Play Blackjack Like the Pros

Play Blackjack Like the Pros

by Kevin Blackwood


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Professional blackjack player Kevin Blackwood shares his million-dollar winning strategies for mastering the odds and consistently beating the house at their own game.

Play Blackjack Like the Pros is the requisite introduction to the modern game of blackjack, including high and low stakes casino, shoe games (several decks shuffled together), online, and tournaments. Blackwood begins with the basic rules of play and then moves on to teach his proven card-counting method, broken-down into three levels: novice, recreational, and professional. He also covers camouflaging techniques (it's perfectly legal to count cards, but if the house catches you they will kick you out), money management, and team play. Blackwood includes many stories of his and other professionals' triumphs at the tables and keeps the highly technical language that bogs down most gaming books to an absolute minimum.

Play Blackjack Like the Pros is written in the style of Phil Hellmuth's Play Poker Like the Pros using easy-to-understand lessons that all levels of players can quickly benefit from.

  • Blackwood is one of the world's top card counters. He began with only a few hundred dollars and has won over a million playing blackjack. In Play Blackjack Like the Pros he demonstrates how to earn over $10,000 a month from just a few days work.
  • Blackjack is set to balloon in popularity. Ben Mezrich's book on the MIT card counting team Bringing Down the House was on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks and is being made into a movie staring Kevin Spacey. Blackjack Tournaments are growing in popularity with many of the top casinos offering large prize pools. Online Blackjack is currently a multi-million dollar industry. Blackwood keeps the highly technical language that bogs down most gaming books to an absolute minimum.
  • Foreword by Stanford Wong, author of Professional Blackjack and the master of modern card counting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060731120
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/29/2005
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 747,890
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Kevin Blackwood has been a professional blackjack player for more than twenty years. He is the author of The Counter, a behind-the-scenes novel based on his life of playing high-stakes blackjack, and he has contributed to countless games magazines and online sites.

Read an Excerpt

Play Blackjack Like the Pros

Chapter One

The Myths of Blackjack

The Typical Tourist

One of the biggest obstacles keeping most blackjack players from improving their game is that they aren't realistic about their current skill level. It is human nature to overrate ourselves and few of us are very objective in analyzing our flaws. A large number of tourists think they play basic strategy accurately. They may even have read a book or bought a laminated card intended to teach them the correct method.

Yet in the fast-paced environment of the casino, what little they learned often melts away in the heat of battle. They never quite embedded proper strategy into their brain so it became second nature. Instead, they use some combination of correct plays and hunches. For example, they are told to always hit 16 against the dealer's face card, so they dutifully comply, only to bust out three times in a row. Inevitably, the next time the tourist receives the dreaded 16, he gives up on basic strategy and stands.

This time the dealer draws the paint and pays the table. The tourist is pleased and elated that he could outsmart the experts. He becomes convinced there's a better future in consulting an ouija board for his decisions than in relying on basic strategy.

This is one of the more common gambler's fallacies and is called selective memory. I will discuss a few of these misconceptions in this chapter to illuminate why blackjack is different from other casino games, and show the real reasons why it can be beaten.

Selective Memory

Like some mythical monsters, selective memory rears its ugly head in many shapes and forms. The above illustration of hitting stiffs is fairly common, as players tend to remember big hands or jackpots they won. They often give themselves the credit for wins and blame outside sources for their losses. When you don't hit a stiff, it is more temporarily gratifying since you do stay alive longer. But over the long run you are paying a high price for that short-term pleasure.

The best example of selective memory comes from huge wins. Often when I'm introduced as a high-stakes blackjack player to someone new, the first question I get asked is "What was the most you ever won in one day?" A much better question would be "What is the most you ever lost in one day?" This is because experienced pros vividly remember the days when everything came unglued much more than the great trips. These disasters can even be bene- ficial since they temper one's outlook and help to keep a sober perspective of the overall picture.

However, tourists typically display much more selective memory of their ups and downs in gambling. After I politely decline to answer their question about my biggest wins I am often subjected to their highly detailed story of some big slot jackpot they hit or that one magic evening at the table where all the cards fell perfectly and they couldn't lose.

The point here is not that I'm a magnet for attracting the most boring and long-winded people at every cocktail party I attend. It's that usually the big wins stand out to people. I'm always slightly amused by these tales, and I often follow up with an innocent question of how they have done overall. Most invariably look me straight in the eye and say they are ahead.

This obviously cannot be the case, or Donald Trump would have to get a real job. Possibly the worst thing that happens to these players is when they have that one big killer day at the tables. The absolute worst thing is to win big on your first trip. Then you feel bulletproof. You always remember how easy it was and tend to overlook all the losing trips. But even huge jackpots can be squandered away if you play long enough.

Yet many don't realize that truth. They sincerely believe they're up overall because of that one royal flush they hit three years ago. The best way to counter this fallacy is to keep good records. Only if you maintain an accurate log can you get a true appraisal of what your hobby is costing you. Otherwise, you are just guessing. Most people fail to face up to reality.

Don Henley sang that there are three sides to every story -- yours, mine, and the cold hard truth. Keeping track of your gambling finances might provide information you don't want to hear, but is the only way to find that truth.


Another common myth revolves around hot or cold dealers -- nearly sacred words you'll routinely hear to describe the incredible swings that occur at blackjack. Even some card counters aren't immune from this type of thinking -- the leader of the first team I joined refused to play at any table where the dealer was excessively hot (which was an absurd superstition).

It's easy to understand the source of such logic. Dealers do have streaks, and some days it seems like they never bust. However, unless you happen to be Nostradamus, there is absolutely no way to determine the future. The cards don't care and don't know how many hands the house has won over the last hour. You can perceive with your own eyes that the dealer is riding a hot or cold streak -- that is reality. Yet there is absolutely no way to know when it will end.

Past results never affect future results. I could cite several mathematical reasons for this, but let me give you a practical example. Say you are heads-up at a six-deck shoe playing flawless basic strategy. Unfortunately, the house is crushing you and it seems like the bald guy sweeping in your chips hasn't busted since Nixon was president. Suppose at this moment in time (when ol' cue ball is simply on fire) he is replaced by a pleasant and shapely female dealer (fortunately with hair).

Play Blackjack Like the Pros. Copyright © by Kevin Blackwood. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Henry Tamburin

“This has everything you need to become a long term winner. Don’t play another hand until you read Blackwood’s book.”

MIT Mike

“This is the most comprehensive book on card counting that I have ever read.”

Anthony Curtis

“Play Blackjack Like the Pros is the perfect name for a book written by the consummate blackjack professional.”

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