I just got done watching the new Expert Insight video “Beating Blackjack with Andy Bloch.” When Rafe first told me about it he said that it was likely better than Phil Gordon’s “Final Table Poker” and he was dead-on. Of course, when I spoke to Andy in December he was way too modest to make such claims but he seemed very proud of what they had put together and it’s not hard to see why.

The production quality is very high and the video takes a completely different approach than did Final Table Poker. The differences between tournament poker and counting cards with a crew sort of necessitate a change in format. Overall though, I think the idea for both Expert Insight products is to get away from pure instruction. When you watch Howard’s video or Annie’s video you get a pro sitting at a table giving you tips and tricks on playing the game. Phil’s video has you playing with him through an entire tournament with commentary about what’s going into his decision making process. Andy’s video has him in a fictional casino playing blackjack and working the casino with a team.

The first part of the video walks you through playing perfect strategy which will reduce the house’s odds. As Andy puts it, if you would have normally lost $500 a trip playing blackjack, using the perfect BJ strategy will cut you down to just a $100 loser. He also points out that many of the strategy cheat-sheets they sell at the casinos have flaws and that you shouldn’t follow them.

He doesn’t waste much time getting into card counting though. He jumps right in with the MIT card counting method and after a little hand holding he challenges you to keep up with the count on several hands being dealt to a full table. He offers some tips on how to keep up with the count and how to use the count to your advantage.

Next Andy leads you through methods on deceiving the casino and the pit bosses so they don’t peg you for a card counter. He even offers a little checklist for what actions a pit boss might make and whether or not those actions indicate that they’ve pegged you.

Of course, the best form of deception is to use a group of players like the MIT team did. He describes the roles of each member and how to work the casino while minimizing your risk of being caught. There’s even a funny bit in there where one night Andy is dressed up with a black leather jacket and snakeskin cowboy hat with glasses looking like Bono from U2. The eye in the sky eventually pegs him as Andy Bloch but he leaves before they can snag him. A few nights later Andy is back at the same casino dressed up like Austin Powers and the casino security snatches Bono from the table thinking its Andy.

Like any skill, watching the video isn’t going to turn you into a blackjack master. On the other hand, Andy Bloch does demonstrate that you don’t need to be a MIT math wizard to beat the casinos either. What it does take is practice. Counting cards isn’t difficult but it does take time and practice to master. Beating Blackjack basically introduces you to the concepts you need to master to beat blackjack. Andy shows you how to count cards but it could take months of practicing at home before you can follow a real game in a casino with thousands of distractions and still keep perfect count.

The only negative I can give Beating Blackjack is the interview with Andy in the special features section. And the only reason I give it a slight negative is that Andy does voiceover on the video as you might see on a directory commentary feature on a DVD. The only problem is the way it’s cut. There are some long pauses and when Andy’s commentary starts, it’s not totally obvious that you’re watching the video. I probably spent 10 minutes futzing with my remote thinking my video and audio were out of synch before I realized that the audio and video aren’t supposed to be in synch.

Other than that, I really can’t find too much to say about it that isn’t an overwhelming endorsement. If you have even the slightest interest in playing blackjack and not being the 4% dog everyone else at the table is, you can’t go wrong with Andy’s DVD.

BTW, just to give Andy and Phil another plug . . . if you can be in Vegas for their Las Vegas Academy, you should check it out.