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 2020 Blackjack Ball. Give yourself one point for each correct answer. (If you got 13 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.)
The players with the most correct answers from the 21-question test were:
First: David Y. (12 correct)
Second: Dustin W. (11)
Third: Dunbar (10)
Fourth: Tie between Todd Dewey, Arnold Snyder, and Rob Reitzen
Because three players tied for fourth place, a tie-breaker question was implemented to eliminate one of them. (Only five can advance to the next round of the competition.)
The tie-breaker question was implemented as follows. Each contestant randomly picked a card from a deck of cards. The contestant with the lowest-ranked card went first. If two tied, they randomly cut again until they establish the order.
According to the latest Current Blackjack News (CBJN), name a state with legalized blackjack, including those with daily “cruises to nowhere” gambling boats. When it’s your turn, you will have 10 seconds to answer. If you blank-out or repeat another’s answer, you are out. There is an element of luck involved, because if you miss you are out, and the last players needed to fill the final table DO NOT have to answer another question and are automatically in.
After several rounds of answers, Rob Reitzen said “Texas,” which doesn’t have legalized blackjack games; therefore, he was eliminated. That left the following five contestants who competed in the table competition:
• David Y.
• Todd Dewey
• Arnold Snyder
• Dustin W.
Table Competition (Richard Munchkin was the dealer)
The first skills test was estimating the number of cards in a discard tray. There were 111 cards in the tray. Dustin’s guess was farthest from 111 and he was eliminated, leaving four contestants.
The second skills test involved placing a cut card into a single deck so that the bottom card (a five of spades), after the cut, would appear as the dealer’s second card. (Each player got to choose the number of players to deal the cards to after the top card was burned.) David was eliminated in this test.
The third skills test involved using the Hi-Lo counting system to count down a double-deck of cards after three cards were removed; speed and accuracy mattered. Each player had to state what the three cards were that Munchkin removed (i.e., a high card, low card, or neutral card). Dunbar was the fastest and most accurate. In a close call, Arnold Snyder was slightly faster than Todd Dewey and, therefore, Snyder advanced and Dewey was eliminated.
This skills test was a repeat from last year. James Grosjean constructed a board that had 12 one-inch squares that were cut from the center of all twelve picture cards. Each player had 90 seconds to determine the suit and rank of each square. Points were given for the correct rank and suit. Dunbar had the lower score and was eliminated, leaving Arnold Snyder as this year’s winner. (Note: This was the third time that Snyder had reached the final table but the first time that he won.)
According to Rubin, Arnold Snyder got the Luc Belaire “Rare Luxe” 15-liter, pure white bottle of Brut (one of only three in the world) with the usual imprinted words for winning:
“The Grosjean Cup awarded to ‘The World's Greatest Blackjack Player’ at Max Rubin's 24th Annual Blackjack Ball.”
Dunbar, who finished second in the competition, got a standard Luc Belaire Rare Rose purple bottle, engraved with “The Munchkin Award” with date, event, etc.
2020 BLACKJACK BALL: TEST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
As promised, below are the 21 test questions with answers. (So, how many did you get correct?)
(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? In his playing career, Hall-of-Famer James Grosjean has had a royal flush ON THE BOARD in Ultimate Texas Hold’Em; five Aces WITH A PAIR in Pai Gow Poker; and suited Quads in a 5-deck Spanish 21 game (meaning his first two cards and the dealer’s upcard and hole card were all the exact same rank and suit). In the past year, Hall-of-Famer Darryl Purpose had five consecutive blackjacks on the same spot in an 8-deck blackjack game. True or False? Darryl’s feat of five consecutive blackjacks is the most unlikely out of these rare hands.
