This review is intended not only for people interested in learning more about Precision Blackjack (PBJ), but for people who already own a copy of the system and want to hear another analysis of the it.
Each Blackjack System that I review has some aspect of it which "stretches my being" a little bit during the writing Process. With Precision Blackjack I am confronted with the daunting task of being as objective as I know how to be in my review, considering the fact that I have been a personal friend of the author (Ron DiBenedetto) for a number of years. Ron knows, that I review systems based on their merit, not on any personal thoughts/feelings/emotions I might have regarding the author. I believe you will find my review to be quite accurate.
To get a sense of Ron DiBenedetto's background, one need look no further than the Acknowledgment Page in the front of the PBJ manual. The names are a who's who of Clump-card Blackjack, missing only Dr. Steven Heller. To those versed in Clump-card Blackjack the following names are well known: E. Clifton Davis, Kenny Forbes, Jerry L. Patterson and Eddie Olsen. (The other names on this page do not apply).
DiBenedetto spent a number of years learning Card-clump Blackjack under the tutelage of E. Clifton Davis. Despite any personal feelings I may have about Davis, having him as a Blackjack mentor DOES have its advantages. These advantages are evident in the PBJ manual's content.
Summarily, the Precision Blackjack Manual is well LAID out and well THOUGHT out. If it were THAT perfect throughout, it would get an "A" rating. However, it is nearly impossible to get an "A" rating from me.
Overall, the negatives of this manual concern the manner in which it is written, not so much the material presented itself. These aspects are IMPORTANT however because the Precision Blackjack manual is a student study manual. This places a greater responsibility on the author to insure that the material is easily assimilated.
In my opinion, the PBJ manual is about 25% too long, is too serious in several areas, contains a little too much of the author's ego and often relies on cliche's to communicate its message. Like most Blackjack System manuals, Ron often does not define his terms before they are used. Unlike other manuals however, he does EVENTUALLY define the term, or at least put it in context.
My last major general concern with the manual is that he spends nearly 30 pages in "warm up"
mode. This might not be so bad, except that we are not warned of this in advance. If I was on a
jet airliner that spent as much time taxiing down the runway as Precision Blackjack takes to get
up to speed, I would be worried that we were about to drop into the ocean or river (that is often at
the end of the runway).
Those general comments aside, lets move into the meat of the manual itself.
In chapter 1, Ron spends some time giving us an overview of the casino industry. While I feel that this chapter might work better later in the manual, it DOES represent a good warmup to the subject of Clump-card Blackjack, if you are not in a hurry. In nearly 8 pages Ron sets the stage for casino play which will come after you have sufficiently mastered the PBJ approach.
Chapter 2 ("Developmental Stages of Precision Blackjack") spends 9 pages detailing other Blackjack strategies that in some way relate to or contrast with PBJ (specific. Basic Strategy, Thorp-style Card-counting, Target and NBJ). While this information is not really crucial, it does set the stage for chapter 3. It is most relevant to those of us that are already familiar with these systems.
Chapter 3 (Precision Blackjack Evolves) is an attempt at a synopsis of PBJ. In my opinion it introduces as much confusion as it attempts to resolve. In future revisions of this manual, in my opinion , this chapter should either be rewritten or quietly edited out. However, the NEXT part of this chapter ("Blackjack Variables") is EXCELLENT. In this section Ron describes the different events (variables) that can affect the quality of a particular Blackjack table/game. PBJ Students should review this section periodically.
Chapter 4 (The Fundamentals) presents what DiBenedetto calls A/the Fundamental Strategy. Ron's Fundamental Strategy bears a striking resemblance to my unreleased Basic Strategy II, except there is no way Ron could have been aware of BS II at the time the PBJ manual was written. Fundamental Strategy recognizes that in a clumped-card Blackjack game, Basic Strategy is way off base and dangerous to rely on, in terms of card-play. A major flaw in Fundamental Strategy however, is the almost non-existent pair-splitting plays.
Fundamental Strategy attempts to correct this problem in a way analogous to Basic Strategy II. When it is CLEAR to you that today's shoe games are NOT random, this is not difficult to accomplish. If DiBenedetto were to release JUST THIS STRATEGY alone, with a reasonable betting system, he might well have the "tourist-type" player playing almost dead-even with the house, instead of the nearly -5% (FIVE) that conventional Basic Strategy is up against in today's shoe games.
