==Phrack Magazine==



                 Volume Four, Issue Forty-Three, File 10 of 27



                            How to "Hack" BlackJack

                                      By

                                  Lex Luthor

                            lex@mindvox.phantom.com



                               Part 2 of 2 (50K)







Card Counting:

--------------



   Card Counting? Don't you have to be some sort of mathematical genius or

have a photographic memory to count cards? No, these are as mythical as that

415-BUG-1111 "trace detector" number posted on all those old hacker BBSes.

Well, you may now say, what if the casino is using 4, 6, or even 8 decks?

Surely you can't keep track of 300+ cards! Don't sweat these details. Probably

the hardest part about learning to play successful BlackJack has already been

accomplished in the previous section. That is: memorizing the appropriate

basic strategy chart. All you really need to count cards is the ability to

count up to plus or minus twelve or so...by ONES! Of course there are more

complicated systems but that is all you need to do for the simplest ones.



   The first card counting systems were developed by our old friend Dr. Thorp.

He determined through mathematical computation that the card that has the most

influence on the deck being in a favorable condition (for the player) was the

five. When the deck is low in fives, the player has a higher advantage than if

it's sparse in any other card. Logic dictated that for a very simple card

counting strategy, simply keep track of the abundance (or lack thereof) of

fives. This is the basis of his "Five Count" system which was later improved

to include tens and renamed the "Ten Count" system.



   Today, there are many different card counting systems. Typically, the more

complex a system is, the better your advantage should you master it. However,

the difference between card counting System X and System Y is usually so small

that ease of using the system becomes more important than gaining an

additional .15 % advantage or whatever it is. I am going to restrict the

discussion to a single card counting system: the high/low (also called the

plus/minus) point count. This strategy is very easy to master. Two other

methods that I recommend if you're serious are the Advanced Plus/Minus and the

"Hi-Opt I" systems. The former being similar to the high/low but assigns

fractional values to certain cards as opposed to integer values which are

easier to add in your head. The latter method is considered one of the most

powerful yet reasonable (with respect to complexity) counting systems of all

time and is detailed extensively on pages 213 to 277 of [7].



   The quick and dirty reason why card counting works is this: The player

gains an advantage when a deck has a SHORTAGE of cards valued 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,

7, 8. When a deck has a SHORTAGE of cards valued 9, 10, Ace; the player has a

DISadvantage. If you can tell when the deck is rich in 9's, 10's, and Aces

(ie, when you hold the advantage) you can do one of the following things:



      1) Bet more money when the deck is favorable to you.

      2) Alter your Basic Strategy play to account for the favorability

         thereby increasing the odds of winning a particular hand.

      3) Combine 1 & 2 by betting more AND altering Basic Strategy.



   Now lets discuss the +/- Point Count. As you can see from the small chart

below, a plus value is given to low cards, and a minus value is given to high

cards. Notice that 7, 8, and 9 have a value of zero. This is because their

overall effect is negligible as compared to the others. Some systems use a

value of -2 for the Ace instead of -1 and give a value of +1 to the seven

instead of zero. If you are using a BlackJack computer game for practice,

check to see what card counting system(s) it uses. They should offer one of

the above two variations. Learn that one, since it will allow you to prepare

well for actual casino play. See the "Some Comments Regarding Computer

BlackJack Programs for the PC" section for more on this. Now the chart:



                   +-----------------------------------------+

                   |    PLUS (+1)      ||     MINUS (-1)     |

                   +-----------------------------------------+

                   | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 || 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | A |

                   +-----------------------------------------+

                   | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 || 0 | 0 | 0 | 1  | 1 |

                   +-----------------------------------------+



   As you may notice, this is a balanced system. There are 20 cards in a deck

that are valued +1: two through six. There are 16 ten value cards and 4 Aces

in a deck (20 total) that are valued -1. The remaining 12 cards (7, 8, 9) have

a value of zero. At the end of a deck the count should be zero. A good drill

to practice is to get a deck of cards, turn them over one by one, and keep

track of the count. If you enter a game mid-way between the deck or shoe, flat

bet until the cards are shuffled. Once the cards are shuffled commence

counting from zero.



   Lets do a quick example using ten cards. The following ten cards are shown

in the course of a hand: A, 4, 7, 10, 10, 9, 10, 2, 10, 5. Just so no one gets

lost, we will do one card at a time and then keep the running total: the first

value is -1 (the Ace) & the second is +1 (the 4) = 0 (the current total hand

count). The next card is the 7 which is zero so disregard it. The next card is

a ten so the total count is now -1. The next card is another ten, giving a

total count of -2. The next card is a nine which has a value of zero so ignore

it, total count is still at -2. Next is a ten, total count is at -3. Next is

a two which adds +1 to the minus three yielding a total of -2. A quick look at

the next two cards shows that the two will cancel each other out (-1+1=0). So

at the end of a hand of ten cards dealt to 2 players and the dealer, the point

count is minus two. This provides you with the knowledge that your are at a

slight disadvantage. Your next bet should either be the same or a unit or two

lower.



