Best Blackjack Books

The fastest way to learn about blackjack is to read the best blackjack books, written by famous authors and expert players. You will learn about the history behind blackjack, as well as who were the first to professionally write a book about blackjack. Being the most popular casino game in history, you will find plenty of blackjack books to choose from. We provide twenty-one of the top blackjack books out on the market today. All of these books have been written by expert blackjack players that have come to appreciate the elegance it offers. Take a look at the book below and start playing blackjack like a pro.

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History of Blackjack in Books

blackjack booksThe classic card game known as blackjack first appeared in popular literature in 1613, when Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes published a story collection entitled Novelas Ejemplares.

One of the 12 short stories included in Cervantes’ collection was Rinconete y Cortadillo, a tale of two card cheats operating out of the Spanish city of Seville. Throughout the story, Cervantes’ cheats specialize in a card game known as ventiuna, which is the Spanish word for twenty-one. As the name implies, the object of ventiuna was to reach a total closest to 21 without going over, and in Cervantes’ story, aces are valued at either 1 or 11.

The fact that Rinconete y Cortadillo was set in 1569 suggests that ventiuna – which is clearly the precursor to modern day blackjack – was played throughout the 16th century, and perhaps even earlier. Indeed, historians have identified several regional variations which were played at or around the same time as Cervantes’ story was written, including vingt-et-un (French for “twenty-one”), quinze (French for “fifteen”), and sette e mezzo (Italian for “seven and a half”).

The First Written Analysis of Blackjack

During a casual card game played in 1953 at the US Army Barracks in Aberdeen, Maryland, the inspiration for blackjack’s first analytical writings was formed.

The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen

Four Horsemen of AberdeenThe game was dealer’s choice and blackjack was included in the rotation. One player asked which set of dealer rules should be employed, restricting the dealer to hit or stand on soft 17 for example. For a young private named Roger Baldwin, who had previously earned his Master’s degree in mathematics from Columbia University, the discussion prompted him to ponder the probabilities underpinning every possible action during a hand of blackjack.

Baldwin soon sought permission to use the barrack’s adding machines from Sergeant Wilbert Cantey. Fortunately for Baldwin, Cantey also held both a Master’s degree in mathematics and an interest in card games, so he was amenable to the proposed investigation. Baldwin and Cantey then approached Herbert Maisel, who went on to become a professor at Georgetown University, and James McDermott, who also earned his Master’s degree from Columbia.

The four scholars spent nearly two years inputting data and crunching the numbers, and the eventual result of their research was a so-called basic strategy for blackjack. According to the basic strategy, every possible scenario involving a player total and a dealer up card produced a mathematically optimal play. In 1956, the team published their findings as a paper titled “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” within the Journal of the American Statistical Association. Just one year later the team co-authored a 92-page book titled simply “Playing Blackjack to Win: A New Strategy for the Game of 21.

Despite never applying their strategy on the high stakes tables themselves, Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel, and McDermott – known today as the “Four Horsemen of Aberdeen” – were inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame at Max Rubin’s 12th annual Blackjack Ball in 2008.

Blackjack Book Revolution Started

Following the contributions of the Four Horsemen, blackjack analysis began in earnest. Hundreds of blackjack books delving deep into the mathematical mysteries of blackjack have been penned over the subsequent years, including many titles which are now revered as seminal works within the world of casino gambling, game theory, and statistical probability.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” being published. To celebrate the paper’s indelible impact on the game, we have compiled a list of the 21 most influential blackjack books ever written.

Twenty-One Blackjack Books to Read

Playing Blackjack to Win A New Strategy for the Game of 21

Playing Blackjack to Win: A New Strategy for the Game of 21

Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel, and McDermott (1957)

The book that started it all, Playing to Win by the Four Horsemen was originally printed only 5,000 times. This makes the original edition a highly prized collectible for blackjack aficionados due to its extreme rarity.

The blackjack style played during Baldwin and his team’s era involved a single deck (SD), with the dealer forced to stand on soft 17s (S17), but in today’s casino environment this version is essentially extinct. This fact makes “Playing Blackjack to Win” more of a reference point than an actual primer for the modern game, providing players a glimpse into the genesis of blackjack analysis.


