Blackjack Book Reviews

Here is a list of reviews (in order of rating) that I wrote about some of the most popular blackjack books on the market that I have read. You should keep in mind that many of the good blackjack books were printed in the 70's, 80s, and 90's are a little dated. And many of the older books concentrate on one, two, or four deck games, instead of the more popular six and eight deck games seen today. To see a more comprehensive list of blackjack books on the market today, check out our blackjack books page.

This is one of the best books if you want to learn a simple, yet effective card counting system. It is especially useful for someone who already knows basic strategy and is ready to read their first card counting book. It teaches the popular Hi-Lo counting system.

Some readers may complain that the book is boring but I don't care. I prefer to get my "usable information" and "entertainment information" from different sources. If you want to read road stories then read something like "Las Vegas Behind the Tables".

The Theory of Blackjack is written by Peter Griffin, a highly-respected figure in the field of blackjack. The book is one of the best books ever written on card counting and is must reading for serious card counters interested in the underlying mathematics behind basic strategy and card counting. But it will be too much detail for casual card counters who just want to memorize a counting system and aren't interested in the explanations behind the math. For those people who just want the numbers, blackjack simulators would be even better than a book because blackjack software allows you to customize the playing conditions.

Here are a few cautionary notes. First, the math is at least intermediate-level so you can't read this if you have a math phobia. Second, this book is neither an introduction to blackjack nor an introduction to card counting. If you are a blackjack or card counting beginner, don't buy this book. Buy Stanford Wong's "Professional Blackjack" and learn the Hi-Lo system. Third, he focuses an inordinate amount of time on single-deck games instead of shoes games, which reinforces the books theoretical, as opposed to practical, value.

This book details Stuart Perry's 1994 experiment to play blackjack in Las Vegas, count cards, and record his financials results and emotional experience. This book is the antithesis of a book like "Bringing Down the House". A book like that is written to relay a story about a bunch of card-counting cowboys who get chased around the world and get beat up. But this drama isn't what card-counting is about. "Blackjack Diary" is a sober glimpse into the lifestyle of a professional blackjack player and is the only book that shows you what it is REALLY like to be a card counter for a living. This is the kind of book that you read and say to yourself "Do I really want to do this?" Card counting is boring and monotonous. It's a job. You walk into a casino, sit down, and do math for hours. It is not a glamorous life. There are no external rewards. No one will ever write a book about you or make a movie about you. Genuine card counters want complete anonymity. Furthermore, they need it to survive.

It has been a few decades now that professional gambling literature has been around. Yet, there has always been a noticeable lack of professional-gamblers-turned-published-authors giving specific financial results of any kind. Even most "reputable" blackjack authors never give any inside look into their track records other than some vague reference about "doing really well at the tables" or something similar. Some of the blackjack intellectuals may point out that this type of info is not needed - that you can forecast how well you would do by looking at your blackjack simulators. Sorry, but that isn't good enough. Like any learned skill, it is real life that counts. "Blackjack Diary" gives you a real-world, real-time financial account of a card counter.

Some readers have complained that the book is boring and one reviewer said it reads "like a balance sheet". Well guess what? When you count cards for a living that is what your life is like. It's a grind. And it shouldn't be portrayed any other way. Another reviewer said they "expected a more dramatic ending." Sorry, but any attempt to dramatize the story would have degraded the book. If you want card counting mixed with drama, then rent "21".

This is an easy-to-read book on blackjack and card counting and is a good resource overall (despite its boastful title). The book begins by describing the game of blackjack and tips on playing in a real casino (where to play, cheating, dealing with dealers). He then gives a comprehensive lesson on basic strategy with many supportive statistics. he also surprisingly delves into some of the psychological mistakes gamblers make, which was refreshing. He then moves on to teach the "Hi-Opt I" counting system, which is a decent system but I don't see any reason to prefer it over the Hi-Lo system.

This book is longer than most blackjack books because it tries to teach you a bit of everything. Some of the random topics (e.g. junkets) could have been left out. Despite this, it manages to maintain its focus on being a good resource for learning basic strategy and a simple counting system. The only drawbacks are that the book is getting pretty old and the strategies apply to games with less than six decks.

