One of the best ways of foreseeing the future is to understand the human nature. Our needs, hopes, problems and dreams are often the basis for our future making. The nature of the human being is one of the most important ingredients in a complicated gambling business. Each of the parties - a casino and a gambler, long to win money from each other. And the growing strain will determine the future of the game.
Blackjack before 1962:
Before publication of the classic book “Beat The Dealer” by Edward O. Thorp in 1962 no single player had ever suspected of such a thing as the Basic Strategy. Everyone used one's own mixture of superstitions concerning the way in which one or the other hand had to play. Plus, some experience gained while playing at home in the kitchen. Excluding a small number of professional card-players who intuitively presupposed that their overbalance would be more if there were more bowers left in a pack, practically none won in blackjack. Naturally, casinos felt quite comfortable under such conditions. Till 1962 blackjack was not very popular, though percentagewise the profit rate was exclusively high.
The next decade: from 1962 till 1972:
After publication of the book by Thorp the situation changed radically. When the book mounted the peak of sales, became a bestseller, and the professor Thorp became an internationally famous personality, casinos were terrified that thus everyone could learn the system of Thorp and would start beating casinos winning huge amounts of money.
The results of this panic are well-known. The majority of casinos cardinally changed the blackjack rules creating even a larger overbalance in comparison with the previous set of rules. These introductions were effective a few weeks only as the majority of casinos’ clients simply refused to play a game with such bad rules. Subordinating to the law of supply and demand casinos had to quickly restore traditional rules for all. After this gamblers started immediately to play again, more than that in considerably larger quantities.
The popularity of Thorp’s book played into the hands of casinos. Blackjack started to attract crowds of people who thought they could “beat a dealer” only after they had read one book.
But the fact remained that casinos’ visitors continued to lose the same amounts of money while playing blackjack as before. Only the number of gamblers increased a hundred times. The majority of those who had read the book simply didn’t understand the way the calculation of tens given in the book worked, and those who got to the bottom didn’t take enough pains so as to master the system of calculation from A to Z. Casinos observed in surprise the incredibly increased profits.
Reedition of the book in 1966 gave a reader a simpler calculation system. Over that period of time a number of books on blackjack were published. The game gathered pace. Casinos were setting more and more tables. Blackjack was becoming the most popular game in casinos having outrun the previous leader craps.
Blackjack of the 70s:
The classic book “Playing Blackjack as a Business” by Lawrence Revere is responsible for further increase in popularity of the game in the 70s to a great extent. Revere published a shortened version of his systems at the beginning of 1969, but by 1972 already thousands of copies of the book were sold out. Revere republished an extended version of the book offering his simple and effective systems of the game which increased blackjack popularity even more.
Also the book “Winning Blackjack” by Stanley Roberts, was in the right place at the right time, in addition the author appeared in a number of radio and TV-shows. Roberts invested a considerable amount of money into advertising of his book making a splash.
Casinos were once again overcome by the fit of paranoia. They started to suspect that the systems developed with the help of research methods could considerably influence their profits. Casinos started to introduce a multi-pack blackjack instead of a one-pack blackjack to struggle against the system game.
At the beginning of the 70s a lot of scientists, mathematicians, university professors and other “intellectuals” started to write books about blackjack. Some of them developed their own cards’ calculation systems. One of the most popular and effective systems - Hi-Opt I, was developed in 1974 with the help of computer programs created by Julian Brown with participation of an anonymous postgraduate of a large Canadian university.
A lot of professional gamblers transferred from the Revere system to the Hi-Opt I system because of the relative simplicity and effectiveness of the latter one. A lot of ordinary gamblers started to use the system together with the basic strategy. These two systems evidently made the biggest impact upon casinos’ profits because of their use by professionals. Roberts' systems were more often used by amateurs.
Kenneth Uston, teams and Great Horror:
Kenneth Uston noticed sometime at the end of 1976 that he was amazed by the way how effective the simplest systems of Hi-Opt I type could be. In Uston’s book “Big Player“the way how Uston and his companions won together more than a million of dollars playing blackjack is described. Later on his teams transferred from very complicated systems to the simplest of Hi-Opt I type. Uston was thrown out of a few big casinos of Las Vegas, and he filed lawsuit against them for a total amount of 80 million dollars.
With the arrival of Uston the whole new era of blackjack began. Casinos were once again frightened that teams could win huge amounts of money in blackjack. Nearly at once some casinos did away with a one- and two-pack blackjack transferring to 4-, 6- and 8-pack ones. For an average gambler blackjack became too difficult. Plus, casinos started to cut most cards out of play - to two packs. As has been mentioned by Roberts in one of his articles, such practice was at the very least doubtful. By the way, the fact itself of availability of cards which didn’t enter the game caused new kinds of crooked gambling connected with withdrawal and addition of cards.
Casinos up to now change the number of packs and the extent of cutting, and compare levels of profits, thus balancing rules. In any case, rules are extremely difficult for gamblers in the USA, especially beginners.
The nightmare continues:
The funniest thing is that gamblers' thoughts are not rigid. Uston’s teams were followed by Keith Taft with his pocket computer for blackjack which played better than any profs in the world. The court of Nevada State broke the record of the USA on the quickness of adoption of statute on use of computers in casinos. Up to five years with confiscation in the current situation, though Taft and his advocates were sure of the unconstitutionality of that law.
Forbade the computer? There appeared Tommy Hyland and his most complicated systems of tracking. A new headache for casinos… To worsen the cutting, introduce more packs and make the procedure of riffle even longer. To invent shuffle-machines!
Stanford Wong was the first to outwit these shuffle-machines. The most important thing was to know how they worked. Poor casinos didn’t know what to do. These machines cost rather a lot.
Perhaps new varieties would help? Spanish 21, Super-fan 21, 6:5 blackjack, “Open” blackjack, Blackjack-switch, Pontoon… With every introduction there was one problem: either no one played it at all or profs immediately found the way to beat it. Tournaments? Old Wong created teams especially for tournament struggle. Every new rule was calculated and intensively looked into a week in advance. The development of the Internet caused quick information distribution.
Further on the whole pleiad of gamblers of the contemporary generation came on stage. Wong, Sneider, Anderson, Dogerty, Shlesinger and heaps of people who were occupied with theory and practical aspects of the game. Mathematical models of the game were worked out. Texts on Blackjack were published in scientific reviews.
Finally, up to the present moment a small number of professionals still win in blackjack. And will win in the future. Some profs transfer to more complicated systems which are plentiful (let’s say, Hi-Opt II was published as far back as 1976). New methods and techniques are being developed.
There is no doubt that it will get still more and more difficult to win in blackjack. However, there difficulties only make gambling wits work harder and harder. Right away new game systems are being worked out in many heads and at many computers of the world.
It is important to understand that gamblers always have a hope. They can change games. They can finally read a textbook on the theory of probability. They can read the same books themselves. They can spend even more money on the newest technologies. However, I assure You, there will always be a way to beat them.
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BlackJack.Conditions are getting worse, but the way to win will always remain.
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