Popular Blackjack Books
Blackjack books are the best way to learn the ways to raise your game of twenty-one to new levels. Reading about basic strategy or card counting gives players the information they should learn by rote, but also gives them insight into the thought processes of the best practitioners of blackjack in recent history. Short of playing master-level blackjack for 20 or 30 years, you’ll find no other way to tap into the knowledge and experience of blackjack experts.
The following ten books are my suggestions for those first publications you should be reading. Don’t assume my numbering system is a value judgment on these books. I’ve placed them in a rough sequential order, so the body of knowledge builds upon itself. This is a logical order to read the books, even if you consider some of the concepts in the earlier contributions are dated a bit.
1. Beat the Dealer by Edward Thorp
Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One by Edward O. Thorpe is the I-Ching of card counting. Though this 1966 publication is a little dated now, but Edward Thorp first taught players blackjack was a beatable game. While people probably had devised their own card counting systems before (on their own), Beat the Dealer is the first time a system made it into publication.
Edward Thorp covers more than just counting cards, though. This book teachers players how to spot an advantage, how to know when you’re being cheated, what to do when the casino uses counter measures (though these are much-dated), and plain old winning strategies for blackjack. Edward Thorp was one of the first writers on the subject to run computer simulations, so this book has plenty of charts to help you learn.
2. How to Play Winning Blackjack by Julian Braun
In many ways, How to Play Winning Blackjack was the next important book on blackjack after Beat the Dealer nearly 15 years before. How to Play Winning Blackjack was published by Julian Braun in 1980, updating the card counting strategies with over a decade of better statistical models through computation. The strategy chart could still be printed off and used by beginning players. Though Julian Braun’s book might not get mentioned as much anymore, many of the later books on this list owe something to its author.
3. Theory of Blackjack by Peter Griffin
The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21 by Peter A. Griffin delves into the math of blackjack a little deeper. If you want to understand the mathematics underpinning blackjack-21, read The Theory of Blackjack. This 1999 publication is valuable to card counters, though the math can get a dense for the novice and the prose can sometimes be a little thick for every reader.
One thing Theory of Blackjack does well is dispel the myths of card counting. Despite what the movies portray, card counting is not that complicated. The trick is keeping track of the count while talking to the dealer and the other players and not seeming like a bump on a log.
4. Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston
If you find some of the books on this list a little too dry, then Million Dollar Blackjack might be the book to get you interested in competitive blackjack. Ken Uston gave up a job in the stock market to become a blackjack player and became a leading figure in the Seventies and Eighties. The stories about the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in those days are worth the price of the book, but you’ll be taught two different card counting systems: the Uston Advanced Point Count and the Uston Advanced Plus/Minus count.
5. Turning the Tables on Las Vegas by Ian Andersen
Card counters should remember that everything can’t be about theory, though. Practical skills that work in a casino also have to be mastered. If you’re going to walk into a casino and try card counting, give a read to the classic 1978 “comportment” book by Ian Andersen, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas. Turning the Tables on Las Vegas teaches young card counters how one should act to fool the casino personnel into thinking you’re there for a good time–not to burn the casinos. Every good card counter needs a lesson in how to chill out and act natural while playing and Turning the Tables on Las Vegas by Ian Andersen is a good place to learn those lessons.
6. Blackjack for Blood by Bryce Carlson
Blackjack for Blood: The Card-Counters’ Bible, and Complete Winning Guide contains a good introduction to basic strategy, but the main focus of Blackjack for Blood is the Omega II System for card counting. Though I believe an intermediate blackjack player can study too many card counting methods, I also believes it’s important for serious blackjack players to test out a number of these methods and see which ones work the best. Since any two human brains work differently, it’s possible one system which is perfectly good for your neighbor won’t be good for you. Omega II System tends to jump right into this theory, but Bryce Carlson uses plenty of anecdotes to keep the discussion interesting and to highlight his points.
7. Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Professional Blackjack is a 1994 book by Stanford Wong which many consider to be one of the finest primers for the basic blackjack gambler. Professional Blackjack has more than its fair share of math, with various charts to explain and make study easier. In fact, the charts make reading through the text choppy, but otherwise make Professional Blackjack an excellence reference book for blackjack players. Some of the information is dated, since casinos have started to close some of the holes discussed here as more card counters began appearing in casinos. Still, Stanford Wong’s series on blackjack is a strong introduction to twenty-one games in casinos. This series includes the less important Basic Blackjack, Blackjack Secrets, and Casino Tournament Strategy.
8. Blackjack Attack by Don Schlesinger
In 2000, Don Schlesinger wrote Blackjack Attack, Playing the Pros’ Way, which in many ways was a reexamination of Edward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer. Besides offering insights on the way card counting had evolved over the three-plus decades since Beat The Dealer, Schlesinger offered tips on card counting techniques ranging from team play and camouflage. He also made a systematic systems comparison for those methods used in 2000. Combined with sections on risk analysis and good theory on optimal betting, Blackjack Attack is considered one of the books wannabe professionals read.
9. Play Blackjack Like the Pros by Kevin Blackwood
Kevin Blackwood’s 2005 Play Blackjack Like the Pros is the best introduction to High Opt II or Hi-Lo, considered by many to be the best card counting system out there. This is a method which excels at single-deck and double-deck games. Besides being a good introduction of a card counting system, though, Kevin Blackwood also provides good information on non-card counting tactics, including basic strategy, online blackjack, Internet promotions, and money management techniques. Even if you’re a non-card counter, I’d suggest this to a beginning blackjack player.
10. The Big Book of Blackjack by Arnold Snyder
The Big Book of Blackjack is a 2012 publication by Arnold Snyder which tries to give players insights into many of the online blackjack variants which are found in so many Internet casinos these days. Key games discussed include blackjack switch, Spanish 21, double exposure blackjack, and super fun 21 blackjack. Some of the common side bets you’ll find in online casinos are also discussed.
More Blackjack Books
These are ten essential books on blackjack that young players should read. Some I place on the list for historical reasons, but the early theoretical books do something else for a player: they provide the foundations for your later studies. As the old saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. When you read the early books on card counting and basic strategy, you take a perch on the shoulders of giants of blackjack history like Edward Thorp. At the same time, you probably want to keep up with the latest books on the subject of blackjack, so let me make one suggestions for an upcoming release, while I’m at it. I want to point out I kept this off the list, because I can’t attest to its usefulness. Radical Blackjack has a good pedigree, though.
Radical Blackjack by Arnold Snyder should be available in 2013. Besides being the author of The Big Book of Blackjack, Arnold Snyder was the publisher of Blackjack Forum for over 20 years and one of the original inductees to the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Arnold Snyder’s reputation precedes him. The reason this book intrigues me and should intrigue you is this is a master talking beyond basic strategy or card counting. Arnold Snyder is giving his inside tips on hole carding, rebate strategies, next card play, and shuffle tracking. Since these are just being published, there’s a chance the casinos won’t know some of these techniques. While I have to qualify my remarks by saying Radical Blackjack might be of little use to blackjack players in the 21st century, this book is like a new album from an old master: you should find something in here which speaks to you.