Muscle Sport Magazine

The 21st Century Card Counter

This book, which is released to the world on October 10th by Huntington Press, claims to make you better at blackjack. That’s not a new thing. There have been multiple books released every year for the past century which claim to make you a better gambler, so is this one any different? If so, how? Read on to find out.

To the untrained, gambling is more about luck than judgment. Nobody can control the turn of a card or the spin of a roulette wheel or slots game, so short of granting you magical powers, how can any book make you better at it? The answer is that not all gambling is about luck. Luck in the casino world largely only covers you for two games; roulette or online slots. There’s no such thing as a strategy for extracting value from a roulette wheel. There are bankroll strategies which might make your time on a mobile slots website more profitable, but they’re more about managing what you bet than how you lay the bets out. Roulette games and mobile slots are designed and intended as fun hobbies. When you open a pack of cards, though, everything changes.

It’s true to say that you don’t have any control over how the cards are dealt, but poker and blackjack are just as much about how you respond to what’s in front of you as they are about what you have in your hand. It’s blackjack in particular which this book by Colin Jones focuses on, and the best blackjack players in the world aren’t just looking at the table. All of them have an inkling as to what might be left in the dealer’s hand, and what their opponents might be holding. They don’t have psychic powers – they’re counting cards. The ability to count cards is what’s separated lucky blackjack players from great ones for years.

Before we go any further, we should point out that counting cards is not a habit that casinos smile upon. It’s not specifically prohibited by law in Europe or the United States, but the majority of casinos will kick you out if they believe you’re doing it. They consider it to be cheating. A cynic would argue that they only have that opinion because people who can do it successfully will win more money than they lose, but it’s ultimately their hospitality you’re abusing, and they have the right to make that call. If you have a favorite casino which you enjoy visiting regularly, don’t count cards at the table. You’ll almost certainly be asked to leave, and you probably won’t ever be allowed back in.

Now that we’ve addressed the fact that card counting is a murky world, we should talk about the book. The subtitle is ‘the pro’s approach to beating today’s blackjack.’ There’s an emphasis placed upon the word ‘today’ – it appears in bold type on the cover. That’s because the way that younger blackjack card counters go about the technique is markedly different from how it was done years ago. In days gone by, people who could count cards would exercise caution and restraint with regard to when they did it, and how much they did it. That’s no longer the case. Young players nowadays are more likely to target a casino, go in, clean up, and walk out before anybody knows what’s happened.

The habit described above sounds aggressive – and it is. Even fewer people approve of performing the ‘art’ that way than they do of counting cards in general. The problem is that if you’re a blackjack player, you’re likely to come up against one of these players at your table regularly. If you don’t know how to do it yourself – or you’re not able to spot them – you might as well just hand your cash over to them when you sit down at the table. Even if you don’t plan on using the knowledge contained within the book, it makes sense for gamblers to have an awareness of it so they can extract themselves from a game where it’s happening.

As if to reassure potential buyers that they’re getting solid advice if they choose to purchase this forthcoming paperback, the foreword is written by Tommy Hyland. If you’re a seasoned gambler, you won’t need us to explain who he is. If you’re not, a quick Google search will tell you that Tommy Hyland is one of the most successful card counters in the history of blackjack. He was so good at it that at one point members of his card-counting team were arrested and prosecuted for cheating. The prosecution was unsuccessful on the grounds that (as already covered) card counting isn’t a crime, but it tells you everything you should need to know about how successful he was. He’s now a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame in California, so the community eventually came to admire his skills more than they deplored his methods.

As we’re not gambling experts ourselves, we have no way of vouching for the effectiveness of the methods detailed within the book. We can assume that if Hyland has signed off on it, it must be good. The particular theory explained and taught within the book’s 312 pages is something called ‘expected value,’ which relies on complicated mathematical formulas. You don’t need to have a calculator for a brain to follow them though; the text does a great job of making the theory accessible to the casual reader.

As for the author – Colin Jones may not be as big a name to blackjack players as Tommy Hyland is, but he’s still known as a successful player to the millions of people who play blackjack as a hobby. This is the first time Jones has put his own experiences of playing the game into print, and so many of the first-hand tales he tells over the course of the book have never been entered into the public domain before. Jones even attempts to make his blackjack advice applicable to life in general. While we’re not convinced that this makes a great self-help book, we can be confident that this will be fascinating to anybody who has an interest in the card game – or how to beat casinos at their own game in general.

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