This system evaluation is based on my experience with the Blackjack Express product in preparation for the release of a custom Blackjack Simulation Software designed specifically for the system. After I reported my findings (regarding this system) to the author Carl Van Eaton, the software deal quietly evaporated.
I am rather harsh in my grading of the Blackjack Express System. However, I could rate it even worse. The only thing that rescues this system from an "F" grade is that it offers a few morsels of useful information from time to time and the materials are reasonably well-polished. Unfortunately, a well-polished presentation does not correct a horribly inadequate system.
The cover of the Blackjack Express manual touts the following: "Play Like a Pro in 6-Hours or Less", "The quickest and easiest way to gain the upper hand over the house ever devised", "Discover the tactics of professional play", Learn industry secrets never before revealed"... I could go on...
Turning the cover we are treated with a page saying: "PLAYER'S HOTLINE - You're never any further than a phone call away... Call 24 hrs/day". We are then instructed to call the 504 area code and leave a message on their voice-mail system. They will respond either by letter or fax. If you don't have an in-coming fax, your "advice" will be snail-mailed; not very effective.
If there are any doubts as to the quality of the system contained in the manual, one has to look no further than the copyright notice on the cover page where it says: "This book is intended exclusively for the amusement and entertainment of the reader". Now, I don't know about you, but after shelling out big bucks for a system promising to teach me to play like a [sic] Pro in 6-Hours, such a disclaimer is QUITE unnerving.
The book spends its first 25 pages looking like most books on gambling; telling you why the other games are unbeatable (altho many of the percentages in these pages are flat-out WRONG), and overall painting a BLEAK picture.
But wait, we CAN be rescued. The next 30 pages focus on the well-worn Basic Strategy. Carl sets the stage for accuracy of information when on Page 39 he says: "How many times have you split aces only to wind up with two stiffs?". I don't know about you, but last time I checked, it was IMPOSSIBLE to have a stiff hand with an Ace and ONE other card. But wait, it gets worse!
Part III (entitled "How to Go-For-Broke without Going Broke") opens with an enticing chapter heading entitled: "$4500.00 in 45 Minutes!". His anecdotal stories in this section are interesting, but that is all it has going for it. Then, we are treated to a NEW CONCEPT in Blackjack play: "WINNING Is the Name of the Game" - Duhhhhhh!
Part IV ("The Express count") finally gets down to business. After 75 pages it had better! Unfortunately, it opens with the following hype: "Wouldn't it be great if you could determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when either of the aforementioned [indications of winning] conditions were due to occur beforehand?" Carl leads us to believe that he is going to teach us a telepathic approach to Blackjack.
In Carl's defense, he writes a nice summary of card-counting on Pp. 77-81. Then we are introduced to this wonderfully telepathic system. It's nothing other than Thorp's old ten-count system dressed up in the form of a point-count. Unfortunately, Carl shows his ignorance (not to mention poor proof-reading skills) when he presents his "Rules" for using the Blackjack Express System.
Rule #3 is quite curious. It states: "Never ask to see the burn card." In the next sentence he says: "Starting at zero, if the first card off the top of the deck is a small card, a non ten...". Huh? We are then encouraged to watch the video that accompanies the course. Ahhhh that video.
The video (narrated by Carl Van Eaton himself) is a quality piece of work, if you ignore the fact that the shoe was set up beforehand to create a winning situation for the camera. It won't be the FIRST time we see this done for Blackjack courses, but this time it is BLATANTLY misleading.
The video instructs us on how to card-count (using the Blackjack express method), looking for a high-bet situation and then how to exploit it when it occurs. Although Carl doesn't come out and say it, the impression is given that high-bet opportunities happen rather frequently. In fact the opposite is true.
While reviewing this system, I was designing a custom Edition of the Boris Blackjack Simulator for use by Blackjack Express Players. Once the Blackjack Express system was wired into the software, a series of 100,000 round simulations were done, utilizing casino shuffles from Atlantic City (the focus of this course). As you know, most A.C. games are 8-deck. Inspecting the statistic screens after each of these 100,000 round systems was rather telling.
The software clearly demonstrated that you can make a killing in high-bet situations using the Blackjack Express system. Unfortunatley, high-bet situations with this method only occur 0.1% to 1.2% of the time. The REST of the time you are "paying rent" (i.e. losing). When I brought this point to Carl Van Eaton's attention, before I knew it, the need for a custom Blackjack simulator disappeared.
The above should not suprise me when I read things like the following from P. 84: "It is a proven fact that a system is effective in direct proportion to the amount of calculations involved". It is a proven fact? Proven by WHO? Even Ken Uston admitted in his final book that simple point counts are more accurate than his [complex] Advanced Point count (APC). In fact, simple point counts ARE more effective, because there is less chance of making a mistake. Mistakes during playing can QUICKLY wipe out any alleged playing advantage you may have.
The betting method described on pages 101-105 has some merit, but unfortunately is not enough. Overall, the Blackjack Express system just doesn't cut it in today' shoe games. (I haven't tested it in "randomly" shuffled games, however, I can't imagine it would fare much better).
Lastly, on Pp. 129-131, Carl likens the card pick-up and shuffle procedures to cheating, simply because his method can't beat most of today's casino shuffles. That in my mind is the ULTIMATE excuse for a failed system. We saw this excuse bandied about by Ed Thorp in the 60's and Lance Humble in the late 70's. Cheating in today's shoe game is virtually non-existent. Anyone who falls back on THAT excuse to explain-away their losses had better quit playing Blackjack altogether.
In Summary, Blackjack Express is nothing more than a polished version of Thorp's ten-count system from the 60's. Ten-counts are simply not enough to beat today's shoe game. Carl knows how to make a good presentation. Unfortunately, the material he presents is seriously flawed. I cannot in good conscience recommend this system in any way. While some of the stories in the book make INTERESTING (even fascinating) reading, it makes for an EXPENSIVE story book.
If you are dedicated to card-counting, there are FAR-better books on the market (by the likes of Ken Uston, Jerry Patterson, Stanford Wong, Arnold Snyder and even Lance Humble, as well as others) that sell for a fraction of the price. They may not come with video tape demonstrations, but such demonstrations are unnecessary if the material is properly written in the first place.
If you are a user of the Blackjack Express system and are consistently winning, I would like to hear from you.
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