REG.GAMBLING'S BLACKJACK FAQ

-----------------------
Frequently Asked Questions about Blackjack

This is the Blackjack section of the rec.gambling Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ) list.

Changes or additions to this section of the FAQ should be submitted to:
jacobs@xmission.com.

Page last modified: 3-15-95
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Table of Contents

Section B: Blackjack Questions
B1 What do these funny acronyms mean ...
B2 What special terminology is used by blackjack players?
B3 What special terminology is used by card counters?
B4 Why is there so much talk about blackjack in rec.gambling?
B5 Is casino blackjack a "beatable" game.
B6 How much of an advantage can card counting give?
B7 Is card counting illegal?
B8 Can the casino ban card counters?
B9 What is the correct basic strategy for single deck Blackjack?
B10 What is the correct basic strategy for Atlantic City blackjack?
B11 What is the house edge when playing basic strategy?
B12 Why are single deck games better than multi-deck games?
B14 Do 'bad' players at third base have any effect on expected gain?
B15 Where is the best place to sit at a blackjack table.
B16 How is card counting done?
B17 What counting system is "best"?
B18 What counting system is easiest to use?
B19 What BJ counting system is most effective?
B20 Does penetration have any effect on basic strategy expectation?
B21 What is the correct strategy for late surrender?
B22 What is the correct strategy for "multi action" blackjack?
B23 What is "Over/Under" Blackjack?
B24 What is the counting strategy for Over/Under blackjack?
B25 What are some good/bad books on Blackjack?
B26 What are some other sources of blackjack/gambling information?
B27 Is Ken Uston Dead?

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Q:B1 What do these funny acronyms mean ...
A:B1 (Michael Hall)

The acronyms that are often used in blackjack articles in rec.gambling are
listed below.

Abbreviations:
     BSE = Basic Strategy Edge
     H17 = Hit soft 17 (dealer must hit)
     S17 = Stand on any 17 (dealer must stand)
     DOA = Double On Any first two cards
     D10 = Double on 10 or 11 only
     DAS = Double After Splitting is allowed
     RSA = Re-Splitting Aces is allowed
     ESR = Early Surrender
     LSR = Late Surrender
     O/U = Over/Under 13 side bets are allowed

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B2 What special terminology is used by blackjack players?
A:B2 (Steve Jacobs, Dave Everett)

Blackjack Terminology:

basic strategy
     a playing strategy that is designed to minimize the house edge as much
     as possible without using techniques such as card counting, shuffle
     tracking, or dealer tells. Basic strategy is used as a foundation for
     card counting, but is also used by many non-counters.

burn card(s)
     cards that are discarded without being dealt to the players. After the
     cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by one of the players, one or
     more cards are "burned" before any cards are dealt to the players.

bust
     after a "hit", the player is said to "bust" if the new card causes the
     player's total to exceed 21.

card counting
     a system for improving the player's edge by assigning "weights" to
     each card face and summing the card weights as each new card is turned
     face up. The "count" indicates when the game is favorable for the
     player, so that the player can place larger bets and/or make changes
     in playing strategy.

cut card
     a (usually colored plastic) card that is used to cut the cards after
     they have been shuffled by the dealer.

double down
     to double the initial bet and receive exactly one more card. The
     option to double is often allowed on the players first two cards only,
     although some casinos allow doubling after splitting a pair. Many
     Northern Nevada casinos allowing doubling only with a two-card total
     of 10 or 11. It is very rare to find games that allow doubling of
     hands that have more than two cards.

double for less
     to double down with less than 2X the original bet. Generally, when
     doubling is allowed, the player does not have to actually double his
     bet, but may increase it by any amount up to (but not more than) the
     original bet.

early surrender
     surrender which is allowed even when the dealer has a natural. Very
     valuable to the player, but rarely offered by the casinos.

even money
     taking insurance when holding a blackjack results in a net gain of one
     bet. Some casinos will allow the player to be paid without actually
     placing the insurance bet. This is called "taking even money". (See
     "insurance")

first base
     the first player at a table to act on his/her hand is said to be
     sitting at "first base".

flat bet
     to bet the same amount on each successive hand.

hard hand
     any hand that is not a soft hand.

heads up
     playing at a table that has no other players.

hit
     drawing a new card to add to the player's or dealer's hand.

hole card
     the dealer's card that is placed face down.

insurance
     a side bet, of up to 1/2 the original bet, that is offered when the
     dealer's upcard is an ace. This bet pays 2:1 if the dealer has a
     natural 21. (Also see "even money")

late surrender
     surrender which is only allowed when the dealer does not have a
     natural. If the dealer has a natural 21 (blackjack), the player's bet
     still loses in its entirety. If the dealer does not have a blackjack,
     the player loses half the bet and doesn't play the rest of the hand.

natural
     a hand that totals 21 on the first two cards.

over/under
     a rare bet that the first two player's cards will total over 13, or
     under 13, when aces are counted as one.

preferential shuffling
     shuffling when the deck is favorable to the players, while avoiding a
     shuffle when the deck is unfavorable to the players.

push
     a tie hand, the original bet is returned to the player.

shoe
     a "box" for holding the undealt cards, usually used in multi-deck
     games.

soft hand
     any hand that includes an ace that can be counted as 11 without having
     the value of the hand exceed 21. It is always possible to draw one
     card to a soft hand without busting.

split hand
     hands that start with two cards of the same rank can be split to form
     two independent hands. This option is exercised by adding a new bet to
     the second hand, and these hands are played independently.

spread
     to place more than one bet before the cards are dealt.

stand
     to stop drawing cards.

stiff (hand)
     any hand that has a small chance of winning regardless of how the hand
     is played (usually 12 - 16).

surrender
     the option to give back the player's first two cards in exchange for a
     refund of 1/2 of the original bet (rarely allowed). Some hands, such
     as 16 vs. dealer's 10, are so bad that surrender is less costly than
     playing the hand.

third base
     the last player at a table to act on his/her hand is said to be
     sitting at "third base".

upcard
     the dealer's first card, dealt face up. The correct playing decision
     often involves some consideration of the dealer's upcard.