Beat the Dealer

Beat the Dealer

Edward O. Thorp (1962)

While the Four Horsemen invented the concept of the optimal strategy for blackjack, math professor Edward O. Thorp wasn’t satisfied. According to Thorp’s view, blackjack wouldn’t be solved until players proved capable of actually reversing the house edge entirely, thereby enjoying a game in which the casino held no built-in advantage whatsoever.

During his tenures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and New Mexico State University, Thorp utilized an IBM 704 computer to assess the impact of tracking exposed cards – or “card counting.” Thorp also integrated a theory on optimal betting patterns known as the Kelly Criterion, an optimal card counting based betting strategy.

The result of Thorp’s extensive research and computer-aided analysis was the legendary “ten-count system.” According to Thorp, a single deck of 52 cards which has just been shuffled holds a “Thorp Ratio” of 2.25 (or the 36 non-ten value cards divided by the 16 ten-value cards). When using the ten-count system, players begin with the numbers 36 and 16 in their head, before tracking the cards exposed on each hand.

Thorp’s “Beat the Dealer” capitalized on growing interest in casino gambling, going on to sell more than 700,000 copies and securing a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Due to Thorp’s groundbreaking approach to beating blackjack, casinos quickly took decisive measures to counter his strategies. The single-deck games of old were replaced by two- and four-deck shoes.

Thorp was one of the seven original members inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002.


Playing Blackjack as a Business

Playing Blackjack as a Business

Lawrence Revere (1969)

Originally born as Griffith K. Owens, the man who would eventually take the name Lawrence Revere began dealing blackjack in barber shop games as a 13-year old boy in Iowa. He went on to earn a degree in mathematics from the University of Nebraska.

Revere relocated to Nevada during the 1940s, where he worked as a casino pit boss while moonlighting as a professional blackjack player. Among the many aliases used by Revere during blackjack sessions were Leonard “Speck” Parsons and Paul Mann.

After more than two decades honing his craft in casinos around the American West, Revere sought to improve upon Thorp’s card counting system. He collaborated with IBM computer scientist Julian Braun to update Thorp’s ten-count system.

The results of their work were published in “Playing Blackjack as a Business,” which advocated the Point Count, the Five Count Strategy, the Reverse Plus-Minus Strategy, and the Ten Count Strategy. As opposed to Thorp’s academic language, Revere wrote like an everyman. His experience as both a casino employee and a professional gambler allowed him to teach how to avoid detection while counting. Ever the hustler, Revere only offered the single-deck version of his strategies in the book. He charged extra for access to his “advanced point count” systems.

Revere was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2005.


Professional Blackjack book

Professional Blackjack

Stanford Wong (1975)

Every serious blackjack player knows the name Stanford Wong, but one of the most prolific gambling authors of all time is actually a pseudonym used by finance professor John Ferguson. While earning his Ph.D. from Stanford University, Wong became intrigued by Edward Thorp’s “Beat the Dealer,” making sure to check his own blackjack calculations against Thorp’s seminal work.

Wong learned how to count cards by reading Thorp, but Nevada blackjack rules complicated matters.

Intent on pursuing gambling as a profession, Wong accepted a $1 salary as a university professor in exchange for permission to skip faculty meetings. Eventually, Wong combined his own mathematically derived charts and tables with a general primer on blackjack rules, advanced concepts, and card counting strategies to form Professional Blackjack.

Among the innovations introduced by Wong was back-counting, which later became known simply as Wonging. According to Wong’s approach, players simply stood back and watched a table while running through their count. Only when the count became favorable to the player would they jump into the game and bet in large increments. Because of the success enjoyed by Wonging players, casinos instituted a rule barring players from joining the table mid-shoe.

Wong also developed the “Blackjack Analyzer” computer software suite, which allowed players to crunch the numbers themselves. After launching his own publishing company, Pi Yee Press, Wong wrote dozens of strategy blackjack books on several casino games.

Wong was one of the seven original members inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002.


