Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Review of Blackjack for Blood by Bryce Carlson

When people walk into a casino, on some level they know that their chances of winning are slim. The odds for the most common games, such as craps, roulette, and keno, are stacked against the player, which virtually guarantees long-term losses for anyone who wagers on these games for an extended period. At the same time, however, many of these gamblers know that there is at least one game that can, and quite often does, yield profits. Yes, it's true: even mathematicians will tell you that if you play blackjack the right way, you can actually gain an advantage over the casino and thus make money in the long run.  This fact turns blackjack into a game of skill, rather than a game of chance.  What kind of skills do you need in order to swing the advantage your way?  You need to be able to track and count cards.There are many books on the market that tout various card-counting systems.  Some of the systems are absolute bunk, while others are mathematically accurate.  In Blackjack for Blood, professional blackjack player Bryce Carlson (not his real name) presents a counting system that he developed called the Advanced Omega II.  Carlson calls his system "the card-counters' Bible" and claims that it is one of the most powerful around. Though I am not a mathematician and therefore can't verify the numbers myself, the blackjack community at large generally agrees that Carlson's system checks out (if you go by online message boards, that is).

It's not a requirement that you already know how to count cards before reading this book, but it would certainly speed up the learning process if you know the general theory behind the practice. In addition, it is highly recommend that you know how to play flawless Basic Strategy, otherwise you might feel pretty overwhelmed with the information Carlson presents.The Advanced Omega II is a level 2 count, which means that none of the cards in the deck receive a value higher than +2 or lower than -2.  To give you an idea of how this stacks up against other systems, I will tell you that a level 1 count is what rank beginners would be comfortable with, while a level 4 count is what the most advanced players might use.  Carlson claims that even though the AOII is a level 2 count, it is as powerful and efficient as a level 4 count.I read this book some time ago, after I had been playing blackjack for more than 10 years.  I am thoroughly familiar with Basic Strategy, and know the principles behind card counting.  Even so, I found Carlson's system too difficult to put into play at the casino.  Check that.  It was too difficult for me to even practice at home.  I think the average blackjack player would also find the Advanced Omega II system far too difficult to use.However, that shouldn't dissuade you from purchasing Blackjack for Blood.  Carlson gives readers 11 chapters that are full of useful blackjack information, including several charts that list the correct plays for each possible two-card blackjack hand against each possible dealer up-card.  He also reveals a bunch of secret techniques that he uses while inside the casino to gain even more of an advantage over the house.  (Although these include such gems as trying to add extra chips to your original betting stack after you've won your hand -- a practice that I certainly wouldn't recommend at all.) Plus, Carlson provides readers with entertaining stories of his exploits on the professional blackjack circuit. Whether these are true or not, I couldn't say. But at least they are fun, and they make the reader believe that there actually are some people out there who can make a living from taking the casinos for a ride.Even though I didn't find much practical information in this book, I still thought it was a pretty good read.  If you're a gambler who's interested in learning an advanced card counting system, then Blackjack for Blood is worth adding to your collection. Just be aware that even if you're an average player, you shouldn't expect to be able to use the Advanced Omega II system on your next trip to the casino.

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