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Q:B3 What special terminology is used by card counters?
A:B3 (Steve Jacobs)

Card Counting Terminology

betting correlation
     a measure of how well the card weights correlate to the change in the
     player's favorability when the cards are seen by the player and
     removed from the deck. This gives an estimate of the accuracy of the
     card counting system.

back counting
     counting cards and waiting for the count to become favorable before
     sitting down to play. Usually done standing in back of the players.

balanced count
     any counting system that has a count starting at zero when the cards
     are shuffled, and ending at zero when all cards in the deck(s) have
     been exposed. Most counting systems use a balanced count.

bet spread
     the ratio between maximum and minimum bet size. A player who uses $20
     maximum bets and $5 minimum bets is using a 4:1 bet spread.

card weight
     the "value" assigned to each card face. This weight is added to the
     "count" as each new card is exposed. Weights are usually small integer
     values like -1, +1, or +2.

count
     (noun) -- a number that represents the player's estimate of how
     favorable or unfavorable.

cover bet
     a bet (usually large) placed at the "wrong" time, in order to fool the
     pit critters into thinking that the player is not counting cards.

insurance correlation
     a measure of how well the card weights correlate to the change in the
     player's favorability for placing insurance bets. This gives an
     estimate of the accuracy of the card counting system for predicting
     when to take insurance.

penetration
     the number of cards that are dealt before the cards are shuffled.
     Penetration is usually expressed as a percentage of the cards, as in
     "75% penetration". Good penetration is extremely important to card
     counters.

playing efficiency
     effectiveness of strategy variations in tracking the optimal playing
     strategy as the deck composition changes. Efficiency is given by E =
     AG / PG, where AG is the actual gain from making the strategy changes,
     and PG is the possible gain that could be made by using a playing
     strategy that is "computer perfect".

running count
     the total of the weights of all cards that have been exposed since the
     cards were shuffled.

shuffle tracking
     a system to predict which sections of the deck/shoe will be favorable
     to the player, based on the locations of favorable sections of the
     previous deck/shoe, and on studying the method used to shuffle the
     cards.

side count
     a count in addition to the "main" count, usually involving a single
     card face, as in "ace side count".

strategy variations
     varying from basic strategy when the count indicates that it is
     profitable to do so.

ten poor
     a deck that has a lower than average density of tens and face cards.

ten rich
     a deck that has a higher than average density of tens and face cards.

true count
     a count that is adjusted according to the number of undealt cards,
     usually by dividing the running count by the number of undealt *decks*
     (or half-decks).

unbalanced count
     any counting system that has a count that starts or ends on a non-zero
     value (see "balanced count"). Red 7 is an example of an unbalanced
     count.

wonging
     improving the player's edge by placing bets only when the count is
     favorable for the player, and "sitting out" when the count is
     unfavorable.

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Q:B4 Why is there so much talk about blackjack in rec.gambling?
A:B4 (Steve Jacobs)

Blackjack is the most popular table game in American casinos, and the
abundance of blackjack articles in rec.gambling is a reflection of this
popularity. Unlike many other casino games, skillful play in blackjack
allows the player to gain a slight advantage over the casino. However,
there is no single form of the game that is found in all casinos, and it is
often possible to find several slightly different forms of blackjack within
the same casino. When playing blackjack, the "correct" strategy to use will
depend on the number of card decks used and on the particular "house rules"
that are in effect during play. All of these factors combine to make
blackjack a very complicated topic.
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Q:B5 Is casino blackjack a "beatable" game.
A:B5 (Matt Wilding)

Background: Many books have been written that claim that BJ is beatable.

Answer: Simulations performed by rec.gamblers show different amounts of
potential player advantage in theory in BJ, depending on strategies, exact
rules, and playing conditions. These numbers typically approach 1% (an
average penny gain for every dollar bet) though in certain particular,
ideal circumstances this can get somewhat higher. There is disagreement on
the net about how much advantage this translates into in "real-world"
casinos, but it's generally believed that players can play with a small,
long-run advantage in BJ. The variance is very high in this game, however,
which makes the slight advantage in BJ far from a sure thing.
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Q:B6 How much of an advantage can card counting give?
A:B6 (Steve Jacobs)

A typical card counter will have an edge of 1.5% or less, depending on the
counting system used, the skill of the player, and the particular house
rules that the player is fighting against. It is quite unusual to find
playing conditions that allow the player to get more than a 2% edge against
the house, even against single deck games. The player's edge against
multi-deck games is generally less than 1%.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B7 Is card counting illegal?
A:B7 (Steve Jacobs)

No. The casinos would like you to believe that card counting is illegal,
immoral, and fattening, but the fact is that card counters are simply using
a greater level of skill than the typical blackjack player. The Nevada
courts have ruled that blackjack players are free to use any information
that is made available to them, provided that there is no collusion between
a player and casino personnel. For example, if a dealer accidentally
handles the cards in such a way that a player can see the dealer's hole
card, the player can make use of this information without breaking the law.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B8 Can the casino ban card counters?
A:B8 (Steve Jacobs)

This depends on where you play. In Atlantic City, where games of skill are
not permitted, the casinos are not allowed to ban skillful players. In
Nevada, casinos are allowed to refuse service to anyone at any time for any
reason. Players are routinely "barred", usually by being asked to leave or
by being told that they are welcome to play any game other than blackjack.
If you are barred but persist in trying to play, the casino can have you
arrested for trespassing.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B9 What is the correct basic strategy for single deck Blackjack?
A:B9 (Steve Jacobs)

The following basic strategy is for single deck games without DAS
(double-after-splits).