   From this example you see that it would be easier to count cards if you

play in a "cards-up" game. That way you can see all the cards as they are

dealt and count them as they go by. When the dealer deals fast, just count

every two cards. You still count each card but you only add to your total

count after every two cards since many times the two values will cancel each

other out to give a net value of zero, which doesn't need to be added to your

total. If you play in a cards-down game, you may want to consider playing at

third base. The reason being is that in a cards-down game you only see the

other players' cards:



 a) if you peek at their hand (not polite but it's not cheating like in poker)

 b) if a player busts

 c) when the dealer settles each players' hand.



   When there are other people at a table, all this happens rather quickly and

you may miss a few cards here and there which essentially invalidates your

count. You can't control how fast the dealer deals, but you can slow things

down when the dealer prompts you for a play decision.



   I am not going to discuss changing basic strategy here. The chart you

memorize in Basic Strategy section of this file will be fine for now. If you

are already adept at the plus/minus count then find a book that has a complete

system including the appropriate changes to Basic Strategy that reflect the

current running and/or true count.



   For one deck, alter your wager according to the following table:



                        BET UNITS   +/- Running Count

                        -----------------------------

                            1            +1 or less

                            2            +2 or +3

                            3            +4 or +5

                            4            +6 or +7

                            5            +8 or more



   Example: After the first hand of a one deck game, the point count is plus

four and you just bet a $5.00 chip. Before the next hand is dealt, wager

$15.00 (three units of $5.00) as the above table mandates.



   What if there are four, six, or more decks instead of just one? I recommend

that you perform a "true-count" rather than trying to remember different

betting strategies for different number of deck games. By doing a true count,

the above table can still be used.



   The True Count is found by the ensuing equation. I provide an example along

with it for the case of having a running count of +9 with one and a half decks

left unplayed. It doesn't matter how many decks are used, you just have to have

a good eye at guesstimating the number of decks that are left in the shoe. I

just measured the thickness of a deck of cards to be 5/8 (10/16) of an inch.

Hence the thickness of a half deck is 5/16 of an inch. One and a half decks

would be 10/16 + 10/16 + 5/16 = 25/16 or a little over an inch and a half. You

probably see a relationship here. The number of decks is approximately equal

to the height of the cards in inches. Easy.



                             Running Count           +9

            True Count = ----------------------  =  ----- = +6

                          # of Decks Remaining       1.5



   Looking at the table of betting units above, the proper wager would be four

units.



   If you have trouble keeping the count straight in your head, you can use

your chips as a memory storage device. After every hand tally up the net count

and update the running or true count by rearranging your chips. This is

somewhat conspicuous however, and if done blatantly, may get you labeled a

counter.



   If for some reason you despise the notion of counting cards, you may want

to pick up Reference [11], "Winning Without Counting". The author writes about

using kinesics (body language) to help determine what the dealers' hole card

is after checking for a Natural. He claims that certain dealers have certain

habits as far as body language is concerned, especially when they check to see

if they have a BlackJack. The dealer will check the hole card if he/she has a

ten value card or an Ace as the up-card. When the hand is over you will see

what the hole card really was. You may be able to discern a certain

characteristic about the dealer, such as a raising of the eyebrows whenever

the hole card is a 2-9 or perhaps a slight frown, etc. There is some

usefulness to this method but I wouldn't rely on it very much at all. I have

only used it for one particular situation. That being when the dealer has a

ten up card and checks to see if the hole card is an Ace. Note that many

dealers check the hole card very quickly and turn up just the corner of the

card so as to prevent any of the players from seeing the card. If the hole

card is an Ace, the dealer will turn over the card and declare a BlackJack.

However, if the hole card is a 4, many times the dealer will double check it.

The reason for this double take is simply that a 4 looks like an Ace from the

corner, get a deck of cards and see for yourself. A 4 really looks like an Ace

and vice-versa when the corner is checked in a QUICK motion. So, if you see

the dealer double check the hole card and NOT declare a BlackJack, you can be

fairly sure the hold card is a four, giving the dealer a total of 14. You can

now adjust your basic strategy play accordingly. This situation has only come

up a few times in my case, but once was when I had a $50.00 bet riding on the

hand and I won the hand by using that additional information. Dr. Julian Braun

has previously calculated that the player has about a 10% advantage over the

house should he/she know what the dealer's hole card is. This is quite

substantial. Of course you have to memorize a specific Basic Strategy chart

for the case of knowing what the dealers' total is in order to obtain the

maximum benefit. I haven't bothered memorizing this chart simply because it is

a rare occurrence to know what the dealers' hole card is. If you sit down at a

table with an inexperienced dealer, you might catch a couple more than usual,

but I don't think it is enough to warrant the extra work unless you want to

turn pro.



   Another thing Winning Without Counting mentions is to pay attention to the

arches and warps in the cards. Perhaps a lot of the ten value cards have a

particular warp in them due to all those times the dealer checked for a

BlackJack. The author claims that he has used this to his advantage. Maybe so,

but I don't put much stock in this technique. I have enough things to worry

about while playing.