Chapter 5 (PBJ Basics) is where it all begins to happen. This chapter is loaded with information useful to the novice Clump-tracker. On pages 55-57 Ron introduces a topic that has had very little examination: the number of players in the game. This is put forth under a section entitled "The Trump Plaza Disaster". Ron describes how a "stable table" he was observing can go to hell when the player number changes. After the shuffle (it was a no-mid-shoe-entry game) Ron and his teammates joined the play. A quote from this section are worth looking at:
Finally, I got into the game and this "dream come true" turned into a nightmare! To make a long story short, my first four hands were two card stiffs and the dealer started to show high upcards. I lost all four hands and the game had completely broken down for me and all the other players at the table. I felt sick and had to drop out of the game. It was gone and I had ruined it with my entry.
It was evident that my entry was the key to breaking up the game. The casino should have paid me for it, especially since the other players [betting stacks of green and black] remained in the game and gave back a considerable portion of their winnings...... In fact, after I dropped out of the game they continued to wager large bets and lost them.
Rounding out chapter5 is a short synopsis of Target (Pp. 59-62). Later on, Ron details more Target-like influences to the game.
Chapter 6 (Flexible Strategy) is the MEAT of the PBJ card-play system. PBJ presents probably the best overall writeup on "card-reading" (predicting hitcards and holecards) that I have read to date. Unfortunately, the chapter contains a myriad of undefined terms. While I found the chapter extremely useful, a novice student may come away somewhat confused. Remedy the term-definition problem and this will be THE best chapter on card-reading in all of Clump-card blackjack. This chapter also lacks more advanced data regarding card-reading which is found in Davis' World Class Blackjack (WCB) manual. Otherwise, this chapter is real fine.
Chapter 6 is LOADED with diagrams, examining various typical card-reading scenarios found in everyday play. It is ABOUT TIME somebody spent a considerable of amount of attention to DIAGRAMing card-flows and card-reading, as they are the heart and soul of ALL Clump-tracking systems. One point should be noted about this section: Scenario #6 (P. 92) incorrectly labels a high-card density as low and Scenario #7 (P. 95) are incorrectly labels a clump of neutral cards as high. Otherwise, this chapter is excellent.
Chapter 7 (Advanced Card Play) costs the PBJ a point in my evaluation grade. Beginning on P. 111 the chapter is littered with slight inaccuracies. Advanced play is often coupled with advanced (i.e. multi-unit) betting. By the time we are at the level of advanced play, even slight errors in our understanding can be quite costly. If you currently own a copy of the manual, contact me and I will be happy to discuss with you the material I consider to be incomplete.
Chapter 8 (Precision Blackjack Table Factors) is short and sweet. It is essentially an extension course for the Target discussion earlier in the manual.
Chapter 9 ((PBJ) It's in the "Application) opens Part 3 of the manual which switches the study focus from card-play to the other half of the game: betting. In Chapter 9, Ron opens with a discussion on the "(3) chip factor". This is a useful and interesting variation on Jerry Patterson's 3-stack method. This chapter gets a bit complex, so read it slowly and carefully. The chapter is proof that Money Management is not an insignificant topic.
Chapter 10 (Mode Betting) opens with a good overview on betting schemes. This allows the author to define his terms in advance of their use in subsequent chapters. The PBJ manual would be even more effective would he do the same for other sections of the book.
In this chapter, the deployment of what Ron calls the "chisel ploy", in my mind, for the first time, brings negative progression betting under control. Like NBJ before it, PBJ limits the use of negative-progression methods to a level of 3-deep. However unlike NBJ, this approach is a little more structured, and the method seems to represent less-risk to the player.
While chapter 10 is loaded with useful data, there are as many bet variations described therein as there are different card-counting systems in Lawrence Revere's book. While I was eventually able to wade thru this chapter, it was a bit tough-going in spots. When I first read the manual several years ago, I thought the myriad of repetitive betting charts in this chapter were over-redundant. Today, I realize that the charts are a necessity to really understand the myriad of betting concepts being handed the reader. Besides, it makes the manual fatter and look more impressive in your gambling bookshelf.
