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HOUSE OF PANE:

12th ANNUAL BLACKJACK BALL

A SPECIAL NIGHT TO REMEMBER

By Joe Pane

 

Editorís Note: For those that donít know, the annual Blackjack Ball is a social gathering of invited blackjack pros from around the world. The perennial host Max Rubin once estimated, that collectively, the guests at the Ball "easily earn at least $10 million a year playing cards." The only obligation for invited guests to get past security is that they bring one chilled bottle of premium Champagne to the affair (ideally one that they acquired from a casino comp). The evening consists of dinner, drinks, storytelling (of course), a Calcutta where guests can wager on and against each other in the skills test (the winner receives the Blackjack Cup and the coveted title of "Worldís Best Blackjack Player"), the infamous Blackjack Test, and the voting to determine which blackjack luminary joins the prestigious Blackjack Hall of Fame. Thanks again to Max Rubin for providing the test questions that were given to attendees (youíll find the questions at the end of this article).

The four newest members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame never counted cards. They also never gambled for high stakes, or won a lot of money in casinos. Yet, their work from over 50 some odd years ago has affected every person that has ever played the game of blackjack. That includes card counters, as well as average players, who use the basic playing strategy (although most average players do not play perfect basic strategy). These four matriarchs of our game have shown all of us how to best play every possible hand ever dealt to any player in any part of the world.

When Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott -- long known by blackjack insiders as the nearly mythical "Four Horsemen" -- were introduced at Max Rubinís 12th Annual Blackjack Ball before a room full of the world's most accomplished blackjack players, they received a heartfelt standing ovation that had to make them finally realize what they offered to every single one of us who play this game both recreational and on a professional level. They were, at last, rewarded for their accomplishment by being inducted into the prestigious Blackjack Hall of Fame.

Using only desk calculators and their considerable brainpower, the Four Horsemen were the first analysts to determine the optimal strategy for playing blackjack. They hammered it out in the 1950s, before modern computers were widely available, while serving in the Army at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

For the next year and a half, the Four Horsemen of Aberdeen spent their free time punching numbers into their calculators and developed the blackjack's basic strategy, the mathematically correct way to play every hand dealt to you assuming the information you only know is your hand and the dealerís upcard.

Their newly devised strategy was...

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