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Best of Donald Catlin

Gaming Guru

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Blackjack Speed Count

4 April 2004

A new Blackjack counting system called Speed Count has appeared in the past few weeks. It was developed by Dan Pronovost and Henry Tamburin of DeepNet Technologies and is being licensed to Frank Scoblete, Henry Tamburin, and Dom LoRiggio, who will market the product under the name Golden Touch Blackjack (GTB). Frank and Dom are the same guys who teach the Golden Touch Craps seminars (one of which I took and enjoyed) and the Speed Count will be offered in the same format. That is to say, the system will only be available through a two-day GTB seminar taught by Frank, Henry, and Dom. I was asked to look at the Speed count and give an evaluation of it. Here is what I found.

First of all the Speed Count is the easiest counting system I have ever seen. It is not as accurate, nor as difficult, as a full blown running count/true count conversion system but, as I'll indicate below, that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are actually two Speed Count systems: the Regular Speed Count and the Aggressive Speed Count. They both use the same easy-to-use counting system and differ only in execution. Both use an Optimum Basic Strategy that is different from ordinary Basic Strategy. What is more, one can easily lift some parts of the Aggressive Count system into the Regular Count system and leave parts that don't fit your playing style (or the rules at the casino at which you are playing). Very nice!

Now what about my remark above that the slight decrease in accuracy from full blown count systems is not necessarily a bad thing? Let's face it, one of the hardest things about counting cards is not being detected by security. If the "eye in the sky" thinks you are counting cards, an expert counter in security will count along with you and check your play. If you are using the Speed Count you will, at times, make plays that don't match the expert counter's play. In fact, some of your plays might seem downright strange to him. He may well just mark you as an erratic Basic Strategy player. The tradeoff of the slight decrease in accuracy for this cover feature seems to me like a good one.

So just what can you expect from the Speed Count? I ran a one-billion-hand simulation of the Regular Speed Count using 6 decks, a cut card at 75% penetration, resplit up to three times (total of four hands), Aces split once and receive only one card, double on any first two cards, double after split, dealer hits soft 17, and late surrender. This is a common game and can be found, for example, at the Las Vegas Hilton. I got a player edge of 0.330% per unit risked. Dan Pronovost at Deep Net ran this exact same simulation on their software and got a player edge of 0.3364%.

What if you could find a really good Blackjack game? How about a two-deck game with the above rules except that the dealer stands on soft 17? I ran a simulation of such a game and in a billion hands estimated that the players edge per unit risked was 1.088%. Not bad! And remember, both of my simulations only used the Regular Speed Count.

If you like to play Blackjack but feel that the count systems available today just take the fun out of the game, I think you should give Speed Count a try. I know I'm going to use it. See you next month.

Donald Catlin

Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers
Donald Catlin
Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers