Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook

New Edition for the 90's

by Jerry L. Patterson


If you are familiar with my Blackjack background, the following review may surprise you. As you know, I endeavour to be as objective as possible in my reviews of Blackjack books and Strategies. I trust you will find this review fulfills that objective.

On the one hand, Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook - New Edition for the 90's" (herein referred to as: "Winner's Handbook") opened my eyes to to the card-clump phenomenon. On the other hand, I have a number of serious concerns about the book; least of which that it is CLEARLY a sales pitch for you to call Patterson's 800# to learn more about Target. This wouldn't necessarily be so bad, if a more direct admission of this was made from the onset. Essentially, this book is a rewrite of the original Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook , self-published in the late 70's and then reprinted by Perigee Publishing.

Released in September of 1990, Winner's Handbook was for me a welcome relief. For me, 1990 had become an increasingly difficult year for Blackjack play. Having clients in Las Vegas in 1989-90, I was playing 2-3 sessions every day I was in town. Thanks to the help of the [then] unreleased Boris software (Version 1.1), I would put in a half-hour of practice in my hotel room at the MGM Marina (now the MGM Grand) and then settle in for a couple of hours of juicy double-deck play at the newly opened San Remo (they were dealing 75+% in those days) and the Tropicana, to make as much money playing Blackjack as I did with my clients.

Unfortunately, by September, I was being shuffled up on all over the southern strip or encountering 50% or less penetration. The only shoe game I could regularly beat was at Slots-a-Fun, next to Circus-Circus. Recognizing that it was back to the shoe games, I spent more time each day in practice with Boris, changing the number-of-decks parameter to 5 and 6 (the Marina was dealing 5, then 6 decks, burning a card before each round of play, making card-counting just that much more difficult).

After a series of disasterous shoe games at the Marina, Trop, Aladdin and the Dunes, I was ready to call off the Blackjack part of my trip. However, because I had not yet been to the castle (the recently-opened Excalibur), I made a foray across the street to check out the spectacle. Seeing dealers dressed in Jester costumes, I should have guessed that their 6-deck game would be a joke (from the card-counter's perspective at any rate).

Because the tables were crowded, I chose to engage in some shadow-count play. I observed sky-high true-counts at table after table. It seemed too good to be true. I attributed the massive player losses to poor play on behalf of sucker-tourists who had come to offer their money to King Arthur. I soon found that these outrageous true-counts, were outrageous allright, and, QUITE false. Being hammered shoe after shoe in high-count (and therefore high-bet) situations, I aborted my Blackjack play for that trip, concluding that I must have been deluding myself with being in practice, or that I would somehow "choke" during key plays. While these explanations didn't ring true, at that time I had nothing else to go on.

Two weeks after this trip, I found myself in a local bookstore looking for an "excuse" to spend some of my "birthday money". Finding Jery Patterson's newly released Winner's Handbook, I was in for quite a rude awakening. Not having read his previous book Break the Dealer (with Eddie Olsen), the idea of card-clumping and non-random shuffles was completely new to me. Until that time, like most players, when the dealer shuffled the shoe, I took the time to stretch, suck down a cherry cola and otherwise think of other things. After all, a shuffle is just a shuffle, right?

Most people, especially seasoned card-counters like I was at that time, when introduced to the idea of non-random shuffling in the multi-deck games, laugh or argue vehemently against such idea. Had I not been hammered so consistently in high-count situations, I may well have taken the same attitude. However, Jerry's introduction to card-clumping (Ch. 2), shuffle biases (ch. 7) and utilizing a count-reversal approach (ch. 15) sparked my curiousity which set me forth on a journey leading to where I am today.

Now, while I find these chapters in the book EXTREMELY eye-opening and informative, there is more to this book, which seems to have something for nearly every level of player. The "stories" and trip reports Jerry relates are not only informative but quite fascinating as well.

