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 "New Blackjack Method" (NBJ) - Review


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New Blackjack Method (NBJ) - Review



“Clumpers Blackjack”

The objectives of the New Blackjack Method (NBJ)

The fundamental assumption of the New Blackjack Method (NBJ)

How New Blackjack Method (NBJ) is supposed to work

Methodological problems of the New Blackjack Method (NBJ)



“Clumpers Blackjack”

The New Blackjack Method (NBJ) was devised by E. Clifton Davis and published in “The New Blackjack Method (NBJ)” manual in 1991.This method is also known as “clumpers Blackjack”, because the central concept of the method is a “clump” of cards. A “clump” is a sequence of cards belonging to the same chosen category. If the cards are divided into two categories of the low and high cards, then for ex the sequence of 9, 10, 8, K will be a high clump and 2, 3, 4, 2, 6 will be a low clump.

In the evolution of the Blackjack methods, the New Blackjack Method (NBJ) was the reaction to the losing performance of the card counting approach especially against the modern multiple deck games. Since the late 1970s casinos were successfully using a number of countermeasures to thwart all counters’ attempts to beat the game. These measures included increased number of the decks, so-so rules, limitations on the bet spread and a shallow shoe penetration. Shallow penetration by itself can turn any Blackjack game with average rules into a theoretical loser for any card counter.

Usually very limited bankroll of a statistically average card counter was no help either. It could not withstand huge bankroll fluctuations caused by gigantic bet spreads required by a theoretical card counting. Huge bets were made on the positive counts which characterized only the relative densities of high and low cards in the vast mass of the cards in “the rest of the deck”. These counts don’t give any guaranties on the proportion of high and low cards in the next round and even in the next few rounds. That inherent imprecision of card counting often led to the loss of the huge bets resulting in a losing session and a loss of a big portion of a player’s bankroll. Few lost sessions and the whole bankroll of an undercapitalized player was gone kicking a player out of the game for good.

The objectives of the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ)

E. Clifton Davis created his “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) trying to improve Basic Strategy playing decisions a lot better than card counting had been able to do. His idea was not to rely on the information about the excesses or deficits of the high cards still left in the shoe as card counting had done, but to focus on the flow of the cards in the current round. According to E. Clifton Davis [ p. 19 “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ), 1991], the analysis  of the cards distribution in the current round allows a player to make playing decisions on a lot more useful and complete information. That information includes not only a dealer’s up card, but also a hole card and the player’s and dealer’s hit cards. Knowing a dealer’s hole card gives a player an idea about a total value of a dealer’s hand, which is, obviously, a lot more important information for a correct playing decision than just a dealer’s up card. Combining the knowledge of a possible numerical value of a dealer’s hand with the hit cards information would make any method extremely effective. E. Clifton Davis claimed [p.28 “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ), 1991] that his method was able to reach game performance standards by far superior to card counting results. For ex. a hands won ratio was increased from 40% to 52%; double down win ratio – from 58% to 75%; split win ratio – from 42% to 54% and insurance won ratio was as high as 67%.

The fundamental assumption of the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ)

The fundamental assumption of the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) is the assumption of the non-random cards. E. Clifton Davis was a firm believer that in the modern shoe games the cards do not fall randomly, but instead they follow each other in the groups of high and low cards more often than it could be justified by the randomness-based Theory of Probability. Those groups are called clumps. Since Basic Strategy and card counting both have their playing decisions calculated on the basis of random cards, their inefficiency against modern shoe games should be obvious and expected.

E. Clifton Davis tried to turn his assumption into a fact by attempting to prove it mathematically and logically.

E. Clifton Davis’ “mathematical proof” [p.39 “New Blackjack method” (NBJ), 1991] consists of analyzing hypothetical case of the seven players including a dealer playing a 6-deck game and each of them receiving 10-value cards. E. Clifton Davis correctly estimates that probability of such “solid ten” 14 cards long clump to be around one in 29 millions. That low probability means that a full time pro playing 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year will see that kind of clump only once in more than 10 years. E. Clifton Davis claims that he sees these 14-card long “solid ten” clumps “all the time” and he has seen already “more than a thousand”. That frequency drives him to the conclusion that the cards are non-random. Thus, E. Clifton Davis’ “mathematical proof” is not really a proof but a statement about experienced frequency of long clumps. Nobody can check that statement or prove it and you just have to accept it in the act of faith. Few numbers that precede that statement only give an illusion of a mathematical proof. Do you see these 14 10-valuie cards long clumps all the time? After playing for more than 20 years I don’t remember when I saw one.