   +--  Player's hand
   |
   |     dealer         dealer
   |   |-might bust-||-might stand-|
   V   2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  X  A  <------- dealer's upcard
  ---+-------------------------------
  XX | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S   never, ever, ever split
  99 | PS PS PS PS PS S  PS ps s  s   split if (d <= 9), except 7
  88 | Ps Ps Ps Ps Ps Ph ph ph ph ph  always split
  77 | ps ps Ps Ps Ps ph h  h  s  h   split if (d <= 7), stand against 10
  66 | ph ps ps Ps ps h  h  h  h  h   split if (d <= 6)
  55 | DH DH DH DH DH DH DH DH H  H   never split, treat like hard 10
  44 | h  H  H  DH DH H  h  h  h  h   never split, double against 5, 6
  33 | h  h  Ph PH PH ph h  h  h  h   split if (d >= 4) and (d <= 7)
  22 | h  ph Ph PH PH ph h  h  h  h   split if (d >= 3) and (d <= 7)
  AA | PH PH PH PD PD PH PH Ph Ph Ph  always split
  ---+-------------------------------
  A9 | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S   always stand
  A8 | S  S  S  S *DS S  S  S  S  S   double against a 6
  A7 | S  DS DS DS DS S  S  h  h  h*  double 3-6, hit against 9, 10, A
  A6 | DH DH DH DH DH H  h  h  h  h   double low, hit high
  A5 | h  h  DH DH DH h  h  h  h  h   \
  A4 | h  H  DH DH DH H  h  h  h  h    \ double against 4,5,6
  A3 | H  H  DH DH DH H  H  h  h  h    /
  A2 | H  H  DH DH DH H  H  h  h  h   /
  ---+-------------------------------
  21 | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S   always stand
  20 | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S   always stand
  19 | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S  S   always stand
  18 | S  S  S  S  S  S  S  s  s  s   always stand
  17 | s  s  s  s  s  s  s  s  s  s   always stand on HARD 17 or above

  16 | s  s  s  s  s  h  h  h  h  h   \
  15 | s  s  s  s  s  h  h  h  h  h    \
  14 | s  s  s  s  s  h  h  h  h  h     > hit if dealer might stand,
  13 | s  s  s  s  s  h  h  h  h  h    /    stand if dealer might bust
  12 | h  h  s  s  s  h  h  h  h  h   /   (special case against 2, 3)

  11 | D  D  D  D  D  D  D  D  D  D   always double
  10 | D  D  D  D  D  D  D  D  H  H   double if (d < 10)
   9 | DH DH DH DH DH H  H  h  h  h   double if dealer might bust
   8 | h  H  H  DH DH H  h  h  h  h   double only against 5, 6
   7 | h  h  h  H  H  h  h  h  h  h
   6 | h  h  h  H  H  h  h  h  h  h   (4-2)
   5 | h  h  h  H  H  h  h  h  h  h   (3-2)
   4 | h  h  h  H  H  h  h  h  h  h   (2-2 pair if no more splitting allowed)
  ---+-------------------------------
  S=stand H=hit D=double P=pair(split)
  DH= double if allowed, otherwise hit
  DS= double if allowed, otherwise stand
  [uppercase] = "strong" hand, favorable to player
  [lowercase] = "weak" hand, favorable to house

  (*) notes:
     Playing A7 against dealer's ace:
        hitting gains 4.08% if dealer must hit on soft 17
        standing gains 0.74% if dealer must stand on soft 17

     Playing A8 against dealer's 6:
        doubling gains 1.96% if dealer must hit on soft 17
        doubling gains 0.03% if dealer must stand on soft 17
        (this rule may be ignored to simplify the strategy)

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B10 What is the correct basic strategy for Atlantic City blackjack?
A:B10 (Steve Jacobs)

The following basic strategy is for typical Atlantic City rules.

  HOUSE RULES:
     Cards are dealt from 6 decks.
     Dealer must stand on any 17.
       Double-down allowed on soft hands.
     Pairs may be split only once.
       Player may double-down after splitting pairs.
     Surrender is not allowed.


                   Strategy Table

       |---might bust---|  |---might stand---|  <---- dealer possibility
  ---+----------------------------------------
       2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A    <---- dealer's up card
  ---+----------------------------------------  Pairs
  XX | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  99 | PS  PS  PS  PS  PS  S   PS  ps  s   s
  88 | Ps  Ps  Ps  Ps  Ps  Ph  ph  ph  ph  ph
  77 | ps  ps  Ps  Ps  Ps  ph  h   h   h   h
  66 | ph  ph  ps  Ps  Ps  h   h   h   h   h
  55 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H   H
  44 | h   H   H   PH  PH  H   h   h   h   h
  33 | ph  ph  Ph  Ph  Ph  ph  h   h   h   h
  22 | ph  ph  Ph  Ph  PH  ph  h   h   h   h
  AA | PH  PH  PH  PH  PDH PH  PH  Ph  Ph  Ph
  ---+----------------------------------------  Soft Hands
  AX | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  A9 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  A8 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  A7 | S   DS  DS  DS  DS  S   S   h   h   h
  A6 | H   DH  DH  DH  DH  H   h   h   h   h
  A5 | h   H   DH  DH  DH  h   h   h   h   h
  A4 | h   H   DH  DH  DH  H   h   h   h   h
  A3 | H   H   H   DH  DH  H   H   h   h   h
  A2 | H   H   H   DH  DH  H   H   h   h   h
  AA | H   H   H   H   DH  H   H   h   h   h
  ---+----------------------------------------  Hard Hands
  21 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  20 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  19 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
  18 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   s   s   s
  17 | s   s   s   s   S   s   s   s   s   s

