Winning Blackjack – The Development of Basic Strategy and Card Counting

Mathematicians realized early on that blackjack was different from other casino games. The hands dealt to the player and the dealer were not independent but depended on the cards already dealt. For example, in single deck blackjack, if the player is dealt two threes then the odds of the dealer drawing a three go down dramatically. Contrast that to craps pengeluaran sgp. In craps if the shooter tosses two sixes that doesn’t affect the probability of throwing two sixes again on the very next roll. In craps (or roulette) the likelihood of an event happening is independent of what came before, but in blackjack each hand does depend on what happened before – which cards have been played and which cards remain in the deck.

Many professional blackjack players tried to reduce and perhaps eliminate the house advantage in blackjack but without success. The “never bust” system enjoyed a lot of popularity. A player would only draw to hands of eleven or less. Some still play this way, but it’s far from the optimum strategy and doesn’t come close to minimizing the house advantage.

In 1956 the first scientifically proven way to minimize the house edge was published by a group of statisticians headed by Roger Baldwin. The 10-page paper was titled The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack and became the first effort to apply mathematics, probability, and statistics to the game. They proved that the house edge could be reduced with appropriate play. Since they didn’t have access to a computer, they performed three years worth of calculations by hand using adding machines and slide rules. All professional blackjack players today use the basic strategy Baldwin developed. (See my article “Basic Generic Blackjack Strategy Made Easy” on this site for the details of the basic strategy. ) The important thing about basic strategy that it is the mathematically correct way to play (hit, stand, double down, or split) based on the dealer’s upcard and not based on guesswork or hunches.

Professor Edward O. Thorp recognized that Baldwin concentrated on the cards that were out and showing and came up with the idea that play could also be based on the unplayed cards. He published his book, Beat the Dealer, in 1962 and promoted the ten-count system, which ushered in the card counting era. Casinos panicked as they envisioned hordes of card counters storming their casinos and walking away with lots of money. They began shuffling the deck at random times and introduced multi-deck games. Thorpe’s original system can’t be used today, since it was extremely difficult to master and was based on a single deck blackjack game.

Professional blackjack players realized that Thorpe’s card counting ideas could be modified and not only eliminate any house edge but swing the odds in favor of the card counter. Led by Stanford Wong, Julian Braun, Ken Uston and many others, they fought back and developed new and simpler ways of counting cards and computerized techniques to teach basic strategy. Today card counters can routinely beat the land-based casinos at blackjack. According to legend, in the 1950’s a craps player named Oscar developed a progressive betting system for grinding out a small profit. And so, Oscar’s Grind was born. While the system yields only small profits, it has the nice feature of operating at low risk. You won’t win a gazillion dollars, but you won’t lose a fortune either.

Oscar’s Grind System will win one unit of profit per series of bets. To start playing you bet one unit. If you win, bet one unit again. When you lose, a series starts and you bet one unit a second time. Never increase the size of your bet after a loss, but every time you win increase your bet by one unit. However, any time if a bet would win and earn you more than one unit on the series, reduce your bet so that if it won, you would only win one unit. Although that sounds complicated, it’s not. Let’s take an example and see how easily it worksThis series is over. We won our one unit, and so we start a new series with a bet of one unit. It loses, but the next two bets of one unit both win. Notice I can’t bet two units after the first win because that would win me two units for the series, so i only bet one unit. Overall we show a win of two series, which works out to two units of profit, and we also won a unit for the very first bet before a series started. Three total. It’s not much, but it’s better than losing. Also notice that flat betting of nine wins and nine losses nets us exactly zero.

When using Oscar’s Grind be sure to record your bets and results on a piece of paper so you don’t lose track of what you are doing. Even if you go to a land-based casino, don’t be intimidated, take a pencil and paper with you and write everything down. You must stay with the system once you start; set limits for the amount you want to win, and the amount you are willing to lose. Once set, stick to those limits.

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