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Modern Blackjack volume one


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Modern Blackjack volume one


Modern Blackjack is a blackjack advantage play-orientated ebook in two volumes by Norman Wattenberger, author of the Casino Veritè blackjack card counting software. It's freely available, which makes it a unique, as well as comprehensive, addition to the literature on blackjack advantage play.

The start, contents and index are all conveniently listed on the home page.

The author has gone for a quirky chapter notation system - the initial three chapters, which do not include positive expectation techniques, are assigned "minus" or "zero" numbers. From chapter four onwards, where advantage play is first described, a positive numbering system is used. As such, the fifteen chapters range from "minus 2" to "plus 12". The purpose of this odd system is to tie in with the mechanics of card counting, where both positive and negative numbers are used to measure the differing levels of player advantage / disadvantage.


Chapter Minus 2 - My First Trip. An account the author's first trip to Las Vegas, including at the end a list of the mistakes he made (and didn't make). As with all the other anecdotes in the book, it's printed on a grey background for easy identification.

Chapter Minus 1 - Blackjack Rules. The logistics of the blackjack table, the mechanics of play and the rules of the game. There is also a section on the effects on the house edge of the various rule combinations, both absolute and relative to a typical standard.

Chapter Zero - Basic Strategy. An explanation of basic strategy. The author has chosen to discuss the various options - hit, surrender etc - in almost the exact reverse order to that in which they are usually presented, on the basis that this is the order of the player's actual decision-making. The strategy is also initially broken up into separate tables, then rolled into the standard one-chart format at the end.

Following on from here are the first of many practice drills using Casino Veritè. For reasons of brevity I will not list the subsequent references throughout the book.


Chapter Plus One - REKO Card Counting Strategy. The principles of card counting and the REKO count, "Really Easy KO", which is a simplification of the Knockout unbalanced system developed by Fuchs & Vancura (see also my KO recommendation.).

(I had a discussion with the author on the re-branding of the KO count at the Beating Bonuses forum, in the New Free Blackjack Book thread.)

Chapter Plus Two - The FELT Count. A more accurate but more complex system, "Fairly Easy Level Two", a simplification of the Revere Point Count developed by counting legend Laurence Revere.

Chapter Plus Three - Performance Comparisons. Comparison of the performance of the two count systems using the "SCORE" system developed by blacjack guru Don Schlesinger, here based on a $10,000 bankroll and a 13.5% risk of ruin. At the end of the chapter there is a comparison of the expected value of the basic strategist against a counter with a true count of zero.

Chapter Plus Four - Betting/Risk. Bettings spreads based on penetration levels, given the above $10,000 bankroll and a 13.5% risk of ruin, either playing all hands or back-counting; later in the chapter the effect of playing more than one hand is discussed, and also the allowable betting spreads for a range of much smaller risks of ruin.

Chapter Plus Five - Heat. The myriad ways that a card counter can generate unwanted attention from the casino personnel, how to avoid it and how to handle confrontations. This chapter contains a lot of illustrative stories from the author's playing career.

Chapter Plus Six - Cover. The cost to the counter of various betting and playing strategies designed to reduce unwanted attention from the casino personnel.

Chapter Plus Seven - Casino Conditions. This chapter moves away from the mechanics of the game and looks at the geographical locations, in the USA, of blackjack games by number of decks, rules and penetration level. Interesting facts to emerge are that one in 20 games in the USA is still genuine single deck, and that the lowest average basic strategy disadvantage is found in Atlantic City, with Las Vegas coming in worst thanks to its plethora of 6:5 games.

Chapter Plus Eight - Strategy Comparisons. Comparison of all the standard published counting systems, based on betting and insurance correlation, playing efficiency, ease of use, strategy type and use of side count. The comparisons are summarised in table format at the beginning; also, comparative SCORE tables, and advantage by count level.

Chapter Plus Nine - Scams/Myths. The number-crunching is put aside once more for a discussion of various nefarious practices - progressions systems, online scams, preferrential shuffles, blackjack 6:5 and others. The harbinger of the future page, a collection of absurd proposed marketing slogans for casinos to dupe the customers with, is a fun read - I had to go over "Blackjack paid at an amazing 2 for 1 instead of just 1.5 to 1!" twice before I got it.

Chapter Plus Ten - Side Bets. It should be "side bet", as the only side bet discussed is a payoff on any player two-card twenty, which is profitable above a certain count level.

Chapter Plus Eleven - Parables. A collection of the author's expriences in the blackjack firmament.

Chapter Plus Twelve - Untying the Knots. Billed as a "summary", this is actually a section of reasonably ad hoc bits of advice on various aspects of the card counter's craft - bankroll, emotions, and general attitude. The volume is wound up with a well-crafted encouragement to the effect that counting is the right, not wrong, way to play. It bears quoting:


Keep in mind that you are doing nothing wrong. All you are doing is playing cards and using your brain. Card counting is simply the correct way to play. It's nutty to ignore the cards that have passed by. Why would you ignore the fact that all the aces have been dealt in a single-deck game and still bet that you will get a Blackjack?

Completely erase from your mind any concept that card counting is anything other than an obvious part of the game that everyone should use. Non-counters are doing something wrong, not counters.


Casinos would largely have the player believe the exact opposite; as such, these are words the neophyte counter would do well to often reflect on.

Appendix A - Indexes. Full indices for the two counts, "REKO" and "FELT", described in the book.

Appendix B - Reference Material. A reference section of books, DVDs, web sites and the author's proprietry software.

I'll review volume two in a subsequent article.



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