Blackjack, Mathematics, Card Counting, Basic Strategy, Ken Uston on CBS 60 Minutes
Posted by Mr. T ("Chip") on August 15, 2000; later updates.
"I read with great interest your opinions on Ken Uston and Edward Thorp. I am a former professional card counter but I currently make my living at the baccarat tables (with great success). Some of what you say has some reality to it regarding Ken Uston. But, for the most part you're off base. He did work for the casino at the end of his life, but not for the reasons you imply. I witnessed Kenny play many, many times. He was simply the greatest. Whatever point you are making about John Scarne would seem to be moot since he has long been deceased and can't possibly know what anyone including Thorp has done since.
But, despite that, everyone can only agree that Uston was named Blackjack Player of the Century by Blackjack Confidential Magazine. His playing ability was highlighted in a segment of CBS's 60 Minutes with Harry Reasoner sitting next to him at Caesar's in Atlantic City and watching him kill them on national television. It was mainly due to Thorp and Uston that the casino industry changed the rules of the game of blackjack. I was there the day they changed the game following a court decision. It can be related to the Wilt Chamberlain effect on basketball by having the lanes widened due to him.
So I suggest you keep those things in mind and respect them until such time as you are named lottery and/or roulette player of the century or have the rules of those games changed due to your impact upon them.
Good luck with your numbers."
A Note by Ion Saliu, Founder of Gambling Mathematics, The Best Blackjack Player Ever
Axiomatic one, blackjack card counting as devised by Edward O. Thorp is a footnote to gambling history now. It offered a slight advantage in one-deck games, one player against the dealer only, and mostly towards the end of the card deck. Ideally, a player could destroy the blackjack game IF knowing the composition of the deck AND the sequence of the remaining cards in the deck.
The latter part is the real problem: Nobody will ever be able to know the sequence of the remaining cards in the deck. Suppose there are just 6 distinct cards remaining. Total possible sequences: 6! = 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 = 720.
John Scarne put jokingly the advantage of card counting. Suppose there is a one-deck blackjack game with 100% penetration (i.e. all cards are dealt). The player tracked the entire deck absolutely precisely. There are 5 cards remaining in the deck: 3 eights and 2 sevens. The player would bet the maximum immediately (actually, millions if it were possible!)
There is NO way the player could lose. The player would always stay on two cards (it doesn't matter if it is 7+7, or 7+8, or 8+8). On the other hand, the dealer would always bust. It doesn't matter: 7+7 (under 17); draws an 8 and busts. Or, 8+8 (still under 17); draws a 7 and busts. Or, 7+8 = 15 (under 17); either 7 or 8 as the third card would bust the dealer's hand!
You can read much more on my follow-ups to this post.
- Gambling Mathematics Applied to Blackjack: Fraud, Deception of BJ Counting-Cards.
- Chip The Criminal had started a thread on blackjack card counting and how it was shown on CBS's 60 Minutes. The TV network did not realize the fake conceived by the casino and Ken Uston! Kenny won at will in a game that's close to coin tossing at best! It was a big farce and I'm not sure if intentionally or unintentionally.
- Keep in mind that at that time the TV networks (called free television in the 21st century) were totally dominant. The advertising dollars went preponderantly to the networks. The TV coverage of Ken Uston v. Casinos legal case served as an advertising bonanza for the casinos. It was free advertising!
- The casinos also rewarded the TV networks, CBS included, with paid advertising starring Ken Uston as a gambler in disguise who wanted to allegedly fool the pit bosses and the casino security personnel. Alas! Ken Uston had always been on the casino payroll! The blackjack card counting and the "trial" were strategies in a marketing stunt. Other notorious blackjack card counters of the “golden era” of gambling were also working for the casinos in disguise (but paid alright!) — Arnold Snyder (owner of a strip club in Las Vegas beginning 2014), Stanford Wong (real name John Ferguson), John Patrick (Jackal), Dr. Peter Griffin... et al. less famous...
Humans are gullible alright and especially believe in legends. The legends become even more credible if shown on television. As seen on TV is still an effective feature in all advertising!
“CBS, oh, CBS,
You was fooled, you must confess,
By a jack who was no black,
In his nose he had crack.”
The tune is the same as in this YouTube video: Federal Lottery —
My highest motto is: The TRUTH is above anything and anybody. It explains well why I've been successful in fighting and defeating quite a few cults... and why I've always made sure I do not allow myself into creating a cult. I know, Socrates did the same thing two and a half millennia ago... but I've always acknowledged that Socrates was my role model. That guy who was admired and viciously hated in Athens... he paid with his life, while I'm sure I will live and kick up until natural causes will bring me to... Neverland, where Socrates reigns supreme (kidding!)
Gambling is all about streaks — the foundation of gambling mathematics, blackjack included. Software names: Streaks, Blackjack. You might want to take a closer look at the entire collection of blackjack software I've written.
Blackjack: Software, Content, Resources, Systems, Basic Strategy, Card Counting
See a comprehensive directory of the pages and materials on the subject of blackjack, baccarat, software, systems, and basic strategy.
Of major interest: Blackjack: Charts, Tables, Probability, Odds, Software.
- Blackjack Split Pairs Basic Strategy Table.
Color-coded chart to learn the best Split Pairs strategy. When you get your first two cards, look at this chart first. The pairs occur the least in a blackjack game. If your hand is not a pair, move to the next card (spreadsheet): Double Down.
- Blackjack Double Down Basic Strategy Chart
Color-coded chart to learn the best Double Down strategy. After consulting the Split Pairs table, look next at this table. The Double Down situations occur more often than pairs at blackjack. If your hand is not a Double Down situation, move to the next chart: Hit or Stand.
- Blackjack Hit or Stand Basic Strategy Card
Color-coded chart to learn the best Hit or Stand strategy. After consulting the Double Down card, finally look at this chart. The Hit or Stand decisions are by far the most frequent and important situations in blackjack.
- Blackjack Basic Strategy for Multiple Card Decks: All Decisions in One Chart, Table, Spreadsheet
The traditional method of learning the BJ basic strategy: all decisions in a table. The dealer up-card is listed across (horizontally), while the player's first two cards are listed vertically in the leftmost column. For example, dealer's face-card is 5. Player's first two cards: A+4; the right move: D (double-down). It makes it somehow more difficult to learn the best blackjack decisions accurately and quickly.
- The Best Blackjack Basic Strategy: Free Cards, Charts.
All three color-coded charts in one file, in the best decision-making sequence: Split Pairs, to Double Down, to Hit or Stand.
- Mathematics of Blackjack Insurance Betting Favorable to All Players.
- The Best Blackjack Strategy, System Tested with the Best Blackjack Software.
- Download Software for Casino Gambling, Blackjack.
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