  16 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
  15 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
  14 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
  13 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
  12 | h   h   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h

  11 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H
  10 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H   H
   9 | H   DH  DH  DH  DH  H   H   h   h   h
   8 | h   H   H   H   H   H   h   h   h   h
   7 | h   h   h   H   H   h   h   h   h   h
   6 | h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h
   5 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
   4 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
  ---+----------------------------------------
  S=stand H=hit D=double P=split Q=surrender

  NOTES:
       1) If more than one option is listed,
          options to the left are preferred
          over options to the right.  Options
          less favorable than STAND or HIT are
          not shown.

       2) Use the "Hard Hands" table only
          when the other tables do not apply.

       3) If splitting Aces is not allowed,
          use the "Soft Hands" table.

       4) Uppercase options favor the player,
          lowercase options favor the house.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B11 What is the house edge when playing basic strategy?
A:B11 (Steve Jacobs)

The expected gain for basic strategy play depends on the house rules and
the number of decks. The following table summarizes the player's
expectation for a variety of games. All numbers are in units of percent of
initial bet.

                           <-- number of decks -->
                  |    1  |   2   |   4   |   6   |  20   |  100  |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  AC              | .1541  -.2228  -.3991  -.4569  -.5368  -.5638 |
  AC + LSR        | .1761  -.1717  -.3323  -.3843  -.4552  -.4790 |
  AC + ESR        | .7694   .3952   .2265   .1721   .0968   .0714 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  strip           | .0409  -.3214  -.4889  -.5437  -.6245  -.6447 |
  strip + LSR     | .0707  -.2685  -.4239  -.4744  -.5429  -.5659 |
  strip + DAS     | .1809  -.1795  -.3472  -.4021  -.4779  -.5034 |
  strip + ESR     | .6511   .2927   .1320   .0801   .0084  -.0157 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  vegas           |-.1527  -.5257  -.7015  -.7590  -.8445  -.8663 |
  vegas + LSR     |-.1095  -.4594  -.6221  -.6747  -.7469  -.7713 |
  vegas + DAS     |-.0103  -.3813  -.5570  -.6146  -.6951  -.7223 |
  vegas + ESR     | .5403   .1720   .0046  -.0493  -.1245  -.1500 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
  reno            |-.4291  -.7400  -.8906  -.9404 -1.0154 -1.0337 |
  reno + LSR      |-.3858  -.6737  -.8113  -.8560  -.9178  -.9387 |
  reno + DAS      |-.3121  -.6176  -.7658  -.8151  -.8840  -.9073 |
  reno + ESR      | .2639  -.0423  -.1846  -.2307  -.2307  -.3174 |
  ----------------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+

  "AC" rules: (typical of Atlantic City)
        dealer stands on soft 17
        double down on any two cards
        double after splits
        no resplitting

  "strip" rules: (typical of Vegas Strip)
        dealer stands on soft 17
        double down on any two cards (but not after splits)

  "vegas" rules: (typical of Vegas Downtown)
        dealer hits soft 17
        double down on any two cards (but not after splits)

  "reno" rules:  (typical of Reno, northern Nevada)
        dealer hits soft 17
        double down allowed on two card total of 10 or 11 only

  DAS = Double After Splitting
  LSR = Late Surrender
  ESR = Early Surrender (no longer available)

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B12 Why are single deck games better than multi-deck games?
A:B12 (Michael Hall)

There are some surface differences, such as single and double deck usually
being hand-held, while four or more decks are dealt from a shoe, but there
are fundamental mathematical differences too.

Single deck blackjack is usually better than multiple deck blackjack for
card counters, basic strategists, and the clueless. Additional decks make
busts less likely, since one can draw to hands like 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2 (for
18) which are improbable/impossible in single deck. Busting less often
helps the dealer's hand more than yours, since the dealer is forced by the
rigid rules to hit more often than you. Blackjacks are also less frequent,
which is bad since you get paid 3 to 2 for those. All in all, multiple
decks will cost a basic strategist nearly 0.5% in advantage, which is more
than all but the very best package of favorable extra rules will give you.
This was an intuitive explanation; a complete mathematically sound (albeit
huge) proof can be generated by a combinatorial analysis program.

Card counters face the additional problem that the count is less volatile
with multiple decks and hence offers less frequent opportunities for large
favorable bets. Consider the difference between an urn with 1 black and 1
white marble versus an urn with 100 black and 100 white marbles. Draw half
the marbles: what is the probability that all the remaining marbles are
white? In the 1 and 1 case, there is a 1 in 2 chance. In the 100 and 100
case, there is only a 1 in 100,891,344,545,564,193,334,812,497,256 chance!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B14 Do 'bad' players at third base have any effect on expected gain?
A:B14 (Steve Jacobs)

No. It is a common misconception that incorrect plays by the player at
third base will "take the dealer's bust card" or "leave the dealer a good
card". As long as the shuffle is sufficient to randomize the cards,
improper play of other players will be just as likely to help as it is to
hurt. However, bad players can cause frustration and anxiety which may
increase the likelihood of making mistakes. It is best to avoid the
temptation to strangle bad players.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B15 Where is the best place to sit at a blackjack table.
A:B15 (Steve Jacobs)

It depends. For basic strategy players, seat position has no significant
effect on the player's expected return. For card counters who use strategy
variations, it is probably best to sit at third base in order to see as
many cards as possible before playing the hand. When playing against a
"front loading" dealer, the best seat is whichever seat gives you the best
shot at getting a glimpse of the dealer's hole card. When playing at the
Rio, the best seat is the one that gives the best view of the cocktail
waitresses.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B16 How is card counting done?
A:B16 (Steve Jacobs)

The card counting system described below is an unbalanced 10 count that is
100% accurate for determining when to take insurance. As a general purpose
card counting system, it is relatively weak and not particularly
recommended, but it illustrates many of the principles behind card
counting. This is intended only to give a feel for how card counting is
done, and is not recommended for actual practice, although I've used it
because of its simplicity. This counting strategy is listed as "Unbalanced
10 Count" in other parts of the FAQ list.