The Theory of Blackjack The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21

The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21

Peter Griffin (1979)

Working as a professor of statistics, calculus, and differential equations at Sacramento State, Peter Griffin proposed adding a course on the mathematics of gambling to the school’s curriculum.

After a research trip to Las Vegas to study the game, Griffin “got his clocked clean,” as he later reported in a New York Times profile. The humbling experience prompted Griffin to compile a wealth of statistical evidence on the subject of blackjack, as he attempted to further the general understanding of the game’s intricacies.

Griffin published The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21 in 1979. The book included the first calculations of the house edge encountered by “average” players, which Griffin pegged at roughly 2 percent. Among Griffin’s other theories were methods used to assess the accuracy of a card counting system, and formulations of basic strategy based on the most current rule setups and shoe sizes.

Griffin was one of the seven original members inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002.


Winning Without Counting

Winning Without Counting

Stanford Wong (1980)

One of Wong’s lesser-known works, Winning Without Counting, was written for players who are either unable to perform rapid fire mental calculations, or those who simply prefer to avoid any chance at a brush with casino security.

As the title implies, Winning Without Counting involves a combination of non-counting based strategies designed to help players improve their overall odds. Of course, much of the advice centers around nothing more than basic strategy, but Wong also includes several supplements meant to replace traditional card counting.

Wong suggests that many dealers bend (or warp) the corners of their aces and ten-value cards while squeezing them to check for blackjacks. He advises watching the dealer’s cards carefully while scanning for warps, and surrendering accordingly. Other alternative strategies include kinetics, or the study of body language, and shooting for six-card charlies, or drawing six cards without busting, which wins even when the dealer makes a 21 total in some games.


The Worlds Greatest Blackjack Book

The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book

Lance Humble & Carl Cooper (1980)

Authored by a pair of Ph.Ds, The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book may not live up to its ambitious title, but Lance Humble and Carl Cooper did succeed in crafting a high-quality manual aimed at improving the game of beginners and intermediate players.

Section 6 of the book is essentially a basic strategy tutorial, dividing the entirety of blackjack’s optimal play chart into several smaller charts. Section 7 introduces the Hi-Opt I card counting system, which expands on a theory pioneered by Charles Einstein in the 1960s.

When using the Hi-Opt I system, players begin a new deck or shoe with a base count of 0, before adding or subtracting for each exposed card. Under the Hi-Opt 1 system:

HI-OPT I COUNT SYSTEM
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
0 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 0

Players are instructed to increase their bets on high counts while lowering their bets when the count drops into negative numbers.


Million Dollar Blackjack

Million Dollar Blackjack

Ken Uston (1982)

Kenneth Senzo Usui, taking the Americanized name of Ken Uston, as was custom for children of immigrant parents at the time, was accepted to Yale University at the age of 16. Uston went on to earn his MBA from Harvard a short time later, before embarking on a successful career as a corporate management consultant. While living in San Francisco with his wife and two children, Uston discovered Edward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer and began frequenting local casinos.

In 1973, a chance meeting with professional gambler Al Francesco drew Uston into the world of professional card counting. An expert counter himself, Francesco was the originator of the “big player” team counting concept, in which a team of counters would work to assess positive counts while betting small, before signaling to the big player to arrive and place larger wagers.

Uston achieved a level of mainstream notoriety as his affiliation with Francisco’s team deepened. First, Uston co-wrote a book titled The Big Player in 1977, which described the team’s exploits while winning millions of dollars. While the book was a success, Uston effectively exposed Francesco and his teammates as counters, subjecting them to rumored lifetime bans in Las Vegas casinos.

The following year Uston relocated to Atlantic City, New Jersey and started his own blackjack team, but a spate of bans enforced by local casinos spurred Uston to file lawsuits. In Uston v. Resorts International Hotel Inc., the New Jersey Supreme Court returned a landmark ruling in favor of card counters, finding that casinos could not legally bar “skilled” players. Although the ruling was a victory for Uston, New Jersey casinos responded by tightening blackjack rule, adding up to eight decks in the shoe and allowing for shorter shuffle spans.

