This is the age of lists -- the top 100 movies of all time, the top 100 books of the 20th Century, the top 100 colleges for academic excellence or bargains or partying, and the top 100 women former President Bill Clinton scored with; plus all those weekly top 10 this list, and top 10 that list and top 10 those other things list. In the interests of keeping up with the list makers as well as the (Dow) Joneses, I decided to list the top 60 questions I am asked whenever I give talks about casino gambling. My list is in no particular order of importance, but these are the most-asked questions of yours truly and the answers that I give when I?m asked them. All value judgments are mine. So if I say this is the best thing, that is just my not-so-humble opinion. Of course, in my opinion my opinion is the correct opinion as today I assume my new identity as The Oracle at Odds -- Nostragamus! Ask and it shall be answered!
1. Can a person really beat the casinos?
Yes, a person can really beat the casinos -- if that person plays the right games the right ways. Unfortunately, most people won?t be that person who beats the casinos because most people play games that give the casino the edge. You can -- with expert play -- beat the following games: blackjack, video poker, and regular poker. Here I am saying that you can actually beat the math of the game and get the edge.
2. How much of a [mathematical] edge can you get on these games?
A good card counter at blackjack playing games with good penetration and good rules can get between a 0.5 percent and a 1.5 percent edge. I?d guess most card counters are playing with a one percent edge. Good single-deck players are probably closer to the 1.5 percent, while good shoe players are probably closer to the 0.5 percent. A lot of the percentage advantage that a card counter has depends on how much money he can get on the table when the game favors him. On select full pay or more-than-full pay video poker machines you can probably play even with the house to realizing about a two percent edge on some machines. On regular poker, it is much harder to estimate an advantage but some people can and do make a living playing poker. A good dice controller can probably get a 5 percent to 10 percent edge when he shoots. That edge will be reduced if he plays the other shooters, which he must to do be allowed to shoot in the first place.
3. What skills do you need to play poker?
First, you have to realize that even though you are competing against other people, you not only have to overcome them but you have to overcome the house rake on the pots. Poker requires two skills: a killer instinct and knowledge, whether intuitive or actual, of the probabilities inherent in the hand you?re working on. Most people can learn the latter information with study and practice, but very few have the goods in the killer-instinct department. Like a fighter who is technically perfect but just can?t ?pull the trigger? in a real fight, most poker players just don?t have the full array of talents needed to be pros or even winning players.
4. How hard is it to count cards at blackjack?
Actually, it?s like riding a bike. Remember when you couldn?t ride and you got on a two-wheeler? How could anyone ever keep that thing from falling? But once you learned to do it, it was the simplest thing in the world. At first thought, counting cards seems extremely difficult, but then you do it and you discover that once you get the hang of it, it isn?t really all that hard. If you have average intelligence, you can do it, but that probably leaves out your brother-in-law.
5. So counting cards is simple?
Yes and no. If you are motivated to learn to do it, then you will learn it. If you aren?t motivated, you won?t want to put in the time and effort. But it is definitely not as hard as, say, graduating high school.
6. How much time does it take to learn to count card at blackjack?
Here are the steps you must take. First get a good blackjack book, preferably mine, and learn basic strategy. It will probably take you a week or two of memorizing to get it down pat. This is the toughest part of the process. You will have to memorize what to do with every hand you get against every dealer upcard. Break it up over a couple to three weeks and you?ll master it. Then go to a casino and play for small stakes and when you are perfect in your decision-making, you can learn a count system. It will take you all of five minutes to learn the basics of counting. But it will take you weeks to do it proficiently enough to go into a casino and do it. Figure two months for the whole process.
7. Is one basic strategy good for every type of blackjack game?
Actually, there are different basic strategies for different games. The single-deck strategy is a little different from the multiple-deck strategy; the strategy for games where a dealer hits soft 17 (ace-6) is slightly different from a game where the dealer stands on soft 17, and on and on it goes. But you don?t have to go crazy memorizing six or seven different basic strategies. The differences in the strategies are not great enough to warrant panic. Memorize one and play it perfectly. After you learn to count and after you become proficient, then begin to incorporate the changes in basic strategy for the various types of games.
8. Is there anything else?
Yes. Once you become proficient and once you alter the basic strategy for the game you are playing then you will want to learn about 16 or so basic strategy changes based on the count. All of this is easy. Most good blackjack books will give you all the information you will need to become a winning player.
9. What blackjack books would you recommend for a motivated beginner?
Lacking even a shred of humility, I recommend my own book, Best Blackjack. If you really get into blackjack, you will find that there is an enormous amount of literature on the game and that most of it spans a continuum from good to damn good with a few not-worth-reading books thrown in for bad measure.
Some of Frank's most popular books can be purchased by clicking one of the image