   One last thing. There is no law or rule that says a dealer cannot count

cards. A dealer may count cards because he or she is bored but more likely is

that the casino may encourage counting. The reason being that if the deck is

favorable to the player, the house can know this and "shuffle up". This is

also called preferential shuffling (a game control measure) and it vaporizes

your advantage.





Shuffle Tracking:

-----------------



  Shuffle What? Shuffle Tracking. This is a fairly new (15 years +/-)

technique that has not been publicized very much. One problem with many of the

BlackJack books out there is that they are not hip to the current game. The

obvious reason for this is that many are old or simply re-formulate strategies

that were invented decades ago. It's just like reading "How to Hack the Primos

Version 18 Operating System" today. The file may be interesting, many of the

commands may be the same, but it doesn't detail how to take advantage of, and

subvert the CURRENT version of the OS.



   The best definition I have seen is this one quoted from Reference [5]:

"'Shuffle-tracking' is the science of following specific cards through the

shuffling process for the purpose of either keeping them in play or cutting

them out of play." The concept of Shuffle tracking appears to have resulted

from bored mathematician's research and computer simulation of shuffling

cards, a familiar theme to BlackJack you say. The main thing that I hope every

reader gets from this section is that just because someone shuffles a deck (or

decks) of cards does not in any way mean that the cards are "randomized". The

methods mentioned in the two previous sections (Basic Strategy and Card

Counting) ASSUME A RANDOM DISTRIBUTION OF CARDS! That is an important point.

According to some authors, a single deck of cards must be shuffled twenty to

thirty times to ensure a truly random dispersion. If a Casino is using a 6

deck shoe, that's 120 to 180 shuffles! Obviously they aren't going to shuffle

anywhere near that many times. But don't despair, there are some types of

shuffles which are good, and some that are bad. In fact, if the cards were

always randomly disbursed, then you would not be reading this section due to

it's lack of relevance. As in the Card Counting section, I am going to

restrict the discussion to the basics of shuffle tracking as the combination

of references listed at the end of this section provide a complete discourse of

the topic.



   A beneficial (to the player) shuffle for a one deck game is executed by

dividing the deck equally into 26 cards and shuffling them together a minimum

of three times. This allows the cards to be sufficiently intermixed to yield a

fairly random distribution. An adverse shuffle prevents the cards from mixing

completely.



   The simplest example is the Unbalanced Shuffle. As its name implies, the

dealer breaks the deck into two unequal stacks. As an example, lets say you

are playing two hands head on with the dealer and the last 10 cards in the

deck are dealt. The result of the hand was that both your hands lost to the

dealer primarily due to the high percentage of low value cards in the clump.

Note that if you were counting, you would have bet a single unit since the

deck was unfavorable. The dealer is now ready to shuffle the deck, and

separates the deck into 31 cards in one stack and 21 in the other stack. The

dealer shuffles the two stacks. If the shuffle is done from the bottom of each

stack on up, the top ten cards of the larger stack will remain intact without

mixing with any of the other cards. Those ten cards can remain in the order

they were just dealt throughout the shuffle if the process of bottom to top

shuffling is not altered. You are now asked to cut the deck. If you don't cut

the deck, the 10 cards that were dealt last hand will be dealt as your first

two hands. The result will be the same as your last and you will lose the two

hands. However, if you cut the deck exactly at the end of those ten cards, you

have just altered the future to your benefit. Those cards will now be placed at

the bottom of the deck. Should the dealer shuffle up early, you will avoid them

altogether. In addition, if you were keeping count, you would know that the

deck was favorable during the first 3-4 hands since there would be an abundance

of tens in the portion of the deck that will be played. You would accordingly

increase you bet size to maximize your winnings.



   Some dealers will unknowingly split the deck into unequal stacks. However,

more often than not, they are REQUIRED to split the deck into unequal stacks.

If they are required to do this, they are performing the House Shuffle. The

casino has trained the dealer to shuffle a particular way...on purpose! Why?

Because in the long run, the house will benefit from this because most players

will not cut any bad clumps out of play. If you have played BlackJack in a

casino, how much did you pay attention to the way they shuffled? Like most

people you were probably oblivious to it, perhaps you figured that during the

shuffle would be a good time to ask that hot waitress for another drink.

Regardless, you now see that it may be a good idea to pay attention during the

shuffle instead of that set of "big breastseses" as David Allen Grier says on

the "In Living Color" TV show ;)-8-<



   There are a number of shuffle methods, some of which have been labeled as:

the "Zone Shuffle", the "Strip Shuffle", and the "Stutter Shuffle". The Zone

Shuffle is particular to shoe games (multiple deck games) and is probably one

of the most common shuffle methods which is why I mention it here. It is

accomplished by splitting the shoe into 4 to 8 piles depending on the number

of decks in the shoe. Prescribed picks from each pile are made in a very exact

way with intermittent shuffles of each pair of half deck sized stacks. The net

effect is a simple regrouping of the cards pretty much in the same region of

the shoe as they were before, thereby preventing clumps of cards from being

randomly mixed. If the dealer won 40 hands and you won 20, this trend is

likely to continue until you are broke or until the unfavorable bias is

removed through many shuffles.