Uston also published Million Dollar Blackjack in 1982, which serves as a comprehensive primer on the subjects of basic strategy, card counting, and operating in the live casino setting. The book’s introductory counting system was Uston’s Advanced Plus Minus, in which:

USTON’S ADVANCED PLUS MINUS COUNT SYSTEM
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 -1 -1

Uston also includes his Advanced Point Count, a more precise system using no less than seven indices to assign card values, which was designed expressly for professional players.


Blackbelt in Blackjack

Blackbelt in Blackjack

Arnold Snyder (1983)

After a largely anonymous career as a professional gambler and counting specialist, Arnold Snyder went on to become one of blackjack’s most influential authors and theorists.

In his 1980 book The Blackjack Formula, Snyder pioneered the concept of deck penetration, which described the percentage of the deck which had already been played and exposed at any given point. According to Snyder, when the deck penetration percentage is higher, counters should exploit their advantages at a higher rate.

By 1983, Snyder added Blackbelt in Blackjack to his body of work, constructing an elaborate system of basic strategy tutorials, intermediate to advanced counting systems, and advice for advantage players seeking to conceal their activity from authorities. Among the customized counting systems introduced by Snyder in Blackbelt in Blackjack are the Red 7 count, the Hi-Lo count, the Zen count, and the True count. Snyder also covers topics like team play, shuffle tracking, and deck camouflage techniques which aid counters in avoiding detection.

Since 1981 Snyder has also served as the editor of Blackjack Forum, an integral source of discussion, collaboration, and research for professional blackjack players and game theorists.

Snyder was one of the seven original members inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002.


Blackjack Essays

Blackjack Essays

Mason Malmuth (1987)

As the owner of Two Plus Two Publishing, which operates the thriving poker forum of the same name, professional poker player Mason Malmuth is definitely an authority on his game of choice. Even so, Malmuth’s Blackjack Essays represents a meaningful addition to the game’s literary canon in a number of ways.

Malmuth earned his BS in mathematics from Virginia Tech in 1973, before completing his Master’s degree two years later. While working for the U.S. Census Bureau, Malmuth stopped in Las Vegas on the way to an assignment in California, and he immediately became fascinated with analyzing gambling games. During the early 1980s Malmuth spent much of his free time in the card rooms of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and in 1983, he published a paper titled “Card Domination: The Ultimate Blackjack Weapon.”

Also known as shuffle tracking, Malmuth’s card domination concept forms the first chapter of Blackjack Essays. The technique boils down to keeping the count active following the end of a shoe, and inverting the number to determine the approximate value of the remaining unseen cards. Intended for readers who are already experienced card counters, Malmuth’s “Blackjack Essays” covers theoretical concepts, blackjack biases, and obsolete techniques.


Basic Blackjack book

Basic Blackjack

Stanford Wong (1992)

Supremely deserving of its title, Basic Blackjack by Wong is simply a refresher course on basic strategy offered by one of the game’s true forerunners.

Published 17 years after his groundbreaking Professional Blackjack introduced players to advanced concepts like “Wonging,” Wong keeps things quite basic with this entry. Of the book’s 18 chapters, 2 through 15 cover basic strategy charts applicable to several common rule setups and regional variations.

Wong touches on his concept of warps, but overall the book is dedicated to nothing more than the humble task of teaching readers the ins and outs of basic strategy.


Blackjack Attack Playing the Pros Way

Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pro’s Way

Don Schlesinger (1997)

Born in 1946, Don Schlesinger went on to graduate from the City College of New York (CCNY) with a B.S. degree in mathematics before earning his M.A. and M.Phil. degrees in French from the City University of New York.

In 1997, Schlesinger translated his educational background, along with a decades-long interest in blackjack theory, into Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pro’s Way. The book is currently in its third edition and has since earned a reputation as one of blackjack literature’s essential entries.

The book included an abridged collection of the most efficient card counting indices ever devised, known as the “Illustrious 18,” along with the Creating DI (Desirability Index) and SCORE (Standard Comparison of Risk and Expectation) concepts used to optimally select games given various rule setups and other scenarios.

Schlesinger was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2014.


