Review of Break the Dealer
(From Blackjack Forum IX #2, June 1982)
By Arnold Snyder
© 1982 Blackjack Forum
If I owned a casino, I would place Break the Dealer prominently in my gift shop magazine rack. I would give it away to all of the high rollers who played at my tables. I would place a copy in every room of my hotel, next to Gideon's.
I don't know who told Patterson and Olsen that they were brilliant blackjack theorists and system developers. I had hoped that after their TARGET fiasco they would smarten up.
Now comesBreak the Dealer, in which Patterson & Olsen reveal for the first time ever their methods of blackjack shuffle-tracking. God help us.
Shuffle-tracking is an effective technique for multiple-deck blackjack games. I first learned about it in 1982 from Crazy Bob, at which time I promised him I would not publish his secrets since the casinos were ignorant of it, and nothing in print was available on the subject. As long ago as 1980, Keith Taft, inventor of the "David" blackjack computer, had a team of players using modified David computers, which Keith called "Thor" computers, which computer-tracked the multiple-deck shuffles in Nevada and Atlantic City casinos.
Shuffle-tracking is what the name implies. In multiple-deck games, all cards from all portions of a shoe are not mixed with each other. The first blackjack author who mentioned this in print was Lance Humble in Blackjack Supergold (1979). A shuffle-tracker first observes and analyzes the shuffle procedure of a casino, so that he knows which portions of the shoe will be mixed with which other portions. A shuffle-tracking player may then cut the poor portion of the shoe out of play, while playing through the most advantageous section.
In Break the Dealer, Patterson and Olsen, to their credit, provide adequate descriptions of standard casino shuffles, along with some very efficient methods of tracking the shuffle. It's too bad, however, that they don't know which information to gather, or how to use that information.
They start out all right, suggesting a method for tracking tens only, but this is more difficult and less accurate than tracking with a standard card counting system. And contrary to Patterson's and Olsen's team method, you should never use shuffle-tracking to create a shortage of aces. Patterson and Olsen believe that a scarcity of aces contributes to "dealer breaking activity." This may be true, but the ace is far more valuable to the player for it's blackjack potential. Ultimately, Patterson and Olsen advise that aces, fives and sevens should be cut out of play, in order to increase this dealer breaking activity. This is nonsense. Having multiple players keeping various side-counts, then trying to manipulate this diverse information into an efficient cut, is unnecessary, difficult, and a losing strategy as presented by Patterson and Olsen.
At the end of their shuffletracking chapter, Patterson and Olsen correctly advised players to cut to the portion of the shoe which is heavy in tens and aces, but they do not explain the contradictory information.
The authors also advise shuffle-trackers not to use their tracking information for betting and playing their hands, but only for the cut. They think betting and playing should be done according to a normal counting system after the cut. Sheer folly. If you can cut the low cards out of play, then you should definitely bet big off the top, and play your hands as if your count is high. If you cut the high cards into play, then obviously the count will be going down as these cards come out. But you should continue betting big as long as you know the portion of the shoe you are playing is heavy in high cards. Following Patterson's and Olsen's advice, you would be betting small, and playing your hands as if the count were negative, precisely when you should be betting big and playing positive! The whole value of shuffle-tracking is lost with their system!
Many casinos with multipledeck shoes are ignorant about shuffle-tracking. These multiple-deck games can be as advantageous to card counters as single-deck games. The difficulty of thoroughly shuffling multiple decks has always been the Achilles heel of the shoe game. None of this, however, gives credence to Patterson's and Olsen's "non-random shuffle" theories upon which they base their TARGET system. Shuffle-tracking is a card-counting strategy, and a highly sophisticated and difficult strategy.
The first part of Break the Dealer adequately describes basic strategy and the high-low system. But the book is dominated by it's multiple-deck shuffle analyses, shuffle-tracking theories, and a prolonged advertisement for the TARGET system.
If you're interested in reading Patterson's and Olsen's descriptions of casino shuffles, the only part of this book of any value, pick the book up from Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas. ♠
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