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Why Blackjack's "Basic Strategy" Method
(For Lack Of A Better Word) Sucks
(Therefore You Should Use A Better System)
______________________

The proof is in the admissions
of its inventors and propagandists

Basic Strategy's Inventors Knew It Was Lame:
From Beat The Dealer by Edward Thorp (1962)
Based Upon Computer Data from Julian Braun of IBM (Page 18):

Ex-MIT math professor Edward Thorp was not (by his own admission) the inventor of basic strategy (he got the idea from an obscure mathematical treatise written in 1953 by four Army buddies, Baldwin, McDermott, Maisel and Cantey). But he claimed to have perfected it.

He certainly was the one who introduced the concept to the world. Yet, as you can see in this admission, he should have known that this was not a good game strategy. (Perhaps that's why he only played, by his own admission, about 30 hours of blackjack in his life, and did that only at the behest of Manny Kimmel, who funded that experiment.)

He describes (in the text shown above) basic strategy at best as a break-even system. At worst, it's a losing system (when casinos, for instance, shuffle up before dealing all the cards, which is the game we play today). Worse, Thorp's book was written in the day when blackjack was a single deck game dealt to the very bottom, and his assumptions were based upon that ancient game no longer offered anywhere. You can imagine how much more poorly it does versus today's games!

Basic Strategy Is A LOSING Strategy:
From The World's Greatest Blackjack Book
by Lance Humble & Carl Cooper (1980)
Based Upon Computer Data from Julian Braun of IBM
(Page 193):

"Almost breaking even!" Well, thanks guys!

Lance Humble (York University psychology professor Igor Kusyszyn) and Carl Cooper also should have known better than to present a strategy they knew to be a loser. (And so should have Julian Braun of IBM, whose computer data was used by Humble/Cooper and most of the old school writers. That's not to say the other old school researchers' computer data produced better basic strategies. They did not. The same flaws were repeated by them.)

Does anyone think "almost breaking even" (losing) is a desirable result? Is that representative of a good method? (Not!)

So given Thorp's and Humble/Coopers' confessions (couched in strangely rosy language), why have the old school blackjack writers been selling this losing method as "perfect" and "correct" when it's anything but?

And you'll find much more damning evidence against basic strategy in Richard Harvey's books and in his advice blog. You won't believe what Richard Harvey's uncovered in the many ways basic strategy's inventors went wrong in doing their research and strategy formulations (for example, as he pointed out in the new Third Edition of Cutting Edge Blackjack: they did not test for betting variations, so how could they claim to know how to advise you on betting?; their random-number-generated simulations (phony data) did not represent real blackjack so it was not appropriate data; and they only did one-player simulations and as a result their models did not work for multiplayer situations, the very situations most players experience at the casino; and they made many other major mistakes).

Are you still driving a car from the 1960s? Listening to a 1960s-era sound system? Using any technology from that era? So why are you playing blackjack according to 50-year old theories now proven false?

You need a modern, state-of-the-art blackjack approach that not only wins but also provides you with a great deal of accuracy in making card moves and bets. Click here for details.

If you want to go back to the home page and continue reading about Richard Harvey's state-of-the-art methods, click here.

Here are just a few blogs Richard Harvey's written dispelling the myth that basic strategy was ever a good way to play the game:

Insights Into How The Old School
Blackjack Basic Strategy Approach Went Wrong

And:

The Press' Complicity In
Promoting These Faulty Systems
Posted February 25, 2008

This post dovetails nicely with my last post, because here you have, once again, a newspaper who doesn't seem to care about the truth. But that's just part of this story.

The story-behind-the-story is also about how non-players with mistaken notions of the game were behind the creation of the Old School systems still being hawked today, and how the press is complicit in propagating methods only a casino could love.

And, finally this is a story about how the Old School blackjack crowd's publicity machine plows over the truth.

I reveal all of this not to be nasty but to shine the light for players who must have the truth in order to decide what system to put faith in, with their money riding on the line.

I'm referring to a piece that appeared in the Boston Globe on February 20th, 2008 called "Getting a Hand: They Wrote The First Book But Never Cashed In."

Well, you might say...this story seems to be about some guys who really got a bum deal! No fame or fortune from "the first book" on blackjack! Poor guys!

But let's examine this further, to discover where the truth really lies. First of all, the game (originally vingt et un, or 21, invented in France) dates back to the 1600s or earlier. Let's not claim this was the "first book." Or even the first good book.

Second, why the headline and the breathless big deal promotion of all of this when the fact is what the article is really about is a losing system!!! The guys involved ADMITTED their system was a loser, in this article (keep reading).

Yet their book, Playing Blackjack to Win (interesting title, given their confessions that it's a losing system) - is about to be re-released! Go figure!

Who is behind all of this? Continue reading and tell me if this is a book that you feel is worth re-issuing!

With all due respect, this book, published in 1957 and written by (as the article puts it) "an oddball mix of academics and amateur card enthusiasts matching wits with the gambling establishment - yet never cashing in by beating the casinos at their own game," really epitomizes the Old School ethic: that of the non-player or sometime amateur neophyte doing quick, lazy and faulty blackjack research, producing strategies that don't really work.

Typical of many Old School blackjack writers, the four behind this book all but forgot about blackjack after the book came out, going on to other things that really held their interest. And, again, don't take my word for it. This is how Baldwin put it:

"As I said in my [Vegas] speech, my knowledge of blackjack ended with the first edition of Beat the Dealer." (That came out in 1962.)

This pattern has continued to this day - with psychologists, mathematicians, newsletter writers and other non-players or sometime amateurs (most not even rising to the level of a wannabe) spending some of their spare time compounding mistake after mistake in their lazy investigations into a game that they don't care enough to play very much, if at all. And they think all it takes to produce a winning strategy is simple math based upon a simple (and faulty) application of statistics. (Wrong.)

But, again, the good part is: most of these writers admit their short-comings, if you read their words carefully enough. (As I've demonstrated over and over again…and as you'll see below.)

Yet this is the bad part: in spite of these admissions of their shortcomings, they write books as if they know something worth passing on! I would think that if you fail to unravel the mystery of the game with a clearly winning strategy you wouldn't have the balls to put out a book urging players to use your system!

