As promised, at the end of this article you will find the questions with answers to the challenging 21-question test given to the elite blackjack pros at the 2019 Blackjack Ball. Give yourself one point for each correct answer. (If you got 15 or more correct, you did better than all the blackjack pros that took the test.) 

(Note: Several active players listed below used pseudonyms to protect their identity.)

Out of a possible 21 correct answers, the players with the most correct answers were:

•    Andy Bloch (14)
•    Big Player (13)
•    Gemlo (13)
•    Arnold Snyder  (12)
•    Tony S (12)
•    John B (12) 
•    Robert Nersesian  (12)

Because four players tied for fourth place, a tie-breaker question was implemented to eliminate two of them. (Only five can advance to the next round of the competition.)
The tie-breaker question was:
“Name a casino that used to be in the Las Vegas area, but isn’t here anymore.”

The four contestants kept naming casinos and were disqualified if they either couldn’t come up with a name of a casino, or repeated the name of a casino, or named an incorrect casino. The two contestants that were eliminated as a result of the tie-breaker were Gemlo and Arnold Snyder. This left five finalists who advanced to Round One of the table competition. (This was conducted on a blackjack table with Munchkin dealing the cards.) The five finalists were:
•    Andy Bloch
•    Big Player
•    Tony S
•    Gemlo 
•    Robert Nersesian

ROUND #1

The five finalists were given 10 seconds to estimate a stack of cards that Munchkin had placed in a discard tray, and then write their estimate on a piece of paper. The player that was furthest from the correct number of cards in the stack was eliminated. There were 166 cards in the stack; Big Player estimated 196, which was the furthest, and he was eliminated. 

ROUND #2

Four finalists were left: Andy Bloch, Tony S, Gemlo, and Robert Nersesian. They were each given a single-deck of cards to cut with a cut card, and they had to cut at least 10 cards.  There was a six of spades on the bottom of each deck. After they cut, they had to state how many hands Munchkin should deal so the 6 of spades landed face down in dealer’s hand. If one finalist cut the six of spades to the dealer’s hand, that is a perfect score.  Whoever is closest wins. If they tie, they cut again. Andy Bloch cut the 6 of clubs furthest away and was eliminated. 

ROUND #3

James Grosjean constructed a board that had 12 one-inch squares that were cut from the center of all twelve picture cards (see photo). Each player had 90 seconds to determine the suit and rank of each square.  Points were given for the correct rank and suit. Gemlo had the lowest point total and was eliminated. 

ROUND #4

At this junction, there were two finalists left: Robert Nersesian (an attorney for advantage players) and professional blackjack and poker player Tony S.  Munchkin placed a shuffled, double-deck of playing cards in front of each contestant and randomly removed three cards from each double-deck.  Each finalist had to state what counting system he was going to use to count down his decks. On Munchkin’s go, each contestant counted his decks as rapidly as possible and then slammed them face down on the layout. The player who was the slowest at counting down his decks had to first state what the three cards were that Munchkin had removed (a high card, low card, or neutral card). As expected, Nersesian was the slowest at counting down his decks, therefore, he went first, and he incorrectly identified what his three unseen cards were, and was therefore, eliminated, leaving Tony S as the winner of this year’s “The World’s Greatest Blackjack Player” competition. (Note: Nersesian miscounted his decks, which made it impossible for him to correctly identify what the three unseen cards were. Tony S, meanwhile, had rapidly counted his double decks twice before Nersesian finished doing it once, and correctly stated what his three unseen cards were, even though he didn’t have to.) 

TONY S BACKGROUND

After Tony won the competition at the Blackjack Ball, I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with him. Tony was attending MIT in the mid-1990s, and while walking the halls of the academic building, he spotted a poster that was recruiting students for a part-time summer job playing blackjack. He signed up, learned card-counting, and had a profitable summer playing on a card-counting team, albeit for low stakes ($50 units). Afterwards, he joined one of the main MIT blackjack teams that were playing for higher stakes. After a few years with the MIT team, Tony joined the “Greeks” team. He was living in Lake Tahoe at the time but the team was not based there; therefore, he traveled all over the country playing with them. Besides playing blackjack professionally, he also played poker and won $330,000 in the main event of the World Series of Poker.  Tony worked on Wall Street for nine months, and since then, his sole source of income has been from his blackjack and poker winnings. He currently enjoys skiing, training players on the nuances of team blackjack play,and investing in blackjack teams, the stock market, and a rental (business) property in San Francisco.

As promised, below are the 21 test questions with answers. (So, how many did you get correct?)

2019 BLACKJACK BALL: TEST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

(Max Rubin’s answers are in red type below each question. Thank you again, Max, for allowing me to publish the questions and answers. )
.
1. True or False? Edmond Hoyle was born in 1672, lived 96 years and never wrote about poker, yet he is in the Poker Hall of Fame. 
True. Although Hoyle never played nor wrote about poker as it existed in the past 75 years, he is in the Poker Hall of Fame. He didn’t even coin the phrase, “According to Hoyle,” which is widely attributed to another gambling writer.

