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The Blackjack Edge

by Jerry Patterson

The methods in this chapter assume you are getting a fair game as defined in Internet Casinos(link to relevant article), that you are getting at least a 20% signing bonus, and that you are using Basic Strategy to play the hands.

What that 20% signing bonus means is that you have an actual edge over the casino with the bankroll representing your deposit plus your signing bonus. Let’s say you are playing blackjack with perfect basic strategy which yields about a ½% casino edge. Factoring in the signing bonus of 20%, you are playing with an edge of 19.5 % with this initial bankroll. Keep in mind that this edge only applies to the initial bankroll. You will learn in Method 2 in this Chapter how and when to “reacquire” this advantage by opening up accounts periodically at new casinos.

METHOD 1: PLAYING AGAINST THE RANDOM NUMBER GENERATED BLACKJACK GAME

All Internet Casinos use Random Number Generators (RNG) to determine the cards dealt, the number thrown with a pair of dice, the spin result at roulette or the outcome of a video poker game or a pull on the slot machine.

Random Number Generators

Before I discuss the strategy, a little background on RNGs is necessary.

According to some authorities, numbers calculated by a computer through a deterministic process, cannot, by definition be random. The question boils down to prediction. Given knowledge of the computer algorithm, one could predict the sequence of these numbers and thus gain a huge edge over the online casino.

In dealing, then, with online casinos, we must recognize two types of random numbers: pseudorandom numbers and genuine random numbers. This recognition presents us with two choices in gaining the edge: (1) Given a choice, we should prefer to play at a casino using genuine random numbers because predictable sequences can be used both ways – by the casino to cheat (although I am not implying any casinos do this, it is possible) and by players to gain an edge with accurate prediction information (assuming the players could figure out the algorithm and thus the sequence of events); (2) Even though we haven’t figured out the algorithm, pseudorandom numbers may present us with blackjack game patterns which may be predictable.

For more information on pseudo- versus genuine random numbers, you may wish to visit a web site that generates genuine random numbers through a process involving radioactive decay: http://www.fourmilab.ch/hotbits

I realize that there is some ambiguity in the above two choices, but this is the current state of the art and it brings us to the first idea for gaining an edge.

Assuming these games are dealt with no fixed number of decks, back-and-forth or choppy games could occur if Basic Strategy is used to play the hands. The strong dealer-biased games that result from like-card clumping should not be evident. Based on these assumptions, Step 1 is to play Basic Strategy with a 3-level negative betting progression in the “Play Free” mode that most Internet casinos offer. If you find yourself in a choppy game; i.e., back and forth winning between you and the dealer, try a minor negative progression like 1-2-4. Bet one unit; if you lose, bet 2 units; lose again, bet 4 units. Lose three in a row, end the session or start over reverting to a table minimum flat bet. Any win in the three hands results in a 1-unit profit; a win starts the progression over. If the game continues choppy, increase your spread to 1-3-7.

Play this simple method in the free play mode with no money at risk. Get a feel for the patterns in the casino's RNG. Are there patterns? Is the game choppy? How long does the chop last before you lose 7 or 11 units? Did your winning prior to the loss of a progression cover the loss? Is a winning choppy pattern evident over several successive days of play? If you find recurring choppy periods, try a hit-and-run strategy grabbing five units or six units, then moving on to another casino, and coming back to this one at a later time.

You could open accounts at several casinos and play the up-as-you-lose 3-level progression at those where you find the choppy patterns. If nothing else, you're having fun in the play free mode with no money at risk, and it’s quite possible that you will find a game that would warrant risking real money in which case you would make a deposit at that casino.

Important: In the beginning, I recommend playing only at Boss Media Casinos for reasons given in the last article, such as Casino Atlantis, especially the fact that they all offer games based on genuine random numbers. These games, perhaps, are more suited for this and other methods to be described below. Later, as you gain experience, you may wish to play at casinos offering games based on pseudo random numbers.

