Customer Reviews: Professional Blackjack
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on May 14, 1998
This book is primarily useful as a reference work. Anyone who is serious about using either of the systems presented in it (Hi-Lo and Halves) will need it, but it is definitely not for beginners.
Playing conditions have deteriorated nationwide since this book was first published (and since its update) as the casinos have engaged in an "arms race" with counters, and so the outlook it presents is (to say the least) highly optimistic. Casinos have wised up about how to catch skilled players, and are much more careful about the options and promotions that they offer. Blackjack is no longer the easy road to riches.
The discussion parts of the book do not sufficiently emphasize the importance of the depth-of-deal (penetration) to the player. This, more than which system or which tables are memorized, is the key to winning.
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on March 18, 2000
This is one of the best if not the very best book on blackjack out on the market today. This book does not have colorful stories but has all the information you will need to get an edge at blackjack and win money from the casinos consistently. The rest is up to you(proper bankroll, camoflage, patience, and discipline). This book will give you basic stategy for six decks. It will teach you the hi-lo and also the halves count(a 2 level count). The book will tell you how much per hour you are expected to win due to differing rules when a specified hi lo bet scheme is used. There are also chapters dealing with double exposure and the over under side bet. There are also charts for taking advantage of special rules like 7-7-7 , 6-7-8 , or 5 or 6 card 21's paying a bonus.Wong also discusses risk and includes many charts including expected values for hands and strategy changes for counts using the hi lo and for using the halves count. This book has no fluff it is packed with information. If you want stories buy another book but if you want to win money buy this one. This book has everything I mentioned and more.A five star book definitely worth more than the price.
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on May 27, 2002
To win at Blackjack, you need to do four things:
(1) make the appropriate playing decision (e.g. hit / stand);
(2) bet more when odds favor that you will win;
(3) have a sufficient bankroll available; and
(4) play enough rounds
This book covers all four points.
Making the appropriate decision (playing strategy) can be achieved by learning basic strategy. Playing strategy -- and hence your win rate -- can be improved by memorizing index numbers, but basic strategy is actually sufficient for winning at blackjack. Basic strategy, as well as index strategies for two card counting systems, are presented thoroughly.
Making the appropriate betting decision is necessary for winning at blackjack. In the long term, it is statistically impossible to win at blackjack without varying your bet appropriately. Selecting an appropriate bet is covered thoroughly in this book.
Having a sufficient bankroll is essential. While the minimum bankroll size (say $2500 for playing on the Strip) may be more than you like, the details of calculating the bankroll you need is provided.
Playing enough rounds is essential. The details are provided for you to calculate your expected win rates, and their standard deviations, so you know what to expect. You may need to play more than you want (say 100 - 1000) hours to have a reasonable chance of doubling your bankroll, but again, you can calculate it.
This book does have math. No calculus, but basic statistics. Everything is explained -- and you will want it explained.
The material in the book is not heavily dated (cf _Million Dollar Blackjack_ by Ken Uston). Some readers have expressed concern, but as of the date of this review, it's easy to find games in Las Vegas with odds better than the benchmark rules.
I am tempted to add a fifth necessary condition for winning at blackjack -- finding a table with sufficient penetration. This means a table where enough of the deck is used that you will see variations the card counter can take care of. A dealer that shuffles after one or two hands, or the increasingly-present continuous shuffling machines, significantly reduces a counter's advantage by reducing the opportunities to count! I agree with other readers that say penetration deserves better coverage in this book.
Good luck! You can win! But first learn basic strategy, calculate your bet sizes, accumulate your bankroll. Then play as many hands as you can.
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on July 4, 2009
This is a no-nonsense how-to book on how to gain a mathematical edge over the house when playing blackjack. Wong is a solid writer, and relays the information in a direct and straightforward manner.

There are several counts outlined in the book. Do yourself a favor: learn the simplest count (the Hi-Lo), and learn it well.

A common mistake many beginning players make is to learn the most complicated count available, thinking that this will win them the most money. (In Professional Blackjack, this count is the "Wong Halves.") Don't bother learning this count. Complex counts are worth learning if (1) you are playing single decks almost exclusively where (2) the dealers deal fairly deeply into the deck. While such games existed when Wong originally published this work, they are rare to nonexistent now.