Worse yet - the press then gets in bed with them, pretending their work is something hot, worth getting excited over.

In this Globe piece, the reporter writes: " Baldwin [one of the four Army buddies behind the book] thought it possible to lower the dealer's advantage (around 5 percent) by formulating a betting strategy based on precise mathematical modeling."

Precise mathematical modeling? How can it be precise? This is just the kind of bull that ticks me off. How can this be true, when Baldwin admits to the reporter: "I calculated the house still had the advantage in the long run." [my italics]

One of his co-authors agrees with that admission: "Maisel agrees. 'In statistical terms, we still had a negative expectation ,' he says. 'Unless you got lucky, you'd still lose in the long run .'" [my italics]

Great! It's a losing system. They said it. I don't have to prove it. …And someone in the publishing industry thought their book was worth re-printing??? Go figure!

Nothing against these guys, personally – I'm sure they're nice fellows and they were well-meaning when they wrote this book. But – this is akin to a book that teaches you how to build and fly an exact replica of the Hindenburg (under the title: "The Best Way To Fly")! Either way, you go down in flames!

Now, don't get me wrong. I mean no disrespect. These four Army buddies, as they're described, were sincere (but lazy-minded) in their little game of trying to figure out blackjack and their venture was, on the surface, a noble one. But their endeavor was not interesting or worth noting. It ended in failure, if truth be told.

For let's put this in its proper perspective: what they came up with was the wrong way to play. Again - I don't have to prove this. Maisel says: "we still had a negative expectation ."

As far as their being non-players, I am not pulling that assertion out of my butt. Here is how the Globe reporter described them:

"They met in the early 1950s as Army enlistees at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland . McDermott and Baldwin had done graduate work in mathematics at Columbia University . Maisel, who later taught computer science at Georgetown University , was part of a team assigned to analyze such problems as weapons trajectory. Cantey, a sergeant, was the ranking officer among the foursome and its only African-American. Baldwin and Cantey were card players as well, mostly of the penny-ante variety. During a game of dealer's choice, blackjack was called. Baldwin knew the game's basics - players try to draw hands totaling as close to 21 points as possible, without going over - but did not know that casinos forced dealers to draw on 16 (or less) and hold on 17 (or more) ." [my italics]

Even the one guy with some knowledge of the game did not know its essentials! He did not know casinos forced dealers to draw on 16 and stay on 17! This is clearly a non-player!!! Must I say more?!

And the reporter wrote that McDermott, in Vegas to be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, was not interested in playing blackjack!

I quote: "In Vegas, where casinos take a vigilant (and aggressive) stance toward card counters, he didn't play even a single hand of blackjack. 'I've mostly forgotten how,' McDermott says."

(Gimme a break! I'm an advantage player, and I've run into heat from time to time, but is that a reason NOT to play the game? It's not THAT bad!!! What on Earth does McDermott think will happen if he sits down to play? And if he feels it's that scary, maybe he shouldn't agree to re-issue his book, as is. Maybe he and his buddies should warn people away from the game, if this is the true way they feel. I mean - what is it, folks??? Should people play blackjack or not? And if you're not playing or using your system, why are you telling others how to play the game?)

…Now, having been a reporter, this makes me wonder why the Globe reporter didn't put 2 and 2 together. Why, after listening to their stories of how they came up with a losing system, and their admissions of not being true players, did he then cast them in such a glowing light and not question why their book was being re-issued? Did his editor tell him to make this a puff piece and spin the truth, turn negative into positive?

This is a story about guys who momentarily dabbled in blackjack research but who didn't play the game, don't now play the game, don't use their own system, and who – apparently, according to McDermott - might even think you SHOULDN'T play the game!

I'm writing about all of this because I feel it's my duty to show you the lunacy that's behind the creation of Old School blackjack. Don't you think you should know all of this - BEFORE you decide to put your money down on their methods?

I think anyone who writes a blackjack book should put their money where their mouth is. If you can't get behind it, don't hawk the book.

Anyway...Interestingly enough, in this article it was said that Edward Thorp, the one-time MIT professor who teamed up with IBM 's Julian Braun to write Beat The Dealer (who, if my memory serves me correctly, admitted in his book to playing blackjack a sum total of two weeks of his life) - a well-meaning and highly intelligent mathematician and brilliant Wall Street investor, but NOT a blackjack player - credited Baldwin et. al.'s book with producing the foundation that underlies Beat The Dealer . Again - here's a non-player basing his book on the work of other non-players, one result of which was that he made faulty assumptions about how to go about research and the production of a meaningful game strategy and went down the wrong path of doing a simplistic global statistical study.

(You can't succeed in producing an effective blackjack system by summing up millions of pretend rounds of blackjack and then doing a simplistic statistical study. And you especially can't succeed if this is done with pretend numbers – that is, the use of dealer busting rates as if they're constants, which they're not. (See Cutting Edge Blackjack for details of how dealer up card busting rates constantly vary. As scientists, mathematicians and researchers, Thorp, Baldwin and their crowd should have recognized they were trying to force a square box into a round hole; that they did not have “constants” in dealer busting rates, and therefore their equations could not work in producing a precise and accurate game strategy.))

Now, what's up with this? Do you know of any other field of pursuit whose "experts" did not partake in that field of endeavor???

Now, as a side note, I know I will never be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame (as Baldwin et. al. just were) because I dare to say the emperor has no clothes, but that's of no concern to me. Tens of thousands of players who have read my books, taken my seminars, etc., love my system know what I'm telling you is true, and I think it's important that someone tells you the truth. Some of those involved in the late great Ken Uston's blackjack teams of the 70s and 80s, for instance, have come to my book events and seminars and praised my work – two of whom told me my system was “the best system” in the world today, “by far.”

This is not a lack of respect on my part for those who went before me. Frankly, I thought the Old School writers would hail my historic breakthroughs, insights into the game, shuffling and card behavior, and state-of-the-art game strategy developments, just as people in any other field welcome progress. But, unlike true players, who did hail my breakthroughs, because they're out their playing and want the best, most state-of-the-art methods and insights available, the Old School writers only saw me as a threat to the sale of their books.

