Blackjack Books
  • To Neil -- What can I do to get Blackjack Bluebook II on the HitorStand's list of recommended blackjack books?
  • Renzey, it will be my pleasure. I've been meaning to add it for some time now, but I had to put this new forum together in a rush. I really appreciate the valuable help you are providing to visitors here. It will be added in the next few days.

  • I have read Walter Thomason's "21st Century Blackjack" and am now reading Fred Renzey's "Blackjack Bluebook II". Both are excellent. Two different viewpoints from two reputable experts. In some ways, they're both right. Fred is right that the outcome of one hand is in no way a predictor of your next. Walter is right that streaks of four or more wins or losses are do occur commonly (only 15 out of 102 shoes didn't have any streaks this long), so in streaky stretches a progressive betting strategy will make more or lose less money than flat betting. Fred is right that the best predictor of outcome is knowledge of what's left in the shoe, and offers a variety of counting systems. Walter is right that this is still no guarantee, and counters can suffer "negative fluctuations" where even though the count is heavily positive, the dealer still wins. I recommend both books.
  • but...

    I don't understand how they can both be right. How can progression work if one hand has no connection to the next? If that were the case, then there would be no difference between upping your bet randomly and upping it after a win. I guess I need to read the books...

    S :?:
  • Swanson, I think to be a progressive bettor you have to be a 'believer' in blackjack as a 'streaky' game. You will play in games where you will WWWLLWWWWWLLLL. In these cases using a progression you are flat betting during the losing streaks but are progressively betting on the winning streaks and getting more units. The problem comes in the many games that are choppy, that is back and forth, they can really chew a progression up. A game can change from choppy to streaky in a second they say, but I try and recognize what kind of game I'm in anyway, and either leave the table or alter my betting pattern. I have been in a choppy game where I flat bet, than if it becomes streaky change over to a progression. And leave the table if it doesnt meet my progressions needs or has lots of Ls. Counters having a different philosophy will play the count, not the game and hang in thier no matter what the W/L ratios are, the math is on their side, but counting is tough. So 'play the game' if you can't count, and learn Renzey's 'playing the cards' techniques. I also reccomend both books.
  • Swanson has focused on an inescapable point that pro-progressionists look right past. If your chance to win the next hand is not related to recent results, then you cannot make a profit on all those larger bets that came right after a series of wins, since their chance to win is the same as at any other time. This has been found to be true during analysis. Yes, it's true that during winning streaks, you win impressively with a positive progression, and during losing streaks, you lose only moderately. But here's the equalizer; when you win and lose the same number of hands, as in WLWLWL, etc, you lose money rather than break even! Look carefully at this list of three different sequences of outcomes for 10 bets. WWWWWWWWWW, LLLLLLLLLL, and WLWLWLWLWL. The first two are total streaks. The winning streak wins much more money than the losing streak loses. The third is a total "chop" with 50% wins, but loses money. Now, how many more possible sequences are there for these 10 bets? There are 1024 in all! Of those 1024, only 1 is all winners and only 1 is all losers. But 252 of them will contain 5 wins and 5 losses! Now, here's the thing: With any progression, the losses sustained on all the losing streaks added to the smaller losses accumulated thru all the chops will exactly equal all the profits gained thru all the winning streaks - IF - you win as many total bets as you lose, such as in a coin flip. Ahh, but blackjack is no coin flip! Alas, in blackjack you come out a half percent shy of even on raw won/lost tallies. This means that in actual blackjack play, there will be a slightly higher number of sequences containing excess "L's".
    So at the bottom line, progressions merely cluster the winning sessions into where the winning streaks are, then spread out the losing sessions across the losiing streaks and choppy streaks. But the bottom line remains magically, artistically, mathematically and poetically -- the same. You can verify this by applying your favorite progression to the following smaller, but complete sequence distribution of wins and losses.
    WWWW, WWWL, WWLW, WLWW, LWWW, WWLL, WLWL, LWWL, LWLW, WLLW, LLWW, LLLW, LLWL, LWLL, WLLL, LLLL. There is a complete six page layout and explanation of this in my book.
  • Renzey - I have finally added your book to the book list. Yours and Thomason's do seem to compliment one another very well. I would like to hear Thomason's rebuttle of your last post. :wink:

  • Fred, Your WLWLWL scenario assumes that all possible scenarios occur with equal frequency. I believe -- and my manually-dealt studies confirm -- that streaks of winning or losing hands occur more frequently and are longer in duration than is predicted by simulation. Card counters seem to be blind to the existance of streaks, yet a common complaint is, "I won a bunch of consecutive hands while the count was negative, and then got hammered when the count sky-rocketed and my big bets were on the table."
    Since the cards don't know if we're counting or progressive betting, the WLWL patters are the same for each player (assuming no changes in Basic Strategy due to the count) and short term fluctuations in WL outcomes can have a totally different financial effect for each type of bettor. Progressive players often win when counters are losing, and vice-versa. Progressive players also apply "Quit Points" during play, such as quitting the table after four consecutive losses, or walking away from choppy tables -- much like card counters quit play when the count swings too negative. In both cases, the WLWL patterns for any particular shoe are altered by our actions, since we aren't participating in the game through the completion of the shoe.
    The bottom line is that real-life blackjack play produces streaks that, in my opinion, don't conform to theoretical prediction.
  • :D After reading Fred Renzey's posting and Walter Thomasen reply I have decided the best thing for me to do is play roulette.
  • LOL Ted!!!!!!!!!!!!! :lol:

    Yeah, that's true. They sure have 2 opposing sides to this. Both are right in their form.
  • Card counters are certainly aware that streaks occur -- by surprise -- always by surprise. What's more important is that it's impossible to tell whether a streak will reverse itself on the next hand or continue. This has been supported in empirical studies. For that reason, we say that it makes no sense to increase your bet because you've "been winning". Also, stopping after so many losses does not alter the W/L sequences on the whole. The next hand is simply the next hand, wherever it may be. But stopping after the count goes negative does alter those W/L sequences because you positively have a lesser chance to win the hand when lots of small cards are left.
  • Fred, I think some people need to hear it explained simply why a shoe rich in high cards favors the player and low cards favor the dealer. Too many simply think, "well, it's because the player's likely to get a 20" without considering that the dealer is just as likely to get 20 as well. Also, there are a lot of anecdotal stories about the count getting high and the dealer still winning most hands, so some conclude "counting doesn't work".
    Without stealing too much thunder from your book, and because I don't want to paraphrase what you say in it, could you briefly comment?
  • Well I've ordered both books. Hopefully I will come to understand pregressive betting after I read more, but I still don't see it.

    My question for Walter: What are the real-life factors that cause the streaks to happen more than they do in simulation?? To me, that is the key to your argument.

    Quit points, for example, don't make much sense to me in terms of long term winnings - unless the streaks are real. So, again the argument needs an explaination of why streaks occur.
  • On Excess High Cards: When the shoe contains a surplus of high cards, both the dealer and player are equally more likely to receive good hands. But the player makes more money with high cards than the dealer. The most glaring example is a dealer's blackjack vs. a player's 20 -- and then the other way around. One way the $10 player loses $10 -- the other way he wins $15. Another example would be a pair of Aces for either the dealer or the player. The dealer must hit a soft 12 -- but the player gets to take one card to 11 -- twice! Also, when the shoe is more than 33% Tens, Insurance becomes a moneymaking bet for the player rather than for the house. That's because it pays 2-to-1 odds but will win more often than one time in three. How about when you double down? What kind of card are you usually hoping to catch? The more 10's and Aces there are, the better you do with your doubles -- yet, the dealer can never double down.
    Now what about when the shoe contains lots of small cards? How could the dealer ever possibly break if there was nothing available bigger than a 5? Etc, etc.
  • Renzey said:
    What's more important is that it's impossible to tell whether a streak will reverse itself on the next hand or continue. This has been supported in empirical studies. For that reason, we say that it makes no sense to increase your bet because you've "been winning".

