The Good, the Bad, and the Sneaky
Once upon a time (in the middle decades of the twentieth century) blackjack was played mostly one way. It was a single-deck game, and dealers always stood on soft 17. Doubling was allowed on any two cards, and doubling was also allowed after splits. Naturals paid 3:2.
Blackjack with these rules was extremely profitable for casinos because people used to do all sorts of nutty things like splitting 10,10, standing on 8,8, or hitting 12 regardless of the dealer’s upcard. Nobody knew any better. But all that changed in 1962 when casino managers noticed that some blackjack players were winning enormous amounts of money. The managers did some research and learned that these particular players were using strategies from a book called Beat the Dealer written by Edward O. Thorp, a mathematics professor. The book explained and expanded on the original basic strategy developed back in 1956, and it introduced the advanced strategy of counting cards.
This was a trauma for the casino industry. Blackjack was suddenly beatable. Since then, casinos have been endlessly experimenting with countermeasures such as multiple decks and hitting soft 17 to mitigate the effects of the various blackjack strategies. But it’s a tricky balance for them because they don’t want to make blackjack too tough for novice players. Whenever a casino introduces rules that completely kill the effects of strategy, it also essentially ruins the game, and many players (including the novices) move to other casinos. Casino vice presidents are then summarily fired, and the blackjack rules are relaxed. The crowds return, along with the advantage players (people who use advanced strategies), and the cycle repeats itself. Managers fume as they watch a few really good players skewer the house. And when managers aren’t fuming, they’re jiggering rules to make games seem beatable when they’re really not.
It’s a sneaky system of bait and switch, as you’ll see in the next article.
The preceding material is just a sample of what you'll find in Basil Nestor's Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack.
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