Peter Griffin shared something significant with many of the blackjack card counters who revolutionized the game of 21. He was a mathematician. Many of the original advocates of card counting had a mathematical background. Peter Griffin was one of these men.
Born in 1937 in New Jersey, Griffin came from a well-educated family. His own grandfather had been a mathematics professor at Reed College and had actually written college textbooks on the subject of mathematics. It is no wonder that the young Peter Griffin grew up fascinated by numbers and probabilities, two things at the very heart of card counting.
After his formal education, Peter Griffin took a job in 1965 as a professor of mathematics at California State University-Sacramento where he remained on the faculty until his death in 1998 source. Like many others, including Stanford Wong, Griffin developed his fondness for blackjack and card counting while working as a math professor.
Griffin’s interest in blackjack can be traced to 1970. In that year he proposed a class on the mathematics of gambling to the board of his university. Courses of this nature were becoming more popular and were being offered at many prestigious colleges including MIT. The courses developed by Peter Griffin and others would eventually lead to the present-day classes on game theory.
In order to develop the curriculum necessary to teach his class, Griffin needed to research and test various theories of card counting and other blackjack probabilities. There was only one way for him to do this and that was to go to Las Vegas. Griffin intended to test his theories in live blackjack play. The initial trips were a disaster. Griffin came home soundly beaten after each visit to the casino.
Out of defeat came progress. Peter Griffin was inspired to do more research and study. He immersed himself in every written work he could find on the subject. He practiced and analyzed the techniques he had learned while refining them to account for any inaccuracies. Griffin also took another approach. He began to compile a vast amount of statistics on professional blackjack players in Atlantic City while doing the same for players in Las Vegas and Reno.
This was groundbreaking work in card counting methodology. Peter Griffin, through his comparison of statistics, was able to determine that there were differences in the house edge depending on where one played. This knowledge wasn’t necessarily new, but Griffin was among the first to fully explore the differences between the casinos in Atlantic City and the casinos in Las Vegas. In many respects, the work Peter Griffin was doing with statistics in blackjack was very similar to the work Bill James later did in the realm of baseball. Griffin’s findings did much to explain the theory of card counting.
Peter Griffin was one of the first to calculate the precise percentages of blackjack. He determined that the average blackjack player is at a 2% disadvantage. No one had ever given such a specific number to the probabilities before. Griffin then determined the average gains in percentage for specific hands when applying blackjack strategy. Most of Griffin’s work will never be understood by many card counters, but it has become an essential foundation of card counting.
In Griffin’s day it was very popular to publish one’s card counting information in a book. Many authors were promoting their particular systems in books of their own, and Griffin followed suit. He wrote and published The Theory of Blackjack: The Complete Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21 in 1979. The book quickly became a classic of blackjack literature. It was successful, though perhaps not as successful as the books published by Edward Thorp and Arnold Snyder. This could be due to the style Griffin used in writing the book. Griffin was a highly educated man and wrote in a very educated manner. Some blackjack players found the book to be too scientific and academic in nature.
It can be said that Peter Griffin’s great passion was teaching. This is what sets him apart from many other blackjack experts. Peter Griffin was not a card counter, per se, but an instructor. Other writers on the subject of blackjack and card counting actively sought to make a living from playing cards. This was never Peter Griffin’s objective. He was perfectly content to study the methods of card counting and teach his college classes on mathematics in gambling. In fact, he never stopped teaching throughout his entire life.
Peter Griffin died in 1998 after a bout with prostate cancer. While his name may not be as familiar to blackjack players as Ken Uston, Edward Thorp, or Stanford Wong, it is worth remembering that many of the contributions made by Peter Griffin have enhanced the efficiency of many card counting methods.