    I also remember you saying on the old forum that you're equally likely to win the next hand as you're going to lose, so it's best to bet the SAME AMOUNT, aka flatbet... right? If this is your assertion, wouldn't it be rather boring to continuously bet the table minimum over and over and over, since you claim you're equally likely to win or lose the next hand? This doesn't make sense to me. Than why gamble on that note, just to "hope" for the streaks to go in your direction? And you know eventually you will get grilled because of the 0.5% edge they still maintain over you. I just want to know if this is what you are saying - to flatbet the entire time since you apparently dont believe in Progressions, etc. and what Walter Thomason especially and others say about that.
  • Bug -- Yes, if you have no knowledge of the cards that remain, then you might as well bet the same amount on every hand since without that knowledge, you'll always be 43% to win the next hand, 48% to lose it and 9% to push it. Is flat betting boring? Probably. Do progressions make it more fun? Yes. Do they help after everything washes out? Mathematics, thorough logic and studies of the frequencies of streaks say that they do not. The results of some players have indicated that they do. As for me, I'll bet the "don't" on that question. Yet, card counting has been proven beyond a doubt to beat the game. If you fixate on progressions and they end up not helping, you've locked yourself out of becoming a winner at blackjack, when known winning strategies are entirely available.
  • Swanson: I believe that the "non-random" nature of hand shuffling is what causes streaks to occur more often than computer simulation indicates. I suspect that because manual shuffles occur using the used cards from the previous shoe of play, the cards aren't truly randum after the shuffle, and this lack of randomness causes more clumps of winning or losing streaks to occur. I suspect (but don't know for sure) that computer-shuffled cards use a new set of decks with each new shuffle, and/or that any patterns that might carry over from previously played cards would not be present in a new shoe due to the efficiency of the shuffle.
    Also, my imperical observation is that I receive streaks of 6 to 10 consecutive winning hands more frequently than is predicted by "the math guys".
    My use of "Quit Points" is based on studies comparing the outcome of play with or without the use of quit points, and the data (some of which is contained in my progressions book) strongly supports the Quit Point philosophy.
  • Walter Thomason said:
    I suspect that because manual shuffles occur using the used cards from the previous shoe of play, the cards aren't truly randum after the shuffle, and this lack of randomness causes more clumps of winning or losing streaks to occur.

    So - People who use progressive techniques in casinos where the cards are shuffled my machine are kidding themselves if they think they have the odds. That's why the casinos love progressive gamblers.
  • Swanson said:
    [quote=Walter Thomason] I suspect that because manual shuffles occur using the used cards from the previous shoe of play, the cards aren't truly randum after the shuffle, and this lack of randomness causes more clumps of winning or losing streaks to occur.

    So - People who use progressive techniques in casinos where the cards are shuffled by machine are kidding themselves if they think they have the odds. That's why the casinos love progressive gamblers.[/quote]

    There are two kinds of machines. (1) Automatic Shuffle Machines, where the cards are then loaded into a shoe and dealt from there, which Walter is referring to. It makes sense that they'd do a more thorough job of shuffling than manually, and if there had been hot and cold clumps in the discard tray, the machine is more likely to obliterate them, and if those are the cause of the streaks that progressions need, then progression betting makes less sense here than at manual shuffles. However, there would be no reason not to try card counting at a table with an automatic shuffler like this.