So they circled their wagons. Apparently all they cared about was that I had now made their work obsolete and they might not be able to hawk their books. Sad that blackjack is the one field where progress is stifled - for financial reasons and pettiness.

Players and objective insiders universally hailed my work from the get-go. Only the tiny bunch who'd laid down the "law" for how they thought you should play were anything but excited about it. Instead, they were petty and some got nasty.

That crowd reminds me of the guy who ran the U.S. Patent Office in the late 1890s, who shut it down because he felt everything a human could possible invent had been invented! Because you will never read, in an Old School book or column, anything that didn't date back to the 1950s and 60s. They're just regurgitating the “technology” of that day and have blinded themselves to anything new. They deny there could be anything better and refuse to acknowledge anything that could be better.

The beauty part is all I have to do is quote them to make my point - to help you decide what methods you should use. Again, someone needs to tell you the truth. It's your money.

Never Say Always
Posted December 21, 2008

They say, “Never say never!” But in blackjack you should never say always!

Here's a card example demonstrating that principle, in the upcoming new edition of Cutting Edge Blackjack (this example © 2008 by Richard Harvey and reprinted with the permission of Mystic Ridge Books). It's in Chapter 10, showing you how to unmask the identity of the facedown cards at single and double deck games, the best games around.

I'm going to have to short-circuit the process here.

Here, you hold a pair of Aces. The old basic strategy methods tell you “ always split Aces!” But is that wise here?

This example is of second round action at a 7-player single deck table. In the first round, six 10s, one 9 and two 8s appeared; the final count was +4 (we're using my All-Inclusive counting method from Blackjack The SMART Way here just as a tool to identify the facedown cards).

Now, at your turn, our Count Estimate is +1. But how many 10s do we know were dealt? How many are face-up on the table? Five. So, combined with the six of the last round, at least eleven have been dealt (and likely more, based upon what my facedown card identification methods indicate).

Because eleven of fourteen 10s have been dealt, we know there are three left, among the unknown cards. How many unknown cards are there?

Because my studies have shown that an average of 22 cards are dealt per round at 7-player tables and the average player hand consists of 3 cards, we estimate there are 10 undealt cards (do the math) and there are eleven facedown cards on the table , for a total of 21. So three of 21 are 10s – the cards we'd want the most in splitting. Do these odds warrant splitting? You'd have a 14% likelihood of getting a 10 on your first Ace; half the normal 31% odds (based upon the proportion of 10s in a complete deck).

No, here you hit your Aces. (The virtual player here split the Aces, however, and received a 6 and a 2, and lost both hands. No surprise to players with state-of-the-art skills.)

Just One Truth Blows
The Old School Methods Away
Posted April 8, 2008

Of all the breakthroughs that have come from my 10+ years of research into blackjack, card behavior, shuffling, etc., one of them alone proves why the Old School methods are based upon a house of cards. And that is this discovery, which came early into my last major card study: dealer up card busting rates are NOT constant as the Old School types claimed. And without this, the Old School assumptions cannot be justified. Their whole claim to knowing “correct” card strategies is based upon the faulty and mistaken notion that you can accurately predict, always and forever, what the dealer's busting rate will be based upon the type of up card that's showing. And this is far from the truth.

For one thing, the mathematical equation that was used to formulate the Old School basic strategy approach is dependent upon the notion that there's a “constant” you can plug in for all dealer up cards, reflecting a predictable busting rate. If there is no “constant,” the whole equation becomes untrue. And this is the case, as I've proven – dealer up card busting rates vary; they're not predictably constant.

And, if you read some of the better (but now hopelessly antiquated) Old School books, you can see that those who developed those systems had an inkling that they were going down the wrong path, but chose to ignore their data. One book, for instance, talked about how his “numbers” (i.e., dealer busting rates) were different than other books, but that's because he ran many more millions of computer simulations.

Hey, buddy. If your “constants” change over time, depending upon how many pretend blackjack rounds you run in your little computer (non-reflective of the realities of true card behavior, by the way) – then you don't have a “constant.”

What is a “constant”? A constant is a scientific term for a number that never changes. For instance, the speed of light is a constant .

So, if you board a space ship going the speed of light, we can always say: you're going 186,000 miles/second. Period.

It doesn't depend on the number of passengers on board, the size of the ship, etc. This is a constant.

However, dealer busting rates – as even newbies suspect – are all over the place. Lately, since I've been making players aware of this, the Old School types are trying to gloss over this severe flaw in their understanding of the game, and in the creation of their strategies. They poo-poo this reality, saying, “well there are short-term vagaries” or some such horse poop.

I've made this challenge before, but no Old School type dares to accept it because it will not only make me a lot of money, but it will also destroy their credibility in the eyes of anyone still thinking of using the Old School systems:

Let's go to a casino that is preferably unaware we're there (so the Old School type can't pre-arrange the results). Or – even better – let's arrange to get security camera tapes from a variety of casinos, from days past, showing hours of blackjack action.

Let's then choose segments reflecting the average number of hours a player would play in any given session, so we can see what the average player experiences, in the way of up card busting rates. For each up card that busts at a rate that fits the Old School mistaken notion, I'll pay the Old Schooler an agreed-upon amount. But, for each up card that does not bust at the “constant” rate the Old School books say it will, the Old Schooler will pay me the same agreed-upon amount, per up card. And we'll go public with the results.

It'd be rare if even one of the up cards busted as the Old Schoolers say it should.

When confronted with this challenge, the Old Schoolers usually grumble something about: “Yeah, well, that might be true, but it all works out when you play millions of rounds of action, blah blah blah.”

Trouble is, none of you reading this column will come close to playing even one million rounds of blackjack. And fortunes are often lost in just one session, using the Old School methods. How could they not, when those methods are based upon “constants” that are not constant, and they don't give players scientific loss-limits methods?

Players don't have a lifetime to try to make up the losses they incur following the faulty Old School methods, which are based upon mistaken notions. And who wants to spend a lifetime chasing inevitable losses anyway? What kind of system are they selling?

