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How I Learned to Play Blackjack: The Story of Henry Tamburin

How I Learned to Play Blackjack: The Story of Henry Tamburin
How I Learned to Play Blackjack: The Story of Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin – personal view on learning blackjack

I remember the year 1969 very clearly because that is when Linda and I were living in graduate-student apartments at the University of Maryland. I was working on my PhD in organic chemistry and Linda was supporting us by working an 8‒5 job as a secretary in the Meteorological Department on campus. We didn’t have a lot of money back then, and when we were approached by friends to join them on a trip to Las Vegas, we respectfully said, “No thanks.”

Las Vegas was a popular destination for our friends and they insisted for us to join them for a good time. Even if we didn’t have the money, one of the couple’s parents worked as a travel agent in New Jersey and got us an inexpensive package to Las Vegas. It’s easy to understand that we said yes.

After we arrived in Las Vegas and checked in to the hotel, I decided to “check out the casino.” I had never played blackjack before but I decided to give it a try as I watched a live blackjack game before. It didn’t take me long to lose the meagre bankroll we had taken with us. Even though we were pretty sad about this, something about the game caught my attention and I said to Linda, „When we get home, I will read some books about this game”.

I made good on that promise and ordered two books: Playing Blackjack as a Business by Lawrence Revere and Beat the Dealer by Edward Thorp. As I turned the pages, it hit me why I had lost my money on that first trip to Vegas; I didn’t have any clue about the basic playing strategy and I certainly didn’t know anything about card counting.

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How I Learned to Play Blackjack: The Story of Henry Tamburin

My first task was to learn the basic playing strategy. There weren’t any commercially available strategy cards or software programs back then so I learned the basic strategy by making up flash cards using index cards. On one side I had written the player’s hand along with the dealer’s upcard (e.g., 6-6 vs. 5); on the other side I had the correct strategy for the hand (e.g., split). I spent quite a lot of time memorizing the basic strategy using the flash cards. Linda would shuffle the index cards then show me the side that had had the player’s hand and dealer’s upcard, and I would recite the strategy.

On our next trip to Las Vegas, we played blackjack, and this time we didn’t make any playing mistakes. Linda and I played together during this trip and unlike our first foray to Las Vegas, this time we wound up with a small profit. I had accomplished the first step to becoming a skilful blackjack player.

The next skill that I had to master was card counting. How I learned this skill is another interesting story that I’ll share in my next article on 888 Casino.

Featured on 888 Casino, Henry Tamburin, PhD is an internationally recognized blackjack expert and author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide

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