2. For you Vegas history and golf buffs, which of these world famous hotel casinos NEVER had their own golf course adjacent to, or within a few hundred feet of, their hotel/casino? This question does not include miniature golf courses.  
a.    Tropicana
b.    Dunes
c.    Aladdin
d.    Desert Inn
e.    Hacienda
f.    All of the above hotels/casinos once featured a golf course as part of their amenities.  

Almost everybody knows the Trop, Dunes, and DI had golf courses right outside their rooms. And one joint (the Aladdin) had a lighted par-three course right behind the casino in the ’60s and early ’70s. The only casino on our list that didn’t have a golf course was the Hacienda (answer e).   

3. You’re betting $100 on the pass line with max odds of 3-4-5. You roll a number, take max odds, and then hit that number. How much did you get paid in total? 

You got paid $100 for your flat bet, and another $600 for your odds bet, whether you backed up your bet with $300 on the 4/10, $400 on the 5/9 or $500 on the 6/8, for a total win of $700. 

4. True or False?  Although you can find them in almost every casino except Barona, and they even outnumber the number of full-pay 21 games, pitch or shoe, on the Las Vegas Strip, the Current Blackjack News now considers 6/5 as just another of many “carnival games,” and no longer even bothers to include them in its extensive list of blackjack games in U.S. and Canadian casinos.     

True. This one is beyond strange but there are now so many 6/5’s across the land, CBJN doesn’t even bother to list them as blackjack games at all. 

5. What team has won the most NCAA football titles? 
a)    Harvard
b)    Yale
c)    Notre Dame
d)    Ohio State
e)    Alabama
f)    None of the above

Founded in 1910 by Teddy Roosevelt, and others, to address the alarming number of deaths on the football field, Alabama is the number two leader among championship winners with 11. The most successful NCAA football program of all time belongs to the Yale Bulldogs, with 18 NCAA football championships, so the answer to #5 is (b) 

6. The former owner (Mr. Riklis) of the Riviera Hotel and Casino recently passed at age 95. He had a beautiful, and sort of talented, wife who was a singer and actress. In 1981, she won the Golden Globe Award as “New Star of the Year,” for her role in the movie “Butterfly,” which Mr. Riklis personally financed.  She also “won” the “Razzy Award” for “Worst Actress of the Year” for the same film. Some claimed that Mr. R. gaffed the votes by hosting comped RFB press junkets for the Golden Globe voters at his hotel on the Strip. Name his multi-untalented wife, who has never stopped attempting to be a movie and recording star, and who still has regular performances at Piero’s (Italian Cuisine) on Convention Center Drive. (Mrs. Riklis does not count.) 

Her name is Pia Zadora and she still performs regularly at Piero’s (Italian Cuisine) on Convention Center Drive.  

7. True or False? The Excalibur has dozens of live blackjack games. None of them pay 3/2 on blackjacks. 

This one’s close but the Excalibur now has a grand total of two 8-deck, 0.66 (house edge), full-pay blackjack games. And even those are closed when it’s not busy, which is kinda hard to tell. So, the answer to #7 is False; the Excalibur does have two full-pay games.  

8. This question comes from James Grosjean. Which of the following is NOT a legal way for a teenager to gamble in North America?
a)    Legally betting real money on Bingo at the age of 16. 
b)    Horse betting over the internet at the age of 18.  
c)    Playing blackjack at certain casinos in Oklahoma at 18.
d)    Slug down a cocktail while playing any game they like at the age of only 18 at the casino in Quebec. 
e)    All of these forms of teenage gambling are legal in North America right now.
f)    None of these specifically mentioned methods of teenage gambling legally exist in North America today.  

Yep, they’re starting them young these days and right now a 16-year old can blow all his money playing bingo, an 18-year-old horse bettor could squander her college savings on the internet, a  high schooler fixin’ to graduate can play blackjack all over Oklahoma, and a couple of 18-year-old kids could go on a runner in Quebec and play every table and machine game in the house as soon as they both hit 18, too. 
So the answer to #8 is (e).Teenagers can now play all of those forms of legal, teenage gambling. And they would … if they had any money.  

9. Donald Trump is the 45th American president. Express the number forty-five in roman numerals. 

Answer is XLV.  This is not trivial; many will say VL but there is no such Roman numeral. 

10. True or False? This comes from the world of entertainment. Ms. Gladys Knight, who recently sang the Star Spangled Banner at the 2019 Super Bowl, began her professional career singing with the Pips in 1952.  

Gladys was born in 1944 and began singing professionally with her fellow Pips, her brother, and two cousins. She began her professional singing career with them when she was only eight years old. The answer to #10 is True. 

11. In a National Basketball Association game, with 0.2 seconds left, the ball is out-of-bounds in possession of the team trailing by 2 points. The inbounding player throws the ball directly at the basket … and the ball would indeed have gone in except one of the in-bounder’s teammates gently touches the ball when it is directly above the basket, 12 inches from going in. The teammate guides the ball into the basket. What happens?
a.    The inbounding team scores three points and wins the game.
b.    The inbounding team scores two points and sends the game into overtime.
c.    The inbounding team is guilty of offensive goal-tending, which causes them to lose possession and the game.
d.    0.2 seconds is not enough time for any of this to happen, so time runs out before any points are scored or there’s a change in possession. The inbounding team loses.

