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Best of John Grochowski

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The Speed Count

6 September 2005

Blackjack card counters --- those who truly can get an edge on casino games --- are a rare breed. Most who try can't really keep an accurate enough count to make a difference, or lose concentration in a bustling casino, or don't really have enough bankroll to sustain the inevitable losing sessions.

Dr. Henry Tamburin, who for decades has been a very successful counter using the Hi-Lo system, thought there had to be an easier way. He put the problem to his colleague Dan Pronovost. The result was the Speed Count, now taught by Tamburin and the Golden Touch Blackjack crew at seminars across the country.

"The problem is a lot of players have difficulty using accurately a full-blown counting system," Tamburin told the 18 students assembled recently at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont for a Golden Touch seminar. "I went to Dan Pronovost, and said there had to be something to bridge the gap between basic strategy and Hi-Lo, K-O, Red 7s or other counting systems.

"Dan thought about it, and wrote back to me. I read three sentences on something called the Speed Count, and I asked "Where's the rest of it?"

I'd been hearing about the Speed Count from Tamburin and other friends and colleagues for the last two years, and they had been urging me to sit in on a seminar and see how easy it is. I'd heard whispers from other card counters too, suggesting that nothing of value could really be taught start to finish in a two-day seminar.

I had to find out, so I sat in as a student, along with others from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and Morton, Ill., from Dallas and Pittsburgh, from Couer d' Alene, Idaho and Redford, Mich. Experience levels covered the gamut --- one year to 30 years of play, and not quite basic strategy player to Hi-Lo counter.

What I found is that Speed Count is exactly what it is purported to be. It is an entry-level card counting system, an innovative little number with a base that's different from more difficult counts. Players count fewer cards, don't have to make a "true count" adjustment for the number of decks remaining and don't have to vary strategy decisions with the count. There's plenty of time to look around with the casino, chat up the cocktail waitress, ask the dealer about the family and just have fun with the game.

"What really convinced me is when I showed Speed Count to my wife and two of her friends," Tamburin said. "My wife counts cards --- a little. But her friends are slot players, and they found Speed Count easier to learn than basic strategy. They picked it up in 10 minutes, and they're quarter slot players."

That's what the students found when we hit the practice tables, too. Many were keeping accurate count from the get-go. There were refinements to make, learning when to raise and lower bets, talking over playing strategy, when to get out and other points. The two days seemed to go by all too quickly, but when they ended, players had a strategy they can take to casinos.

Tamburin pulled me aside during one break. He'd been at the practice table with the least experienced players. "The beginners are picking it right up," he said. "Fifteen minutes, and they're keeping accurate count."

The seminars aren't cheap. It'll cost $895 to learn the Speed Count, with the next seminars scheduled Sept. 24-25 in Las Vegas and Nov. 12-13 in Tunica, Miss. And they're not for everyone. Someone who already uses a full-blown counting system accurately doesn't need Speed Count. Your percentage edge with Speed Count isn't quite as high as with Hi-Lo, and the risk element is higher because Speed Count will lead players to raise bets in situations where Hi-Lo players would still be making minimum bets.

But for someone who plays a lot of blackjack but has never been able to get past basic strategy, Speed Count seems tailor-made. You can investigate further at www.goldentouchblackjack.com.

* * *

A few words about card counting. It is not a magic bullet. Counting cards does not mean suddenly winning every time you sit down to play. Card counters still lose more hands than they win, just like anyone else.

So why does card counting work? Because counters raise their bets in situations most favorable to players. During times that blackjacks are most likely to be dealt, paying players 3-2 at any game worth playing, card counters have their biggest bets on the tables.

A couple of other benefits to having the big bets out in good counts: In double down situations, we're more likely to get the big cards we need when the count is good. And since the dealer has to hit hands like 15 and 16 and we don't, bad counts, with a lot of low cards remaining, favor the dealer.

But players have to be prepared to lose big sometimes. A counter may start with a $5 minimum bet, but if the count says it's time to bet $40, the counter has to be prepared to make the bet --- and take the loss when it comes.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski