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Blackjack Apprenticeship

BlackjackInfo News: Issue 24 - September 12,2004

This Issue includes:

An update on the Strategy Card error

In the last issue, I reported a small discrepancy between the Stickysoft strategy cards and the Basic Strategy Engine. The difference was advice given in a single deck S17 game. The BJBSE says double (A,8) vs 6, while the Stickysoft cards say to stand with this hand instead.

I went on to mention that a bettor wagering a massive $100,000 an hour would lose 2.6c an hour by standing instead of doubling, which indicated how close this decision really is. However, after some conversations with Hal Marcus from Stickysoft, we've decided there's something interesting going on here.

I had hoped to have some research done before this newsletter, but my schedule has been pretty busy. (See the next item for the main reason!) Basically, Hal uses a different method of calculating strategy than the Strategy Engine. He uses simulation, and assumes the cards are dealt to a typical depth between reshuffles. His simulations show slightly better results for standing with (A,8)v6, while the Engine, based on a complete probability analysis off the top of the deck shows better results by doubling. (Remember, we're talking single deck only here.)

There's always been an assumption that depth in the deck doesn't affect strategy, because the average composition of the remaining deck is just like the composition "off the top", and it all averages out. There's one well-known exception to this rule, called the "cut-card effect". This is a tiny effect caused when the dealer uses a "cut-card" to indicate when he should reshuffle. The use of a set shuffle point means that the number of rounds between shuffles will vary, and there tend to be more rounds dealt when the count is negative, because the hands that caused the negative count will typically use fewer cards. Upon seeing the difference, I assumed this discrepancy was the result of a cut-card effect. However, further tests by Hal show that to not be the case.

The bottom line here is that there's something interesting going on, and I hope to do some more research to see what it is. Now, there's probably no practical importance to this, since the decision is so close anyway. But I'll let you know what I learn in a future newsletter.

Finally, a schedule of upcoming blackjack tournaments

When Blackjack Confidential magazine published their final issue last December, their loyal subscribers felt a big loss. Every avid tournament player I know relied on the schedules published in that magazine to plan their future travels.

That was one of the reasons I hurried to launch the new site BlackjackTournaments.com. Since then, the site has built up a great community of players on the message board, and it's the only place you can pose strategy questions and expect to have responses from the best players in the country.

And now we have a replacement for the upcoming event schedules we used to rely on from the magazine. Last week, I finally finished work on software that drives an interactive event schedule. Now, in the Members Area at BlackjackTournaments.com, you can see upcoming blackjack tournaments including everything from $10 entry fee weekly events to $1000 entry mega-tournaments. It's all presented in a calendar, where you can search by event size, region of the country, and more.

Access to the schedule requires you to have a username and password at BlackjackTournaments.com, but it's COMPLETELY FREE. And, if you know of events that aren't in the listings, you can add them. By using the entire community as a resource to keep the listings up-to-date, we have the most extensive listings ever published.

The number of events listed is staggering. I just searched for all the tournaments listed for next month, and came up with an unbelievable 440 tournaments around the country. Come check it out, at BlackjackTournaments.com.

Single-deck with a player edge, at my favorite online casinos

The Peak Entertainment group of casinos is running a special promotion this month, where they'll double the comp points you earn on Sundays. Their comp points can be exchanged for merchandise, travel, or cash back. The best value is the cash back, but I admit the merchandise catalog has some tempting items as well.

The cash back rates aren't huge, and they vary based on how many points you earned in the prior month. The rates vary from 0.08% at the Base Level, to 0.13% at the Peak Level. So, doubling the points on Sundays means you can earn anywhere from 0.16% to 0.26% in cash back.

What makes this interesting is how it interacts with the single deck blackjack offered at these casinos. They deal a single-deck H17 game with double after split. The dealer peeks, so only original bets are at risk to a dealer blackjack. The house edge on this game is a small 0.09%. (The Strategy Engine says 0.04%, but it assumes resplitting to four hands. This game allows splitting only once, to make two hands.)

Add the doubled cashback, and this game has a player edge of from 0.05% up to 0.17%, depending on which tier of the Peak Rewards program you're on. As soon as I finish the newsletter, I'm off to play a little myself.

Three new products in the store at BlackjackInfo

In recent weeks, I've added three new items in the online store at BlackjackInfo.com.

  • The book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, which is about the MIT Blackjack Team.
  • The book Winning Casino Blackjack for the Non-Counter by Avery Cardoza. An excellent introduction.
  • Casino Verite, outstanding blackjack software.

Also new at the store, international shipping.

Oh yeah, also new at the store, a photo of me on the main page. Let me know what you think!

Online blackjack tournament this week

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Global Player, and they're celebrating with some interesting promotions. Here's the list:

  • First time players get a $50 bonus with $30 deposit. (Usually $30/$30).
  • Returning players get a 50% bonus on first deposit of the week up to $500!
  • 5 Times Comp Points for the week. This makes some VP positive.
  • A multi-player blackjack tournament with a $5000 first place.
  • A roulette tournament paying $1000 for first place.
  • Video poker tournaments each day. $500 daily prize and $5000 grand prize.
  • Special slot promotions.
  • A 15% rebate of any losses incurred during the week.

It will be an interesting week, and it will take some time to plan how to approach all these various events. Obviously I'm most interested in the blackjack event. Check this out: The top 25 percentage qualifiers during the week go to a real-time multi-player semifinal round, just like land-based tournaments. Awesome! I sure hope I make the cut, because this will be fun.

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