If you ever get to corner an Old School yahoo, ask him to explain why he bases his strategies on “constants” that are not constant. As he uncomfortably hems and haws, you will see that you have your answer: the Old School guys make no sense.

Why Basic Strategy Is
Antiquated,
Faulty
and Hopeless - Example #1!
Posted February 27, 2008
(See NEW, growing, advice blog below)

I'm fed up with all the Old School claptrap about basic strategy being "The Book," or "perfect" or created through "mathematically correct" computer-generated data. I've proven this to be wrong, many times over, through detailed explanations in Cutting Edge Blackjack, NEW Ways To Win MORE At Blackjack and in countless columns.

I've shown you in excruciating detail how wrongheaded the Old School research was (from the pre-research assumptions - such as the wrong notion that dealer up cards have predictably constant busting rates, to the computer-generated pretend blackjack data they used, to the way they used the data - such as their simplistic and misused application of statistics). And then they took that bundle of garbage and hastily threw together a simplistic one-size-fits-all strategy that fits few situations properly (much as those one-size-fits-all socks fit no one).

OK, but now I've decided to take this a step further:

In the coming days, weeks and months, I'm going to show you LOTS of card examples, starting with the one above, to give you further proof of how incorrect the Old School advice is. Print this out and ask any of the Old School types to explain this. (I demonstrate this kind of thing at my seminars, all day long. It doesn't take long for players to realize how wrong they would be to follow this system; even more wrong to put money down on it!)

Above, the dealer has a 5 as the up card. I've played out all the hands as the "wizard of odds" - one of the Old School types on the Internet, who presents himself as the knower of all - says they should be played.

Yet, playing according to the "wizard's" basic strategy scheme, the last four hands were in fact played wrong!

(No wonder. He writes: “This strategy is simply the best way to play every possible situation, without any knowledge of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck.” [my italics] The last part of that sentence is the kicker. He's asking you to check your brain at the door. Any good player of any card game does NOT play without any knowledge of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck! This is called: failing to pay attention to the cards! Either he's assuming you're too stupid to look at the cards and draw intelligent conclusions or he's trying to gloss over the utter failings of the strategy he's hawking. Basic's not the “best way” to play anything. As they say: you can pretend doo-doo is a lovely sight and anything but what it is - but it still smells. For, take a look: the truth is, in this common card example, the "wizard of odds" basic strategy system completely miscalculates the odds.)

Now, before any of you say, yeah, basic sucks, but that's why you should count cards - look again. (Counting cards doesn't help you here.)

The card count in this situation equals zero according to the half-century old Hi-Lo card counting system the MIT guys used! (This is arguably the most popular card counting system in the world today. But I don't mean to single it out; they all are faulty.)

The count is zero! What does that tell you? Nothing! (And even that assessment - that the cards are "neutral" - is wrong.)

For those of you unacquainted with the theory of card counting, a zero count supposedly tells you the cards are "neutral" or "balanced," and that you should play your hand in this situation according to basic strategy.

But look again at the example. Are the cards really balanced here?

They're off the chart in high cards. And four cards haven't been dealt at all!

Yet, because the Hi-Lo system (and most card counting systems) does not factor in the 7s, 8s and 9s (which they ignore and consider "neutral" - go figure!), the Hi-Lo system is blind to this heavy imbalance of high cards!!!

And the Hi-Lo system did not detect that the Aces, 3s, 4s and 6s have not appeared AT ALL! (Because it wasn't designed to detect this kind of important information, which its creators apparently didn't realize was important!)

For any one card not to be represented is a glaring imbalance, but for four not to be represented (as is the case in this example) is a huge imbalance!

(And, by the way, when the dealer gets an Ace in its hand - either as the hole card, third card, fourth card, etc. - the dealer's overall busting rate is a measley 8 percent! Compound this with the fact that the 3s, 4s and 6s, now overdue, will almost ensure that the dealer will not bust and you'll realize what no basic strategist or card counter can possibly figure out: this is not a player-friendly situation.)

Now, in their (rare) moments of honesty, the Old School types admit that basic strategy ONLY WORKS WHEN THE CARDS ARE BALANCED. Yet, this is almost a mythical occurrence. To be balanced, the undealt cards have to (at all times, for basic to work) have the same percentage of each card in its mix as is the case in a freshly opened deck of cards, namely: each of the non-10s should each comprise 7.69 percent, or roughly 8 percent of the mix, and the 10s should comprise roughly 31 percent. WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN??? Contact me if you EVER see it!!!

The bottom line:

A state-of-the-art player (using my system) would recognize that, in this not-atypical card example, the dealer is HIGHLY likely NOT to bust. The table is loaded with the cards that would combine with the 5 to bust the dealer. You need to be able to recognize these situations. The Old Schoolers would have you sit on totals of 12-16 points, which would have you lose more than not; and they'd have you double here, where that would only lead to twice your losses (it is not the time to put more money on the table; this is a case where the dealer is exceptionally strong!!!).

You cannot afford to stand on stiffs when the dealer is so likely to score - you won't win very often doing that!!! ...Those 12-point hands especially - why would you stand on those in this situation, when the 10s, which are the only cards that could bust you, are overplayed and highly unlikely to come your way?!

Furthermore, a state-of-the-art blackjack player (using my system) would know not to double here - as two players did, as you can see.

You may say: well, gee, they lucked out, with the hit cards they got.

Really? No. My research shows that the dealer's 5 scores high when it does not bust. For instance, it achieves scores of 19 points or better nearly 34% of the time when the cards are balanced. And here, that number would be much higher, skewed as it is toward low cards coming the dealer's way.

So in this situation, that 18 point hand is a loser.

What about the 19 point hand? A score of 19 is the average winning score, in a balanced situation. Here, where the dealer is going to achieve 20s and 21s much more than normally (normally being 23% of the time) it's not such a great score to have. Nonetheless, the player with the 19 point hand is the only one who really has any kind of chance.

The sad thing is, the four players on the left were led astray by the faulty Old School "logic" behind basic strategy. They were made to lose when they would have had better shots of winning if they'd played according to a modern, state-of-the-art approach, based upon the latest card behavior information.