For single deck games:
     1) Start the count at -4 when the deck is shuffled.
     2) Count -2 for 10, J, Q, K
     3) Count +1 for everything else (including aces)
     4) Bet low when the count is negative, high when the count is positive
     (actually, simulations show that you can bet high for a count of -2 or
     above).
     5) Take insurance when the count is positive.
     6) Play basic strategy at all times.

---------------------------------------------------------------

For N deck games:
     1) Start the count at (-4 * N).
     2) all other rules are the same.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

The unique feature of this counting method is that it is perfectly accurate
for dealing with insurance. When the count is positive, the player has the
advantage when taking the insurance bet. When the count is negative, the
house has the advantage, so insurance should not be taken.

Counting is best done by counting several cards at once. It is easy to
practice this counting method in the following way:

1)
     Count through a deck of cards, counting one card at a time. Start at
     -4, and count through the entire deck. After all of the cards have
     been seen, the count should be ZERO. If it is not zero, a mistake has
     been made somewhere. Repeat counting through the deck one card at a
     time, until you can do it quickly without making mistakes.

2)
     Count through the deck, counting two cards at a time. Look for the
     following patterns, adding the correct amount for each pattern
     (X = 10, N = non-ten)
          NN: +2
          XN: -1
          XX: -4
     Again, the count should be zero after all cards have been seen. Repeat
     until you can do it efficiently.

3)
     Count through the deck, counting three cards at a time. Look for the
     following patterns, adding the correct amount for each pattern.
     (X = 10, N = non-ten)
          NNN +3
          XNN 0 (this pattern is common)
          XXN -3

4)
     Practice against a computer blackjack game. When I play, I usually
     count the cards by counting an entire hand (player's or dealers) at
     once. If there are more than three cards in the hand, I mentally break
     it up into groups of 1, 2, or 3 cards (I usually look for "XNN"
     patterns and ignore those cards, since they add up to zero). I usually
     count the cards just before the dealer picks up the hand (exception:
     for insurance, you should count your cards and the dealer's up card
     immediately).

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B17 What counting system is "best"?
A:B17 (Matt Wilding)

This has been answered by rec.gamblers using different approaches.

The first approach is to evaluate different systems by simulation. This
approach obscures the particular advantages of each system, but it's easy
to see how a system will perform in one particular realistic casino playing
situation, and not hard to judge the tradeoff between performance and ease
of use (see Q/A B18 for more details).

The second approach estimates several performance parameters of each system
that collectively approximate the system's inherent potential. This allows
the strengths of different BJ systems to be studied in detail, which should
allow better, more precise comparison of different systems and aid efforts
to improve a particular system. This approach gives results which may be
used to determine which counting system is theoretically most profitable,
but does not address the issue of how easy it is to use the counting system
under actual playing conditions (see Q/A B19 for more details).

It's not yet clear how these two studies relate, and no rec.gambling
consensus has emerged as to how the more sophisticated performance
parameters actually translate to advantage at the tables as in the
simulations.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B18 What counting system is easiest to use?
A:B18 (Matt Wilding)

Background: Lots of systems are available. There is an important tradeoff
between complexity and theoretical power, as more complex systems are
harder to use and more error-prone.

Answer: You pick'em. A rec.gambling study was accomplished that compared
different systems, and here a summary of what came out:

Complexity is a subjective measure with guidelines described in the results
paper. Power is the integer closest to p/0.05%, where p is the % advantage
of the strategy one-on-one in a single deck, dealer hits on soft 17, no
DDAS, resplitting-allowed game that's dealt down to 20 cards and using a
1-4 betting spread. 15,000,000 hands guarantee correctness to within 1
point 99% of the time.

   name             complex power      card weights             reference
                                A  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  X
  --------------------------------------------------------------------------
  BASIC               0     -5                                 Steve Jacobs
  UNBALANCED 10       2     13   1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1 -2  Steve Jacobs
  SUPER-SIMPLE OPT-I 2.5    16         1  1  1  1          -1  WGBJB (1)
  REVERE PM          3.5    16  -1  1  1  1  1  1          -1  PBaaB
  RED SEVEN          3.5    19  -1  1  1  1  1  1 R:1      -1  BiB
  OPT1-6+6            5     18         1  1  1  1          -1  WGBJB
  WONG HIGH-LOW       5     19  -1  1  1  1  1  1          -1  PB
  ZEN                 5     19  -1  1  1  2  2  2  1       -2  BiB
  HORSESHOE           6     14      1  2  2  3  2  2  1 -1 -3  MDB (2)
  REVERE POINT COUNT  6     17  -2  1  2  2  2  2  1       -2  PBaaB
  OPT1-6+6 W/ ACE     7     23         1  1  1  1          -1  WGBJB
  ANDERSEN           9.5    16  -2  1  1  1  2  1  1    -1 -1  TtToLV
  USTON APC          10     22      1  2  2  3  2  2  1 -1 -3  MDB