Knock-Out Blackjack The Easiest Card-Counting System Ever Devised

Knock-Out Blackjack: The Easiest Card-Counting System Ever Devised

Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs (1998)

Olaf Vancura earned his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1992 before overseeing the Casino Gambling curriculum at Tufts University. Vancura currently serves as Chief Creative Officer of Progressive Gaming International Corp.

Ken Fuchs works as a senior electrical engineer while also specializing in coding services to power blackjack simulators and in researching mathematical methods for improving individual and team play.

The pair published Knock-Out Blackjack: The Easiest Card-Counting System Ever Devised in 1998, and the slim volume is meant to introduce a new unbalanced counting system. More commonly known as the KO counting system, the index devised by Vancura and Fuchs is essentially a clone of the All Sevens system found in the The Book of British Blackjack.

When using the KO system, players begin with an initial count of zero, with:

K-O COUNT SYSTEM
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
+1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 0 0 -1 -1

The advised baseline for raising your bet is a count of +2, and overall advantage in the player’s favor intensifies as the count increases.


Burning the Tables in Las Vegas Keys to Success in Blackjack and in Life

Burning the Tables in Las Vegas: Keys to Success in Blackjack and in Life

Ian Andersen (1999)

Before attempts to get over on the casino became mainstream, Ian Andersen penned the original authority on “casino comportment,” or the player’s efforts to overcome the house edge through all available legal means (along with some not so legal methods).

Turning the Tables on Las Vegas was Andersen’s first foray into casino game theory, teaching card counters how to evade detection and conceal their advantaged play from prying eyes. More than 20 years later, Andersen released Burning the Tables in Las Vegas: Keys to Success in Blackjack and in Life.

While Andersen is willing to offer advice on success in life, not much is known about the author’s own life. The name Ian Andersen is a known pseudonym, but the author’s true identity has yet to be revealed. After leaving a career in corporate management behind, Anderson worked as a successful professional player, counting his way across the country. His first book was written as an attempt to overcome the growing trend of casinos banning counters and other advantage players, and once it hit the shelves, Andersen receded back into anonymity.

With Burning the Tables in Las Vegas, Andersen offers an update on his original text, one designed expressly for experienced counters. In the fourth chapter, Andersen introduces the “Ultimate Gambit,” a betting pattern intended to provide thorough camouflage, while also retaining a significant edge for players. The crux of Andersen’s “Ultimate Gambit” strategy is for players to purposely deviate from the basic strategy in specific instances, such as doubling down when holding a 10 against a 10 rather than simply hitting. By including these deviations while maintaining a strict count, Andersen believed he could effectively disguise advantage play without sacrificing an inordinate amount of his precious edge.

Andersen was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2012.


Blackjack for Blood The Card-Counters Bible, and Complete Winning Guide

Blackjack for Blood: The Card-Counters’ Bible, and Complete Winning Guide

Bryce Carlson (2001)

Like so many others, professional blackjack player Bryce Carlson discovered the game after reading Edward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer during the 1970s. Over more than 40 years grinding out wins in card rooms and casinos all over America, Carlson developed personal friendships with several of the authors listed above, including Revere, Wong, Uston, Griffin, and Schlesinger.

Carlson is believed to be a pseudonym, and within the mainstream community, his true identity has remained a carefully concealed secret. During the 1990s, however, Carlson was an active contributor to the burgeoning number of online blackjack discussion forums, exchanging ideas with many of the game’s most elite minds.

In Blackjack for Blood: The Card-Counters’ Bible, and Complete Winning Guide, Carlson provides a comprehensive introduction to the game, one suitable for true beginners, before delving into the depths of advanced counting strategy and camouflage. Carlson explains his personal counting technique, the Advanced Omega II System, in great detail, laying the secrets to more than 40 years of profitable big bet blackjack.

Even as a balanced count, the Advanced Omega II System is known as one of the more difficult indexes to memorize and apply. Beginning with a base count of zero:

ADVANCED OMEGA II COUNT SYSTEM
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
+1 +1 +2 +2 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 0

In a rare interview granted to the Swedish gaming website, Kasinocentralen, Carlson expressed satisfaction with his book’s legacy, revealing:

“When I wrote Blackjack For Blood, I wanted to create a comprehensive guide that would assume the reader knew nothing about Blackjack and would lead him step by step from rank beginner to as far as he wanted to go, including all the way to world-class pro. Based on its continued success, and the feedback I get from readers, I think BJFB has fulfilled this goal even beyond what I hoped for.”


