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Blackjack Apprenticeship

BlackjackInfo News: Issue 22 - April 26, 2004

This Issue includes:

World Series of Blackjack: And Then There Were Six

For those of you who haven't been following the World Series of Blackjack shows on GSN (formerly Game Show Network), I'll give you a quick update. After six weeks of episodes each Monday at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific, the final six competitors have been determined, and the finals will broadcast tonight April 26th, 2004. The finalists include one winner from each of the first five weeks of shows, plus the winner of the Wild Card Round broadcast last week.

And, the finalists are:

  • From episode 1, Regina Guzior from Michigan: A skilled tournament player, who also happens to be blind.
  • From episode 2, MIT Mike from Washington DC: A member of the famous MIT Blackjack Team, profiled in Ben Mezrich's book "Bringing Down the House".
  • From episode 3, Micky Rosa from Australia: Another member of the MIT Team.
  • From episode 4, Jimmy Pine from Rhode Island: An experienced tournament player and local favorite.
  • From episode 5, Ken Smith, from Mississippi: Yes, I made the cut, winning on week 5.
  • From episode 6 Wild Card Round, Dave Stann from Los Angeles: The "Bad Boy of Blackjack", also an actor.

These six players will be competing for $155,000 in prizes on tonight's episode. The winner takes home $100,000.

The broadcast schedule of the finals is as follows: (Times are Eastern and Pacific)

  • Monday March 26th, 2004: 10 PM, repeating at 1 AM
  • Tuesday March 27th, 2004: 11 PM, repeating at 2 AM
  • Saturday May 1st, 2004: 2 PM

On Satellite: GSN is channel 309 on DirecTV, channel 116 on DishNetwork. On Cable, check your listings.

After each episode airs, a full analysis of the action is being posted on the message boards at BlackjackTournaments.com. Come join us.

6 to 5 Blackjack: Just Say No!

No 6 to 5 Blackjack I've posted a Consumer Alert on the main page at BlackjackInfo.com, linked to this new article about the 6:5 Blackjack games being offered by many casinos.

The article is free for re-use. If you have a website, please consider grabbing a copy to spread the word about this scam of a game. If we persuade players to not play it, the spread of this problem can be stopped.

Shuffling Bias Discovered in Basic Strategy Trainer

This one's a real bummer for me. After a number of emails from visitors asking if the Blackjack Basic Strategy Trainer was dealing a random game of blackjack, I made a disappointing discovery. There was a flaw in the shuffling method that I used, which caused an unintentional bias in the game. The early hands being dealt in the shuffle were more likely to contain ten-valued cards than a truly randomly shuffled deck. Aces were actually less likely to appear, but the ten-card bias was enough to tilt the game in favor of the player.

The problem has now been corrected, but some of you may find an explanation of the problem interesting. (The rest of you can skip to the next story!)

Assume a single deck game, with 52 cards. My previous shuffle routine was as follows:
For each of the 52 spots in the deck, Swap that card with a randomly selected card (1 to 52).
That sounds reasonable, but it introduces a bias in the results. (Shuffling a 3-card deck (A,B,C) with this method leaves B as the first card 37% of the time, instead of the appropriate 33.3%.)

The new shuffling method is very similar, but no longer biased:
For each of the 52 spots in the deck, Swap that card with a card randomly selected between that spot and the end of the deck (n to 52).
Surprisingly, that subtle change of not allowing "backward swaps" makes the shuffle a random distribution.

It's frustrating to me that I've used an inaccurate shuffling routine over the years, and it's certainly an indication of how the smallest things matter when simulating a game like this. For those of you that have emailed me over the last few years asking about the integrity of the game on my site, I offer a sincere apology. The game was intended to be randomly dealt. Finally, it is.

For tournament math-heads: Doubling odds posted

Sometimes it's useful to know the exact percentage chance of success for doubling various hands. The principal use for this information is in comparing strategy choices in blackjack tournaments. I've posted a new page that can answer this question for any two-card initial hand. The game is assumed to be 6-deck S17. The lengthy table of details is available here:

Double Down Probabilities

A good bonus deal from Blackjack Ballroom

I've recently added a new sponsor to the BlackjackInfo site. Blackjack Ballroom is an online casino powered by MicroGaming software. They've always had an excellent reputation among the player community for fair games and good customer service. However, for a long time they didn't permit blackjack play to satisfy the wagering requirements for their signup bonus. That's changed, and they now have a nice 40% match bonus for new players, good up to $400. The wagering requirements are a reasonable 15X for blackjack or video poker.

Note that bonus offers and requirements change often, so be sure to check the details yourself. This particularly applies if you're reading this newsletter in the archives, perhaps months after initial publication.

Exciting tournaments: Vegas in May

May is shaping up to be a remarkable month in Las Vegas for blackjack tournament fans. The final round at the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament II will take place May 14th and 15th. Two hundred players will compete for the ultimate prize in tournament blackjack, a million in cash. Fortunately, I'll be among them, having won a seat in the finals at the fabled "eleventh hour". After several tries throughout the year, I finally succeeded during the last of the monthly qualifying events in April.

Immediately after the LVH MDBJ2 finals, the Stardust is holding an open blackjack tournament. Most of their events are invitationals, but not this one. Changes have been made to their usual prize structure to eliminate a common complaint about the Stardust events. Previous events have sometimes paid $100K for first place, but as little as $10K for second place, and by the time you reached the end of the final table, the money was really getting thin.

This Stardust event, with a $375 entry fee ($350 if paid by April 30th), gets you a shot at this final table prize distribution: $60K / $30K / $20K / $15K / $10K / $5K. Also, semifinalists (7th - 18th) get $500 each. The format is live money, with a $600 buy-in for each round. If you've never played an event at the Stardust before, this is a nice opportunity to get established at the property. Call 1-888-633-2121 and ask about the May 15-17 blackjack tournament.

We're not done yet. The Las Vegas Hilton finally announced their plans for MDBJ3, the third year of the Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament. And, they've smartly placed the first qualifier just after the MD2 finals. The first monthly qualifier for MDBJ3 will be held May 17th and 18th. Call 800-457-3307 to sign up. The entry fee is $1000, which includes three room nights.

Last of all, there's talk of a huge "Super-Mini" tournament to be held the same week, at an as-yet-undisclosed property in Vegas. A $5000 entry fee, and a field limited to 36 players will produce a $180,000 prize pool. If you're interested, read more at BlackjackTournaments.com. Look on the Message Forum / Announcements, for a thread titled "Wanna play in a big tournament".

In all, it looks like I'll be playing 4 major events in 5 days, with a total prize pool around $1.5 million. I hope to see some of you there!

That's it for now. Best of luck, online and off! -Ken-