Jerry's evaluation of other Blackjack Books and Newsletters (ch's 9 & 10) is quite objective and worth heeding. Likewise, his write-ups on money-management (ch.11), self-management (chs. 12 & 16) and professional play (chs. 17 & 18) are required reading. If card-counting is your bag, chapters 14 & 15 are loaded with useful goodies. Finally, the writeup on his "Takedown" betting strategy (ch. 13), which utilzes a fibonacci series has encouraged me to research a number of betting ideas.

Thus far, Winner's Handbook receives a 4 star evaluation. However from here, it is all down hill. The book has a number of serious problems, even if you find the chapters I've mentioned thus far to be worth the price of the book. For example, while chapter 4 (Shuffle Tracking) opens well, it ends in disaster when you realize that the shuffle tracking diagrams (Pp. 64-65) are CLEARLY FLAWED, and therefore misleading, or worse, useless.

Later in chapter 15, Jerry's description of the count-reversal procedure is confused, contradictory and incomplete. On my own, I extrapolated the Boris Clump Count Procedure (BCCP) in early 1991; a valiant attempt to remedy the problems I found with this chapter. I would probably still be using improved versions of this approach, had I not specifically encounterd the many Clump-Tracking procedures available today.

In the fall of 1991 while visiting Jerry and Nancy at their home in Carson City (we were negotiating a deal to market Boris Version 2) I raised my concerns over the mistakes in Jerry's book. He laughed and retieved a copy of his book cluttered with paper clips every 2 to 3 pages. The paper clips were pages on which there were either typos or outright mistakes in the material.

I was astonished! Who was the editor on this book? If MY NAME had been on the book, in no way would I allow such sloppy production to occur. Granted, many of the typos were minor. Nevertheless, in my mind, they detract from the quality of the book. In the 80's I used to write articles for a computer industry magazine and even published a book on computer system performance. I went to considerable lengths to insure that every little scrap of information in my book and those articles was technically flawless. People came to expect flawless presentations from me, and I gave them their money's worth.

With Winner's Handbook, some of the mistakes can be QUITE costly, in terms of lost bankroll, should you attempt to put the flawed methods into play, as they are written. For this reason, I downgrade the book considerably.

In Summary, overall I find Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook - New Edition for the 90's" a WONderful book, IF you are a skilled player capable of dissecting material to extract the winning morsels. The book has a number of flaws (described earlier). However, if you can manage to sidestep those areas, you will find a lot of useful information. This book should be in EVERY Blackjack player's library; not collecting dust, but read from time to time, if for no other reason than to be reminded that the multi-deck game of Blackjack has changed (happily) for ever.

To Jerry's Credit, all his books are quite informative. In Winner's Handbook Jerry shares a number of sensitive issues in a rather candid manner. His chapter on team play somewhat picks up where Kenny Uston's material left off (due to his untimely death). At the very least, it makes fascinating reading.

For me, one of the benefits of this book is that encourages "research". It was in the spirit of research that I began to program "REAL" shuffles into the Boris software; and voila, Version 2 was born. I contacted Jerry and Nancy Patterson in the spring of 1991, dropping a hint that Blackjack simulation software was under development. I first met Jerry in May 91, and by the fall of that year we came to a marketing agreement for the software. Around that time, Ellis Davis and NBJ had begun to make the scene. Of course, what happened from all that is well-known history.

Let me say that while I DO feel that Winner's Handbook noticeably exists to push Jerry's (actually Eddie Olsen's) Target 21 method, Target DOES have it's value; just not as a standalone system. And last I heard, Patterson still offers a money-back guarantee on with Target.

Enjoy your read of Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook - New Edition for the 90's". Take the Target sales pitch for what it is: a sales pitch and don't let it sidetrack you from getting benefit out of a somewhat useful book on Blackjack. While most books on Blackjack are just warmed-over drivel from previous authors, whatever else you may have to say about this book, it is clearly unique and worthy of your purchase and time.

Jerry has recently hinted that a new book will released next year, probably a revised and updated edition of his book Casino Gambling. I look forward to this new Edition. I have no doubt that it will again provoke me to new ways of thinking.

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If you have questions or comments regarding the above review, e-mail me at: BorisBJ21@Earthlink.Net.