The approximate odds are:
Royal Flush on the board. 1 in 650,000 (649,740)
Five Aces with a Pair. 1 in 2.1 million (2,140,876)
Suited Quads. 1 in 2.2 million (2,246,839)
Grosjean rightly lays claim to the five consecutive blackjacks as well, since he was spotting for Darryl, and correctly took even money on one blackjack where the dealer also had blackjack. The odds of Darryl’s hitting five blackjacks in a row are one in 4.2 million (4,156,783), so the answer to number 1 is True.
Note: Afterwards, it was discovered that the 1 in 4,156,783 odds of hitting five blackjacks in a row was for a six-deck game (not eight decks as stated in the question). The odds for the latter are 1 in 5,669,408; nevertheless, this does not change the correct answer to the question, which is True.
2. Which of these games that modern blackjack evolved from is the oldest? You may pick one of two answers that are correct.
a) Quince from France
b) Vingt-et-Un from France
c) Treinte y Uno from Spain
d) Trentuno from Italy
e) Sette e Mezzo from Italy
f) None of the above
Both (c), Treinte y Uno from Spain and (d), Trentuno from Italy, are both mentioned in early 15th century literature as the precursors to 21. (They played 31 in those days.) The correct answer to number 2 is either (c) or (d).
3. How many standard clay casino chips would you have to stack to equal the height of a single chip standing up on its edge? Fill in the blank: _______________
Believe or not, it takes twelve standard clay chips to equal the height of a single chip standing on its side, so the answer to number 3 is 12.
4. True or False? The “Data on the Nevada Gaming Abstract” from December 31, 2010 and ending on December 31, 2019, spans precisely nine years.
If you count from 2010, 2011, 2012, etc., through 2019 (go ahead and use your fingers), you’ll find that it’s precisely ten years. So the answer to number 4 is False.
5. Which one of these businesses was founded as a Playing Card Company?
f) None of the above
GLI is Gaming Laboratories, Inc., and they’ve never had a thing to do with playing cards. Bill Harrrah began with a bingo operation in Reno. Atari was founded in 1972 as a pioneer of arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. Bally’s story began over 85 years ago with a wooden pinball game called “Ballyhoo.” In the 19th century Nintendo was founded in Japan as a playing card company and by 1963 they had tried several small niche businesses such as taxis and love hotels. In the 1970s they switched gears and evolved into a video game company now worth over $35 Billion Dollars. The answer to number 5 is (c), Nintendo.
6. Spell Souvenir.
7. True or False? In 1910, Nevada passed a law outlawing all forms of legalized gambling. However, in 1915, Nevada legalized blackjack.
This one’s kinda tricky, because in 1910 all casino games were made illegal. However, in 1915, Nevada Law was changed to allow blackjack to be played in casinos as long as the deal passed from player to player. Full-blown house-banked blackjack and all other casino games weren’t legalized until 1931. The answer to number 7 is True.
8. Another from blackjack’s Jedi Master (aka James Grosjean): Your aspiring blackjack wizard nephew tells you that for his 18th birthday this Tuesday, he wants to go to the Indigo Sky casino and turn his $5 bankroll into a fortune, without any help from you. He has only $5 on this earth. What additional bad news will you have to tell him about his plan?
a) The gambling age there is 21, so he will have to find a different casino.
b) There is almost no chance of finding a $5 table at the Indigo Sky.
c) Even if he finds a $5 table, he’ll need to give his ID to get a player’s card.
d) Casino security might ask him to remove his “MAGA” hat at the door.
e) The Indigo Sky has only slot machines, no table games.
An 18-year-old wearing a MAGA hat would be welcomed at a $5 blackjack table at the Indigo Sky in Northeast Oklahoma, where you’re liable to see more than just a few of them on the games, but without a player's card, he would not be able to afford the additional 50-cent ante to play, which would be waived if he got a player's card, because if you’re a blackjack player without a Player’s card, you have to actually pay before you play on every single hand. So the answer to number 8 is (c).
