Julian Braun appears as a strange choice for the Blackjack
Hall of Fame. The antithesis of the flamboyant card shark, Braun was
a quiet, somewhat reclusive man who spent most of his adult life
working as a programmer at IBM.
He rarely set foot in a casino; his blackjack work was done in the
computer lab. Nevertheless, his contributions to the world of
blackjack are immeasurable. Julian Braun was born in Chicago in
1929. He earned degrees in physics and mathematics, served in the
United States Marine Corps, and went to work for IBM in 1961. He
remained at IBM for more than 25 years.
Collaboration with Thorp
Braun's interest in blackjack was piqued by Edward O. Thorp's book
Beat the Dealer. Braun wrote to Thorp and requested a copy
of his blackjack computer program, which Thorp provided. Combining
his own unparalleled genius as a computer programmer with the
powerful (for the time) IBM 7044 mainframe computer, Braun was able
to refine Thorp's calculations and improve upon his blackjack
strategies. He tested his ideas by running 9 billion blackjack
simulations on the IBM 7044. During a four-year period, Braun
created the Hi-Lo blackjack
strategies and the Basic
Strategy. Braun's strategies were both simpler and more
accurate than Thorp's originals.
Braun's results were published in the 1966 revised edition of
Thorp's Beat the Dealer. In that book, Thorp gratefully acknowledged
Braun's contribution to blackjack as follows: "Braun's detailed
blackjack calculations, based on his extensions and refinements of
my original computer program, are the most accurate in existence,
and he has kindly allowed them to be used throughout this revised
"How to Play Winning Blackjack"
revising and perfecting his blackjack card-counting strategies. His
results were published in Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as
a Business and in Lance Humble and Carl Cooper's The
World's Greatest Blackjack Book. In 1980, he published his own
book, called How to Play Winning Blackjack. Befitting the
author's personality, the book was low-key, straightforward, and
logical. In the forward to the book, Braun stated:
"I have reasons for writing this book. First and foremost, is that
some of the ideas and observations contained may be of benefit to
the hundreds of thousands of blackjack players who have been or will
become as devoted or intrigued with the game as I am.
"The reader should
be forewarned that I am neither a raconteur nor even an ex-pit
boss (heaven forbid). Accordingly, and unlike some other books
on the subject, you will find none of the pithy, and sometimes
very enjoyable, insiders' stories about the colorful cast of
characters who exist on the fringe of both sides of the table.
Rather, I shall attempt as logically as possible to trace for
you my work over the past 18 years."
In How to Play
Winning Blackjack, Braun explained the Optimal Basic
Strategy, provided advice on how to play the game, and included
easy-to-use color-coded charts to guide the blackjack player
through any situation that might arise at the blackjack table.
As the title promised, Braun's book was indeed a practical
manual on how to win at blackjack.
Edward Thorp, the
father of blackjack card counting,
was lavish in his praise of Braun's book. Thorp wrote: "Julian Braun
has transformed my original blackjack computer program into the
world's most powerful and accurate tool for the calculation of
winning blackjack strategies. Using this program, Braun details a
winning point count method. There is no other
blackjack counting system
which is both simpler and more powerful."
Julian Braun died in September 2000.