One criticism I have is that Wong gives the act short shrift. In order to gain an edge over the casino, you must learn to count. Wong imparts this message admirably, as far as that goes. But counting is a necessary -- but not sufficient -- condition to take what was until recently the casino's money out the door with all of your body parts intact. To do that, you will have to act like someone who is not counting. Developing an act is extremely important (and is another reason to choose a simple count. You shouldn't look like you are counting while you are counting; hence, choose a count that will allow your brain to do more than one thing at a time.)

I attempt to wrap up each blackjack book I review on two levels:

(1) The *current* practical value of the specific information provided in the book (e.g., basic strategy, counts, betting strategy, etc.)

(2) The *meta-value* of the information contained (meta-value: includes entertainment value, what the book teaches you in general about the game of blackjack, and the practical value of the book given the circumstances of the game at the time the book was written).

1 - The current practical value of this book is fairly high, if you stick to the Hi-Lo count. There is really no good reason (and a number of bad reasons) to learn the Halves count. Similarly, Wonging has now been around for a long, long time, and is unlikely to fool anyone for any length of time.

2 - The meta-value of this book is fairly high. It is one of the few books that in and of itself can turn a reader from a novice to a fair approximation of a professional player. And that is saying a lot. (I'm not suggesting that you should not read other books; only that I believe you could get away with reading this one alone.)

The Ultimate Edge
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on October 12, 1999
If you want to use the hi/lo (or halves) system, this book is the first, last and only book you'll ever need. I think the hi/lo system is one of the easiest professional system. Ken Uston is definitely more colorful. Perhaps the book's biggest problem is black jack has become a brutal game. Few casinos offer profitable conditions unless one plays in teams and risks getting banned.
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on September 3, 2001
The two best blackjack books I've read since getting interested in this game about six months ago are Wong's "Professional Blackjack" and Scoblete's "Best Blackjack." Wong's book is really for math types but it is the best reference book for all types of games and rules. However, Scoblete's book is the more enjoyable and, for novice and intermediate players with some experience, the book that helps you learn the most. These two are both outstanding and if you want to be a good blackjack player they are must reading.
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on March 4, 2006
Anything written by Stanford Wong is worth reading. Professional Blackjack is no exception. This book is the best resource that I know for those using the Hi-Lo system of counting cards. Wong carefully explains the system, and backs up his research with loads of computer analysis. He provides strategy tables for basic strategy, and a myriad of other strategy tables for all sorts of different rules. This is the sort of book that keeps blackjack pit bosses awake at night!
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on January 21, 2004
We don't call him "The Honorable Stanford Wong" for nothing. He completely encompasses the breadth of blackjack, all the ins and outs, how to count cards (the different schools of counting too!) and if you didn't already know, basic strategy and its variations in unusual arenas. I went into reading this book knowing just basic strategy -- I came out with a complete understanding of the game! This is a CRUCIAL book to have if you have any serious interest in blackjack as more than just a recreational activity. The jargon CAN get a little heavy and involves some mathematical theories I never learned, but it was helpful in explaining a lot of things missing from general, "at the table" blackjack training. It truly is THE BIBLE of blackjack.
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on March 27, 2002
Look, the casino is a business, not a charitable institution. Uston and his mouth have ruined it for most people by making the casinos aggressive. If you use Wong's approach, (hi-lo), you will attract a lot less attention, and make as much money as you did before. I know, I do it.
What most people forget, and what Wong does not, is that blackjack is an exercise in pitting mathematics against random chance/odds that alter in your favor as the cards fall, if you are observant. Wong shows why most people lose is that they get piggy. He has a short section on desireable behavior. If you follow this, you don't need to know more.
Uston and genre may be great raconteurs, but if you want to win quietly (win), my money is on Wong. Think about it this way: Whoever "Stanford Wong" is, he uses an alias, which means he wants to keep playing. Uston runs his mouth, sells games, writes books, and brings lawsuits. Every casino knows Uston by face. Well, which one do you want to be? I want to play, so I follow Wong's time-tested methods, as set out in the book.
If you needed to read a book to know that deck penetration is an important factor, for example, you shouldn't be playing the game in the first place. That's why Wong didn't play with such nonsense in his book. Read the whole book, then go think about it and learn how to be unobtrusive. Then go win.
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on April 2, 2014
If you want to learn how the MIT students took Vegas for millions, then this is your book. It explains the math and theory behind what they did which is both interesting and useful if you want to try it yourself.
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