  WGBJB: "World's Greatest BlackJack Book" by Humble and Cooper
  PBaaB: "Playing Blackjack as a Business" by Lawrence Revere
  BiB: "Blackbelt in Blackjack" by Arnold Snyder
  PB: "Professional Blackjack" by Stanford Wong
  TtToLV: "Turning the Tables on Las Vegas" by Ian Andersen
  MDB: "Million Dollar Blackjack" by Ken Uston
  (1) with modifications by Matthew Wilding
  (2) with modifications by Paul C. Kim

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B19 What BJ counting system is most effective?
A:B19 (Michael Hall, Jeff Jennings)

The playing efficiency, betting correlation, and insurance correlation is
listed below for several counting systems. These numbers give an indication
of the effectiveness of the counting system. When two numbers are listed,
the second number results from adding an ace side count in addition to the
"main" count.

See answer B3 for definitions of "betting correlation", "playing
efficiency", and "insurance correlation".

                  EXPLANATION OF COUNTING SYSTEMS
  ===========================================================================
  COUNTING           COUNTING VALUES         "BEST" EFFICIENCY  CORRELATION
  SYSTEMS      2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  X  A  SOURCE  PLAY+ace  BET+ace INSURE
  --------     ----------------------------  ------  -------- -------- ------
  Griffin      0  0  1  1  1  1  0  0 -1  0  Griffin  64-64+  .85-.95  .85
  Hi-Opt I     0  1  1  1  1  0  0  0 -1  0  Humble   61-63   .88-.97  .85
  Hi-Opt II    1  1  2  2  1  1  0  0 -2  0  Humble   67-67+  .91-.99  .91
  High-Low     1  1  1  1  1  0  0  0 -1 -1  Wong     51-63   .97      .76-.85
  Ita          1  1  1  1  1  1  0 -1 -1 -1  Sys.Res. 53-63+  .96      .69-.76
  Red 7's      1  1  1  1  1 **  0  0 -1 -1  Snyder   54-64+  .98      .78-.87
  Unbal 10's   1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1 -2  1  Roberts  61-61+  .73-.94 1.00
  Uston +-     0  1  1  1  1  1  0  0 -1 -1  Uston    55-64+  .95      .76-.85
  Uston APC    1  2  2  3  2  2  1 -1 -3  0  Uston    69-69+  .91-.99  .90
  Wong Halves  1  2  2  3  2  1  0 -1 -2 -2  Wong     57-67+  .99      .72-.85
  Zen          1  1  2  2  2  1  0  0 -2 -1  Snyder   63-67+  .97      .85-.91
                           ** red 7's +1, black 7's 0

  Note: Playing efficiencies have a practical maximum of about 0.7.
        "Unbal 10's" is short for "Unbalanced 10 Count"


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B20 Does penetration have any effect on basic strategy expectation?
A:B20 (Steve Jacobs)

Probably not. Unless the dealer is cheating, the cards will be in a random
order after the shuffle. If the player is not counting cards or using other
techniques to gain an advantage, it will not matter if there are several
rounds or only a single round between shuffles. But, if the dealer if using
preferential shuffling, this will hurt the basic strategy players as well
as the card counters.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B21 What is the correct strategy for late surrender?
A:B21 (Michael Hall)

Basic strategy for late surrender in AC multi-deck games is:

     Surrender hard 16 (but not 8-8) vs. 9, 10, ace
     Surrender hard 15 vs. 10

If you are the least bit risk-averse, you should also:

     Surrender hard 15 vs. ace

At some casinos you can surrender your first two cards. You lose half your
bet in return for not having to play through the hand. With early
surrender, you get back half your bet even if the dealer has blackjack,
while with late surrender you lose anyway when the dealer has blackjack.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B22 What is the correct strategy for "multi action" blackjack?
A:B22 (Steve Jacobs)

Multi Action blackjack allows the player to place up to three bets
simultaneously on the same blackjack hand. The player is dealt a single
hand, and the three bets are played out against the same dealer upcard, but
with different "drawn" cards for each bet. Many players feel nervous about
hitting stiff hands against a high dealer's upcard (7 or higher), since
they will lose all three bets if they bust. However, basic strategy is
COMPLETELY UNCHANGED for this game, and the correct strategy is no
different than if the player had only a single bet at risk.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B23 What is "Over/Under" Blackjack?
A:B23 (Steve Jacobs)

Caesar's Tahoe introduced the Over-13 and Under-13 side bets that are
allowed at some blackjack tables. These bets are based on the player's
total for the first two cards, when aces are counted as one. Over-13 bets
win when the player's cards total 14 or higher, while under-13 bets win
when the player's cards total 12 or under. Either bet will lose when the
player's total is exactly 13. These bets are placed at the same time as the
blackjack bet, and usually the side bet can be no larger than the bet on
the blackjack hand. Over/under games are usually dealt from a 6 or 8 deck
shoe, and the player's first two cards are always dealt face up. Although
these are "sucker" bets for basic strategy players, with a house edge of 6%
to 10%, special card counting strategies can be used to give the player a
significant edge on these bets.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B24 What is the counting strategy for Over/Under blackjack?
A:B24 (Steve Jacobs)

The card weights used for the Over/Under count are as follows: count +1 for
Ace, 2, 3, and 4, and count -1 for tens and face cards. The deck becomes
favorable for counts of +2 and above, and for counts -4 and below. Over-13
bets should be placed when the count is +3 and above. Under-13 bets should
be placed when the count is -4 and below.