E. Clifton Davis also tries to prove his assumption of non-random cards logically by explaining how clumps originate and exist in the shoe [p.29, 45 “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ), 1991]. The main process that generates clumps is the way a dealer picks up cards already played. The fact that a dealer first picks up cards from the busted hands first, puts them into a discard tray and only after that picks up high cards from the pat hands and groups them together in one bunch obviously creates clumps… a discard tray. From that point E. Clifton Davis makes a giant leap and states that the clump that exists in a discard tray “will likely survive (in its original size and the cards involved) the shuffle” and continue to exist in the new shoe [p.44 “New Blackjack Method”, 1991]. How likely it is for that to happen? If a high card clump will survive it will have to have at least one small card in front and behind it. From a probability standpoint that will happen less than 15% of the time. All high cards of the clump also must stay together without intermixing with other high cards – that’s also a random event. The final probability of a particular clump from a discard tray to survive the shuffle will be next to zero and, contrary to E. Clifton Davis, the clump will not likely to survive. It might disappear completely or its size (length) will be changed. All that leads us to the important conclusion – no matter what kind of clumps we saw originated in a discard tray or saw in the previous shoe, the new shuffle will make the total number of the clumps, the number of the clumps of the specific size (length) and a size of any particular clump in a new shoe unpredictable random entities. In result, we can never guarantee the length of any particular clump in the shoe and can only make a probability-based prediction.

Thus, E. Clifton Davis fails to prove the fundamental assumption of his “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) that the cards in the shoe games are non-random. But why he needed that assumption? The clumps happen “naturally” in any shoe, which was shuffled randomly. As long as the numbers of “high” cards and “low” cards in the deck are not equal the clumps will be inevitable anyway. E. Clifton Davis understands that and talks about “random” clumps – the clumps of 3 or less cards long, which can be justified by randomness. However, he is not interested in small clumps. He needs an abundance of long clumps to make his method work….at least on paper. The high frequency and a relatively big size (length) of clumps can be justified only by the assumption of non-random distribution of cards.

How the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) is supposed to work

The “New Blackjack Method” has playing and betting strategies. Both of them “are largely based on clumping”. E. Clifton Davis explains that “clumpiness means that low cards follow low cards and high cards follow high cards more often than random math (the math that assumes random distribution of cards) allows” [p.39 “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ), 1991].

Clumping is used by the method to achieve “card reading” ability [p.64 “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ), 1991]. The cards that E. Clifton Davis wants to “read” (predict, anticipate, recognize, expect etc….) are a dealer’s hole card and the hit cards of a dealer and a player.

For ex. a player has a stiff hand with a numerical hand value of 15 versus a dealer’s 10 up card. There are few low cards in front of a dealer’s hole card and a few after it. A player makes a conclusion that he sees a low cards clump going through a hole card. The hole card is read to be a low card and a dealer also has a stiff hand. Instead of hitting as recommended by the Basic Strategy, a player stands thanks to the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) and lets a dealer to bust his stiff.

Suppose, in the same scenario, the cards after a dealer’s hole card are high cards. Low cards preceding a hole card and the high cards following it make a hole card reading inconclusive for the NBJ player. In that case a player looks at the cards preceding his hit card. If those cards are high cards, he reads his hit card to be also a high card, because non-random cards create excessive clumpiness, which means that high cards follow high cards more often than not. Instead of hitting his 15, a player stands to avoid a probable bust by a high card and improves once again his chances and overall expectation of the game.

This example shows in a simplified manner and in a nutshell how the “new Blackjack Method” (NBJ) card reading is supposed to work. It also shows that very often the long clumps of high and low cards will be involved in the card reading situations. From the probability standpoint, the long clumps have very low probabilities of happening. Despite those miniscule probabilities a player needs to mentally extend them further by at least one card in case of a hit card read and two cards for a hole card prediction to make E. Clifton Davis’ card reading possible. That’s where theoretically the assumption of non-randomness comes very helpful and becomes absolutely necessary. If the cards are non-random the existence and high frequency of long clumps of high and low cards needed for the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) card reading ability will not be a question.

Methodological problems of E. Clifton Davis’ “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ)

We have seen already that the fundamental assumption of the non-random cards, which is absolutely necessary for the E. Clifton Davis’ “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) to work, is questionable at best. The “mathematical proof “of it is not really a proof but a statement for you to believe in. The logical proof is not persuasive at all and a closer look at the origination, formation and change of clumps during a dealer’s pick up process and a subsequent shuffle leads to an opposite conclusion.