Get the picture? Both basic strategy and card counting are highly faulty, ineffective and antiquated Old School methods - not to be followed anymore.

Use them at your own risk. It's your money.

Come back for more examples. I'm going to FILL this site with them until no one is foolish enough to follow the now-discredited systems first introduced in the 1950s and 1960s.

(If you want to have some fun, take a deck of cards and lay out the example above. Then see how the dealer does. To make the results correct, play this situation out repeatedly and make a proper statistical analysis of how the dealer fares, over time, in this very same situation. This, in and of itself, will open your eyes. Plus, it's a great way to learn what blackjack is all about. In blackjack, we play the odds. That means, you make the move that wins the most for you, or, in a losing situation, cuts your losses as is appropriate. Here, you'll find the dealer occasionally busts. But not anywhere near 42 percent of the time - as the Old Schoolers say it should. Keep track of the scores the dealer achieves, too, and do a statistical analysis of how often the dealer reaches scores of 19, 20 and 21 points! You'll soon realize you cannot afford to sit on stiffs - hands of 12 through 16 points - here. And, to my knowledge, my system is the only one that: 1) identifies these situations; and 2) lets you know this is something you must consider, in analyzing the cards! For more powerful numbers regarding the dealer up cards, see Cutting Edge Blackjack. Barnes & Noble and other fine stores carry it. Or, if you're on a tight budget - try your library. If they don't have it yet, simply ask them and they'll be glad to order a copy for you. Libraries will order any book you request.)

Old School Myths
Posted October 2, 2008

Let's explore some Old School myths.

Myth #1 (ever growing with each “new” book that comes out; I put new in quotes because the "new" Old School books are just regurgitations of Thorp's 1962 tome Beat The Dealer, with minor variations):

That the Old School books based upon the most computer simulations are better than the books than came before. Each one proclaims itself to be superior because it was based upon many more millions of simulations.

The Truth:

They could have done a thousand billion simulations, it makes no difference – all systems based upon computer simulations, or as I refer to it, pretend blackjack data, are deeply flawed. Research, no matter what field, must be done with the proper data. You cannot simulate or create pretend data and come up with meaningful answers. Computer simulations are created by quirky devices called random number generators and true card behavior is anything but random – as my research has shown. (There was also a major university study in the early 1970s that proved this, at least with regard to shuffling.)

Plus - we do not bet on the outcome of 8 million simulated rounds, or 800 million pretend rounds, or a gazillion computer simulations. What happens over the course of these many rounds of pretend rounds does not reflect our odds of winning in any one given true casino card situation. It should be obvious that the simplistic math used by the Old Schoolers, taking phony data and then summing them all together by up card, does not produce anything meaningful - unless, again, someone allows you to bet on the collective outcome of many millions of computer pretend action (which no one does, not even online casinos, where you're betting on the outcome of one round, not many millions of rounds).

Myth #2:

That there's a computer program that can test all blackjack systems for their perfection.

The Truth:

These programs are just silly. A program does what its programmer wants it to do.

In this case, these programs are created to prove the creator's book is the best (or the books the programmer favors).

More important – all they test for is how far a system deviates from the one-size-fits-all basic strategy approach of the oldy moldy 1950s and 1960s. In other words, if you don't subscribe to that flawed approach, it spits your system out.

Furthermore – there's no way they can test my system at all. They'd have to know what I know and then program their computers to test for how well a system performs vis a vis a state-of-the-art card analysis-based card strategy (including the identification of the dealer's hole card and assessment of the dealer's likelihood of busting and/or beating our hand and the prediction of our likelihood of winning in the next round – just to name a few techniques the Old Schoolers know nothing about) and a scientific betting strategy. Because there are so many millions of card situations and imbalances to take into account (undocumented and/or unknown by the Old Schoolers), and because the Old Schoolers are stuck in the flawed concepts of the 1950s and ‘60s, their so-called testing software cannot begin to deal with modern blackjack issues and strategies.

Myth #3:

That “independent trials” or the laws of randomness apply to blackjack.

The Truth:

I guess my innovations that tap into the predictability of blackjack threaten many Old Schoolers, who often claim that you cannot predict future events based upon what cards were dealt.

Not only is this highly naïve and indicative of a faulty understanding of the game, it also flies in the face of what the granddaddy of the Old School systems wrote in 1962.

Just a couple of quotes from Beat The Dealer to dispel Myth #3:

Page 42:

“…in casino blackjack the cards do have a memory! What happens in one round of play may influence what happens both later in that round and in succeeding rounds.”

When he says “casino blackjack,” I take it to mean he's realizing the true game, with cards, plays out very differently than his computer simulations indicated.

Shortly after that quote (on Page 43) he continues with this startling admission:

“Blackjack, therefore, may be exempt from the mathematical arguments which rule out favorable gambling systems for independent trial games.”

For those unable to decipher this Ivory Tower academic language, what he's saying is: a) “independent trials,” namely computer-produced simulations created by a random number generator, may apply to games commonly thought of as based upon pure luck and randomness (perhaps he's referring to craps and roulette), but they say nothing about card games such as blackjack, which does not play out randomly; and b) gambling methods based upon an assessment of how good the cards are are, in fact, based upon sound logic – in other words, the cards do run hot and cold, based upon the mix and imbalances of the moment.

(This quote, by the way, justifies and explains many of the concepts I presented in Blackjack The SMART Way, regarding my methods allowing you to identify when the cards are good and when they are bad so as to make intelligent, cutting edge betting moves. In Cutting Edge Blackjack, in fact, I made this a science. It's strange that neither Thorp or his many imitators followed up on the apparently fleeting Epiphanies Thorp expressed in both quotes above.)

You really need to absorb the major importance of what these quotes say and remember the quotes whenever you read the ongoing tripe from Old Schoolers whose books I've made obsolete. I understand their upset. I've hurt them in the wallet.

But at least get your facts straight. The Truth does not support the illogic behind the Old School methods.

All I have to do is quote from their writings to prove the validity of my work. I don't have to prove their systems wrong (although I've done this too); if you read between the lines, they admit their flaws and drawbacks.