    (2) Continuous Shuffle Machines. Not only does this machine reduce the likelihood of clumping, but if it spews out a bunch of low cards, you can't say "thank God they're gone!" after that hand. Because they're returned right back into the mixmaster after the hand is over. If you believe you need clumps for progressions, and for a while I did think this way myself, these are not conducive to progression betting. But if you think streaks happen just by sheer chance anyway and want to try riding them, then go ahead and bet using a progression that if you're lucky will be in sync with the way the cards fall. I've done great and I've done terrible with progression betting at CSM's and I've heard others say the same. The main thing about CSMs of course is: forget about counting cards. Just play the best basic strategy you can and relax.
  • Just for the hell of it I have decided to define the term "empirical studies".
    They are studies which have been made by experimentation and observation. They are not scientific studies. I didn't know what it meant so I looked it up in my Funk and Wagnalls. I have just had a disturbing thought. Suppose, just suppose that Renzey and Walter don't know what they're talking about. Suppose that they are 85% correct in both of their theories. So each of us gravitates towards either Renzey's counting or Walter's progresssions. And in 10 years another guy comes along and explains the problems with each system. But, by that time we have all lost our money.
    What do we do? Get a refund on our books, or what? I gotta figure this way. The last BJ book has not been written yet. In the course of the next several years there will be many more to come with major improvements in both systems. That's the way the world works, my friends. By the time I master the card counting system they will probably introduce a 20 deck shoe with automatic shuffling. PS. I just ordered Fred and Walter's book's.
  • TED: My own empirical studies are accurate statistical records of whatever length I've stated them to be. It's important to understand that I am no pioneer in the science of card counting -- that it has been around for 40 years and is a proven winning technique, currently being used successfully by many players. Forty years ago, blackjack games were quite a bit easier to beat and counting systems were unecessarily complicated. Today, the games are tougher to beat, but still handily beatable and the newer systems are much easier. Still it takes dedication to develop your counting game to the level where you can beat it -- probably 100 to 200 hours of study, practice and play. Along with that, you must have a bankroll of about 700 times your averaged hourly win, and be emotionally prepared to dig deeply into that at times. Finally, once you've acquired the "skill" to beat the game, you need to develop the "art" to appear to be playing like the typical loser so that they don't throw you out.
  • I just finished reading BlackJack: A winner's handbook by Jerry Patterson... he talks about count profiles, and count reversals being used to determine the amount of like-card clumping in a shoe. I was wondering if anyone had any experience or ideas regarding the use of count profiles, as it is a completely new subject to me and I wanted to make sure it was actually useful.
  • I have an old issue of Patterson's book, circa 1982 and it mentions card clumping associated with its "Target System". Since then, lots of analytical work has been done on card clumping.
    I've done none myself, but reports I've read say that the characteristics of clumps are about the same as streaks. That is, they appear by surprise out of nowhere and are as likely to end "right now" as not.
    A horse of a different color would be "shuffle tracking". There, a player makes note of where a high density of big cards went into the discard tray and follows them as well as possible through the shuffle. He then anticipates when these big ones are about to come out through visual recognition of that zone in the shoe, and raises his bets at that time.
    The important distinction between card clump betting and shuffle track betting is that with the first, you wait for a heavy clump to appear with no idea as to its future length. With the second, you are fairly sure that a heavy clump is about to appear and last for a somewhat known number of cards.
  • Renzey- That's what I had the most trouble with regarding card clumping. When Patterson explained that if you were at third base, and your second card was a low card, then the dealer took his hole card, and the player at first base hit and received a low card- He argued that you could assume that the dealer's card was low if you were in a "clumpy" game b/c you were in the middle of a low-card clump. But I found it difficult to follow b/c as you said you would never know when the clump would start/end. On the topic of shuffle tracking... is it possible to track a shuffle with 6 decks, where the decks are split into two piles of 3 decks each and then shuffled (this process is repeated for a total of three shuffles).
  • Renzey,

    As a teacher of mathematics (and an avid BJ player), all your information rings very true to my ears (I've bought & read your book). Could you very briefly give us a thumbnail sketch of your background. I'm very interested and sure others are as well.

  • I retired 6 years ago after 32 years in the mechanical engineering field with a major electronics firm. I'm 60 years old and have been playing serious blackjack and poker since the 1970's. I have a wife of 38 years and two grown children in their 30's. The rest is as bland as vanilla ice milk.

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