   What if the players are winning the 40 hands and the dealer only 20? If the

dealer has been mentally keeping track of how many hands each side has won in

the shoe, the dealer will probably do one of two things. One is to keep the

shuffle the same, but 'strip' the deck. When a dealer strips a deck, he/she

strips off one card at a time from the shoe letting them fall on top of one

another onto the table. This action causes the order of the cards to be

reversed. The main consequence is to dissipate any clumping advantages (a bunch

of tens in a clump) that the players may have. The second thing the dealer may

do is simply change the way they shuffle to help randomize the cards.



   I personally believe that casinos use certain shuffles on purpose for the

sole reason that they gain some sort of advantage. A BlackJack dealer friend

of mine disputes the whole theory of card clumping and shuffle tracking

though. The mathematics and simulation prove the non-random nature of certain

shuffles under controlled conditions. Perhaps in an actual casino environment

the effect isn't as high. Regardless, next time you are playing in a casino

and its time to shuffle a shoe, ask the dealer to CHANGE they WAY he/she

shuffles. The answer will nearly always be NO. Try to appeal to the pit boss

and he/she will probably mumble something about casino policy. Why are they

afraid to change the shuffle?



Relevant Reading: [4], [5] Chapters 5 and 6 pages 71 to 98, [14] pages 463

to 466, and [15] which is very detailed and accessible via Internet FTP.





Casino Security and Surveillance:

--------------------------------



   I figured this section might get some people's attention. It is important

to know what the casino is capable of as far as detecting cheating (by

employees and customers) and spotting card counters.



EYE IN THE SKY: A two way mirror in the ceiling of the casino. It's not hard

to spot in older casinos as it usually is very long. Before 1973 or so,

employees traversed catwalks in the ceiling and it was easy for dealers and

players to hear when they were being watched. Sometimes dust from the ceiling

would settle down onto a table when someone was above it. Newer casinos use

those big dark plexiglass bubbles with video camera's which should be watched

constantly. These cameras have awesome Z00M capabilities and according to

Reference [9], the cameras can read the word "liberty" on a penny placed on a

BlackJack table. I am sure the resolution is better than that for the latest

equipment. The video images are also taped for use as evidence should anything

that is suspect be detected. Just like computer security audit logs, if no one

pays attention to them, they don't do much good. If you want a job monitoring

gamblers and casino employees, you need to train for about 500 hours (about

twenty 40 hour weeks) to learn all the tricks people try to pull on you.

Pretty intensive program wouldn't you say?



CASINO EMPLOYEES: Then there are the casino employees. The dealers watch the

players, the floor men watch the dealers and the players, the pitbosses watch

the dealers, the floormen, and the players, etc. There may be plain clothes

detectives roaming about. In a casino, everyone is suspect.



BLACK BOOK: A company that you will see mentioned in a lot of casino books is

Griffin Investigations. They periodically update a book that casino's

subscribe to that have pictures and related info on barred card counters and

known casino cheats.....I suppose the "black book" as it is called, is

analogous to the "Bell security hit-lists", that had (have?) files on known

phreaks and hackers.





Social Engineering the Casino:

------------------------------



   If you are good at getting an ESS operator to enter NET-LINE on DN COE-XXXX,

and at getting those "Engineering Resistant Hard Asses up at SNET (Southern

New England Telephone)" [as The Marauder affectionately calls them] to give

you the new CRSAB number; then this section will be a piece of cake for you

to master.



   References [3], [7], and [8] have many stories regarding playing in

casinos, getting barred, and various exploits. I am not going to repeat any of

them here. In each of those books, the authors talk about their first

experiences getting barred. In each case they were fairly bewildered as to why

they were kicked out, at least until some casino employee or owner told them

things like "you're just too good" and the ever diplomatic: "we know your

kind, get the hell out!".



   As you probably have gathered thus far, card counters are as undesirable in

a casino as a phone phreak is in a central office. There are a number of

behavioral characteristics which have been attributed to the 'typical' card

counter. Probably the most obvious act of a counter is a large increase in bet

size. If you recall in the Card Counting section, when the deck is favorable,

you bet more. When the deck is unfavorable, you bet less. Dr. Thorp's original

system required a variation in bet size from one to ten units. When the deck

is favorable the system may dictate that you go from a ten dollar bet to a

hundred dollar bet. Kind of gets the attention of the dealer and the pit boss.

However, this type of wild wagering is typical of big money hunch bettors.

Hunch betters will just plop down a bunch of chips at random due to 'hunches'.

Therefore, a large increase in bet size won't necessarily cause you to be

pegged as a counter.



   Intense concentration, never taking your eyes off the cards, lack of

emotion...ie, playing like a computer, is pretty much a give away that you are

counting. Other things such as 'acting suspicious', meticulously stacking your

chips, betting in discernable patterns, and a devout abstention from alcohol

may also attract unwanted attention.



   Another criteria used for spotting counters is if there are two or more

people playing in concert with one another. Ken Uston is famous for his

BlackJack teams. They have literally won millions of dollars collectively.