Chapter 11 (PBJ Rules) makes up for the immense complexity of Chapter 10. I would actually recommend alternating between the two chapters. This chapter is essentially a set of summary-rules, as they apply to betting.
Chapter 12 (Money Management) is one of the most thorough writeups I have ever seen on the subject of Money Management. Conventional players tend to downgrade the idea of money management. In and of itself, it is worthless. However, in combination with an already winning system, it is an absolute necessity. One warning: like chapter 10, this chapter is a bit complex - study it slowly and carefully.
Chapter 13 (Power Tactics) opens part 4 of the PBJ manual. Unlike NBJ (wherein the 1st-base method is presented early on) and Blackjack 101 (wherein 1st-base play is the heart of the method), PBJ presents 1st-base as a more advanced form of play. In my mind, this is as it should be. In the past, too many would-be Clump-trackers have rushed into the casino armed with a modicum of 1st-base knowledge. If they win the initial sessions, it is usually due to luck. Untrained in the detection of a deteriorating game or a "mirage table", they often get killed and don't know what hit them.
In addition to 1st-base play, Ron goes into considerable detail on spot-betting (playing any spot at the table) and playing heads-up with the dealer. It is in this area where I think Ron has found himself able to stand on the shoulders of his mentors. His answer to this sort of play sounds incredibly WONderful, if one is practiced enough to actually use this approach in live play.
The section in this chapter on Team Play represents a good overview on the subject. Unfortunately, that is it. As a reader, I was left wanting, feeling that somehow the author knows more than he is telling us, and purposely holding-back. Oh well, like with E.C. Davis, this style of writing leaves room for a sequel (PBJ II? - now playing at a Blackjack bookstore near you).
Chapter 13 winds up with a section on card-counting and how it can be utilized with PBJ. To the surprise of many card-counters, Clump-trackers do not despise card-card counting, in today's shoe games we simply find that counting alone is not enough anymore. This section introduces the reader to the "PBJ Count".
With Part 5, the major focus of the PBJ Manual winds to a close.
Chapter 14 (Expert Player Section) presents a number of betting enhancements. This stuff gets rather tricky so study it carefully or you may end up looking like that guy with his hair standing on end in the movie "Eraser Head".
Part 6 wraps up the manual and consists of what I would call "mini chapters".
Chapter 15 (Documentation) is loaded with potential. With only 2 pages however, it never moves beyond that stage. While Ron correctly introduces the importance of table documentation, we are given little insight into this, other than a list of 9 things we should document with every table. This chapter would really be worth something if he had published a chart or two that we can use to put this documentation into effect. An example of such a form (although it relates to casino evaluation and not table evaluation) is the casino report form elsewhere on this website.
Chapter 16 (Trip Plan) and Chapter 17 (Home Practice) suffer the same fate as Chapter 15. The section entitled "our homework" in Chapter 17 offers a brief list of items that should be our focus of study when learning the PBJ method. These items are easily studied using the Boris Casino Blackjack Simulation Software. With Boris, you can replay a shoe (or set of shoes) allowing you to test-drive each of these study topics.
What PBJ lacks in card-play ability, it attempts to make up for with aggressive betting strategies. If you combine the card-play understanding of WCB with PBJ, I believe you will have an incredible Blackjack approach. However, it will require a LOT of drilling and practice.
I have given the Precision Blackjack (PBJ) manual a rating of B, because of its many problems (reported in this review) and because it offers no audio or video tapes on the subject. Without such aids, I feel the price of the manual to be somewhat expensive. Then again, a green or black chip player should be able to win the cost of the manual in one good playing session. So, the idea of "expensive" may be a relative term.
Overall, I highly recommend the PBJ manual to people of virtually any play-level. However, as I have indicated throughout this review, the manual should be studied slowly and carefully. If you find yourself getting lost, stop, back up a page or two and come forward again; more than likely you have gone by a term or concept that was not well-defined. Re-read the section carefully until you get it. If you DON'T understand it, then get on the telephone to Ron DiBenedetto or fire-off an e-mail asking for assistance. In my experience Ron DiBenedetto is quite willing to assist his students with their study difficulties.
I am left wondering when Ron is going to release further material on the subject of PBJ, or AT LEAST offer seminars on the subject.
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