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by The Suit

I have dealt everywhere from the "Sweat Houses" to the clubs owned by the "Good Old Boys." In Old Las Vegas, you HAD to know game protection before you got promoted to the floor. I spent the last 14 years as Floor Supervisor, Pit Manager, Director of a Gaming School, Back Up Shift Manager, and Shift Manager. Iíve trained dealers, Floor Supervisors and Pit Managers. Needless to say, I have experienced gaming from all positions in Table Games and have told some of the BEST advantage players in the world that they could not play. I will give you tips on how to avoid getting the dreaded "Tap on the Shoulder."


So why do casinos have all those rules and procedures?

Do they just make them up as they go?

Are they tailored to cheat the players?

The game of "21" or "Blackjack" has evolved over many years. Itís changed from a "Great Game" where a single deck dealt of cards use to be dealt to the bottom, dealers manually peaked at their hole card, cards were hand shuffled, players could double on any two cards, and many other traditional rules to a game dealt from up to eight deck of cards often being cut in half or sometimes even more, shuffle machines, peekers, restrictions on how you may play your hands, and well, you can figure out where I am going from here.

So who do we have to thank for the changes to the blackjack rules and procedures? How about the pioneers of card counting or advantage play, the down right cheaters (that includes benders, dobbers, cold deckers, bet cappers, card switchers), players using hidden computers, and dealers, floor supervisors and anyone else in a casino involved in a cheating scam. You also have the casinos themselves to thank for being lazy and not educating and training their personnel. Thank anyone you know who was involved in any of these activities for the "Bad Games" out there today!

Where did all the paranoia start? In 1958 four mathematicians, Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott, wrote the first book, "Playing Blackjack to Win" that contained the first basic strategy and the first ideas on card counting. Their analysis of "Optimum Strategy in Blackjack" was first published in the American Journal of the American Statistical Association in 1956. It caused a lot of excitement among gamblers and statisticians. By the way, these mathematicians did all their mathematical calculations using old fashion adding machines which took a lot of dedication and long hours. Surprisingly their basic strategy was very accurate compared to the basic strategy today, with the exception of a few plays. They figured out that the outcome of the hands depends on what cards have been dealt and what cards are left in the deck (the first theory on card counting). These four mathematicians were truly before their time. Unfortunately, they never received the recognition that they deserve for their work.

And then there was Edward O. Thorp, MIT Professor of Mathematics. His book "Beat the Dealer" made the New York Times best seller list in 1962. Thorp changed the game of blackjack forever. He used an IBM 704 computer to do his analysis and discovered that each round is influenced by the cards played in preceding rounds. Each card dealt changes the possibilities of both the dealer and the player, hence we had card counting and basic strategy.

Thorp developed his Ten Count system where you keep a running count of tenís and all the other cards (Ace thru 9). You started with two numbers for single deck (36 non-tens and 16 tens) and then you counted backwards as cards were played. After each round you divided your count of non-tens by the count of remaining tens and this gave you the "Thorp Ratio" which gave the player an indication of their advantage (i.e. the lower the ratio the greater the edge for the player)

Thorp had a table in his book containing the suggested units to bet based on the ratio. Although Thorpís Ten Count was accurate is was very difficult to apply in a real casino atmosphere. Even though many players learned the Ten Count and were beating casinos Thorp made some changes to the ratios in his second edition of the book (1966). Rounding off the ratios made keeping the Ten Count easier. This is the time that casinos started shuffling up on card counters, bringing in multi-deck games, allowing players to only double on 11, and changing procedures to stop card counting. But the casinos got a lot of bad publicity and business dropped so they changed the rules back.

Julian Braun - The next giant in blackjack wrote the classic book, How to Play Winning Blackjack, which was his one and only book!

Braun was a computer programmer whose programs provided strategies for a number of card counting systems. Braunís programs were used to develop Thorp, Revere and Lance Humble (Hi-Op 1&2), and the Hi-Lo strategies. Revere and Humbleís systems are ranked the two most accurate systems for betting, playing hands, and insurance. Braun did much of the analysis for Thorpís second edition of "Beat the Dealer" in 1966.

Julian Braun was never recognized in the blackjack world as he should have been. He was a true pioneer and anyone involved with the game of blackjack whether on "the other side" or the playerís side owe him a debt of gratitude. His discoveries truly changed the world of blackjack for players and casinos.

Youíre probably wondering by know, "why the history lesson?" Because knowledge is power! Knowing how and where card counting came from should help you understand why casinos change the rules and back you off. All of the decisions a casino makes are counter moves, basically business decisions to protect the houseís money. You protect your money, so why wouldnít you expect a casino to protect their money?

Suppose you owned a casino. Would you let someone with the same playing skill level like yours play blackjack in your casino? Sure you would win lots of money from players who have no knowledge of the correct way to play blackjack. But how long would you allow the skilled advantage player to play and consistently win? Would you allow them to milk your bank account slowly for weeks, months or even years? We all know the answer to this is NO!

Remember the way to win at blackjack is to get an edge; the way you get the edge is to KNOW the numbers.



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