Those out there that believe that blackjack is not a skill game but rather a game of chance, I’d like to make an observation that may suggest otherwise.
Take the members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, which counts amongst its ranks some of the most successful blackjack advantage players that have ever played the game. These are gambling professionals who earnt large sums of money playing the game of blackjack to the point where casinos went to great pains to try and keep them from playing at their tables – sometimes through legal action.
I don’t wish to labour the exploits of these Hall of Famers, but the point should be made that most of these players earnt considerable amounts of cash by playing the game with a real edge over the house.
The other day I was looking through the current list of members and reading their profiles and there was one glaringly common trait that they shared – highly numerate and analytic minds and impressive intellects. In fact, many of them were/are university educated in mathematics, economics or finance fields, usually at respected institutions and often to Masters or PHD level.
You have Peter Griffin with a Masters Degree in mathematics at University of California at David and the grandson of mathematician Frank Loxley Griffin; Edwards Thorpe, UCLA PHD, MIT alma mater and UCI maths professor; Stanford Wong, Stanford alma mater and finance PHD student; Lawrence Revere with a degree in pure mathematics at the University of Nebraska; James Grosjean, a graduate of UC’s Department of Economics. Then there’s the members of the MIT Blackjack Team who were recruited from one of America’s and the world’s most esteemed maths/physics/computer science universities.
Is it just coincidence that the guys judged to be the best blackjack players the world has ever seen also happened to have a fondness for mathematics? I suspect not. Did these guys randomly select blackjack as their casino game of choice rather than trying to beat the casinos at slots or keno? I suspect not.
I am no genius and certainly not mathematically minded, but considering the above, three critical points seem evident. First, the best blackjack players in the world are very intelligent, very skilled players. 2 – of all the games in the casino they could have played, they chose primarily to play blackjack, and third, by all reports they were able to profit from it.
Now before you rush out and hone your counting skills and hit the casinos, bear in mind the game has changed in many respects from when it was played in the 60s and 70s – largely due to some of the above players. Wise to advantage play strategies, casinos have moved the goal posts and added multiple decks, changed the rules on whether the dealer hits soft 17, frowned on mid-shoe game entries and even, in some instances altered the payout for blackjack to 6:5.
But favorable rules are still out there and blackjack remains one of the only casino games where a skilled player can play with at worst a very small house edge, and maybe even a player edge if they are good enough.
By Milton Shaw
Milton Shaw is a contributing writer for a number of internet gambling websites including Livedealer.org which provides live deal blackjack reviews. For a list of blackjack Hall of Famers, visit Wiki’s BHOF page.