9. This one could be a little tough for all of you, since by coming to the Blackjack Ball you’re all on your honor to NOT play at Barona. Now, while Barona generally has the most full-pay, pitch 21 games in the world (because they don’t have to worry about your setting up shop down there) and they’ll NEVER rip off their players with those ridiculous 6/5 games, Barona does have a LOT of other different blackjack games, because their players love them. Which one of these blackjack games is NOT currently being played at Barona?
a) Blackjack Switch
b) Dragon Blackjack
c) Down Under Blackjack
d) Zap it Blackjack
e) Zombie Blackjack
f) Double Deck Free Bet Blackjack
Well, the players love Blackjack Switch; they immediately took to Down Under Blackjack; many can’t wait to play a hand or 200 of Zap It Blackjack; they swarm the Zombie Blackjack games, and can’t get enough of Free Bet with only two decks, that is almost impossible to find anywhere else, if at all. What they can’t find anywhere at Barona, because it doesn’t currently even exist, is Dragon Blackjack. So the answer to number 11 is Dragon Blackjack.
10. True or False? According to several respected publications, blackjack, in which players receive a bonus for having a natural, was invented, named such, and began play on riverboats and Wild West casinos in the 19th century. So according to those publications, the name blackjack and the enhanced 3/2 payout were invented, introduced, and played for the first time within the confines of the current contiguous 48 United States.
According to several historical books, the bonus payout for a natural two-card 21 was indeed created and first played within the current contiguous United States. So the answer to number 10 is True.
11. This is another Grosjean special: You walk into a Midwest casino and see that every table has a posted maximum of $100. If you knew that your starting two cards would be a suited Ace and King, which game would be worth the most money, assuming you only play the main game, and not the side bets?
a) 6:5 single-deck
b) 6:5 single-deck with “even money” allowed if the dealer shows an Ace up
c) Three Card Poker
d) Ultimate Texas Hold’Em
e) Mississippi Stud
Rounded down to the nearest dollar, the expected profit from suited Ace-King in each game in 6:5 single-deck is $115; in 6:5 single-deck with even money option is $116; the suited Ace-King on Three Card Poker is worth $110; in Ultimate Texas Hold’Em they’re worth $165, and on Mississippi Stud, it’s only $94.
Out of all of these answers, while holding an Ace-King suited, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em is the overwhelming winner at $165. So the answer to number 11 is (d).
12. Fact: As of December 31, 2019, downtown Las Vegas had fewer blackjack games of all stripes than they had as of December 31, 2010. Within 50, how many games were lost?
Downtown Las Vegas had 228 blackjack games at the end of 2010 and 208 at the end of 2019, for a net loss of only 20 games. So, the correct answer to number 12 is anything between one and 70.
13. True or False? In Deuces Wild video poker with any pay schedule, you are exactly 10 times as likely to be dealt a wild royal flush (i.e., a royal flush containing one, two, or three deuces) than you are to be dealt four deuces.
Out of the roughly 2.6 million starting hands, 48 of them give you four deuces and 480 of them result in being dealt a wild royal flush. So the answer to number 13 is True.
14. In which of the following video poker games would the value of a suited AK be greater than the value of a suited AQ?
a) Triple Bonus Poker
b) Triple Bonus Poker Plus
c) Triple Double Bonus Poker
d) A suited AK is always more valuable than a suited AQ in these games.
e) A suited AK is never more valuable than a suited AQ in these games.
Triple Bonus Poker is the only game where AK is better than AQ, because in that game, you get paid for Kings or better, while in the other two games, you get paid for Jacks or better, meaning AK and AQ are equal. The answer to number 14 is (a), Triple Bonus Poker.
15. This is a two-part question: What are the most points that either a Division 1 NCAA or NFL football team can lose by in overtime? You must have the correct number and league.
In the NFL, the winning team can kick a field goal and then score a defensive touchdown to win by nine points. (There are no extra-point kicks necessary after a defensive touchdown in NFL overtime.) In the NCAA D-1, the winning team can score a touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion, and then score a defensive touchdown on their opponent’s possession, thereby winning by 14 points. So the correct answer to number 15 is 14 points for D-1 college games. If you say 14 college or similar, you’re right.
