2013 BLACKJACK BALL-PART 2
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 of smartgaming.com.
Last month, I listed some of the 102 blackjack luminaries that attended the 2013 Blackjack Ball, reprinted the challenging 21-question written test, and summarized what happened when Anthony Curtis and I tied with the fifth highest score on the test. (Anthony advanced, I was eliminated.) The stage was now set for the next round of the competition (that involved card-counting contests) with the five finalists that scored the highest on the written test: Bob Dancer, Richard Munchkin, Wally Simmons, "JT," and Anthony Curtis.
This round involved a speed-card-counting contest. Each of the five contestants picked up a deck of cards in which one to five ten-value cards had been removed from each deck. When Max said, "GO," they picked up their deck and looked at the cards quickly to determine how many ten-value cards had been removed. When each contestant thought that he knew the number of "unseen" ten value cards in their deck, they had to slam their deck face-up in front of them. The first person who slammed their deck down announced the number of unseen ten-value cards. If he was correct, he would get to choose a seat position for the final round of the competition. If a player guessed incorrectly, he would be eliminated from the competition. (Note: Each contestant had 30 seconds to think about how they were going to their count before Max announced, "Go.")
Bob Dancer guessed incorrectly and he was the first contestant to be eliminated. This was not too surprising since Bob is a video poker pro who hadnít counted cards in 20 years. This left four contestants for the final round of the competition.
The four finalists competed in a series of card counting contests. Iíll briefly summarize a few of them.
Reading the discard tray
Each contestant was shown a discard tray and he had to determine in ten seconds how many cards there were in the tray. (Double-deck, each contestant had to tell the number of cards, within four cards.)
Each contestant had to pass two standard card-counting signals to a partner (someone they picked from the audience.) The partner chosen had two guesses as to what the signal meant.
Each contestant looked at their deck of cards in 45 seconds and then announces the exact number of neutral cards (7, 8, and 9) that were removed.
Feats of Cunning, Balance, and Luck
Max always seems to include one contest that really has nothing to do with card counting. This year it was who could stack the most number of chips in a single pile without the pile of chips falling down. Each contestant could only use one hand to place a specific number of chips on their stack. (The number of chips was determined by drawing a card.) A contestant lost if his stack fell down.
There were a few more "serious" card counting contests but I think you get the gist of what the competition was all about.
Ironically, the final three contestants in this yearís Blackjack Ball were the same three finalists at the Blackjack Ball held 16 years ago: Richard Munchkin, Wally Simmons, and Anthony Curtis. After all the card counting contests were completed, Anthony Curtis finished third (bridesmaid again), Wally Simmons finished second, and Richard Munchkin was declared this yearís champion. (Note: Munchkin is now a three-time Blackjack Ball Champion. The only other player who had won three times was James Grosjean, and then Max barred him from competing in the Blackjack Ball. (Note: Grosjean won three out of four years and took second the other year.). It remains to be seen what "sanctions," if any, Max will place on Munchkin in future Blackjack Balls.)
As always, the Blackjack Ball was a great way for me to visit with (in person) the many advantage-playing friends that I have made over the past 30 years, and to make some new friends. Iím already looking forward to next yearís Ball, where Iím hoping to make that final table.
Blackjack Ball 2013
Round One Questions and Answers
In my Part 1 article last month, I listed the questions that were on the written test that was given to us at the Ball. This month, Iíve listed the answers following each question. (Hopefully, you tried answering the questions last month.) Give yourself one point for each correct answer. Keep in mind that the top six scores amongst the pros who took the test ranged from 11 to 14. Here were the rules to the written test, as announced by Max. (Good luck!)
"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.
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