That being said, I won't lower myself to the level of nastiness some Old Schoolers have lowered themselves to. Nor will I dignify their attacks by listing them here or anywhere else. (It's sad that some supposedly intelligent academic types feel compelled to engage in defamation and libel and mean, childish acts when faced with a competitor with better ideas.)

What I will do (and have done from the get-go, in the face of this kind of thing) instead is to redouble my efforts to let players know the Truth and let them decide for themselves whose system makes more sense. Players must make intelligent choices if they want to win. And I am more dedicated today than ever to get them the information they need to make those choices.

Do they want to stick with the mistaken notions of the 1950s and early 1960s, or go with forward thinking?

It's Wrong Math, Stupid!
Posted July 10, 2008

I haven't had any time to blog in the past couple of weeks as I prepare to do my first seminar in a year or so (I always update things, as my research continues to progress - I'm not done trying to squeeze as much in the way of profits out of the game!).

One thing's been on my mind, and that is the virulent and often nasty close-mindedness of the Old School writers and web site scammers who refuse to accept progress. (And they go on the Internet under phony assumed names, spread malicious comments about my innovations and then hawk their books as if they're rabid fans of themselves. It's pathetic. And I can identify a number of them although they use these phony names. You can too, if you read between the lines.) I'm being up front with you because, in light of their nastiness, I've taken the kid gloves off.

Couple their egotism with their wrong-headedness and refusal to admit their day has come and gone and you have a pathetic situation of otherwise smart people trying to hawk losing products akin to scammers. They now know their methods are deficient, but they can't admit this or they'd lose the income they get off of selling old product, product that's antiquated and faulty.

What floors me even more is how wrong otherwise bright people went with the math behind the Old School methods - methods that, although now more than 50 years old (I'm referring to the ineffective basic strategy and card counting strategies), are still being sold as if they're the current technology so to speak. Their selling of these oldy moldy faulty approaches would be akin to someone trying to get today's astronauts to go up in a Mercury capsule.

The thing is, these guys have paid publicists to paint them as if they're geniuses, but the math behind their self-promoted systems is almost childish in its faulty simplicity and their research done was defective before it began.

Does it take a genius to realize you cannot take a gazillion rounds of computer-simulated pretend blackjack (that does not reflect the repetitive nature of true card action), do a simple summation by dealer up card and then a simple statistical survey of how those gazillion rounds played out in toto, and come up with a precise card strategy?

What you get is how to play a game (that doesn't exist) where you bet on the collective outcome of a gazillion rounds of computer-generated pretend blackjack.

And you cannot do proper research without the proper data. Random-number-generated data is not appropriate to a study that's supposed to be about cards. Cards do not play out randomly - and there was a famous university study in the 1970s that announced this fact, even though my card behavior studies went far beyond that, in discovering repeating phenomena that results from standardized casino shuffling techniques, and in producing methods to profit from these predictable events.

Any card player knows you have to be in-the-moment. The cards that have been dealt affect the wisdom of your move.

To help the newcomer to state-of-the-art blackjack grasp this notion and play a more precise game, I invented an entry-level card analysis method called the Ducks & Bucks method, introduced in Cutting Edge Blackjack.

Unlike Old School blackjack, which totally ignores the dealer's hole card (why?), I developed (first and foremost for myself, as a player) the first-ever method to accurately predict the identity of this most important card. At my seminars jaws drop when I time and time again predict what this card will be (my accuracy level being in the 80-percentile range, which is highly acceptable). With that information, a novice can then use the Ducks & Bucks method to choose a much more precise card move. I have proven that the dealer's busting rate is NOT constant per each up card, but in fact varies, depending on the cards that have been dealt (and what remains in the undealt mix).

For instance, in the example above, Old Schoolers would tell you to hit your 16. But, then again, they never told you (until my books came out, that is), that the dealer's 7 is one of the best cards a player could see. It's, in fact, your fourth best dealer up card, in terms of overall player wins. (You have a 12% advantage!!)

And, if you knew enough to identify the above dealer 7 as a "Duck" (from the acronym "Diminished Up Card" - a term applied to dealer up cards when they're at their weakest, most apt to bust or lose to the player), you'd stand on your 16! The dealer's busting rate in this situation is 42%!

And this is just a glimpse into state-of-the-art blackjack.

The true reason the Old School geeks keep trying to outdo each other in the number of pretend rounds of blackjack they spew out on their computers? The "constants" they use to formulate their "strategies" are NOT constant. So they go further and further out, trying to come up with a number that doesn't change, for dealer up card busting rates.

See, the secret they won't admit is their formulas are useless if they cannot show that each dealer up card has a constant, definable busting rate. And they cannot because this is not true. (A constant, such as the speed of light, must be the same number, no matter what the circumstances. The truth is - as I discovered in my research - is that dealer up card busting rates are all over the place, depending on the amount of time the game's been played and the cards that have been dealt.)

They cannot support the basic assumptions they accepted (through laziness) in coming up with the quick-and-dirty simplistic methods of the 1950s and 1960s, the "let's do a quick and easy statistical survey and pass it off as a work of genius" logic. If there are no "constants," then all the hot air in the world cannot blow their methods aloft.

Close Your Eyes
To Play Old School Blackjack

Posted February 29, 2008

I love this quote on the "wizard of odds" site, regarding the strategy he promotes as if it's so fabulous nothing comes close:

"The most important thing to know about blackjack is the basic strategy. This strategy is simply the best way to play every possible situation, without any knowledge of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck." [my italics]

Without any knowledge of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck??? This guy's asking you to close your eyes and not look at the cards on the table! No one can play a good game if you don't: a) look at the cards that have been dealt; b) think about what's been dealt, to have a "knowledge of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck." This is a basic requirement of playing any game properly!! Yet he's giving you a system that's the "best" for those too stupid to look at the cards and make intelligent decisions!!! Perhaps he's assuming you're too stupid.

I don't mean to single out the "wizard." He's an example of the lunacy behind all of the Old School systems. All Old School writers ask you to check your brain at the door.

