System worth at least $0.01

Do you know anything about Gary Cline’s (author of Beat the Odds Blackjack) blackjack system?  His book goes against the traditional blackjack strategy.  In the book he also talks about a method of winning and money management system. He charges $2k for the system, and I just wanted to check around with some gaming writers to see if they have heard of it and if it is worth it. Todd P.

Casino operators, Todd, don’t spend a gazillion bucks building mega-resorts so that some “system player,” surfing down a fat two thousand, can come in and tar-n-feather them. The only benefit that I can see to your spending 2K on Cline’s system is that any casino owner alive would happily send a limousine for you so long as you have a certified bankroll.

So let’s go the calm and rational route, Todd. Amazon, as of this writing, has available 17 used and new copies of his book, Beat the Odds Blackjack, starting at $0.01.  The premise of his book, and in all probability the basic dictum of his system, is that the average player can win at blackjack through understanding the percentages of every combination of cards. As you close in on the back cover, supposedly you’ll be able to analyze your hands quickly, calculate the odds in a trice, and make the right moves to maximize your profits.

Does it work?  Not sure. I haven’t read it, and reviews on it are very limited. But I am picking up a copy pronto for a penny.

A couple of weeks ago our newspaper carried your column about the court cards. It prompted me to dig around and find a book that I inherited about forty years ago entitled Playing Cards by W. Gurney Benham.  It was published in England in 1931. It has 242 illustrations, many in color, where the knaves (jacks) are standing and all the queens are holding flowers.  It’s mostly about English cards, but there’s quite a bit about cards in other countries, too.  Everything you said is in there, along with some alternative versions.  Also, included are many pencil notations by an unknown previous owner who doesn’t always agree and sounds rather authoritarian about it.  Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I always find your answers interesting, but the playing card trivia column was definitely a winner and prompted some more fun reading about cards. Vernell C.

I’m glad you enjoyed the column, Vernell.  The trivia part of gambling  has always been a favorite of mine to write about, and doing so does get its fair share of further inquires in the mailbag.

As a kid, I was captivated by the distinguishing motifs on playing cards, not to the point that the composition of a deck of cards had some religious, astronomical or metaphysical significance, but far enough to wonder why the King of Diamonds (the suicide king) is trying to kill himself with an axe, the significance of “one-eyed” cards, (Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts, and King of Diamonds), or the mystery of the black queens, Argine, known as the “Flower Queen,” although all of the queens today do hold them, and Athena.

Ah, yes, my favorite, Athena, the queen of spades. When I pitched cardboard, I forever followed this “Black Lady”  through the deck, believing, erroneously mind you, that it made many a player money (the good tippers), and busting others (the stiffs).

Is it ever advantageous to split 5s in blackjack? 

Splitting 5s is  a no-no. A total of 10 is a great hand to double down on when the dealer is showing 2 through 9, because your two 5s have increased the percentage of 10s in the remaining pack.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “My father told me that he quit playing poker because he liked the game too much.” –A. D. Livingston, Poker Strategy