1 Sep

The Low Down on Blackjack Strategy Books – To Read or not to Read ?

Out with the Old, In with the New: Are the best selling blackjack books of all time worthless today?

In 1962, mathematics Professor Edward O. Thorp published his seminal treatise on winning Blackjack called “Beat the Dealer”. By 1966, the paperback edition was released by Vintage Books and it went on to sell over 700,000 copies, reaching both the New York Times and the Time Magazine bestsellers lists. It has been widely acclaimed as “the book that made Las Vegas change the rules.” But just how relevant is this “classic” today?

Times Have Changed

The short answer is “not very.” Although much of the basic strategy described in “Beat the Dealer” is still solid, and virtually every blackjack book to follow has been based at least in part on Dr. Thorp’s work, reading today about how “the Portuguese colony of Macao (has) casinos which feature blackjack” may be quaintly humorous but hardly indicative of the mega-gambling site that’s sprung up on the Chinese coast since Macau’s reversion to the PRC in 1999.

Similarly, Lawrence Revere’s 1969 “Playing Blackjack as a Business” couldn’t keep pace with the times. It was revised five times and allegedly became “The World’s Bestselling Blackjack Book.” But consider the opening paragraph of the latest soft-cover edition (2000) which reveals, “In Nevada, the only state with casino-type gambling, the most popular game is Blackjack or 21….” With all due respect, Revere passed away in 1977 and never got to see the revival of Atlantic City or the spread of casinos on Native American reservations across the United States. The writing is just badly out of date:

Indeed, much has changed in the past half century, especially as relates to the way Blackjack is played in casinos. For example, how could anyone in the 20th century have anticipated payouts of only 6-to-5 for a natural blackjack? From subtle adjustments made to House Rules to the way suspected “card counters” are treated by casino staff, it’s simply not the same game that Thorp and Revere were writing about. And it does a player little good to learn tricks of the trade that can no longer be used.

Trading Old for New

In the same way, many of the acknowledged great books penned by Blackjack Hall of Famers in the latter decades of the last century should be thought of as antiques. They include Ken Uston’s “Million Dollar Blackjack” (1981) and Stanford Wong’s “Professional Blackjack” (1994). It’s not that the math is wrong or the strategies aren’t viable; it’s just that so much better material has been written since then. Why settle for “old” when “new” is so readily available?

For instance, Arnold Snyder’s “Big Book of Blackjack” (2006) would be a better choice than his works written in the 1980s like “The Blackjack Formula”. And new books by younger authors, such as Maverick Sharp’s “Dynamic Blackjack” (2013), are building upon the best offerings of past masters to give modern readers the latest as well as the greatest insights into winning Blackjack play. In short, if a Blackjack book was available to players before the turn of the new millennium, it should probably be left to history.

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