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Book Review: How to Play Blackjack by Don Schlesinger and Roger Rapoport

The first piece of luck I had in Las Vegas was finding a book about blackjack in the library. It was How to Play Blackjack by Don Schlesinger and Roger Rapoport. That was back in 1967 when I was beginning to learn how to play the game properly. The book became my bible for learning proper blackjack strategy, card counting and betting strategies. Over the years, I’ve owned several different editions of How to Play Blackjack, but it’s now out-of-print. And when I needed another copy for my collection to have something available that can be read on my Kindle, the used bookstores were all sold out.

The reason that I’m writing this blog entry is to give my opinion on the book. In researching the topic, I learned that a kindle version of How to Play Blackjack had just been published again in March 2014. Although it’s probably intended primarily for students learning a basic course at school or blackjack novices, there are still some people like me who might enjoy having this book available for reading on their Kindle. If you’re one of my friends, I’m going to pass on the link to Amazon so that you can buy this book if you’d like: How to Play Blackjack.

My experience with Don Schlesinger’s classic blackjack textbook is that it’s easy to read through for players who already have a good understanding of the game. For beginners, though, it’s probably best to get an introductory book on basic blackjack strategy without card counting first so you can understand how to play properly before studying the advanced component.

Below is a quick review that I wrote about How to Play Blackjack in my collection:

Advanced Casino Blackjack, by Don Schlesinger and Roger Rapoport: (1968) The first edition of this book was published in 1968. I found it at a public library when I began my blackjack career as a student who needed to understand basic strategy. I have since purchased three different editions of the book. The latest one that is now out-of-print was published in 2001.

The contents of this classic blackjack textbook include a history of the game, basic strategy and card counting theory, betting systems (including Kelly Criterion), rules variations for playing casino blackjack and progressive jackpots on the Internet. The book is written clearly to be understood by anyone who has a basic understanding of the game. For more advanced players who already know how to play blackjack, it can serve as an interesting read and a reference book for strategy charts and rules variations.

How to Play Blackjack was also helpful in teaching me about the mathematics behind card counting systems. It wasn’t my first book on that topic – Front Line Lessons in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder was the one that convinced me to make a serious study of blackjack. But I found How to Play Blackjack more helpful because it went into greater detail about what card counting systems are, how they work and how they’re detected by casino surveillance.

How to Play Blackjack contains two chapters that explain different approaches to card counting. The first chapter by Don Schlesinger explains in simple terms how card counting cards works, using the Hi-Lo system as an example. The second chapter by Roger Rapoport gets into more detail about a strategy called Red 7 that he developed for single-deck games. It’s based on the +1 count that Hi-Lo uses, but it has a zero base instead of +2. I’ve heard that Red 7 is not very popular because it’s more cumbersome to use than the basic Hi-Lo system.

Basic strategy charts and card counting charts are provided so you can print them out for studying at home. Also included is a chart on how to bet with the Plus-Minus Count, which isn’t particularly useful because I never liked betting systems anyway.

One interesting thing about this book is the chapter on casino rules variations, which details slightly different rules found in some places. The most notable one to me is a rule variation called late surrender that was apparently used in early versions of Blackjack.

I’ve gone through so many books by now about blackjack strategy that it’s hard to pick out one as my favourite. But even though I might not use all of the information in this book, I still think it’s an important resource that shouldn’t be forgotten. For those interested in learning about strategy and card counting, this is a good starting point for beginners. Advanced players can also read through it to refresh their memories or learn about rules and betting systems.

This book will teach you how to play blackjack. If you are looking for strategies to win, I recommend taking a look at “Play to Win at Blackjack” by Arnold Snyder. Snyder wrote this book after he visited casinos all over the country, including in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and even smaller locales such as those in southern California.

I can also recommend our best-rated blackjack strategy book, “Step up to Blackjack” by Arnold Snyder. This book was first published in 1982 and focused entirely on playing two decks at once. With updated material and an expanded focus, this new edition helps players build their card-counting systems without using sophisticated computer programs or having mathematical expertise.