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Response to Michael Dalton

 Posted by Arnold Snyder on 9 February 2005, at 6:23 p.m., in response to Re: Snyder's Critique of BJAP, posted by Michael Dalton on 6 February 2005, at 9:11 p.m.
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> As I have indicated before, only time will tell whether your critique is fully justified. History has a way of straightening out the facts, especially if they relate to science or math. I can not argue with the math behind your critique but I would bet your analysis won't be the last we hear on this subject.

 

I suggest you read the analyses by ETFan and Kim Lee (on my Web site), which confirm my math. Also read Zenfighter’s analysis at AP.com, as he agrees 100% with the error I found in McDowell’s math. But the only person who has shown the “correct” math for McDowell’s methods is Radar O’Reilly, and Radar’s approach has been confirmed (on my site) by S.Yama. Then read my response to Zenfighter (here on your site), which points out the few errors that Zenfighter made.

 

> However, I can comment (and argue if you wish) with what I believe were your real motives behind a very vindictive attack on a book and its author.

 
There are statements that you have made in your review and follow ups that make me believe you are not completely being honest regarding your relationship to the author and the plans you "originally" had to publish this information. Need I go further? Or do I have this wrong? From information I have you lied about your relationship with McDowell and what you privately told him about his Ace prediction strategies.
 

You have this wrong.

 

McDowell’s first “book” on ace location, written in 1998, is titled “Professor Edward Thorp’s Unpublished Blackjack Manuscript,” and states on the cover, “This book reveals the incredible secret which Ed Thorp knew but didn’t tell.” In this spiral-bound 35-page book, McDowell seems to believe that he invented ace location strategies when he discovered an unknown paper on non-random shuffles written by Thorp in 1976, and a similar technical paper authored by Richard Epstein in 1964. Nowhere in this first version of his book does he acknowledge that professional players and teams have been using these strategies for about two decades at the time his 1998 “book” was written. He simply claims to have invented the method he proposes in this book, in which he asserts the player will get an advantage of 12% to 18%. He claims to have made a fortune using the techniques he describes, which includes his “Ploughback” and “Pyramid” betting strategies, with which he claims a player will double his bankroll every 4 days, and turn a 500-unit bank into 35,000 units in 28 days. McDowell claims that this is what he did.

 

At the time this book came to me (as McDowell wanted to know if I wanted to sell it through my catalog), I had already acted as an expert witness in the Hyland Windsor trial four years earlier, where I had to describe and explain ace location strategies to the court, and I had also worked on the mathematical analysis of such strategies with Al Francesco’s ace location team. In fact, Al trained me in the techniques his teams used. McDowell’s book was, in fact, nonsense. He did not understand the basic math of blackjack. He did not even address such topics as false keys or broken sequences, and I informed him of this. I also informed him that I had not seen shuffles as simple as those he described in his book in many years. He told me that he had only used the techniques he described in very simple shuffles that existed many years earlier in European casinos. He did not know what false keys or broken sequences were (an impossibility for anyone who ever attempted to use such strategies in real-world casinos), and he asked me if I would help him with the math. I told him I had no desire to co-write the book with him, but that if he ever got it right, to submit it to me again for review. A new version was never submitted to me. I strongly doubted that he had ever sequenced aces in casinos, or if he had done so, it had been as a “spotter” for some team that never described anything to him at all about the math, the betting requirements, the shuffles, or the practical applications beyond looking for key cards. His first “book,” in my opinion, was just another get-rich-quick scheme. You can probably guess my opinion of any author who tells players that they can turn 500 units into 35,000 units in 28 days with an “easy” system that has an advantage of 12-18%.

 

Furthermore, when I first contacted McDowell on January 7 of this year (then again on January 10 and January 13), via email, after seeing a copy of his new Blackjack Ace Prediction, and telling him that I could not believe that he had ever attempted to use such techniques in the shuffles he described, he acknowledged to me that he never had attempted to predict aces in such games. But when I told him that his methods would not work, that the shuffles he describes do not work the way he analyzes them, and that players were going to a lose of lot money thinking they could beat casinos with his techniques, he became irate with me, implying that if there were any errors in his book, it was my fault. He stated that he based his method “100%” on what I had written about ace location in my Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook. In acknowledging that he never actually used the methods he describes in his book in real-world casinos, he defends himself by stating that he “did the best he could” in attempting to create a system “with the resources he had available to him.”

 

He showed no concern whatsoever with players who might lose money using his system. I find this unconscionable. There are real-world casinos out there, so why didn’t he go out and try his methods? Isn’t it a little weird to write a book telling other people that they can get a 4% advantage, implying that you have made a fortune yourself with the techniques you describe, when you’re just theorizing based on “the resources you have available?”

 

Need I go further?

 

I probably made a mistake in not telling McDowell back in 1998 to just give it up. We all make mistakes. Mine was in encouraging him to keep trying. I never expected he’d come up with a book that would fool you, Don Schlesinger, Steve Forte, and Ed Thorp, fer chrissake!

 

> Yes, I will agree that their are errors in the book. The author and publisher (me) have both presented this material in good faith and with honest intention. When errors were discovered an errata sheet was published. When a critical review was published (yours) a comment and link was provided to the information.

