Arnold Snyder has been one of the most prominent voices in the Blackjack world in recent years. Through his quarterly publication, Blackjack Forum, he has helped keep the Blackjack playing public informed of the latest trends in the game. In the spirit of keeping things up to date, Snyder has updated Blackbelt in Blackjack to reflect the conditions that the Blackjack card counter is likely to face in today's casino.
The book is divided into three parts, plus an appendix. The first section, "Earning Your White Belt", covers the basics. The reader learns the background to card counting, the most basic mechanics of playing Blackjack in a casino, basic strategy, the Red Seven count system, bankroll requirements, and reading table conditions. The basic stuff is obligatory, and Snyder dispenses with it quickly. The Red Seven is a reasonable count, and an easy one to pick up, but, frankly, the KO count system by Vancura and Fuchs is better and more complete, so I wouldn't recommend actually learning it. Snyder's bankroll requirements are sound, and his understanding of the importance of table conditions is solid. One of Snyder's greatest virtues as a Blackjack writer is his honesty. He never claims that making money by playing Blackjack is easy, and his honest approach shines throughout this section, and the entire book.
Section two, "Earning Your Green Belt", gets into the meat of the book. Two serious counting systems, the Hi-Lo Lite and Zen counts, are discussed thoroughly. I'm fond of the Hi-Lo Lite, it maximizes power while minimizing the effort required. The Zen Count is more powerful, but I really can't recommend using it. As Snyder acknowledges, it's a compromise between simple and complex, ace neutral and ace weighted. It's an interesting intellectual exercise, but I think one's better off going with one extreme or another. If this isn't clear, I recommend waiting before studying this particular count system. This section also covers true count conversion, betting strategies, not getting noticed, and the dangers of camouflage betting. All of these sections are important and written well.
The third section, perhaps predictably by now, is titled "Earning Your Black Belt". The chapters in this section cover how to survive as a big bettor, team play, shuffle tracking, and special rules. These sections are good, although those interested in shuffle tracking should read the Blackjack Forum series on this topic, and the special rules chapter rather sketchy.
The appendix includes basic strategy tables (good ones), the complete Hi-Lo Lite and Zen strategies, and a bibliography and list of recommended reading. This information is very solid and very useful.
I'd probably be safe in presuming that every serious counter has already read Blackbelt in Blackjack. If not, get the second edition and read it. The first edition was good, the second is better. The information it contains is important. The real question is, should someone who already has the first edition buy the second? The answer is, it depends. Some of this book is new, significantly the Hi-Lo Lite strategy. If this is of interest, definitely pick up the second edition. Also, material has generally been brought up to date. If one hasn't been keeping current with Blackjack Forum or any other source of Blackjack information, the second edition might be rather valuable in this respect. However, if one doesn't use any of the counting systems discussed, and has been keeping current with Blackjack trends over the last decade, one can probably afford to not update their first edition copies.
Blackbelt in Blackjack is an important book in the library of a card counter. The second edition is also a noticeable improvement over the first edition. However, the counter who has been keeping current and doesn't use any of the counting systems discussed within, can probably afford to pass if they already have the first edition.
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