Blackjack Insider Newsletter, August 2003, #43
MULTIPLYING OUR EDGE ON THE INTERNET
By ROB McGARVEY
Where were you in í62? The world was changing in so many ways "back in the day." With the backdrop of the top singles Sherry by the Four Seasons and Telstar by the Ventures, the top TV shows of the Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith and the Dick Van Dyke Show played your cares away after work. John Glenn circled the earth in Friendship 7 and Marilyn Monroe was found dead "in the nude." The 76ersí Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Nicks, and fall out shelters were considered better than evacuation if the bomb dropped. Prayer in public schools was defeated 6 to 1 and the first African American James Howard Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi with the help of the US Army.
In 1962 the world of blackjack would also change forever. Edward O. Thorp unleash the power of the Four Horsemen of the Blackjack Apocalypse (Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel, and McDermott) on the single deck game. Dealing to the bottom of a single deck quickly became a part of history as casino after casino retaliated against Thorps Ten Count and the Basic Strategy discovered by Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel, and McDermott. Soon the players were facing six deck games with less than spectacular rules as the edge of the counter was cut back to 1% for short periods of time against the house.
In August 1962, J.C.R. Licklider of MIT was working on his "Galactic Network" concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. He became the head of the computer research department at DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). Soon defence, government, and universities were all connected, and the information era began.
On August 14th, 1962, Rob McGarvey came into the world around 8 PM. Weighing 7 pounds and 11 ounces he was the gamblers baby. My Dad, a semi professional equestrian handicapper played 7 11 on the next days Exacta at Woodbine. And won.
Blackjack, Rob, and the Internet were now set on a billion dollar destiny that would happen as these three worlds collided in cyberspace over three decades later.
Flash forward forty years. The ARPANET is now the Internet. Instead of sending little packets of text across phone lines we are now sending multi-megabytes of info per second across fibre optic cables, or over the airwaves using wireless technology. We no longer have to travel to the casino to play blackjack. We are now surrounded by 2000 casinos in cyberspace, all literally waiting for us at our fingertips. I no longer have to travel two hours both ways to play an eight-deck game, and can log on to play a single deck game at any hour of the day or night.
The online version of blackjack has some distinct differences from the card-snapping chip rattling green felt table game. You can have all of these sounds of the game come across your PCís sound system if you wish, but we are looking at the technical end of the game now. The biggest difference is the fact that the computer "shuffles" the cards after each hand. That puts an end to counting how many aces and faces are left in the deck. This virtually destroys the edge that Thorp and followers have had over the game of blackjack. It also eliminates some of the casinos advantage after many 10ís and aces have been played.
The way the computer "shuffles" the cards is different than the way a human shuffles the cards. When we shuffle, the cards fall in certain orders. We need to shuffle the deck seven times to make sure that all of the order that was in the cards from the previous deal is gone and that the deck is random. Try doing that to eight decks of cards seven times! (Shuffle tracking anyone?) The way the computer does it is something like this. Each card is given a number and fired off into cyberspace only to fall back into a pile of 52 cards with absolutely no order what so ever in one giant spinning motion. A random number generator (RNG) is used to do this.
The most important difference is how online casinos are marketed to the public. Your typical Las Vegas style casino sits there on a piece of dry desert and calls out your name. How does it call you in? Every casino on land or online will call you through its front door with the hope of winning some money. They have to offer you something better than the next casino does to get your business. They offer you a free room, drinks, meals, and a show. An automotive museum right in the hotel you are staying in, or some gargantuan show of light and sound. They dare not offer you a good game of blackjack because word will spread like wildfire and that game will be gone quicker than a keno playerís bankroll.
Online casinos canít offer you a free room, pick up your drinks, or send you to the buffet to eat. Each casino has a theme like their Las Vegas cousin does, but it is all a virtual one. Thank goodness for that. You can shut it off when it begins to drive you crazy. There is only one thing they can offer you to get you to play. Money. Lots and lots of money. They are in competition for your business and the threshold of how much they will offer you keeps getting higher and higher.
The first online casino I played at offered me $25 for depositing $25. This is very similar to what casinos call match play coupons, but is called a deposit bonus. This is a 100% deposit bonus, and today this is small peas. You can find high percentage bonuses that are in the hundreds. The online casino has rules that you have to meet to use this bonus and turn it into real wallet lining money. I had to play my $25 and their $25 three times through, $150 in blackjack hands. These rules are there to protect the casino from people that might just deposit and take out the bonus without playing it. I played closer to $200 in $2 hands and when I was done I had exactly $50 in the account. I took out the money and got a check in the mail for $25. My original deposit went back to my credit card, and I became convinced that this was the most awesome advantage against any game of chance that has ever existed. Period. Thorp and the Four Horsemen of the Blackjack Apocalypse were blown away like dust by this new aged edge!