When playing at casinos using pseudo random numbers, it is important that, when converting from Free Play to playing with real money, you confirm that the real money game is similar to free play game. That is, you are looking for the same choppy back-and-forth game.

I have heard reports from some online gamblers that once they put real money into action, the game changes from choppy to a losing trend. So, you need to set a stop-loss for each casino at which you open an account – between 20% and 50% of your deposit – depending on the risk you are prepared to take. I am not suggesting that your losing happens because of casino cheating, but why take the risk? A casino stop-loss is good money management practice in any event.

METHOD 2: EXPLOITING THE INTERNET CASINOS’ CASH BONUSES

The fact that hundreds of Internet casinos are all competing with each other for customers and offering cash bonuses to get them and keep them, offers gamblers a unique opportunity to turn the tables and gain the advantage.

Because of this intense competition, many Internet casinos offer a 20% signing bonus when you open an account. Some casinos will credit you with a 20% signing bonus on subsequent deposits. Sometimes, during holidays and other special dates, they will raise this bonus to as much as 50% of your deposit. Their usual policy on this money is that you must generate betting action equal to or greater than your entire deposit plus signing bonus before you can withdraw the money.

These signing bonuses are the equivalent of comps in the real-world casinos, but there is one huge difference – you get them up front, before you make that first bet. Can you imagine walking into a real-world casino, sitting down at a blackjack table, buying in for $100 and being given $120 worth of chips? “What’s this for?” you ask. “It’s yours,” says the dealer, “All we ask is that you give us at least $120 worth of action before leaving the table.” Would you accept the extra $20 under these conditions? Of course you would!

The tactic, then, when playing blackjack at the Internet casinos is to use a conservative betting strategy to generate betting action equal to or greater than your deposit plus signing bonus and then withdraw the money. Assuming that you break even or even lose a little, the signing bonus gives you the edge. After the withdrawal, repeat the tactic at another casino.

You could use the betting tactic from Method 1 above to generate your action and then play as long as your game is predictable; i.e., as long as you are getting a choppy back and forth game in which you are able to grind out a few units per session, stay with this casino. When your game turns sour, or is no longer predictable, close your account, withdraw your money and play at another casino. Your objective is to close your account with a win and the upfront bonus gives you the cushion to do just that. This assumes that your betting action is equal to or greater than your original deposit plus signing bonus which is the casinos’ requirement before they will refund the signing bonus along with your deposit.

If Method 1 is working and have ground out units in a choppy game which are equal to or greater than your deposit plus your signing bonus, set a trailing stop-loss which, if triggered, would signal the withdrawal and account closing. I recommend 14 units for the stop loss amount. This is the loss of two of the 1-2-4 progressions. If you lose both right up front, before winning any money or giving the casino the required action, try the flat betting method described below.

When you are winning by grinding out units, your trailing stop-loss moves up with your win. For example, assume that you are up a total of 22 units (not counting your signing bonus). Your trailing stop-loss of 14 units would signal stop and withdraw if your winnings drop to 8 units. Adding in your signing bonus of 4 units, you walk with a total of 12 units.

If you can’t detect a choppy game in the casinos’ RNG, another approach to exploit the upfront bonus money, is to flat bet. Using this approach, you would usually get the money. For example, assume that you deposit $100 and are credited with a $20 signing bonus. You bet $5 a hand playing basic strategy. The casino advantage is less than 1%. It would take 24 bets to generate the action required to withdraw your money. In a choppy game, you may win 12 and lose 12. Even if you win 11 and lose 13, you’ve still made 10% on your money (not assuming any blackjacks, splits or double downs).

What is the worst that you can do on these 24 hands flat betting in the choppy game we have assumed? The worst assumes that the choppy game turns unfavorable and you begin to lose before you decide to get out. Using simple statistics, we can compute the standard deviation on these 24 hands as about 2.5 hands. This means that about 68% of the time, the worst we could expect is to only win 12 minus 2.5 hands or 9.5 hands and lose 14.5 hands for a net loss of 5 hands or $25. So, overall, you are only down $5. Not a bad risk.

