my 2 cents
I am a novice and have just learned the basic strategy. I am very quick with numbers and card counting should come quite easily.
Confidence is a good thing, however, things will happen in a casino that defy logic. Stick to your plan and weather the swings.
I am looking for a good starter book..possibly Thorpe and would appreciate any suggestions.
When you say a "good starter book", I'm assuming you're looking for a card counting book. If so, get a copy of Knock out Blackjack, known as the KO system. You can get this book in the BJ21 store. Other excellent material found there also. DO IT!
You should avoid (like poison ivy) ANYTHING written by John Patrick.
I also have a few questions which hopefully the more experienced players can help me with.
1-Are any of the online "casinos" worth playing 21.
Don't know, personally I'd never touch them.
2-I live in ATL.. where would the nearest casino be for me to play.
I'm surprised you haven't heard the Cherokee Harrah's casino pitch. How long have you lived in Atlanta? The Gulf Coast is your best bet, Gulfport and Biloxi. Delta goes there, the drive is beyond boring. Tunica, MS is your next shot, about equal distance from Atlanta as the Gulf Coast. Again, the drive is more painful than I can describe. Incredibly boring!
I usually wager between $5-$10. Could I get a comp anywhere?
Nope. If you're thinking long term in this game and want comps, you gotta move into the $75+ av bet range to tap into the RFB (Room, Food, Beverage comped) arena. I suspect Bellgaio in Vegas would easily push $200 av bet for this level. I was once RFB at the Mirage and was averaging around $125-$150. It's a function of what you feel is important to you...you want comps, you gotta play the game. Move up slowly, tossing out black can be a unique experience.
3-Why according to the basic strategy would anyone split 88 when the dealer has an Ace up?
It's a defensive move, 16 v A is horrible. You do put more coin on the table but you have a better opportunity to win. Others will weigh in on the merits of this play.
Chance favors the prepared mind