It's been a long time since I've cleared off the Gaming bookshelf --- and it's jam-packed with recent releases. This week, let's browse through some of the best.
Beat the Players by Bob NersesianJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas. John's website is www.casinoanswerman.com ($19.95, Pi Yee Press): Nersesian is a Las Vegas attorney, and when he writes about casinos beating the players, he doesn't mean with the odds on the game. He's talking about intimidating winners, detaining blackjack card counters, shuffle trackers and others who play with an edge on the game, attempting to confiscate winnings and threatening arrest of players who have done nothing that is against the law.
Especially scary is a chapter called "Scary Cop Statements," in which those charged with enforcing the law in Nevada show appalling ignorance of what the law actually says. Asked, "Is it your understanding that a casino would have a right to detain a card counter," a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer responds, "Yes." Two others say, "Of course they threw you out --- card counting is illegal."
Card counting is not illegal, although Las Vegas casinos are held to be private clubs that may exclude any customer for any reason. That in itself is not a big problem. It does become a problem when casinos go beyond merely asking a customer to leave and notifying him that he will be charged with trespassing if he returns, and instead block the customer's exit and physically drag him to the security office.
Blackjack is the primary game for advantage players in casinos, but not all of the cases cited by Nersesian involve advantage play and blackjack. In the book's most bizarre case, a 72-year-old woman on a bus excursion to a Detroit casino finds a nickel in a slot tray, adds to $20 of her own money to play in a slot machine --- and finds herself transported to the security room. She was barred from the casino, her photograph taken, paid-for meal pass invalidated and she was left to wait for the bus ride home --- there's some question as to whether she was put out into the streets or left in the valet parking waiting room.
She sued, and a jury awarded her $875,000, with an appeals court later lowering the punitive damages to $600,000. Many of the cases involving detention of blackjack players also result in six-figure judgments --- which shows a great deal of judgment lacking in the first place. Beat the Players is highly recommended; the tactics that make such a book possible certainly are not.
Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution by Frank Scoblete ($24.95, Research Services Unlimited). I first heard of the Speed Count several years ago in conversations with Scoblete and Henry Tamburin. It was Tamburin's search for an easier way for beginners to count cards that spurred Dan Pronovost to develop the Speed Count.
"You won't believe how easy this is," Scoblete told me, whetting my appetite before I attended a seminar to learn the Speed Count. "This is truly incredible."
And when Tamburin, giving the opening lecture at the seminar, revealed the Pronovost's insight that led to the Speed Count, I wanted to slap my head and go, "D'oh." Why didn't I think of that?
I put the question to Scoblete recently, and he concurred. "The math to do this has been out there for decades," he said.
I'm not going to give away the system in this column, but I will tell you that the Speed Count is incredibly easy to learn, and incredibly easy to apply. In a traditional card counting system such as the commonly used Hi-Lo count, counters not only track the balance of high cards vs. low cards remaining in the deck, they have to do a little mental gymnastics to estimate the number of decks remaining. They then divide their running count by that number of decks to get a true count per deck, and size their bets accordingly.
In the Speed Count, there is no estimating decks, no division to get a true count. Even counting the cards is easier --- you count only half the cards you do in traditional card counting systems.
Does it work? Yes. It's not quite as powerful as accurately applying Hi-Lo or other more complex counting systems. But the easier count should cut down on the number of mistakes. Besides, it's much more fun to play when you can count the cards and still chat with the dealer and joke with the cocktail waitress.
Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution comes with a CD, so you can not only learn about the system and how to apply it by reading the book, you can practice on the computer. The software can drill you on counting the cards, sizing your bets and applying the special basic strategy that was developed for this system.
As always, I caution players that counting cards takes discipline, and it takes bankroll. When the count favors the player, your bet size goes up, so if your bankroll can't handle the larger bets, card counting in any system is not for you. But if you're ready to give it a try, Speed Count is by far the beginner's easiest entry into playing with an advantage.
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