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by Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is an accomplished blackjack player, editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter, and host of He is a featured blackjack writer for numerous regional and national magazines.

In last month’s issue of BJI, I shared with you some of the activities that occurred at the 2014 Blackjack Ball that included a Calcutta Auction, latest inductee into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and the 21-question test that was part of the competition for the Grosjean Cup. This month I’ll share with you the answers to the test questions (hopefully, you tried answering the questions), the details of the second part of the competition for the Grosjean cup, and the names of the player who won the Grosjean Cup (first place) and Munchkin Award (second place).

As I mentioned last month, the five finalists that got the most correct answers in the written test were David Y (17 correct), Smoke (12), Thea Sankiewicz (12), Darryl Purpose (11), and Andy Bloch (11). These five contestants then competed in the next round of the competition that ensued.

What follows is a summary of this part of the competition (courtesy of Max Rubin), beginning with the semi-final round. (Note: Paragraphs in italics are what Max read to the finalists for each round of the competition.)

Semi-Final Round

This is the semi-finals and one of you will be eliminated and finish out of the money. The game is card counting. And by that I mean that you have to count the cards in your deck.

Everyone picks a deck, based on your finish in the preliminary round. If there was a tie for your position in the preliminary round, we will cut cards to see who picks first.

Now please step up to the table in front of your decks. I have removed from four to seven cards from your deck. When I say, "Go," start counting your deck and when you think that you can tell me how many cards have been removed, slam you deck on the table.

When everyone has placed their decks on the table, the first person to slam their deck down will announce the number of unseen cards. If they are right, they get to choose their seat at the final table. The next fastest finisher chooses the second seat, and so on. The last person to slam their deck may be eliminated.

If your guess is wrong, you are out, unless someone else makes the wrong guess, too. In that case, we will have a playoff, based on the same rules.

You have thirty seconds to think about how you’re going to do your count.

As always, audience participation is encouraged.

Ready? Go.

(Thea got the wrong answer and was eliminated)

Final Rounds

You will have one minute to study a single deck I spread on the table. Starting with first base, you will then each tell me the value of the card, (and may say either "ten" or the name of a face card and suits don’t matter). We’ll continue around the table clockwise. The first person to miss will be take 4th place and we move into the semi-final round while all three remaining players stay in their same seats.

(Note: Max changed the rules slightly to speed up play. Each player was told to memorize every fourth card. Nevertheless, on the 8th card, Andy Bloch forgot the card and was eliminated. Max jokingly said to Andy (who was on the M.I.T blackjack team), "Call M.I.T. and get your money back.")

Next Competition

We’ll cut cards for position. High card gets to choose where the betting action begins. There will be only three contests before we eliminate another player and move to the Finals. The person in the first betting spot will choose one of three games. At the end of the three games, the two players with the most chips advance to the final round. You will each start with $1000.

One more thing...we encourage audience participation on all events

At this point in the competition, Darryl had to choose between three games: designing a hand, reading the discard tray, and or cutting and steering. He chose designing a hand.


I’m going to spread a deck. Look at the cards. You will make a secret bet and then you will write one, two or three on a card to show us how many spots you should play, one two or three, on the first round to win the most money if I don’t shuffle. You will have 30 seconds to study the deck. Oh yeah, one thing. I’m going to burn one card. One more thing. I’ll play out each hand, Strip rules, basic strategy, stand on soft 17. If your answer’s right, it pays 2-1. Make your bets before I spread. Then we’ll declare. The Minimum bet is on each hand is $100 or the balance of your bankroll. There is no maximum bet. Betting begins on the button. BURN THE 2 Q 9 Q 4 8 7 5 J 4 10 10 10.

Make your bets, starting now.

(Note: David was eliminated on this round.)



Two competitors left: Darryl and Smoke.

This is it. You will each count down a portion of a double deck. The first person who thinks they’ve got the count right, using a simple plus minus count, slaps the table. You will then announce the count. If you’re wrong, your opponent wins the Grosjean Cup and you take home the Munchkin Award.

If you’re right, you then have to bet $100 and play a hand from the remaining stacked deck of your unseen cards and you must make the correct play, Barona rules, and you may or may not have to utilize an Index Play. If you make the right play, you will win the Grosjean cup. If you lose the $100, you will take home the Munchkin Award and your opponent will be declared the World’s Greatest Blackjack Player for 2014.

Cut cards to choose a deck and we’ll begin.

Summary by Max:

Darryl Purpose smoked "Smoke" on the count by over 10 seconds and correctly said "Plus 3." He then Hit a 10/5 versus a Dealer 9 (the Index Play is + 4 to), so he took a card and hit a 4 for a total of 19 and looked good.

Sadly, he forgot that you can surrender the DD at Barona and the Index Number on 15 v 9 is only + to Surrender. So when the Dealer turned over an Ace in the hole, he lost and "Smoke" took home the Grosjean Cup and Darryl won the first Munchkin Award for "World’s Second Greatest Blackjack Player) of 2014.

For your information: Below are the rules for "Reading the Tray" and "Cutting and Steering Cards" games, which were not used at this Ball because they were not selected as a game by one of the finalists.


Each player must wager at least $100 of his or her bankroll and there is no maximum bet. All bets are secret. We’re playing with a six-deck shoe. All you have to do is tell us, how many cards are NOT in the discard tray.

If you hit within five remaining cards, you will be paid double your wager, out of the rack. If nobody hits within five cards, the closest to the actual number wins even money and the other two players forfeit their bets to the house. If two players tie for closest to the actual number, they will both be paid even money and double if they’re both within 5 cards. Make your secret bets and I’ll show you the discard tray. You will have 15 seconds to write down your answer on your secret bet card. Ready go. Pens down. Hide your answers. Person on the button reveals first.


Each of you will play against a single deck and I’m going to show you the bottom card. You may then cut and must cut at least 10 cards. You will then begin play, heads up, betting whatever you’d like, up to your entire bankroll and you may play between one and 3 hands on each of three rounds, until the bottom card is exposed, which will then end your session at the end of that hand.

You must put at least 25% of your bankroll in action during this event. All wins and losses are paid out of the rack and blackjack pay 3-2. Again, after the bottom cards hit the layout that will be the last hand of your session. There are three decks. One deck has an Ace on the bottom and the other two decks have Fives. The person on the button chooses their deck first, the person to their left chooses next. Each person plays in order, clockwise, starting on the button.

The cards have not been stacked and play will be completely random. One more thing, I’m going to burn the top card.

Below are the 21 test questions and answers. The highest number of correct answers from amongst the 106 pros who took the test was 17, 12, and 11. (I told you this was a tough test.) Check your answers against the correct answers below.

Blackjack Ball 2014

Round One Questions

Max went over the rules as follows:

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 (Just ask Hollywood Dave, who got the hook last year).

Also, 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.

I’ll repeat each question twice. Ready?

  1. True or False: This is ALMOST like last year’s first question, but not quite, so pay attention. Largely because all of the ladies and gentlemen that attend the Blackjack Ball honor their agreements to not play blackjack at Barona, and all members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame get to stay, eat and play golf at Barona for life to not play there, Barona still offers more Full Pay pitch blackjack games than any other casino in the world. True or False...

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