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## The History of PBA...

### By David Smith, author of PBA

My first exposure to the world of computational blackjack was as a graduate student, while working on my physics Ph.D. dissertation. I had learned that blackjack was a game where the player could obtain a long-term advantage over the house, and, like many others, I found this to be fascinating. Fascinating enough, in fact, that I felt the need to explore the concept in more detail, and created a very simple program to simulate playing millions of hands of blackjack. Rather than calculating the counting strategy myself, I used available strategies from published books, and experimented with different betting systems, rules, depths of penetration--the usual parameters studied in the blackjack universe. Of course, I found that by adhering to certain styles of play and strategies, a player could indeed maintain an edge over the house, and therefore make a profit over time.

Armed with this data, I began to interest friends and colleagues in the concept of assembling a team to "count" cards in casinos, making use of the data I had generated with the simulation program. As we geared up to take on the casinos, I continued to modify the original blackjack simulation for every rule and circumstance that came up, changing the code every week. As it became more critical that the simulations be absolutely correct, I started looking around to find if anyone sold a program that would simulate blackjack games, with which I could compare our own results for basic games.

In choosing among the possible options, I came across Stanford Wong's Blackjack Count Analyzer (BCA). At the time, BCA was one of the oldest and most reliable commercial software programs sold. Verifying that the output from BCA was consistent with my code, at least for the rules and games supported in BCA, gave us an added level of confidence. And confidence in the numbers was essential, as we were now risking tens of thousands of dollars on these results!

Once I started using BCA, I found that it contained a very nice bonus; it calculated complete count strategies amazingly quickly, usually in seconds. BCA uses a combinatorial procedure rather than direct simulation to find strategies, sacrificing a tiny bit of accuracy and gaining a tremendous amount of speed. This is the method outlined and used by Peter Griffin in The Theory of Blackjack, and it produces a wealth of information almost instantaneously. Solely because of this feature, BCA was a unique and exceptionally useful product.

After using BCA for a while, I began to consider the idea of developing a new Windows-based software that would use the strategy analyzer in BCA as the starting point, but would provide even more ways to access the expectations and strategies generated. In addition, I thought there were even more possibilities for combinatorial analysis that could extend the concepts of BCA in new program. After discussing the idea with Stanford Wong, who liked the idea and supplied his original BCA code to me, the Professional Blackjack Analyzer (PBA) project was started.

My goal has been to produce a program that with extremely sophisticated blackjack analysis features, but in an attractive format that is intuitive and easy-to-use. I've always been a fan of the large amount of visual content that has been a signature of modern programs, and thus PBA has a multiwindow format populated with numerous displays, tables, and graphs for the tremendous amount of information generated with every simulation and strategy generation.

PBA is best described as a project, rather than strictly as a product. It is evolving, as users provide feedback as to what they want or don't want in the program. New releases occur fairly frequently, as the code continues to be updated and new features added.

So long as PBA is useful, I will continue to maintain and expand it. Explore these web pages to browse the features of PBA, or to find the most current information.