When playing Over/Under blackjack with this counting scheme, virtually all
of the player's profit comes from the over-13 and under-13 side bets. This
counting scheme is very poor for playing the blackjack portion of the bet,
and will only allow the player to play about even with the house on the
blackjack bets. However, the over/under bets can be very profitable if the
game has good penetration. A 6-deck over/under game with good penetration
can give the player an advantage of 1.5% or more. Single deck over/under
games with good penetration (very rare) can give the player an edge of over
4% when using the over/under count.

Snyder's "Over/Under Report" discusses the over/under game in detail, and
is available from RGE at an outrageous price.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B25 What are some good/bad books on Blackjack?
A:B25

The individual book reviews given below are grouped according to the person
doing the review. If you have an opposing view or wish to express another
view of any of these books, write your own review and send it to the
maintainer of the FAQ list, and it will be included. Reviews of books that
are not mentioned here are especially welcome.

There are undoubtedly many good books that are not listed here, as well as
many terrible books that are not listed here. These reviews are only the
opinions of the reviewers, and your mileage may vary.

Review by Michael Dalton (as reported by Michael Hall)

     Dalton, Michael. Blackjack: A Professional Reference. Spur of the
     Moment Publishing, PO BOX 541967, Merritt Island, FL; 1991. (1964
     pages)

     Written by a NASA computer systems engineer, this book is a
     comprehensive reference to the game of blackjack. Over 1000
     entries listing books, magazines, publications, newsletters,
     articles, reports, videos, software and other products available
     for serious players of the game twenty-one. Also included is the
     most comprehensive blackjack dictionary ever compiled explaining
     blackjack terminology, system and strategy descriptions, rules,
     and miscellaneous blackjack trivia. Complete basic strategy
     charts that cover most blackjack games in the world are also
     presented. Fully cross-referenced with recommendations.

Reviews by Edmund Hack:

     Blackjack Video: Winning at Blackjack with Bobby Singer, JCI
     Video, 1987, 103 minutes. This video is a tape of a sales
     pitch/introduction to card counting seminar hosted by Bobby
     Singer, billed as the "World's biggest winner at the game of
     Blackjack" on the back cover. The tape covers 5 areas: Basic
     Strategy, Card Counting, Money Management, Team Play and Casino
     Awareness. Unfortunately, the information is incomplete. For
     example, the basic strategy section only covers hard and soft
     hands and the card counting section only covers the card values
     for the Hi-Lo count, but no bet sizing or strategy adjustments.
     The rest of the information is available for $149.00. For this
     price, you get a set of notebooks with lessons and audio tapes
     covering the Hi-Lo count and an 800 number you can call to find
     out where the best games are in the city you plan to play. I
     rented the tape for $1.50 and maybe got my money's worth.

     One interesting point covered in moderate detail is team play.
     Singer advocates playing 4 deck or up shoes with the "Big Player"
     approach pioneered by Uston and others. He advised using a
     counter at one or more tables who flat bets and uses hand signals
     (i.e. scratching the head) to call in a big money player. The
     current count is signaled to the Big Player by the stacking of
     chips in front of the counter in a particular way. The Big Player
     can then play out the rest of the shoe, presumably free of heat.
     If the count goes bad, the big player leaves, proclaiming a trip
     to the restroom is needed. The home study course is said to have
     info on bet sizing related/risk of ruin for teams and
     individuals.

     The Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling, Edwin Silberstang, Plume,
     1980 and 1989. This is a general overview of casino gambling with
     chapters on casino operations, comps, junkets, credit and the
     games offered. Detailed sections on craps, baccarat, roulette,
     keno, slots, video poker (89 edition only) and blackjack give the
     staff, rules, and procedures of each game, the house advantage, a
     glossary, and the best plays for each. In addition, there are
     anecdotes about playing the games. As the author has separate
     books on poker and sports betting, there is little information on
     them here and Red Dog and Pai Gow poker are not covered. The
     blackjack section has correct basic strategy information for 1,2,
     and 4+ deck games with and without DAS, and a discussion of
     Strip, Reno and Downtown rules variations. He presents the Hi-Opt
     I count (not by that name) and how to use it for bet sizing and
     insurance bets, but no strategy adjustments. There is a section
     written by a professional blackjack player on how to hide the
     fact that you are counting and life as a pro. If you want a
     single book as an introduction to casino gambling, this is it.
     [Note: there are 2 versions of the book out - a small green
     paperback from 1980 and a black trade paperback from 1989 that
     has been updated.]

Reviews by Michael Hall:

     Fundamentals of Blackjack by Chambliss and Roginski - this book
     is pretty much a standard blackjack book, but it has
     exceptionally good tables of information. I advise buying this
     book as a supplement to whatever book you use for your counting
     system (probably either Professional Blackjack, The World's
     Greatest Blackjack Book, Blackbelt in Blackjack or Million Dollar
     Blackjack.) The counting system discussed in "Fundamentals..." is
     not one that you would actually want to use, but the tables don't
     assume this system is used. Unfortunately, many of the tables
     were generated using Snyder's Blackjack Formula, and so the
     accuracy is not as good as would be the case with computer
     simulations.

     Card Counting for the Casino Executive by Bill Zender - this book
     is written for casino executives, as you might suspect, which
     makes it insightful reading for card counters. The book goes into
     detail about how pit critters should go about identifying and
     discouraging card counters. It also lists all kinds of ways the
     players can win, both honestly and by cheating. The author is
     fairly counter-tolerant, which is refreshing. Alas, the book is
     spiral bound, only 138 pages long, and *full* of white space.

Reviews by Steve Jacobs:

     Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston. This is a good all-around
     blackjack book, although the advanced counting scheme is much
     more difficult than most. Ken gives a balanced view of blackjack,
     without the exaggerated claims that many BJ authors are fond of.