Why are even neophyte poker players smarter than these blackjack guys who say they're experts?

For example, the neophyte poker player knows you have to look at the cards. You cannot be ignorant "of the distribution of the rest of the cards in the deck" and play a good game.

To give you a poker analogy (hang in there with me) - if you get "Big Slick," an Ace and King, as your hole cards in Texas Hold'Em, that's potentially a great hand. Yet, all great poker books tell you it all depends on what comes next - what the "flop" is (the three common cards dealt face-up on the table, shared by all the players). In other words: "Big Slick" could in fact be "Big Sick" if the flop comes down 7-8-9, or the three flop cards are of the same suit and your cards are not of that suit. Given these flops, the supposedly great hand would be folded because another player (akin to blackjack's dealer, in that in poker the other players are your opponents) is likely to have you beat: with a straight, in the first example (the 7-8-9), or a flush (in the second, with all flop cards of the same suit not reflecting what you're holding).

In other words: a smart, state-of-the-art card player watches what cards were dealt and adjusts his strategy accordingly. You can tell, by looking at the cards, whether: a) your first two cards are any good anymore; and b) you're beat (and you need to creatively cut your losses) or you need to adjust your strategy to attempt to win.

Is there an analogous situation in blackjack? Many!

For example: you get two Aces. The Old Schoolers scream: ALWAYS split Aces! How foolish! When you split Aces, you are only given one card upon each new hand. If low cards are overdue, you will end up with two crappy hands. (The same thing is true with the "Big Slick" of blackjack: the 11-point hand, often worth doubling on. But not when low cards are overdue. Again, when you double, you get just one extra card; if it's a low one, you now have a crappy hand with TWICE the amount you'd originally bet on it in a losing situation! When low cards are overdue, by the way, this is also true: the dealer is highly likely to achieve a winning score.) And - unlike what the "wizard" suggests - if your eyes are open, you can figure out when those low cards are likely to come. So why ignore the evidence?

(It's interesting, but this self-styled "wizard" doesn't promote the Old School's other notable but faulty creation, card counting. He writes: "Let me say loud and clear that card counting is hard and is not as rewarding as television and the movies make it out to be." Again. All I have to do is quote the Old Schoolers and you can see that what I'm saying is true. They admit it themselves.)

 

Insights Into How The Old School Blackjack Approach Went Wrong

And:

The Press' Complicity In
Promoting These Faulty Systems
Posted February 25, 2008

This post dovetails nicely with my last post, because here you have, once again, a newspaper who doesn't seem to care about the truth. But that's just part of this story.

The story-behind-the-story is also about how non-players with mistaken notions of the game were behind the creation of the Old School systems still being hawked today, and how the press is complicit in propagating methods only a casino could love.

And, finally this is a story about how the Old School blackjack crowd's publicity machine plows over the truth.

I reveal all of this not to be nasty but to shine the light for players who must have the truth in order to decide what system to put faith in, with their money riding on the line.

I'm referring to a piece that appeared in the Boston Globe on February 20th, 2008 called "Getting a Hand: They Wrote The First Book But Never Cashed In."

Well, you might say...this story seems to be about some guys who really got a bum deal! No fame or fortune from "the first book" on blackjack! Poor guys!

But let's examine this further, to discover where the truth really lies. First of all, the game (originally vingt et un, or 21, invented in France) dates back to the 1600s or earlier. Let's not claim this was the "first book." Or even the first good book.

Second, why the headline and the breathless big deal promotion of all of this when the fact is what the article is really about is a losing system!!! The guys involved ADMITTED their system was a loser, in this article (keep reading).

Yet their book, Playing Blackjack to Win (interesting title, given their confessions that it's a losing system) - is about to be re-released! Go figure!

Who is behind all of this? Continue reading and tell me if this is a book that you feel is worth re-issuing!

With all due respect, this book, published in 1957 and written by (as the article puts it) "an oddball mix of academics and amateur card enthusiasts matching wits with the gambling establishment - yet never cashing in by beating the casinos at their own game," really epitomizes the Old School ethic: that of the non-player or sometime amateur neophyte doing quick, lazy and faulty blackjack research, producing strategies that don't really work.

Typical of many Old School blackjack writers, the four behind this book all but forgot about blackjack after the book came out, going on to other things that really held their interest. And, again, don't take my word for it. This is how Baldwin put it:

"As I said in my [Vegas] speech, my knowledge of blackjack ended with the first edition of Beat the Dealer." (That came out in 1962.)

This pattern has continued to this day - with psychologists, mathematicians, newsletter writers and other non-players or sometime amateurs (most not even rising to the level of a wannabe) spending some of their spare time compounding mistake after mistake in their lazy investigations into a game that they don't care enough to play very much, if at all. And they think all it takes to produce a winning strategy is simple math based upon a simple (and faulty) application of statistics. (Wrong.)

But, again, the good part is: most of these writers admit their short-comings, if you read their words carefully enough. (As I've demonstrated over and over again…and as you'll see below.)

Yet this is the bad part: in spite of these admissions of their shortcomings, they write books as if they know something worth passing on! I would think that if you fail to unravel the mystery of the game with a clearly winning strategy you wouldn't have the balls to put out a book urging players to use your system!

Worse yet - the press then gets in bed with them, pretending their work is something hot, worth getting excited over.

In this Globe piece, the reporter writes: " Baldwin [one of the four Army buddies behind the book] thought it possible to lower the dealer's advantage (around 5 percent) by formulating a betting strategy based on precise mathematical modeling."

Precise mathematical modeling? How can it be precise? This is just the kind of bull that ticks me off. How can this be true, when Baldwin admits to the reporter: "I calculated the house still had the advantage in the long run." [my italics]

One of his co-authors agrees with that admission: "Maisel agrees. 'In statistical terms, we still had a negative expectation ,' he says. 'Unless you got lucky, you'd still lose in the long run .'" [my italics]

Great! It's a losing system. They said it. I don't have to prove it. …And someone in the publishing industry thought their book was worth re-printing??? Go figure!