 
> You claim no mention of an errata was in the book. Well, it's right there on the copyright page! What is most appalling to me is the possibility that you were well aware of the errata before your review but ignored it to produce the most damning of critiques. I have been told by others, including McDowell, that you indeed knew of the errata sheet before you wrote your review.
 
> I cannot help but think that you are on a jealous rampage to silence this information-- information that you hoped to publish some day.
 

Please read my review of the Errata sheet information. The Errata sheet contains the same fundamental error as the error in the book, except that McDowell’s “corrected” method provides an even smaller advantage to the player than the numbers he provides on page 114 of his book.

 

The same error on page 114 is acknowledged by Zenfighter, and his analysis shows the same player edge that I showed on a predicted Ace, 0.45%, not the 4.2% McDowell claims. You should alert Zenfighter to the Errata sheet, which he has obviously not seen, as he also uses the formula from page 114, not the Errata sheet version. I guarantee you that if he uses the Errata sheet formula he will also determine, as I have, that even that 0.45% advantage does not exist. Assuming my intention was simply “to produce the most damning of critiques,” why would I have ignored the Errata sheet since the “corrected” method produces no edge whatsoever, whereas the page 114 formula does give the player a tiny advantage?

 

I do see that on the copyright page of the book, there is a statement that says: “Visit our web site at www.BJRnet.com to order copies of this book and for possible updates, errata and to participate in our message forums.” My apologies for not reading the fine print on the copyright page, where I also missed the ISBN number and the Library of Congress catalog number for the book, the “All Rights Reserved” notice, etc. I do not generally read this page in the front of books. Had I noticed it, believe me I would have stated that I saw it because I do hate making errors, and I would have preferred to just analyze the Errata sheet data, since it provides an even weaker system than the p. 114 formula. Had I known of the Errata sheet error, I absolutely would have addressed it, as the error is even more glaring than the error in the book. McDowell mentioned an Errata sheet to me in an email, and I looked at the Errata sheet, but saw no correction to the fundamental error in math I had discovered. I saw some different numbers but they did not correct the problem I was addressing. My apologies for not realizing that in the Errata sheet he had made the problem even worse.

 

> I believe the sole purpose of your review was to discredit the author and to prevent people from attempting or even considering the idea that ace prediction works. Can we expect a book from you on this subject any time soon?

 

I have presented articles in Blackjack Forum from as far back as 1995 describing the techniques of Ace prediction. I interviewed two of Tommy Hyland’s team players, and Tommy himself, on this subject in Blackjack Forum, and I wrote about it as a valid strategy not only in Blackjack Forum but in my Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook. I will never write a book on this subject because the techniques are simply not accessible to average players. If you read my critique of Zenfighter’s analysis, you will see that it is necessary for a team of ace trackers to take over a table in order to effectively apply the strategy. Players on “normal” bankrolls cannot do this. Even then, the casinos got a hold of Tommy Hyland’s team manual ten years ago, have widely distributed the information within the industry, and it is nearly impossible to get away with ace location strategies in US casinos any more. If you tell players the facts about this strategy, the actual bankroll requirements and the fact that you cannot just sit down at a table with three or four other players and use these techniques profitably, there would be very little market for such a book.

 

> There is no doubt that McDowell's contribution has forced this field of blackjack 'out of the closet'. McDowell should be applauded for his effort for authoring the "first" and "only" book on the subject -- and thus, the "best" book on the subject! McDowell's Blackjack Ace Prediction is a fantastic read and deserving of respect -- and, of course, a civilized critical analysis.

 

I have a book purchased used at the Gamblers Book Shop about ten years ago, titled Winning with the Stars: an Astrologer’s Guide to Casino Gambling. I believe this is also the “first” and “only” book on this subject, and thus the “best” book. Is anyone interested?

 

I have attempted to provide “a civilized critical analysis” of McDowell’s book, and the first honest and accurate analysis. All the other “experts” just stuck their names on it without even reading it. As soon as my critique appeared, there were accusations that I was not providing an honest analysis, but simply trying to discredit Don Schlesinger (one of the endorsers). That was absurd. In the same breath that I was criticizing Don, I was also criticizing Ed Thorp and Steve Forte. I have great respect for all of their contributions to this field, Michael, and I realize that you also are attempting to provide players with valid systems and methods.

 

But look at the response. Steve Forte has already posted a retraction of his endorsement of this book, and acknowledges that he never read it. Same goes for Bill Zender and Michael Barnett. Yet, you continue to use their endorsements on your Web site. You also know that Ed Thorp has instructed you to pull his endorsement of the book, as he acknowledges that he has not read it. Yet, I still see his endorsement on your “Reviews” page.

 

Please read my response to Zenfighter’s analysis, which finds the same major error in McDowell’s math that I found. You can’t keep telling players that this is a workable method for beating casinos. It’s simply an attempt to figure out ace location, and a failed attempt. I think a lot of players would pay $35 for a book that contains a system that would give them a 4% edge over the house. How much would they pay for a collection of academic studies that are misinterpreted by the author?

 


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