As the previous example shows, the hole card strategy and the hit card strategy of the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) utilize different card reading (prediction, anticipation, recognition etc…) methods. The hole card strategy wants the same type of cards (low or high) to be on the left and right side of the dealer’s hole card in order to claim the hole card to be a part of low or high cards clump defining the hole card as a low or high card. In case of a hit card reading, the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) relies on the cards on one side only – the cards preceding the hit cards. If the preceding cards are sufficient enough to draw a conclusion about the value (high or low) of the hit card, then the preceding cards should be all that it takes to draw a conclusion about the value of a hole card. Nevertheless, the method requires the knowledge of the following cards also to make a hole card reading (prediction, anticipation, etc…). Thus the method has two different standards for logically absolutely similar problems. That is an obvious sign of the theoretical immaturity and methodological weakness of the method. E. Clifton Davis’ “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) manual is about 115 pages long. There are too many methodological, logical and mathematical problems and self-contradictions and confusions to list them all. The main methodological problem, however, which turns the method into a pure guesswork, is the following one.

Playing strategies, which are based on a hole and hit card prediction  are two parts of the E. Clifton Davis’ “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) playing strategy [p.81 “New Blackjack method” (NBJ), 1991].  They rely on the clump-based hole and hit card reading (prediction, anticipation etc…). According to Davis, the clumps will continue to include a hole or a hit card and the value (high or low) will be assigned to those cards in the process. Davis understands that the continuation of the clump into a hole or hit card is not guaranteed, but he claims that it will happen more often than not. The problem is that E. Clifton Davis and his “New Blackjack Method’ (NBJ) have no idea how often precisely that will happen. Why precision here is an absolute must? Let’s look again at our previous example of a player having a stiff with a hand value of 15. Suppose a dealer’s up card is a 9 and there are low cards on both sides of the hole card. The method assumes that the hole card is a low card and a hole card strategy commands a player to deviate from Basic Strategy and stand instead of hitting. The method assumes that because “that will happen more often than not”. Suppose that will be the case 52% of the time. Since 52% is more than 50% that is obviously “more often than not”. At the same time, is that kind of card reading (prediction) precision enough to deviate from the Basic Strategy? It turns out that it is not, because the required for deviation precision is roughly around 54.84% in our example. Deviating with 52% accuracy and standing will worsen a player’s expectation by about -0.02 in comparison with the Basic Strategy hitting recommendation. The player’s disadvantage will increase by 2% and the player will be losing 2 cents more on the average dollar bet in this situation.

The same requirement of precision applies to the hit card strategy. Suppose a “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) player can not draw a conclusion about a hole card. Then he relies on a hit card reading (prediction, anticipation etc…). He sees that the cards preceding his hit card are high cards. He assumes that the hit card is a high card. He follows hit card strategy and stands with his 15 against 9 up card to avoid a probable bust deviating from Basic Strategy in the process. He makes the hit card assumption for the same “more often than not” reason. Suppose “often” means 64% of the time, which is obviously more often than not. Is it often enough? Not really, because he should be more than roughly 67.4% often in this scenario to deviate from Basic Strategy. Standing with a hit card reading (prediction, anticipation etc…) accuracy of 64% will lower a player’s expectation by -0.04 in comparison with the Basic Strategy hitting decision.


E. Clifton Davis and his “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) are completely ignorant about their hole and hit card strategies reading (predicting) accuracy. They are completely ignorant about the required minimal accuracy of the hole and hit card reading necessary for deviation from Basic Strategy. In result the decisions to deviate from Basic Strategy recommendations, which are presented in the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ)’s playing strategy will be nothing more than wild guesses. Sometimes a player will be correct with his deviations and sometimes he will be wrong. Overall there won’t be any improvement in expectation over Basic Strategy. However, because of an extra mental work required by the method and increased fatigue leading to additional mistakes, the final disadvantage with this method will most likely be worse than that of the Basic Strategy. A player will be better off by playing Basic Strategy.

The theoretical immaturity and methodological weaknesses of the “New Blackjack Method” (NBJ) turned the method into a pure guess work about the hole and hit card reading (prediction) and correct timing for deviation in playing decisions from Basic Strategy. However, E. Clifton Davis should be praised for being innovative and original and attempting (unsuccessfully) an ambitious and radically different from a card counting approach to Blackjack. 

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