This book covers the mathematics behind gambling, in a very readable yet technical manner. The author provides the mathematical reasoning behind all sorts of gambling games such as blackjack and bridge, as well as other "games" (in the John Forbes Nash sense of the word), like the stock market and military strategy.

The mathematical intensity of the book could best be described as "medium". Although this sweet spot will appeal to semi-serious gamblers with a moderate knowledge of math, it may also alienate both of the polar groups - mathematical illiterates and serious statisticians.

The diversified list of topics covered in the book leads it to be an unfocused work since it doesn't concentrate on any one particular area. For example, if you want to learn the math behind poker or blackjack then you would be better served by buying "Theory of Poker" and "The Theory of Blackjack", respectively.

This is the seminal work from which so many other card counting books were based on. It details how Thorp ran computer simulations and created strategies for making money while counting cards.

This book has much historical value because it was the first book to prove mathematically that blackjack could be beaten by card counting. Rarely is there a book in any field which ignites such a quantum leap in comprehension of a subject matter (think: Graham and Dodd's "Security Analysis," "Origin of Species"). It is arguably the most important gambling book ever printed ("Super System" is probably number two).

With that being said, much of the information is outdated so don't buy this book if you want to learn a card-counting system. The appeal of this book is being able to read about the early history of card counting and how Edward Thorp tested his theories in Nevada casinos.

This is Stanford Wong's first book from his trilogy of blackjack books. Naturally, he focuses primarily on basic strategy and does a fine job (due to his clear writing style). Unfortunately, he devotes much of the book to teaching proper basic strategy for every rule variation (rules on doubling, side bets, coupons, etc.) offered by any casino. He also tells you the value of each variation. Although this is a very impressive feat and differentiates the book from all others, it makes the subject matter overly esoteric and useless to most blackjack players.

The book's specialized content appeals to only two kinds of readers. The first would be serious blackjack players who travel a lot and actually need this information (players who go to the same casino won't need it but possibly may want it as a reference guide for when they do travel). And second, anyone who simply enjoys reading this kind of stuff for fun.

If you are looking for an introductory blackjack book to teach you basic strategy, you would be better off looking elsewhere and not getting bogged down and needlessly learning statistics for games you will never encounter.

Blackjack Secrets is a collection of random tidbits about different topics (like tipping) that can help out your game. The book would primarily benefit players who already have begun their journey into the real world of frequent play in casinos. Beginning counters who aren't "casino ready" won't need to learn this stuff yet, and advanced players will know this stuff already.

The structure of the book also detracts from its usefulness. If you want random tidbits, it's sometimes better to read magazines, forums, or online articles. In my experience, whenever you buy a book which is a collection of articles, you get seduced into thinking it will be a "Greatest Hits" package of advice, when most of the time it turns out to be simply a jumble of mediocre essays.

This is a book that teaches a progression system, best known as "Dahl's Progression". I am writing this review with the assumption that the author is giving the impression to readers that one can attain a positive expectation with his system. He never actually says that you will have a positive expectation but I believe he does this for legal reasons and not intellectual ones. Progression systems can certainly make playing much more fun than flat-betting and there is nothing wrong with them if they are marketed to enhance the fun of the game. But Dahl destroys any iota of legitimacy by needlessly taking aim at card counters.

The subculture of card counters is sometimes considered the Ivy League of blackjack world - a place where you gain admittance only when you are able to showcase a certain level of intellectual prowess. Consequently, I've observed that progression players sometimes try to position card counters as intellectual snobs. Of course, this is just ignorance trying to justify itself. One review on Amazon said:

"It's apparent that none of these reviewers [card counters who gave the book a low rating] has actually tried the system! They criticize based on 'theory' and 'statistics.'"

All I have to say is, wow. Another snippet of a review said:

"Is this a system you could quit your job and play professionally? Probably not."

Excuse me? Probably not? I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that this book will give them a positive expectation. For the love of Christ, don't be one of those people.


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Blackjack Tools - Book Reviews

HPG ADMIN on March 1, 2013