The mistake I jumped on appears early in Sal's essay, and reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of statistics and gambling:

**"If he has a 1% statistical advantage, that means he has a 50.5% chance of winning and a 49.5% chance of losing."**My original response will still suffice:

"No, that isn't what it means. That would be the case only in a game that resembled coin flipping, with a win paying the amount of the wager. However, in most Vegas games, such as blackjack, there are several plays, such as splitting hands, doubling down, or getting a blackjack, which pay far more than the wager. The same can be said for craps, the other game Cordova mentions. A player in such games with a 1% edge can expect to win, on average, 1% of the amount of his wager, per play. He will most certainly NOT expect to win 50.5% of his plays as Cordova suggests."

Sal then went through many wild girations trying to defend this error common to basic statistics classes. At first he claimed that my argument was invalid because I was assuming a single play, but as I explained on PT, that makes no difference. 1 play or 1,000, a 1% edge still does not mean a 50.5% chance of winning.

But his main tactic was to fling as much technical sounding, but irrelevant, verbage and terminology my way. Unfortunately, when you don't understand the subject, doing so will only lead to more errors, and reveal one's ignorance more starkly. His final effort was quite illuminating in this regard. I informed him that I had been a card counter (using an old system known as the Uston Advanced Point Count). To this he retorted:

**"Oh, really, then answer my question. While you’re at it, provide count values yielding an advantage of 1% for the other systems such as :**

Hi-Low

Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."Hi-Low

Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."

Sorry about the irony meters folks, because all Sal has done by asking this question is reveal beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has no idea what he is talking about. To show why, it will be necessary to give a quick Readers' Digest version of blackjack counting systems.

Blackjack is one of the few gambling games where the probability of victory changes one play to the next. This is because 1) used cards are set to the side, and new hands played from the remaining cards in the "shoe", until an arbitrary point is reached and they are all reshuffled, and 2) some cards are more valuable to the player (10's, A's), and others to the dealer (4's, 5's, and 6's). Counting systems place numerical values on the cards (say +3 for 5's, -3 for 10's), and the player keeps a running total of this "count" in his head, adjusting in some systems for decks remaining and/or aces. This count is used to determine bet size, and also when to vary one's play from Basic Strategy (the optimal play given no knowledge of previous cards played). For example, Basic Strategy says to stand with two 10's against a dealers 6. However, if the count rises high enough, the optimal play can be to split the 10's. Counting systems have a grid of all possible player and dealer scenarios, and what counts warrant variation from Basic Strategy, which a successful player must memorize.

One thing that should be obvious at this point is that counting cards in blackjack is no picnic. It takes a great deal of training and dedication to be able to keep the count accurately, make whatever adjustments your system demands, and bet and play accordingly, all without raising the suspicions of the pit bosses or even the other players. What also should be obvious is that counters do not learn all systems. They tend to pick one and stick to it, for that is more than enough challenge. And since each system assigns different values to different cards, and has different adjustments to be made, it is clear that a counter will have little knowledge of the details of a system that he doesn't play. And finally, in many systems it is not necessary to know what % advantage one has in various situations. One simply makes the systems calculations and makes the appropriate bets and plays.

So, all that in tow, let's look at Sal's question again:

**"Oh, really, then answer my question. While you’re at it, provide count values yielding an advantage of 1% for the other systems such as :**

Hi-Low

Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."Hi-Low

Silver Fox

Uston APC

It should be pretty easy if you really know what you’re talking about."

It should be clear now that Sal is talking out of his hat. Never mind the complete irrelevancy of his questions to the matter at hand: whether an edge of 1% implies a winning percentage of 50.5%. Never mind that he doesn't even seem to know that Uston APC is the system I played (he lists it under "other systems"). No one knowledgeable about counting would ask such a question, nor would likely have the answer, since no one would know all three systems he lists. It also is a completely irrelevant question to the Uston APC system I played, which did not require this knowledge. And as an added bonus, Sal's question doesn't even make sense, because the % advantage for a player with a given count in the Uston APC system is not constant, but instead varies by remaining decks. From table 9-2 of Ken Uston's "Million Dollar Blackjack", page 128 of my 1981 copy:

**PLAYER EDGE AT VARIOUS TRUE COUNTS**

USTON ADVANCED POINT COUNT

UPC True count of +3:

1 deck remaining: +1.0%

2 decks remaining: +0.7%

3 decks remaining: +0.6%

the values lay out in similar declining pattern for other counts and decks remaining.USTON ADVANCED POINT COUNT

UPC True count of +3:

1 deck remaining: +1.0%

2 decks remaining: +0.7%

3 decks remaining: +0.6%

the values lay out in similar declining pattern for other counts and decks remaining.

So we see here clearly that Sal has no idea what he is talking about, and is simply cutting and pasting impressive-looking technical information in an attempt to hide his ignorance. No one who understands card counting would have asked this question.

This is worth being on the lookout for when listening to IDer/creationist arguments. If it seems impossible to grasp their line of argument, don't blame yourself. It is likely they are doing what Sal did above.

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