Admittedly, most of my casino experiences basically have me ranging from my suite to the poker room and back again. Poker has just always been my passion and to step to another game, even for a change of pace, seemed just wrong to me. It is also true that, other than poker, the house has the edge in every other game in a casino. After checking out the latest blackjack video from poker professional Andy Bloch, however, I may want to look more seriously at that game, at the minimum.
Brought to the public by Expert Insight (and available through their website, expertinsight.com, for $29.95), the DVD "Beating Blackjack" is Andy's excellent and eye-opening work regarding maximizing your success at the blackjack tables. In the approximately hour long disc, Bloch (who made a significant sum of money through his efforts with the some say "infamous" MIT blackjack team) demonstrates the tactics, thought processes and subtleties that the game of blackjack takes and how you can take what is a game that is weighted to the house side of the ledger and swing it closer to an even fight. Andy has put together a top-notch demonstration of the tools that you need for success at blackjack and presents them in a very easy to understand manner (which could have been much harder to grasp in a lesser player's hands).
In the DVD, Andy basically breaks down the game into three segments to maximize success at the tables: basic strategy, card counting and usage of optimal betting strategy. Bloch points out in the basic strategy section that this is the place where nearly all blackjack players make the most errors. He even offers that the basic strategy cards provided by the casinos are often mistaken in some of their advice. Fortunately, the DVD includes a comprehensive strategy chart that encompasses every situation that may arise at the blackjack tables. Through usage of these, rather than the casino provided cards, you will have the tools to take on the game and Andy emphasizes memorization of them (or, lacking that, having these cards with you) to provide a method for beating the game.
The card counting section of the DVD is where the real meat of "Beating Blackjack" comes into play. Bloch presents the card counting strategy in a very straightforward and understandable manner, making it easy to learn the rules but also demonstrating the difficulty of the task. He stresses that this is a process that any player can become proficient at through constant drilling and practice. He also presented a shortcut to the counting process by the "grouping" of canceling cards to speed your count. I attempted to count along during the demonstrations at the blackjack table, but was held back on a few occasions by missing cards through being blocked by a player or the speed of the deal. I did get pretty good at it after some time, however, through working with the DVD. It was good practice as well because the situations where I was blocked out from the viewing of cards will occur when in action in the casinos.
The third part of the strategy I personally found the most fascinating of all. During the discussion of optimal betting, Andy demonstrated when the right time to strike is. Through the usage of the previous two segments, there is an exact moment to raise and lower bets through the count that governs the current shoe. This optimal betting strategy is where a proficient player can maximize the profits that are available at the blackjack tables.
Andy does note during the run of the DVD that casinos are not fond of these methods, however. "Casinos will take notice when you are beating the game, so you have to camouflage your activities sometimes," he states in the DVD. He offers several countermeasures against being picked out, including deviation from standard strategy and optimal betting, to take the eyes of the pit boss off of your game. He also emphasizes that the activities the DVD advocates are "100% legal" (and they are), but you have to be extremely watchful of your surroundings because it is also the casino's right to ask you to leave the game.
The demonstration of the "team" concept, which Bloch used with the MIT blackjack team, was pivotal in showing how the "Beating Blackjack" strategies are best used. Through a four person team, the DVD showed how each part was integral to the overall success of the squad and was interesting to see how each person was used to make the best profit for the team as a whole. The "Ocean's Eleven"-style subplot to the DVD also was one that brought a little bit of fun to the production as well.
Overall, I left the DVD with a brand new respect of the game. I also saw how the game can be, when played optimally, as challenging as approaching the poker tables. There are many segments, including optimal betting, betting patterns and odds (through the card count) that come into play and can be seen as very similar to poker. While I'm not giving up my trek to the poker tables while in the casinos, with "Beating Blackjack" from Andy Bloch, I now believe that I (and anyone that see the DVD) will have at least a fighting chance for success on the blackjack tables as well.
Ed Note: You can play poker, or blackjack at Party Poker