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Lawrence Revere was born Griffith K. Owens, but used several names over the years including Paul Mann and my favorite, Leonard “Specks” Parsons. He grew up in the streets of Iowa where he peddled newspapers for two-cents and shot pool, but still managed to graduate from high school. He once said he was born in 1922 and his graduation from the University of Nebraska in 1943 with a degree in mathematics would seem accurate.

However, the man of a hundred names and a hundred faces did tend to be a bit of a showman and salesman. He was dealing a tough game of blackjack when he was just 13, always dealing the deck down when the aces were gone and breaking the deck after a hand or two if they weren’t. That was his only instructions for the job in the back of a barber shop off Main Street, other than don’t lose.

When Revere moved to Las Vegas he was ready to deal the same game and was put to work immediately. Over the years he dealt thousands of hours of blackjack before moving to craps and on to a Pit Boss job. As a bright fellow, Revere watched the winners and the losers, and kept notes on all the attributes of both. After Edward O. Thorp’s book Beat the Dealer came out he doubled-down on his own blackjack play, taking a short drive from Las Vegas to the casinos of North Las Vegas after work and then up to Reno on his weekends.

Although himself a mathematician, he felt Thorp’s playing strategy was too difficult, and after Julian Braun worked with Thorp on a more accurate, easier count, Revere too worked with Braun, and developed his own Plus-Minus count that is still taught as a precursor to new counters and casino surveillance workers.

Although Revere was successful at counting, he had issues with his play. He saw every other player as a possible casino plant to ruin his play and often talked like a new player instead of a seasoned veteran of the gaming industry. His main play was around the clubs in Vegas but his total action never approached that of noted team players like Ken Uston.

A typical Revere outing was to go to a small casino in the wee hours of the morning and buy-in for a few hundred dollars. He’d start with nickel bets and work his way up to $25 wagers but only if he was winning. If the good times continued, he might vary his bets from $25 to $150, trying to stay under his original buy-in amount. If players tried to join his game he would sulk, and often leave the table, certain they were only there to ruin his play.

Blackjack as a Business

Revere was a good salesman, and he wrote a fun, easy to read and understand book he titled Blackjack as a Business. Although Thorp’s book was first, players had a hard time following his systems. Revere’s book was simpler, presenting a series of systems including the Revere Point Count, Five Count Strategy, Plus Minus Strategy and the Ten Count Strategy. The book guided the reader through how to play blackjack, understanding basic strategy, and how to place a number value on each card and keep a simple running count of the total to make wagering decisions.

The book was a best seller, and again helped drive more losing players to the casinos of Nevada. The readers who actually studied and practiced the strategies found some easy money at the casinos, until they tried to vary their bets too wildly, then they found security guards.

No card counting system can be successful without betting the smallest amount when the house has the advantage (most of the time) and betting larger amounts as the players’ edge increases. Unfortunately, while the Revere Plus Minus is an easy count to use, the player edge is almost non-existent in casinos that restrict double-down hands to 10 and 11 and deal only multiple decks – unless the player employs a very good cover act and gets at least a 10 to 1 bet spread.

In casinos that offer better blackjack odds, like several on the Las Vegas Strip and in Atlantic City, the Plus Minus Count can be used to make a profit of one average bet per hour while maintaining about a 1% edge over the house. For ease of learning and steady return, the count probably can’t be beat.

While Revere was a master of disguise, he offered little information about his own way of covering his play because he wanted to continue playing. He also wanted players to move from his book to what he called the Revere Advanced Point Count. The original book sold for $9.95 but a special lesson from the auther with a detailed explanation of his APC was an additional $200.

For most of the players (and there were hundreds) who paid the additional fee, the Revere APC was very complex and hard to play. In later years Revere was cantankerous to deal with and frustrated that he wasn’t able to get out and play more blackjack. He passed away of cancer on April 23, 1977. He may have been just 55, but his actual age, like his disguises, remains a bit of a mystery. His success at the blackjack tables and his success as an author certainly are not a mystery, as in both he was a Master.

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