob Dancer. (As many of you know, Bob is a successful and famous video poker professional, who began his gambling career as a blackjack card counter. Bob had a slight advantage over all the other players because he was asked to contribute one video poker question to the test ... see question #4).
The player with the next most correct answers was (no surprise) Richard Munchkin (13), then Wally Simmons and "JT" tied for third and fourth place (12 correct answers), and lastly, my friend Anthony Curtis and I tied for fifth place (11 correct answers).
Because Anthony and me tied, Max held a Tie Breaker. The rules for the Tie Breaker were as follows:
Tie Breaking Rules
"The two contestants cut cards. High card goes first. If two tie, they cut again until we establish the order. Line up. Now you have to name a state in the U.S. thatís listed in Stanford Wongís most recent edition of "Current Blackjack News" as having legal blackjack, including "cruises to nowhere." States that only allow non-profit "casino night" blackjack do not count. If you miss or if you repeat, you are out. Then the line continues until the final table contestants are known."
Anthony cut the deck first and got an ace. I cut next and, would you believe, drew another ace. We drew again, and Anthony cut a 4 and I cut a 3, so he went first.
We alternated naming states per the above rules. It was easy remembering the names of the states at the beginning of this competition but...
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