Bringing Down the House The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

Ben Mezrich (2003)

As the modern equivalent of the first big player, blackjack teams originated by professional gambler Al Francesco in the 1970s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) blackjack team has become the stuff of legend for counters and casual players alike.

Beginning in 1980, a group of six students from MIT, Harvard Business School, and Harvard University taught themselves to count cards and enjoyed a profitable Spring Break in Atlantic City. Although most of the original six returned to a normal life in academia or business, J.P. Massar began working with a professional player and a well-heeled financier to form new editions of the team concept.

Integrating sound accounting, business, and training concepts, the team began with a “bank” comprised of $89,000 in working capital. Over the next 15 years, Massar and his partner Bill Kaplan recruited hundreds of well-educated math whizzes to form a revolving cast of MIT blackjack teams operating across the country and even internationally. Millions of dollars were earned by members during the MIT blackjack team’s incredible attempt to fuse card counting with investment banking.

A New York Times Best Seller, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions tells the story of Jeff Ma, a member of the team during 1994 and beyond. Although classified as non-fiction, several members of the team have accused author Ben Mezrich of taking excessive creative liberties. In 2008, the book was made into the hit film “21.”


Blackjack Bluebook II

Blackjack Bluebook II

Fred Renzey (2003)

Freelance casino gaming writer Fred Renzey published the original Blackjack Bluebook in 1997, and Blackjack Bluebook II is a direct sequel.

Written primarily for novices as an introduction to the game’s finer points, Renzey’s second Bluebook is split into four primary sections: “Unique Nature of Blackjack,” “What Makes Blackjack Tick?” “Proper Blackjack Strategy,” and “Gaining the Edge.”

As the section headings suggest, Renzey approaches his analysis through casual language and simply understood lessons. In Blackjack Bluebook II, Renzey coins phrases like the “Rule of 9” – which instructs players how to use the dealer’s up card while assessing tricky soft hand spots to determine whether doubling down is correct. According to the Rule of 9, players holding any ace-2 through ace-7 soft hand simply needs to add the dealer’s up card to their own non-ace card, and any total of 9 or more should be doubled down while totals less than 9 should only hit.

Renzey includes several other clever rules and maxims, each of which serve to boil complex theoretical lessons down to more manageable formulas fit for casual players to follow. By expressing advanced blackjack theory in layman’s terms, Renzey succeeds in crafting an entry point for unsophisticated players, while also teaching experts more efficient ways to implement their old tricks.


Play Blackjack Like the Pros

Play Blackjack Like the Pros

Kevin Blackwood (2005)

Designed to replicate Play Poker Like the Pros, a product of the Phil Hellmuth poker media empire, Kevin Blackwood’s Play Blackjack Like the Pros mimics the cover design, structure, and writing style of the Poker Brat’s magnum opus.

A professional gambler in his own right, Blackwood is a blackjack specialist by day and an aspiring poker author by night. His first published book was 2002’s The Counter, a work of fiction centered on the adventures of an advantage player attempting to win $1 million.

Blackwood moved on to strategy tutorials in 2005 with his homage to Hellmuth’s book, and Play Blackjack Like the Pros is serviceable in that regard. Comprised of an introduction, 18 chapters, three appendices, and a glossary, the book is clearly intended for the uninitiated. Blackwood covers the rules of the game, the essentials of basic strategy, and common blackjack myths, before moving on to skills employed by intermediate, advanced, and professional players.

Little new ground is broken by Blackwood, but he does discuss an update to the Hi-Opt I system developed by Lance Humble & Carl Cooper in 1980. Blackwood’s Hi-Opt II system adds indices to the original, so players begin with a base count of zero, while:

HI-OPT II COUNT SYSTEM
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
+1 +1 +2 +2 +1 +1 0 0 -2 0

The Big Book of Blackjack

The Big Book of Blackjack

Arnold Snyder (2006)

As the third entry in famed casino gaming company Cardoza Publishing’s Big Book series, Arnold Snyder’s The Big Book of Blackjack is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on the game.

