Betting two sides of the same coin isn’t considered a good way to make money, but it certainly worked for 2005 Blackjack Hall of Famer Lawrence Revere. The blackjack pro, author and renowned creator of numerous card counting systems that are still in use today gained his expertise in the field not just by paying the game, but by working the other side of the tables as a dealer, pit boss, and eventually casino owner.
Making the Most of It
Lawrence Revere is one of the most famous names in the blackjack world, but you may be surprised to learn that wasn’t his name at all. Born in Iowa in the 1920’s with the given name Griffith K. Owens, he actually used a range of pseudonyms throughout his lifetime. He chose “Lawrence Revere” as his penname when publishing his famous blackjack strategy book, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Growing up during the Great Depression wasn’t easy. As a boy, he worked the streets hawking newspapers for two cents each. By the time he was 13, he was already involved in the gambling life, working as a blackjack dealer in the backroom of a barber shop.
Although his family had little money, Lawrence showed exceptional intellect and was determined to put it to good use. After high school, he enrolled in the University of Nebraska where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Mathematics, but his intrigue with the game of 21 never subsided. In 1943, as World War II raged across the ocean, he made his way out to Las Vegas.
With ample experience under his belt, Revere had no trouble gaining employment at a casino as a blackjack dealer. As time went on, he climbed the ladder up to the position of pit boss, and even operated his own casino for a time. But throughout all this, unbeknownst to his colleagues, he was secretly batting for the other team as a professional blackjack player.
In order to make the most of his gambling expertise as an employee and player, Revere was forced to go undercover. He masqueraded as various characters, including such aliases as Paul Mann and Leonard “Speck” Parson, each with their own unique look. A master of disguise, Lawrence was able to sustain his anonymity throughout an extensive, 27 year career.
Playing Blackjack As A Business
Revere came to know many other elite members of the blackjack community in Las Vegas and beyond. One such person, who wasn’t much of a blackjack player at all, was Julian Braun. A computer whiz at IBM, Braun had taken Edward Thorp’s original card counting program and refined it to deliver much more precise results.
Revere and Braun teamed up to create a host of new blackjack card counting systems, which Lawrence published in his still-popular book, Playing Blackjack as a Business, in 1969. Within that tome, he detailed numerous techniques that included basic single-deck and 4-deck strategies, the Revere 5 Count Strategy, the Revere Plus-Minus Strategy, the Revere 10 Count Strategy, the Revere Point Count Strategy and the Revere Advanced Point Count Strategy, also known as the Revere 14-Point System.
He started the book by offering a simple introduction to the game, explaining all of the rules in a way that even the least experienced players can understand. He also provides a throng of detailed charts to help players properly practice his basic and advances strategies.
His 14-Point system is widely considered to be one of the most successful card counting techniques ever devised, and is still used to this today. However, unlike basic hi-lo counts, it does take accelerated mathematical capabilities to pull it off. Also in contrast to rudimentary systems, the 14-Point Count requires the player to make some rather peculiar decisions.
Ken Uston was employing this card counting method for years, all the while accused of being drunk and placing ridiculously wild bets. Although drugs and alcohol were a vice for the 2002 Blackjack Hall of Famer, Uston knew exactly what he was doing at the time. Casinos, on the other hand, had a very difficult time detecting Revere’s 14-Count, due to its tempestuous (but accurate) nature.
Lawrence Revere’s 1969 publication of Playing Blackjack as a Business is exceptional for several reasons. Most importantly, it was the first blackjack strategy guide ever written by a genuine, professional blackjack player, as well as the first from an expert with insider knowledge from both sides of the fence. Thus he was capable of delivering a 360-degree view of the game and how to win consistently.
The latest edition of his world-famous book hit the shelves in 2011 with a new, updated introduction by Roy Hoppe, who was a member of Ken Uston’s infamous blackjack team. Hoppe explained why Revere’s methods were so superior to the earlier works of Thorp, mostly due to the fact that casinos were no longer presenting players with single-deck games.
“Now, the casinos were gravitating towards double deck games and four deck shoes. Using the basic Plus-Minus system of Thorp, betting and playing accuracy would decrease with a greater number of decks,” wrote Hoppe. “Keeping track of all the numbers and doing the math in a four deck shoe is not accurate.”
Hoppe explained to readers that using more advanced systems required a lesser degree of math and memory skills. And despite the general abhorrence players feel towards shoe games, he said “With a shoe, it’s rare for a deck to get hot but, when the deck does get hot, it stay hot longer.”
Because the shoe is larger, he says the deal can stay hot for as many as 10 consecutive hands or more before being reshuffled. And because Revere’s 14-Point system is so much more accurate in multi-deck games of blackjack, using it gave Uston, as the “Big Player” of his blackjack team, a loftier advantage over the casinos.
Death and Subsequent Hall of Fame Induction
Sadly, Lawrence Revere passed from this world long before the Blackjack Hall of Fame had the chance to honor him. He died of lung and liver cancer on April 23, 1977. In 2005, three years after the Hall of Fame originated, Revere’s accomplishments were venerated with his worthy induction.