When the "Team-LOD" gets together to play, we have to pretend we don't know

each other so as not to attract undue attention ;-)



   What I mean by Social Engineering the casino is to list ways that trick the

casino into thinking you are just a dumb tourist who is throwing money away.

Look around, smile, act unconcerned about your bet, don't be afraid to talk to

the dealer, floorperson, or pit boss. Don't play 8 hours straight. Perhaps

order a drink. Things of this nature will help deflect suspicion.



   I only recall attracting attention once. The casino wasn't very busy, there

were 3 people at the table including myself. I only had about an hour to play

so I bet aggressively. I started with $5 and $10 but made some $50.00 bets

whenever I got a feeling that I was going to win the next hand (quite the

scientific strategy I know). A woman next to me who seemed to be a fairly

seasoned player made a comment that I was a little too aggressive. The pit boss

hovered about the table. My hour was nearly up, I bet $10.00 for the dealer and

$50.00 for myself. I lost the hand leaving me only $100.00 ahead, and left. The

only thing I could think of besides the betting spread which really wasn't a

big deal was that the casino was FREEZING inside. I was shivering like hell,

it probably looked like I was shaking out of fear of being spotted as a

counter or worse...a cheater.



   So what if a casino thinks you are counter? To be honest, there have

probably been less than 1000 people who have been permanently barred from play

(ie, they have their mugs in the black book). A far greater number have been

asked to leave but were not prevented from returning in the future.



   Tipping the dealer may not necessarily get the casino off your back but

certainly doesn't hurt. When you toke the dealer, place the chip in the corner

of your betting box a few inches from your bet. You may want to say "we are in

this one together" or some such to make sure they are aware of the tip. This

approach is better than just giving them the chip because their 'fate' is tied

in with yours. If your hand wins, 99 out of 100 times they will take the tip

and the tip's winnings off the table.



   The 1 out of 100 that the dealer let the tip+win ride happened to me over

and over again for the better part of a day. It was a week before I had to go

back to college and I was broke, with no money to pay the deposits for rent

and utilities. Basically, if I didn't come up with some money in 7 days, I was

not going back to school. This was 4 years ago BTW. I took out $150 on my

credit card (stupid but hey, I was desperate) and started playing and winning

immediately. I pressed my bets time and time again and in an hour or two had

$500 in front of me (+$350). I started losing a bit so I took a break for a

short while. I went back to a different table with a different dealer. As soon

as I sat down I started winning. I started to tip red chips ($5.00) for the

dealer. The first couple of times he took the $10.00 right away. I kept

winning steadily and continued to toke him. Then he started to let the $10.00

ride! I was amazed because I had never seen that before. That is when I knew I

was HOT. If the dealer is betting on you to win, that says something. When I

stopped playing I cashed in eight black chips. I left with eight one hundred

dollar bills, a net profit of $650.00, just enough to cover everything. Whew!

I probably tipped close to $100.00 that day, and the dealer must have made

double to triple that due to him betting with me. There were a number of times

when the pit boss wasn't close that the dealer would IGNORE my hit or stand

signal. The first time he did this I repeated myself and he did what I asked

but gave me a 'look'. Needless to say, I lost the hand. After that, if he

'thought' I said stand, I didn't argue. This occurred when he had a ten as the

up-card so he knew his total from peeking at the hole card. I am not sure if

this is considered cheating because I did not ask him to do this, nor did we

conspire. It just happened a few times, usually when I had $25-$50 bets on the

line which is when I made sure to throw in a red chip for him.





Casino Cheating and Player Cheating:

------------------------------------



   Cheating by the house is rare in the major casinos ie, those located in

Nevada and Atlantic City. The Nevada Gaming Commission may revoke a casino's

gambling license if a casino is caught cheating players. Granted, there may be

a few employees (dealers, boxmen, whomever) that may cheat players, but it is

extremely doubtful any casino in Nevada or Atlantic City does so on a

casino-wide scale. You definitely should be wary of any casino that is not

regulated such as those found on many cruise ships. Because a casino does not

have to answer to any regulatory agency does not mean it is cheating players.

The fact is that casino's make plenty of money legitimately with the built-in

house advantages and don't really need to cheat players to survive. I provide

some cheating methods here merely to make you aware of the scams. These

techniques are still carried out in crooked underground casinos and private

games.



   The single deck hand-held BlackJack game is quite a bit more susceptible to

cheating by both the dealer and the player than games dealt from a shoe. The

preferred method of dealer cheating is called the "second deal". As you may

infer, this technique requires the card mechanic to pretend to deal the top

card but instead deals the card that is immediately under the top card.

Imagine if you could draw a low card when you need a low card, and a high card

when you need a high card. You could win large sums of money in a very short

period. Well, a dealer who has the ability to execute the demanding sleight of

hand movements for second dealing can drain even the best BlackJack player's

bankroll in short order.