"Big deal, you got $25 out of a casino" you might say. In fact I remember my wife saying something to that effect. The beauty of what had happened was hidden inside the math of it all. You invest $25, make $25, and turn a 100% profit. Is my edge 100%? No. I made $25 by playing $200 worth of hands. 25 divided by 200 is a 12.5% advantage. The return on investment (ROI) was 100%, and the variance of the game was equal to what we can expect from a hand held single deck game. Was the casino happy? Today they offer you a 20% bonus up to $100. You must deposit $500 and play that through ten times before they will add the $100 to your account. And you canít play blackjack to meet these requirements now. Baccarat, Roulette, and Craps have long been excluded simply for that fact you can bet against yourself and put in all the play requirements in a few minutes time. Now blackjack is being added to this list at many online casinos. Why? Too many players just log on, play, and take the money without giving the casino what they want, which is a new player. I have a much more subtle approach and have always tried to get others to follow my lead in this regard. It will actually pay off much better in the long run. The greed of certain players is killing the world of online blackjack, not the bonus offers. The entire country of Denmark is not allowed a bonus at most online casinos.
There are a bunch of different bonuses that an online casino will offer you to get your business. Letís look at them one at a time.
A download bonus is the free money that the casino seeds your new player account with after you register your personal info with them. Usually $10 or $15, this number has been rising lately into the $20 $25 range. The terms and conditions of each site will tell you how much you have to play to take this money out. I once had a $50 free offer. To take the money out, all I had to do was get the amount up to $100 and take it out. Some would just bet the entire $50 and cross their fingers, but I worked my way up past the $100 over the course of an evening. I took it out a few weeks later after playing with it on and off over that time span.
First Deposit Bonus
The most lucrative bonus of them all, a first deposit bonus is a percentage of your deposit. They can be anywhere from between 10% to 400%. A few sites used to offer you $30 for any deposit including a $1 one. 3000% return on investment anyone?
Return bonuses, or re-ups as they are often called in the world of sports betting, is a percentage bonus offered directly to existing customers. These can be amazing little offers. If they offer you something after you have done your first deposit bonus, they want to keep you. That is if you played your cards right. I just got a 4th of July 20% for a $500 deposit at a sports book I play at. Special holidays are great for bonus offers like these.
"Sticky" Deposit Bonus
A sticky deposit bonus is a bonus that you cannot take out of the account. Usually a percentage of deposit, and often better than 100% since the casino feels more comfortable knowing you canít withdraw it from your account. A few months ago my players and I got a deal where we deposited $500 to get $250 which could not be taken out. There was no play requirements! I scored $220 from them then took out my deposit. I went back and took out my wins, and am still hitting them for $100 checks every few weeks.
Refer a Friend Bonus
A refer a friend bonus is a bonus that is added to your account for getting other players to join a casino. You can send your friends an email using the casinos website and if they join and deposit you can get between $10 and $50 added to your account. Some casinos offer you more than this, and I always tell my players about them and share the bounty as a part of my Billion Dollar Blackjack Team.
Alternative Deposit Bonus
Most of the credit card companies avoid doing business with online casinos. After September 11th, 2001, the anti-terrorists tried to dry up all of the money that could be getting laundered by online casinos and used by evil men with evil purposes. Some Canadian credit card companies didnít mind doing business with online casinos because they were taking a 3% cut out of each transaction I made when I converted from CAN to US Dollars. There had to be a new way to fund your gaming accounts. PayPal used to be the online bank of choice, but when they were taken over by eBay they had to go anti-terrorist anti-gambling. Enter NETeller. Apparently run out of Toronto Canada, NETeller stepped into the giant shoes left empty when PayPal pulled out. There are other methods to fund your gaming accounts, and all of them can get you extra bonus bucks.
You can fund your account by using your credit card, or a bank account, or a bank wire. Just being an extra arms length from these online casinos seems to make a difference with the banks and credit card companies. To make it worth your while to open an account, they have to make it worth your while. For example, I am playing two casinos that will give a 10% bonus up to $1000 for playing there. PrePaidATM, Citadel, 900Pay and ACH Bank Transfers can also give you this alternative bonus.
If you are a blackjack player who has never ventured into the world of online blackjack, you should give it a shot. If you do play online we should get together and swap some play stories, maybe even hook up and take a casino down a notch or two. Heck, Iíll even pay you to do it with me!
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