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Product Review: Statistical Blackjack Analyzer 5.0.5
Although this program has been available for several years now, I just recently purchased a copy and am sorry that I took so long to do it. Of course, at a price of $149.00 it's not for everyone, but if you are in the "Blackjack Fanatic" category of life, at least consider making the investment. I have never claimed to be any kind of computer guru and I'll be the first to admit that I don't know how to work about half the features you'll find in this software. But the help section is extensive and easy to understand, so it's just a matter of time before I'll be extracting everything SBA 5.0.5 has to offer. And there's no doubt that I'll be a better Blackjack player as a result.
This is not a "practice" tool that will teach you how to count the cards or play your hand properly, but a super-fast Blackjack-playing machine that can pump out 100,000,000 hands of play, keep track of all the relevant statistics and compile a report that allows you to draw a lot of very helpful conclusions, all in under five minutes! I use it a lot to help our readers who have questions about the Blackjack games they find in local casinos. For example, this recently came in from "Cindy":
I had a question about single deck play in downtown Vegas. I've been playing every weekend for the past few months with positive results. I don't use a graduated betting method when the TC turns positive. Instead, I bet 1 unit for +1 or below, and 3 units for a TC above +1. Although this isn't the most efficient use of my bankroll, I never get any attention from the pit crew, and I haven't noticed any preferential shuffles. I bet in the $5.00 to 15.00 range on a $2,500 bankroll. Do you think I don't get any heat because the bets are too small for the casinos to sweat, or do I simply not have an advantage using just 2 bet sizes? The rules are standard for SD, and I don't play if there are 3 or more players at the table. I typically get about 50% penetration, and I use Basic Strategy with the hi/lo count.
Using that information, I ran a sim for a typical "downtown" single-deck game, which showed she's operating with a long-term expectation of earning about 3.5 cents per hand. That's obviously not very big, but this activity is basically a form of entertainment for Cindy and how many people have a hobby that allows them to make a few bucks? But if Cindy decides to get more serious about her "hobby", what can she do to improve her edge? Since she may not be able to expand her bet spread beyond 1 to 3, nor find deeper penetration, Cindy will have to rely only upon factors that are under her control, but she does have some options. There are several, such as using a different counting system, and/or varying the play of the hand according to the count, (like taking insurance if the count is over 1.5). The beauty of Statistical Blackjack Analyzer is that all of those options may be programmed into it and another sim can be quickly run in order to provide a basis for comparison. If Cindy was considering using the Hi-Opt 1 count with a side-count of Aces (or without a side-count of Aces), a new sim could show if it's worth the effort to switch. (I did that. It's not worth it.)
I guess the best way to describe this process is that SBA allows you to "optimize" your game. You may have no choice about the game you play, but you might have some options on how you play it and SBA can show you which options return the most for your time and effort. In other words, SBA shows you how to get the most out of what you have, both in terms of your own skills and the game available to you.
Now understand that SBA is basically a computer and, while its designers have programmed in a lot of "real-world" conditions, it's still going to play a game better than you and me. So, while a sim may show that an edge over the casino of 1.63% is possible, the reality is that you won't do that well. I think one can expect to realize about 75% of the gains shown by SBA, but that will vary according to the specific game and the person playing it. To me, SBA's real value lies in its ability to provide comparisons. If you're winning at a rate of 1.5%, a few sims on SBA may show you how to raise that a bit and if you play for any kind of stakes at all, that would pay off the $159 investment pretty quickly. I got my copy through the catalog at Stanford Wong's site, www.bj21.com/ but it's also available at other online retailers and a trial version is available.
Earlier, I said this was for the "fanatics", but it's really for any serious Blackjack player and I highly recommend it. I just hope that someday I'll find the time to learn how to use all of it.
See you here next time.