Perhaps the last contribution to the field by Snyder, a legendary blackjack strategist, The Big Book of Blackjack doesn’t so much as expand upon his seminal title Blackbelt in Blackjack as provide a convincing justification for its existence. Snyder dives deep into the murky history of the game for more than 80 pages, spinning yarns and weaving fact with legend to provide readers with a glimpse into a bygone era. Profiles of the most influential figures in all of blackjack lore are also included, tributes made even more special because Snyder himself personally exchanged ideas with many of the cited experts.

The author also pays homage to his predecessors, devoting a chapter to the “rarest blackjack books,” a list which includes treasures like Blackjack in Asia by Stanford Wong, Advantage Playing by Steve Forte, and Beyond Counting by James Grosjean.

Snyder provides a refresher course on his Red 7 counting system, along with basic strategy charts covering the game’s latest variations like

  • BJ Switch
  • Double Exposure
  • Super Fun
  • Spanish 21

Optional side bets such as the Royal Match, Lucky Ladies, and Over/Under are also explored in depth.

For fans of the game who appreciate blackjack’s beauty as much as its beatable nature, one can do no better than Snyder’s The Big Book of Blackjack as a monument to twenty-one’s enduring appeal throughout time.


Modern Blackjack Second Edition

Modern Blackjack Second Edition

Norm Wattenberger (2010)

Spanning two volumes and 540 pages in total, Modern Blackjack Second Edition is a sprawling manual which can be accessed for free through author Norm Wattenberger’s website. Paperback versions of the text are also available.

With over 30 years of experience as a card counter, Wattenberger worked as a Vice President of Strategy and Architecture for Citibank before moving on to found a major technology decision-analysis corporation. He has also distributed blackjack software simulation systems for the last 20 years.

As an e-book, Modern Blackjack Second Edition serves as a continually updatable source of extensive blackjack strategy analysis. Wattenberger explores the tenets of basic strategy first, along with the REKO and FELT card counting systems, and comparative analysis for both. Various casino conditions players can expect to encounter are discussed, as are comparisons of strategies advocated by most of the authors on this page, exposures of scams and myths, and a variety of methods used to apply Wattenberger’s conclusions in the casino setting.


Advanced Advantage Play

Advanced Advantage Play

Eliot Jacobson (2015)

While this book covers a wide range of games outside of blackjack, it also covers most of the side bets you can find in casinos that offer blackjack games. Even if you aren’t an advantage player, it’s worth reading.

It’s one of the most expensive blackjack books on this list, but it’s still in print and if you learn just one advantage play you’ll quickly earn back the price of the book.

Fundamentals of Blackjack

The fundamental structure of twenty-one remained relatively untouched over the next few centuries. The game uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards, or in many cases a “shoe” containing between four and eight decks. All numbered cards are valued at their rank, face cards hold a value of 10, and aces can be valued at either 1 or 11 depending on the situation. Players compete against the dealer in an effort to reach totals closest to 21 without going over, with each receiving two cards to begin the hand. Among the hand improvement options available to players are:

Blackjack Hit icon

Hit

Drawing an additional card.


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Stand

Declining to draw and standing pat.


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Double Down

Adding an extra wager equal to the ante, before receiving a single additional card.


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Split

Separating a paired two-card hand into two individual hands, at the cost of another ante bet, before receiving a second card for each new hand.


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Surrender

Forfeiting the hand immediately in exchange for half of the ante being returned.


Blackjack has been played in primarily the same fashion for hundreds of years, even after making the westward journey to the Americas along with waves of European settlers. But by the early 20th century, the American spirit of innovation gave rise to the name by which the game is known the world over today: blackjack.

When the first legalized casinos began operating in Nevada in 1931, several rooms began offering a generous promotion to draw new twenty-one players to the tables. Anybody who drew the ace of spades along with any black jack (clubs or spades) received a 10 to 1 return on their wager. This black jack stipulation was soon discovered to be a losing proposition for casino operators, who did away with the promotion in short order, but the name blackjack endures to this day.