Peter Griffin was born in 1937 in New Jersey and grew up in
Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He graduated with a bachelor's degree
from Portland State University and earned his master's degree from
the University of California.
He started teaching mathematics at California State University,
Sacramento, in 1965, and became a full professor in 1977. He
continued in that position, teaching courses in algebra, statistics,
calculus, and differential equations, until his death in 1998.
In 1970, while preparing to teach a course on the mathematics of
gambling, Griffin entered a Nevada casino to conduct some field
research. His research project resulted in the loss of his bankroll
and a vow of revenge.
Griffin's great contribution to the world of blackjack came with the
publication of his 1979 book, The Theory of Blackjack: The
Compleat Card Counter's Guide to the Casino Game of 21.
Considered by many to be the most important blackjack book since
Edward Thorp's Beat the Dealer, Griffin's book includes the
most complete and accurate blackjack basic strategy for any number
of decks and for any set of rules, and explains the mathematics
behind the basic strategy and the various card-counting strategies.
He also proposes a statistical methodology by which the potential
gains from any card-counting system
could be broken down and expressed as two parameters:
Betting Correlation (BC)
and Playing Efficiency
(PE). The value of any card-counting system could then be determined
by comparing its BC and PE with that of other systems.
The Theory of Blackjack was not intended for everybody. It
requires an understanding of higher mathematics in order to
comprehend it. For those with the requisite mathematical expertise,
however, its explanation of the theories behind the numbers can be
fascinating. The Theory of Blackjack was revised many
times; the sixth edition was published in 1999.
In his introduction to The Theory of Blackjack, Griffin
admitted that he himself had never succeeded in becoming a
consistent winner at the blackjack tables and, in fact, had lost
more than he had won.
With characteristic grace and good humor, he concluded: "Long since
disabused of the notion that I can win a fortune in the game, my
lingering addiction is to the pursuit of solutions to the myriad
mathematical questions posed by this intriguing game."
In short, Griffin's approach to blackjack was that of a true
intellectual. In the game of blackjack, he saw a matrix of
mathematical problems involving conditional probabilities subject to
information provided by a card-counting parameter. His great genius
lay in the complex theoretical solution to the problems. The
practical application of his theories he left to others.
In addition to The Theory of Blackjack, Griffin wrote
Extra Stuff: Gambling Ramblings, covering even more advanced
and esoteric aspects of blackjack, and dozens of academic papers for
mathematical journals and conferences. He was renowned for the
lively style and fine wit with which he leavened even his technical
writings and his math classes at Cal State.