     World's Greatest Blackjack Book by Humble & Cooper. This is a
     good book with a pretty reasonable counting scheme. The authors
     are _way_ too paranoid about cheating, to the extent that they
     attribute virtually all of their losses to cheating. Otherwise,
     it is a good book. These guys have absolutely nothing nice to say
     about Lawrence Revere, so if you've read Playing Blackjack as a
     Business and would like to read an opposing viewpoint, this is
     the book for you.

     Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder. The Red Seven count in
     this book is simple, and quite effective against single deck
     games. The Zen count is more difficult, but more powerful. Snyder
     includes some interesting ideas that aren't found in other books,
     such as "depth charging". This book is probably not as good for
     beginners as are the previous two books, but is a good book for
     more advanced readers.

     Theory of Blackjack by Peter Griffin. This is one of the few good
     books that cover the mathematical considerations of the game.
     This book is either a complete must or a complete waste of time,
     depending on how you feel about mathematics.

     Beat the Dealer by Edward Thorp. This book is a classic, and is
     still worth reading. The card counting schemes are now somewhat
     dated, but it is still a good book for card counters.

     Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong. Some people really like
     this book, but I didn't find it all that exciting. It is
     considered a classic, and has a lot of good material.

     Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Revere. This is one
     of the most accurate books for basic strategy, and the color
     charts are very nice. The numbers in the tables were provided by
     Julian Braun, and are about as accurate as any available, but
     don't believe the numbers that Revere gives for player's expected
     gain. Revere's counting scheme isn't widely used today, and
     Revere's "I'm right and everyone else is a dope" attitude is very
     annoying, although partially justified if you account for the
     date of first publication and the scarcity of good books at that
     time. Revere also makes many inflated claims about player's
     expectation, which Humble & Cooper would attribute to character
     flaw.

     Scarne on Cards by John Scarne. This book is simply wrong when it
     comes to blackjack, and Scarne was too arrogant to even consider
     the possibility that he might have been wrong. He spends a lot of
     time trying to discredit Thorp. This book has _negative_ value
     for serious blackjack players, and should probably be avoided
     completely.

     Turning the Tables on Las Vegas by Ian Andersen. This is an
     entertaining book that describes techniques for disguising your
     play to avoid detection by pit critters.

     Casino Tournament Strategy by Stanford Wong. This book combines
     previous Tournament Blackjack and Tournament Craps book together
     at a reasonable price. Covers many of the unique situations that
     come up in tournament play. Worth reading if you plan to play in
     tournaments.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B26 What are some other sources of blackjack/gambling information?
A:B26 (Jonathan Rosenberg, Michael Hall, Jack Mcgee)

RGE Publishing, 414 Santa Clara Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, (510) 465-6452
Publishes Blackjack Forum, $30/year (4 issues). Call for their very
interesting catalog. Includes books, videos, PC based BJ practice programs,
analyzers and simulators, and back issues of Blackjack Forum.

Current Blackjack News, by Stanford Wong. $95/year (12 issues). Available
through RGE.

Blackjack Confidential Magazine, 513 Salsbury Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
$99/year (10 issues).

Win Magazine, 16760 Stagg St. #213, Van Nuys, CA 91406, (818) 781-9355
Formerly Gambling Times. $36/year (12 issues). Covers all gambling and
gaming topics. [Some reports of irregular publishing schedule]

The Experts Blackjack Newsletter, Gambling Times Incorporated, 16760 Stagg
St. #213, Van Nuys, CA 91406, (818) 781-9355 New, advertised in WIN
Magazine. $30/year (6 issues)

The International Gamblers' Club Newsletter, P.O. Box 73, Thornhill,
Ontario, Canada L3T 3N1 $24/year (4 issues). Founded by Lance Humble.
They'll send you a free but dated sample if you write. Mainly BJ but
contains some sports betting information. (I wasn't impressed with my
sample).

Gambler's Book Club, 630 South 11th Street, Box 4115, Las Vegas, NV 89127,
(800) 634-6243. Not a newsletter but call for their awesome, awesome,
awesome catalog containing not only just about every blackjack book ever
written but practically every book ever written on any gambling topic. They
also operate a book store at the above address in Las Vegas. [And they have
gambling experts (including card counters) working at the store most of the
time, willing to answer questions -- Michael Hall]

Las Vegas Advisor, Huntington Press, PO Box 28041, Las Vegas, Nevada 89126,
(702) 597-1884. $45/year (12 issues) (add $5 for first class delivery).
Produced by Anthony Curtis. Lots of information on deals and freebies
available in Las Vegas. Sometimes includes valuable coupons or arranges
special deals for subscribers. (I have personally more than recouped the
cost in actual cash back from coupons for about half year's worth of the
subscription. -Hall)

Casino Player, 2424 Arctic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401, 609-344-9000.
$24/yr, (12 issues). It covers most gambling jurisdictions, with particular
attention paid to AC and LV. Articles on all games, by Wong, Caro, Frome,
Malmuth, Snyder, and others. It's a full color, slick, well produced
magazine, about 60 pages.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


Q:B27 Is Ken Uston dead?
A:B27 (John Schwab)

Yes. He was found dead in a rented apartment in Paris, France, on September
19, 1987. The cause of death remains undetermined, since an autopsy was not
performed and the body was cremated. The local police found no evidence of
foul play. Alcohol and drug abuse were strongly suspected by several people
who knew Uston intimately. Reference: Stanley Roberts, "A Double Dose of
Death", Roberts' Rules (column), _Gambling Times_, Jan./Feb., 1988, pp. 8,
41

That article is the only printed mention that I have seen on Uston's death.
Maybe someone else has the citation for the Card Player article?
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------


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