Nothing against these guys, personally – I'm sure they're nice fellows and they were well-meaning when they wrote this book. But – this is akin to a book that teaches you how to build and fly an exact replica of the Hindenburg (under the title: "The Best Way To Fly")! Either way, you go down in flames!

Now, don't get me wrong. I mean no disrespect. These four Army buddies, as they're described, were sincere (but lazy-minded) in their little game of trying to figure out blackjack and their venture was, on the surface, a noble one. But their endeavor was not interesting or worth noting. It ended in failure, if truth be told.

For let's put this in its proper perspective: what they came up with was the wrong way to play. Again - I don't have to prove this. Maisel says: "we still had a negative expectation ."

As far as their being non-players, I am not pulling that assertion out of my butt. Here is how the Globe reporter described them:

"They met in the early 1950s as Army enlistees at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland . McDermott and Baldwin had done graduate work in mathematics at Columbia University . Maisel, who later taught computer science at Georgetown University , was part of a team assigned to analyze such problems as weapons trajectory. Cantey, a sergeant, was the ranking officer among the foursome and its only African-American. Baldwin and Cantey were card players as well, mostly of the penny-ante variety. During a game of dealer's choice, blackjack was called. Baldwin knew the game's basics - players try to draw hands totaling as close to 21 points as possible, without going over - but did not know that casinos forced dealers to draw on 16 (or less) and hold on 17 (or more) ." [my italics]

Even the one guy with some knowledge of the game did not know its essentials! He did not know casinos forced dealers to draw on 16 and stay on 17! This is clearly a non-player!!! Must I say more?!

And the reporter wrote that McDermott, in Vegas to be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, was not interested in playing blackjack!

I quote: "In Vegas, where casinos take a vigilant (and aggressive) stance toward card counters, he didn't play even a single hand of blackjack. 'I've mostly forgotten how,' McDermott says."

(Gimme a break! I'm an advantage player, and I've run into heat from time to time, but is that a reason NOT to play the game? It's not THAT bad!!! What on Earth does McDermott think will happen if he sits down to play? And if he feels it's that scary, maybe he shouldn't agree to re-issue his book, as is. Maybe he and his buddies should warn people away from the game, if this is the true way they feel. I mean - what is it, folks??? Should people play blackjack or not? And if you're not playing or using your system, why are you telling others how to play the game?)

…Now, having been a reporter, this makes me wonder why the Globe reporter didn't put 2 and 2 together. Why, after listening to their stories of how they came up with a losing system, and their admissions of not being true players, did he then cast them in such a glowing light and not question why their book was being re-issued? Did his editor tell him to make this a puff piece and spin the truth, turn negative into positive?

This is a story about guys who momentarily dabbled in blackjack research but who didn't play the game, don't now play the game, don't use their own system, and who – apparently, according to McDermott - might even think you SHOULDN'T play the game!

I'm writing about all of this because I feel it's my duty to show you the lunacy that's behind the creation of Old School blackjack. Don't you think you should know all of this - BEFORE you decide to put your money down on their methods?

I think anyone who writes a blackjack book should put their money where their mouth is. If you can't get behind it, don't hawk the book.

Anyway...Interestingly enough, in this article it was said that Edward Thorp, the one-time MIT professor who teamed up with IBM 's Julian Braun to write Beat The Dealer (who, if my memory serves me correctly, admitted in his book to playing blackjack a sum total of two weeks of his life) - a well-meaning and highly intelligent mathematician and brilliant Wall Street investor, but NOT a blackjack player - credited Baldwin et. al.'s book with producing the foundation that underlies Beat The Dealer . Again - here's a non-player basing his book on the work of other non-players, one result of which was that he made faulty assumptions about how to go about research and the production of a meaningful game strategy and went down the wrong path of doing a simplistic global statistical study.

(You can't succeed in producing an effective blackjack system by summing up millions of pretend rounds of blackjack and then doing a simplistic statistical study. And you especially can't succeed if this is done with pretend numbers – that is, the use of dealer busting rates as if they're constants, which they're not. (See Cutting Edge Blackjack for details of how dealer up card busting rates constantly vary. As scientists, mathematicians and researchers, Thorp, Baldwin and their crowd should have recognized they were trying to force a square box into a round hole; that they did not have “constants” in dealer busting rates, and therefore their equations could not work in producing a precise and accurate game strategy.))

Now, what's up with this? Do you know of any other field of pursuit whose "experts" did not partake in that field of endeavor???

Now, as a side note, I know I will never be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame (as Baldwin et. al. just were) because I dare to say the emperor has no clothes, but that's of no concern to me. Tens of thousands of players who have read my books, taken my seminars, etc., love my system know what I'm telling you is true, and I think it's important that someone tells you the truth. Some of those involved in the late great Ken Uston's blackjack teams of the 70s and 80s, for instance, have come to my book events and seminars and praised my work – two of whom told me my system was “the best system” in the world today, “by far.”

This is not a lack of respect on my part for those who went before me. Frankly, I thought the Old School writers would hail my historic breakthroughs, insights into the game, shuffling and card behavior, and state-of-the-art game strategy developments, just as people in any other field welcome progress. But, unlike true players, who did hail my breakthroughs, because they're out their playing and want the best, most state-of-the-art methods and insights available, the Old School writers only saw me as a threat to the sale of their books.

So they circled their wagons. Apparently all they cared about was that I had now made their work obsolete and they might not be able to hawk their books. Sad that blackjack is the one field where progress is stifled - for financial reasons and pettiness.

Players and objective insiders universally hailed my work from the get-go. Only the tiny bunch who'd laid down the "law" for how they thought you should play were anything but excited about it. Instead, they were petty and some got nasty.

That crowd reminds me of the guy who ran the U.S. Patent Office in the late 1890s, who shut it down because he felt everything a human could possible invent had been invented! Because you will never read, in an Old School book or column, anything that didn't date back to the 1950s and 60s. They're just regurgitating the “technology” of that day and have blinded themselves to anything new. They deny there could be anything better and refuse to acknowledge anything that could be better.

The beauty part is all I have to do is quote them to make my point - to help you decide what methods you should use. Again, someone needs to tell you the truth. It's your money.

 

 

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