For an Aspiring Card Counter
Ed Thorp too our knowledge of Blackjack from the industrial age to the electronic age when he wrote Beat the Dealer. This book contains the first mathematically verifiable blackjack strategy that gives the player the advantage. Thorp used what was then a state of the art computer.
Less than ten years earlier, Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott had taken our knowledge of the game from the stone age to the industrial age when they determined an extremely close approximation to basic strategy using desk calculators. I do not know whether they were mechanical or electro-mechanical. Play of the game had gone from a combination of common sense and guesswork to very near optimal play. Their book, Playing Blackjack to Win was reprinted three years ago.
Basic Strategy has been refined since the publication of these two books. Don Schlesinger has developed a set of color-coded basic strategy cards available from Pi Yee. I strongly recommend them. Card counting methods have also advanced since Thorp's book, which was written for single-deck games. Today's single-deck games have a 6:5 payoff for blackjack. Avoid any 6:5 game!
Here is another source for basic strategy:
I recommend Don's basic strategy cards in addition to the above website.
After you have learned basic strategy, learn the basic falacies and fact of gambling:
1. Casino games are designed to give the house an advantage. They are not friendly games in which the player and casino have equal chances of winning.
2. A player cannot overcome the casino's edge by using a betting system based on increasing the bet after a loss, increasing the bet after a win, a predetermined or random sequence of numbers or the like.
3. Card counting works by idnetifying situations where the player has the advantage, betting enough in such situations to give the player an overall advantage and varying play from basic strategy as the composition of the cardsw remaining to be played changes.
4. Obtaining an edge by counting cards does not guarantee that a player will win. A card counter has not changed places with the casino. The counter has a limited bankroll, plays one table at a time and plays limited hours. The casino plays with an extremely high bankroll, has many tables operating simultaneously and is open 24-7-365.
4. Stupid or otherwise unconventional play by others at a table has no effect on a counter's or basic strategy player's expectation.
Now, you are ready to learn to count cards. The casino has an edge of about 0.5% or less in a blackjack game with reasonable rules. This is less than the edge in virtually all other casino games. Blackjack differs from games with dice or wheels, e.g. craps, roulette, the big six wheel and slot machines in two key aspects. Games with dice or wheels employ independent trials or sampling with replacement in that the outcome of each play is independent of all prior plays, e.g. if ten consecutive red numbers are obtained at roulette, then the probability that the eleventh number will be red is 18/38, which is equal to the probability that the eleventh number will be black. If all the players and the dealer get blackjack at a six-seat table in a six-deck game, then the probability of getting a blackjack on the next round is less than the off-the-top probability because seven aces and fourteen tens, but no otrher cards have been removed from the deck. This is dependent trials or sampling without replacement. The roulette player has no control over the spin of the wheel or the rollong of the ball, but the blackjack player decides whether to surrender, split, double, hit or stand.
The player has an edge when there is a "large enough" excess of tens (including picture cards) and aces in the deck. This is because they are the cards that form a blackjack. The player is paid 3:2 when he gets blackjack, but he does not lose 3:2 when the dealer gets blackjack. The dealer must hit 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. The playewr may stand with these hands. A ten will break any and all of these hands. The player may double down with 9, 10 or 11. Other tan getting an ace when doubling with 11, getting an ace or ten will make these hands into likely winners. The dealer cannot double wheh he gets 9, 10 or 11. An exces of nines also helps the player, but not as much as an excess of aces or tens, so the nines are not counted in the simplest systems.
An excess of low cards helps the dealer. This is because a low card will help the dealer when he has 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16. The 5 is the key card because it is the only card that will convert any of the "stiffs" into a "pat" 17, 18, 19, 20 or 21 and it specifically converts the worst hands of 15 or 16 to the best hands of 20 or 21.
Decide whether you want to use a simple system that counts -1 when a high card is dealt, 0 when a neutral card is dealt and +1 when a low card is dealt, and bases betting and playing decisions on this running count, or, a somewhat more complicated system that divides the running count by the number of decks remaining to be played to get a true count.
Two of the simplist effective systems are Knock-Out or KO Blackjack from Knock-Out Blackjack by Olaf Vancura, Ph.D. and Ken Fuchs and the the Red Seven Count from Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder (the 2005 edition). Caveat: The KO book has basic strategy for games that do not allow the player to double down after splitting a pair. Such games are not common. Avoid them. Use the basic strategy on Don's cards for das (double after split) with the KO counting system if us use KO.
Several good blackjack books present the high-low system. High-low counts aces and ten-valued carts as -1; 7, 8 and 9 as 0 and 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 as -1, and divides the running count by the number of decks remaining to get the true count for betting and playing decisions. Several good blackjack books present the high-low system:
Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Bootlegger's 200 Proof Blackjack by Mike "Bootlegger" Turner
Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder (contains a streamlined version of high-low)
Play Blackjack Like the Pros by Kevin Blackwood
Blackjack: Play Like the Pros by john Bukofsky
Hollywood Blackjack by Dave Stann
Another good blackjack book is Modern Blackjack by Norm Wattenberger. I strongly recommend Norm's practice software. Buy it from Pi Yee. Visit www.qfit.com for more info.
Avoid books by John Scarne or by John Patrick. They have incorrect basic strategies. Avoid TARGET. Avoid any other book with incorrect basic strategy, a progression-based betting system or anything that seems too good to be true.
Read Don's Blackjack Attack after you have learned to count cards. It presupposes that you already are a card counter. It has advance material, with an emphasis on bankroll management and risk of ruin. It is an extremely important book.
Play for fun, rather than to make a living! I am a low stakes occasional player