Project: Beating Vegas- Not for Dummies
During my senior year of high school, I often found myself spending my evenings playing cards (usually poker or blackjack) with my friends. Given my mix of competitiveness and interest in numbers, it wasn't long before I starting doing some research on how to beat casinos. Everything that I looked into pointed to only one game: blackjack.
After researching blackjack strategy, writing computer blackjack strategy simulators, gathering data, analyzing results, and everything else in between, I finally had a project I could present. Fortunately, my hard work payed off.
I was awarded first-place at both the regional and state levels for my project, entitled "Beating Vegas- Not for Dummies", at the annual PJAS competition in 2008. When I presented it at the PRSEF SciTech festival, I received an all-costs-covered invitation to present my project at a national science convention known as TeraGrid later that year. Ironically, the science convention / competition itself was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a couple more weeks of brushing up my project, I presented it at the conference and was awarded 3rd place for my work.
Perhaps more importantly, I met up with many people from the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center who had also attended the conference that year. In fact, the PSC had an outstanding performance with many of their own student winners as well.
Since then, I've turned my attention more to poker. The simplicity of blackjack left little room for more interesting study, at least much less room than a game such as poker (and its many variants) brought to the table. It's still a game that I enjoy fully, and will always be the first card game I fell in love with.