   If someone is going to deal seconds, they must know what the second card is

if he or she is to benefit. One way to determine the second card is by

peeking. A mechanic will distract you by pointing or gesticulating with the

hand that is holding the deck. "Look! There's Gail Thackeray!". While you are

busy looking, the dealer is covertly peeking at the second card. A more risky

method is pegging. A device called a pegger is used to put small indentations

in the cards that the dealer can feel. Pegging all the ten value cards has

obvious benefits.



   Another method is the "high-low pickup". I like this one because it's easy

for a novice to do especially in a place where there are a lot of distractions

for the players. After every hand, the dealer picks up the cards in a high-low

alternating order. The mechanic then proceeds with the "false shuffle" in

which the deck is thought to have been shuffled but in reality the cards

remain in the same order as before the shuffle. As you well know by now, a

high-low-high-low arrangement of the cards would be death to the BlackJack

player. Get dealt a ten and then a 5, you have to hit, so get another ten.

Busted. Since the dealer doesn't lose until he/she busts, all the players who

bust before lose. Bottom dealing and switching hole cards are other techniques

that may be used to cheat players.



   For shoe games, there is a device called a "holdout shoe" that essentially

second deals for the dealer. Discreet mirrors and prisms may be contained in

the holdout shoe which only allow the dealer to see what card is next.

Shorting a regular shoe of ten cards will obviously have a detrimental effect

on the BlackJack player.



   Player cheating isn't recommended. However, I'll quickly list some of the

methods for awareness purposes. The old stand-by of going up to a table,

grabbing some chips, and running like hell is still done but certainly lacks

originality. Marking cards while you play is another popular method. "The

Daub" technique is done by clandestinely applying a substance that leaves an

almost invisible smudge on the card. High value cards like tens are usually

the targets. One scam mentioned in one of the references was the use of a

special paint that was only visible to specially made contact lenses. The

"hold out" method requires the palming of a card and substituting a better

one. This is usually done when there is big money bet on the hand. One of the

risks to these methods is when the deck is changed since the pit boss always

scrutinizes the decks after they are taken out of play.



   Other methods entail playing two hands and switching cards from one hand to

the other, counterfeiting cards and/or casino chips, adding chips after a

winning hand (I have seen this done twice, couldn't believe my eyes but

certainly wasn't going to RAT the thieves out). Some dealers may be careless

when looking at their hole card for a BlackJack. A person behind the dealer on

the other side of the pit may be able to discern the card. The value is then

signalled to a player at the table. Astute pit bosses may notice someone who

is not playing that scratches their head too much though. Wireless signalling

devices have been used for various purposes but some casinos have new

electronic detection systems that monitor certain frequencies for activity.





Some Comments Regarding Computer BlackJack Software for PC's:

---------------------------------------------------------------



   I strongly recommend that you practice using a BlackJack program of some

kind before going out to play with real cash. The first program I used for

'training' some years ago was "Ken Uston's BlackJack" on my old Apple ][+.

Later I acquired "Beat The House" for the same machine. I recently bought a

program for my IBM and have been using it to refresh my memory regarding basic

strategy, card counting, and money management techniques. I assume you will

recognize the guy's name in the title now that you have read most of this

article. I bought: "Dr. Thorp's Mini BlackJack" by Villa Crespo Software at a

Wal-Mart of all places for a measly $7.88. This is an abridged version

however. Villa Crespo charges $12.95 for it if you order via mail. They also

offer an unabridged version for $29.95 via mail. Villa Crespo (don't ask me

where they got that name) offers other programs for Craps, Video Poker, and

7-Card Stud in case you are interested in those games of chance. By the way,

on the order form I also noticed "FAILSAFE Computer Guardian (Complete

protection and security for your system)" for $59.95. For some reason any time

a piece of paper has the word 'security' on it, my eyes zero in on it....



   Some features that I liked about this scaled down version of their

BlackJack program were the TUTOR, which advises you on whether to hit, stand,

take insurance (no way), etc. as per Basic Strategy. The Tutor for the

abridged version does NOT take into consideration the card count when making

recommendations though. If you are counting the cards, the program keeps count

also, so if you lose count you can check it by pressing a function key. The

STATS option is neat since it keeps track of things such as how many hands

were dealt, how many you won/lost, etc. and can be printed out so you can

track your progress. The program allows you to save your current session in

case you get the urge to dial up the Internet to check your email, something

that should be done every hour on the hour....



   One thing I did not like about the program was that it allowed you to bet

over your bankroll. I accidentally pushed [F2] (standardized at $500.00 a

bet instead of [F1] (standardized at $5.00 a bet) ---- a slight difference in

wager I'd say. Having only $272.00 in my bankroll didn't stop the program from

executing the command and in my opinion it should have prevented the overdraft.



   The first time I played Dr. Thorp's Mini BlackJack, it took me about 95

hands to double my money. I started with $200.00, bet from $5.00 to $25.00,

never dropped below $180.00 which surprised me, and received 3 BlackJacks. I

won 63 hands, and lost 32. I played head on against the dealer, although the

program allows for up to 6 players. I consider that lucky since I had my fair

share of going broke in later sessions.