For the above example, if you want to assume two standard deviations which encompass 95% of the probable occurrences, your record for the 24 hands could be 7 wins and 17 losses. This losing trend should be respected and the game departed early on using a simple trailing stop-loss technique of three betting units; i.e., any time you back off three units from a high point, leave the game.

This tactic of hustling signing bonuses is not new. I first learned about when researching this book in late 1999. Since then, I have communicated with scores of players that are out there using it and taking advantage of the liberal bonuses and action that the hundreds of Internet casinos offer. I first published this strategy in my gambling e-zine (online newsletter), Advantage Player, in April 2000.

I know of one example where a gambler hit 30 casinos in one day with max deposits. He played roulette betting an equal amount on red and black, with a small bet on each zero for insurance. For our $100 deposit example above, betting $12 on red and $12 on black with $1 on each zero, it would take him just five spins to generate the required action. Well, for this particular betting pattern, it didn’t take the casinos long to catch on and reprogram their software to detect it and close his account. So I recommend sticking with blackjack and avoiding this kind of hedging at roulette or craps; i.e., betting on both red and black or on the Pass and Don’t Pass at craps.

The above example, so easy for the online casinos to detect, poses the question: Is this strategy still valid? The answer is very definitely. Why? Because of the intense competition for players. If a casino dropped the upfront cash bonuses, it would quickly lose players to competing casinos.

With 800 casinos to choose from and new casinos opening every week, you can find all the action you can handle.

Theoretically, operating at just two casinos a week, it would take you over eight years to cycle through every casino in cyberspace (in reality you would only be playing at those casinos which are favorably rated).

Can you imagine a real world casino offering you a 20% signing bonus to play blackjack? And then letting you walk out the door with their money after giving them only enough action to equal your buy-in plus their bonus? It seems incredible when you compare the real world with the virtual world. Online casinos can make this offer because they hold your money, have lower overhead expenses and because they have the odds working their way with the RNG games. So let’s take what they give us and turn it our way into an edge.

Online casinos will continue to make money on this very liberal marketing strategy because most gamblers (unlike the readers of this book) will stay, play, and lose.

There is one catch to this strategy that you need to be aware of and that is getting your money out of the casino. Two recommendations: (1) only play at casinos whose reputations are favorable for releasing players’ money; (2) do not stop play and proceed to withdraw on or near the amount of betting action the casino requires before you can take their signing bonus with you; give them enough action so they will think you’re a gambler, not a hustler.

Which brings us to Method 3 for generating the desired action.

METHOD 3: DETECTING PATTERNS IN THE CASINO’S PSEUDO RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR

The feasibility of this method is right at the edge of the state-of-the-art. A few Internet friends and associates are working on such a method. I wanted to mention this to you for two reasons: (1) if you find one or develop one, please contact me and tell me about it: (2) if you are interested in my progress in this arena, please contact me for a progress report.

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Now let’s summarize the three Internet Chapters into an integrated strategy:

1. Choose a casino for play, one which offers a 20 to 30% signing bonus; stick with Boss Media casinos until you get some experience. 2. Open your account. 3. Use the free play mode to determine if the casinos’ RNG produces a choppy game. 4. If yes, make a deposit and begin play. Insure that the real money game is exhibiting the same choppy game as the free play game. Set a stop-loss for this casino and respect it, whether or not you can grab the signing bonus with your withdrawal. 5. If the choppy game is present in the real money game, use Method 1 to grind out a win using a 14-unit trailing stop loss. 6. If no choppy game is present, use a flat betting approach to give the casino the required action before withdrawal. 7. When your 14-unit trailing stop-loss is triggered, close your account, withdraw your money and move to a new casino with another 20 to 30% signing bonus.

The key to making this integrated methodology work: Make a plan and stick to it: Discipline, Discipline, Discipline. Review Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook, Chapters 3 and 4, before starting play at each new casino to reinforce your objectives.