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BLACKJACK CARD COUNTERS
Where are they?
by Henry Tamburin, as published in
Casino Player magazine, April 2004.
In 1962 Dr. Edward Thorp published his classic book, Beat the Dealer, which unequivocally showed that the game of blackjack could be beaten by card counting. Since then countless number of blackjack books containing the same message about card counting have been published and read by probably millions of players. This should have created hundreds of thousands of card counters. So where are they all?
The plain fact of the matter is that reading about how card counting works and doing it in a casino environment are two different things. In fact at first glance card counting might seem simple enough
just add and subtract numbers to keep track of the total and adjust your bet size accordingly. But in the real world, as every professional card counter will tell you, it takes months of practice to learn even the simplest of valid card counting systems to become a true expert. The reason it takes this long is the mental gymnastics you have to perform to keep an accurate count, convert that count by division (or sometimes multiplication) to determine your edge, then change your betting and playing strategies according to the edge you now have. Most players find card counting too difficult and time consuming to learn which is why according to the Griffin Detective Agency that keeps track of advantage players, they have identified only 1,100 winning advantage players out of an estimated 51 million casino gamblers. That's just one successful, winning blackjack player for every 47 thousand casino players!
The fact that blackjack books have only been able to create such a small number of expert blackjack players is proof positive that advantage-play at blackjack is difficult for the average player to master. But there have been advances in card counting playing strategies over the years to lessen the mental gymnastics involved in learning and applying the classical point count systems.
The biggest breakthrough was the development of unbalanced card counting systems by blackjack luminaries Arnold Snyder (Red Seven Count), Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs (K-O Count) and Fred Renzey (KISS & Mentor Counts). These systems eliminated the mental division of one number by another that is required of the classical balanced point count systems yet still provide the player with an advantage over the casinos. This certainly was a step in the right direction to make card counting easier but even these systems still required players to mentally add and subtract positive and negative numbers as cards are dealt. This mental task is still too daunting for many players, or leads to errors that erode the player's advantage, unbeknownst to them.
So even though there is a vast amount of information about card counting in books and on the Internet, the number of players who actually have the advantage when they play probably number in the hundreds and not thousands or millions. But that is about to change thanks to Dan Pronovost, a computer software expert who has developed blackjack training software for Palm and Pocket PC handhelds, and Windows-based pc's (www.HandheldBlackjack.com). Dan also teaches card counting to players and is well aware of the difficulty most average players face using a classical point-count system without errors when they play. So he fired up his computer to try to find a better and simpler way for the player to gain the advantage. What he developed, after three two years of intense work he called "Speed Count" a true revolution in blackjack card counting. I interviewed Dan for this article, so I'll let him explain his breakthrough.
"What is Speed Count?"
Dan: Speed Count is a new card counting system, unlike any other ever published. In fact, no currently available blackjack simulator can simulate the method! It is similar to most other card counting systems in that players keep track of one running count based on assigned card values, but differs from all systems in that on-the-fly subtraction, division, and multiplication have been eliminated while cards are dealt. Yet Speed Count is still a powerful system, yielding from 70 to 95 percent of the advantage of powerful systems such as High-Low (without play indices).
"Why was Speed Count developed?"
Dan: From years of selling blackjack training software, I've learned that the hardest skill to master to become a proficient blackjack card counter is keeping track of the running count as cards are dealt. Adding and subtracting 'on-the-fly' sounds easy, until you're chasing a modest to fast dealer at a full table! Although you may think you're accurately tracking the count, even small errors can be costly and cause the slim advantage you've gained to turn into a loss. If you're not betting properly with the advantage because you've tracked the count wrong, then you are most likely playing at a loss without knowing it.
Speed Count was designed from scratch to remove this barrier. By leveraging some consistent mathematical properties unique to blackjack, you can have a system that only takes a few hours to master, virtually eliminates count errors, yet delivers most of the advantage possible with popular count systems.
"How powerful is Speed Count?"
Dan: Speed Count delivers 70 percent to 95 percent of the performance advantage of popular count systems such as High-Low or Knock-Out (without play indices). We've completed exhaustive computer simulations to back up the power of Speed Count. We've even made sure we compared Speed Count fairly by adjusting the bet spreads so that the metrics of the systems were comparable (for the statisticians out there, we adjusted the bet spreads to ensure that the average bet size and standard deviation were very close).
"What type of player would benefit from Speed Count?"
Dan: Speed Count is for average blackjack players who have been leery of learning card counting, or who have tried already and failed. It's easy to learn and use, yet delivers most of the advantage of good count systems. For expert players already playing a high-end system well without errors, Speed Count will not provide further advantage, but could provide good cover since the casinos will not be familiar with it's different characteristics and playing strategy.
"Why did you decide to teach Speed Count as a course rather than publish it in a book?"
Dan: There has been an endless supply of books over the years on blackjack and card counting. Yet the reality is that these book sales have yielded very few players who card count regularly and play with a positive edge over the casino. Yet another book is not going to help the average blackjack player seeking to master advantage play!
The Golden Touch Blackjack Course, the exclusive licensee of Speed Count, provides detailed training, including actual table playing time to make sure players master the system. Until now, no effective blackjack card counting system has been easy enough to learn that it could be mastered in a two-day seminar. With veteran expert instructors such as yourself (Henry Tamburin) and Frank Scoblete teaching Speed Count, the GTB seminars will truly make card counters out of average players with minimal effort on their part. Our goal is to help average blackjack players become advantage players, rather than flood the shelves with yet another book about blackjack. For those interested in the course, visit the Golden Touch web site (www.GoldenTouchCraps.com), or call 1-866-WIN BJ21.
Dan Pronovost did over 10030 billion hand-simulations of Speed Count and when he was satisfied, he sent his research and results to one of the foremost gambling math experts, Michael Shackleford, for review. Shackleford stated, "
According to Dom LoRiggio, "Working closely with Dan Pronovost, we have created a new basic strategy that is optimized for Speed Count, exit and entrance strategies to enhance the edge, bet sizing techniques, as well as other methods to increase a players advantage over the house."
Frank Scoblete states, "We've used these techniques ourselves in the casinos and they do work just as we say. Our method is unlike any other advantage-play blackjack method in its ease of use and natural camouflage, and we are confident we can teach the average player how to use Speed Count to gain the advantage in just two days of training."
For more information about the Golden Touch Blackjack course featuring Speed Count call 1-866-WIN BJ21.
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