   My advice when using a BlackJack computer program is: do not start with a

bizzillion dollars or anything like that. Start with the amount that you truly

plan to use when you sit down at an actual table. If you play in a crowded

casino, all the low minimum bet tables (ie: $1.00 to $5.00) will most likely be

filled to capacity and only $10.00 or $15.00 tables will have openings. Keep

this in mind because when you make bets with the computer program, you should

wager no less than whatever the minimum will be at the table you sit down at.

If your bankroll is only $200.00 playing at anything more than a $5.00 minimum

table is pushing it.



   Another thing to note is that playing at home is kind of like watching

Jeopardy on TV while you are sitting on the couch. People who have been on the

show always say it was much harder than when they blurted out answers during

dinner with their mouths full (the Heimlich maneuver--a real lifesaver!). The

same thing goes for BlackJack. When you are sitting at an actual table, your

adrenaline is flowing, your heart starts to pump faster, you make irrational

plays especially when you start losing, and odds are you will forget things

that were memorized perfectly. There is no substitute for the real thing and

real experience.





Quick Comments on Other Casino Games:

-------------------------------------



   A few people suggested I briefly mention some of the other casino games so

I added this section. I don't go into much detail at all as this file is too

unwieldy already. Besides, if you want to know more, I am sure you'll pick up

the appropriate reference. Hundreds of books have been published on gambling

and they are available by contacting [2]. My aim here was to mention details

that most people may not be aware of.



BACCARAT: This is the game you see in movies a lot. See [12]'s FAQ for a good

explanation of this game.



CRAPS: Craps is probably the most complicated casino game as far as the

different ways to bet things are concerned but its really not that hard to

learn. I just want to throw one table at you adapted from Reference [13]. The

table won't make much sense unless you are already familiar with craps. In

case you have forgotten or didn't know, craps is 'that dice game'. The purpose

of presenting it is to save you $$$$$ <-- Still love that dollar sign key! hehe



                         Lamest Bets at the Craps Table



                BET            PAYS     SHOULD PAY   YOUR ADVANTAGE

              -------------------------------------------------------

              Any-7            4  to 1     5 to 1         -16.7 %

              2 (or 12)        30 to 1    35 to 1         -13.9 %

              Hard 10 (or 4)   7  to 1     8 to 1         -11.1 %

              3 (or 11)        15 to 1    17 to 1         -11.1 %

              Any Craps        37 to 1     8 to 1         -11.1 %

              Hard 6 (or 8)    9  to 1    10 to 1         -9.1  %



SLOTS: Playing slots is a gamble. Obviously you say. No, I mean its a gamble

to play them. House advantages are almost never displayed on a particular slot

machine. Different machines and different locations may have different casino

win percentages. When you go up to a slot machine, you have no idea if its'

advantage over you is 5% or 25%. Unless you have been watching it, you don't

know if it just paid off a big jackpot either. I don't play slots as a matter

of principle. If you do play I think there are still some $.05 slots in Vegas.

Play the nickel slots and keep your shirt, especially if its an LOD T-shirt.



VIDEO POKER: Reference [13] gives the following advice regarding video poker:

"...don't expect to win. Manage your money so that you limit your losses." I

think its a bit negative but I can't argue with the logic. Also, as with

slots, you may want to play at a machine that is networked with others which

has a progressive payoff. This way at least you have a chance of making the

big bucks in addition to those periodic small payoffs.



VIDEO BLACKJACK: If you like to avoid people and like BlackJack, you may be

thinking that this is a great way for you to "hack two systems with one

password" and make a little money on the side. Before you start putting

quarter or dollar tokens into video BlackJack machines there are a couple of

things to know. First, you can't use card counting techniques because

every hand is essentially dealt from a new deck. When the computer deals a

hand it is just providing 'random' cards. Perhaps if you saw the source code,

you may be able to determine some sort of bias but I suspect it would be

minuscule at best. The rules vary from machine to machine and the maximum

allowable bet varies also. As with the video poker and video slot machines,

the owner of the machine may set the options to their taste (amount of profit).





Selected Bibliography:

----------------------



The following are some references you may want to check out and some of my

sources of information for this article. They are not in any particular order

and the format is far from standard as opposed to my thesis bibliography :)



[1] "BlackJack Forum Newsletter" by RGE Publishing in Oakland California. This

is a quarterly publication which has the location and rule variations info

(among other things) for casinos in the state of Nevada.



[2] The Gamblers Book Club (its really a store) can sell you a sample of the

BlackJack Forum Newsletter for $10.00. They have all kinds of new and out of

print books, used magazines, etc. They are located in Vegas (630 S. 11th St.)

so stop by in person or call 1-800-634-6243 which was valid as of 6/1/93 since

I just gave them a ring...the guy I spoke to was very nice and helpful so I

thought I'd give them a plug here.



[3] "Beat The Dealer" by Dr. Edward O. Thorp. Make sure you get the SECOND

edition (1966) since it has Dr. Julian Braun's additions to the original 1962

edition.