Offensive goal-tending only occurs when the shot originated within the field of play. Since this “shot” originated from out-of-bounds, offensive goal tending could not have happened. 

Although the play originally began beyond the three-point-line, the fact that the ball was touched directly above the basket turns this into a two-point play.

The clock doesn’t start until the ball is touched by a player within the field of play, which in this case happened when the ball was one foot above the basket headed downward. 
Also, 0.2 seconds is plenty of time for the basket to be made before the clock runs out. Therefore, the answer to #11 is (b) and the game goes to overtime. 

12. Dixie State University is located in one of the few states where there are still no legal blackjack games. Name that state. 

Dixie State University is located in the beautiful town of Cedar City, Utah.  The answer to 12 is Utah. 

13.  True or False? According to the Nevada Gaming Abstract, Nevada’s statewide gaming revenue grew in 2018 and 2017. 

Nevada’s gross gaming revenue grew in both 2017 and 2018 so the answer to #13 is True.

14. When a Major League team invokes the “Baseball Rule” in a court case, which of the following is possibly being argued?
a.    Throwing cups of beer at opposing pitchers warming up in the bullpen is okay so long as it’s less than three ounces of liquid, but throwing beer bottles is never allowed.
b.    If two fans are making out in the stands and a foul ball hits one or both of them, the teams are not liable. 
c.    Pete Rose is not allowed into the Hall of Fame until the commissioner says so.
d.    Team security officers are allowed to tackle male streakers but not female streakers.

Answer is (b).

15. Within three years, name the year that the first street in Las Vegas was paved. Hint: It was hot. 

Fremont Street was the first street to be paved in Las Vegas in 1931. 

16. True or False? MGM/Mirage is the only casino corporation included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

Sorry folks, but there are NO casino companies listed as part of the Dow Jones Industrial average; therefore, the answer to #16 is False. 

17. Not that he needs it, but we finally have a question where Zeljko, and any other Aussies present, have a home-court advantage:
“Waltzing Matilda” is the unofficial anthem of Australia. What is that song about?

a.    Dancing with a pretty girl.
b.    Dancing with an ugly girl.
c.    Training a kangaroo to box.
d.    Poaching an animal at a watering hole.
e.    Dancing with a man, but you’re a prospector and really lonely in the outback, so it doesn’t mean anything. Really.
f.    Skinny dipping in a billabong.
Answer is d.

18. Fill in the blank. Spell “Caesars Palace” — include any punctuation, if any. Remember, any crossing out disqualifies your test.  

CAESARS PALACE.  It can be in all caps or with just the First C and the P capitalized in order to be scored as correct.  

19. True or False? On the front cover of the dust jacket of Dr. Ed Thorp’s first printing of Beat the Dealer (1962), it states that Dr. Thorp had developed — and I specifically quote — “a  scientific analysis of the world-wide game known variously as Black Jack (two separate words), Twenty One (two separate words), Vingt-et-un (three hyphenated words), Pontoon, or Van John.”  

Hard to believe, but way back when Dr. Thorp figured out how to beat the game we love, the single word “blackjack” was two words, Twenty One was spelled out in two words, and it was also known by its French name, as well as Pontoon and Van John … and I have no idea where that one came from. I suspect the artists who produced the cover took some artistic liberties, but here it is (show cover of book) in red, white, black, and blue, so there’s no disputing that the answer to #19 is actually True. 

20. Assuming that you’re playing blackjack basic strategy, the dealer stands on soft 17 with an infinite deck, which of the following hands gives you the greatest E.V.?   
a.    20 versus an A (after the dealer peeks)
b.    11 versus a 5 
c.    A-A versus a 4
d.    10-9 versus an 8  

20 v Ace is 0.655; 11 v 5 is 0.614; A-A v 4 is 0.566; and 19 v 8 is 0.594
Correct answer is (a).

21. Only in Las Vegas. Beginning in 1951, the U.S. government began having above ground nuclear tests visible to the public at the Nevada Test site some 65 miles northwest of downtown.  Vegas soon jumped on the bandwagon; named a Miss Atomic Bomb; and began hosting viewing events, both on the mountainsides with close-up views of the entire bomb sites, and from observation parties held on the roofs of casinos, until the above-ground atomic explosions were finally stopped.      
Within two years, when did America stop blowing up nuclear warheads above the ground outside of Las Vegas?

The government didn’t stop underground nuclear bombing tests outside of Vegas until 1992, but stopped above-ground tests 30 years earlier. So the answer to #21 is anything from 1960 to 1964.
 

About the Author
By

Henry Tamburin is one of world’s most respected blackjack experts and a world-class player. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and Blackjack: Take The Money and Run. He edited the monthly Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and was a featured blackjack columnist for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Gaming South magazine, Southern Gaming magazine, New England Gaming News, Jackpot, Bingo Bugle, and Casino City Times.