16. True or False? The Silver Reef Casino that offers blackjack in Washington State is geographically north of the Casino de Montreal, in Montreal, and the Woodbine in Toronto.
It’s kinda hard to believe, but the Silver Reef, which does have blackjack, is over 100 miles North of both Montreal and Toronto. So the answer to number 16 is True.
17. You are playing head’s up No Limit Texas Hold’Em and are dealt AK of hearts. Would it be easier to flop a set, or flop a 3-of-a-kind from this position?
a) Flopping a set would be easier.
b) Flopping 3-of-a-kind would be easier.
c) They are the same.
Sets and three-of-a-kinds are NOT THE SAME terminology-wise. Flopping a set (where you MUST be dealt a pair and match one of the board’s cards) is impossible because you were not dealt a pair. Flopping a 3-of-a-kind (which requires one card from your hand to match a pair on the board) occurs if the flop contains a pair of aces or kings. So the answer to number 17 is (b), 3-of-a-kind would be easier.
18. Here’s another beauty from James. Although the law was later overturned, in 2010 the Black Hawk city council passed an ordinance banning which one of the following from all its casinos?
b) Dice games
d) Bets exceeding $100
Although no one in his right mind can figure out why, Black Hawk’s elected officials once banned bicycles from all of its casinos. So the answer to number 18 is indeed (a), bicycles.
19. True or False? The Rolex Pearlmaster Oyster Perpetual Date Just is a lovely watch that will set you back $40,000 to purchase – or what some gentlemen in this room would call a cheap watch. True or False? The numbers on the watch are all typical Roman numerals – other than the twelve, which is replaced by the Rolex logo, and the three, which is replaced by the current day of the month.
Answer: The four should be IV but instead is listed as IIII. While this is not common in Roman numerals, it is fairly common on expensive watches. The answer to number 19 is False.
20. You’re a BP in a casino where no one knows basic strategy at all, so cover plays are unnecessary. The dealer has a 2 upcard. You hit your hard 8 and make a 16, and your beast of a hole-card spotter tells you to stand. Which of the following is not true?
a) The dealer could have a 2 in the hole.
b) The dealer could have a 9 in the hole.
c) The dealer could have a 10 in the hole.
d) As a BP, my job is to follow signals, not try to infer what the hole card is.
e) They are all true.
If the dealer had a Ten in the hole with a 2 up, and you didn't have to worry about cover, you would have doubled your hard 8. So the answer to number 20 is (c), because it’s not true.
21. And we finish with one last question courtesy of James. Make sure to answer this one and everything else on your card within 45 seconds after I repeat it. Here we go: Assuming the dealer always plays out her hand and you’re playing on a six-deck, H17 game in which everyone still in action ties if the dealer busts with a 22, within one percent, what are the chances that the dealer will bust with exactly 22? I’m going to repeat the question one more time and then you will have exactly 45 seconds to finish your card. Any blank answers will result in a DQ. I’ll repeat it one more time. And good luck.
On a H17, six-deck game, the dealer will bust with a 22 7.35% of the time. So if the answer on the card is between 6.35% and 8.35%, the answer to number 21 is right. All other answers are wrong. If the player wrote a number and did not include the percentage sign, and the answer is still between 6.35 and 8.35, the answer is STILL correct. All other answers are wrong.
Note: To help preserve the future of the Blackjack Ball, Max Rubin, Richard Munchkin, and others are in the process of creating a 501(c)(3) (i.e., a legal non-profit organization) for the Blackjack Ball and Blackjack Hall of Fame. They will be selling Dr. Edward Thorp’s donated collection of rare books (including correspondences), and the revenue will be used to help support individuals who are struggling with a gambling addiction.