[4] "Gambling Times Magazine" (now defunct), 'BlackJack Bias Part 1 and 2' July

and August 1987 Issues by Mason Malmuth. This magazine was great because it

kept you up to date on the latest in gambling systems and what casinos are up

to. The article is about the author using his PC to perform simulations

regarding the effects of non-random card distribution on BlackJack.



[5] "Break The Dealer" by Jerry L. Patterson and Eddie Olsen, 1986 Perigee

Books. Worth the money for the chapters on Shuffle Tracking alone.



[6] "The Optimum Strategy in BlackJack" by Roger R. Baldwin, Wilbert E.

Cantey, Herbert Maisel, James P. McDermott. Journal of the American

Statistical Association, September 1956. Eight of ten pages are mathematics.



[7] "The World's Greatest BlackJack Book" revised edition (1987) by Dr. Lance

Humble and Dr. Carl Cooper, Doubleday. I am not sure it is THE world's

greatest, but it is an excellent book. It is 400 pages and provides more

details than you probably care to know about the Hi-Opt I counting system.



[8] "Turning the Tables on Las Vegas" by Ian Anderson, 1978. This is an

excellent book if you were interested in The Social Engineering the Casino

section. The author shares a lot of interesting and funny stories that can

keep you from getting barred. Note that 'Ian Anderson' is the authors' handle.



[9] "Las Vegas, Behind the Tables" by Barney Vinson, 1986, Gollehon Press.

Written by a casino executive, I found it to be quite illuminating.



[10] "Gambling Scams" by Darwin Ortiz, 1990, Carrol Publishing. If you play in

any private games, be sure to read this one to avoid getting screwed. It even

has a section on crooked carnival games.



[11] "Winning Without Counting" by Stanford Wong. This book has an interesting

section on 'Dealer Tells' and how to exploit them.



[12] "Rec.Gambling" Internet USENET Newsgroup. The rec.gambling newsgroup is

an excellent free source of current information on BlackJack and other games.

People who have just gotten back from various casinos post about their playing

results and the treatment from casinos. One person just posted that he was

barred from playing BlackJack (a casino employee told him he could play any

game in the casino EXCEPT BlackJack) after he was ahead only $40.00. The

reason apparently was due to his fairly mechanical play and betting. The

rec.gambling FAQ was message #15912 when I read the newsgroup on 6/8/93. They

plan on posting the FAQ every month or so. I found the FAQ to be very

informative. There is an alt.gambling newsgroup but it is dead with 0

messages.



[13] "The Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling", revised edition by Edwin

Silberstang, 1989 Plume printing. This book covers a wide range of casino

games and has a large list of gambling terms in the back.



[14] "Gambling and Society" edited by William R. Eadington, 1976. This book

provides plenty of information on the psychology of gambling. I found the

section on 'Who Wants to be a Professional Gambler?' interesting as the study

indicates the types of vocations that show high correlations with being a

professional gambler. One of those vocations with an 'extremely high

correlation' was being a Secret Service agent. Maybe Agent Foley will change

jobs.....he can't do much worse, ahem. Chapter 24 by James N. Hanson is

entitled "Nonlinear Programming Simulation and Gambling Theory Applied to

BlackJack" which some of you programmers might be interested in.



[15] "The BlackJack Shuffle-Tracking Treatise" by Michael R. Hall accessible

via the Internet by anonymous FTP: soda.berkeley.edu in the

pub/rec.gambling/blackjack directory. This is a very detailed 78K file that

was well done. It provides plenty of the nitty-gritty details that I did not

have the space to mention in this article. I highly recommend it.



[16] "Risk of Ruin" by Michael R. Hall available from same source as [15]

above. This paper provides some mathematical formulas for helping you

determine the likelihood of losing portions of your starting bankroll.

Although the equations look complicated, anyone with a $10. scientific

calculator can use them. The author provides source code for a program written

in C that calculates the risk formula. Also get his "Optimal Wagering" file

which helps you determine your bet size.



[17] The movie: "Fever Pitch" starring Ryan 'O Niel. This is the most realistic

movie I have seen regarding the psychology of a gambler. If I recall correctly,

it was made in 1985 and is in most video rental stores.





Final Comments:

---------------



   Let me quickly thank those who took the hour to read my article, recommended

corrections and offered their insightful comments: The Marauder, Mark Tabas,

Professor Falken, Al Capone, Jester Sluggo, and Bruce Sterling. Also, I would

like to thank JLE, my 'gambling mentor' mentioned earlier even though he

doesn't know me as 'lex' and probably will never see this file.



   If anyone has comments, corrections, etc. feel free to email me. Kindly

note that I have no interest in receiving flames from any self professed

BlackJack experts out there as I do not claim to be an expert and due to size

restrictions, I couldn't get all that complicated regarding counting

techniques and such. Besides, anyone who wants to get serious will take the

time to thoroughly read the references listed in the previous section. My main

purpose was to familiarize you with the game of BlackJack and provide a

resource which can point you in the right direction for more in-depth

information. Thank you for your time and I hope you learned something from

this article even if you don't put any of the information to use.



   If you have something really SEKRET to tell me, here is my PGP Public Key:



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                 End of "How To Hack BlackJack": File 2 of 2