Recently I was playing at a major Las Vegas strip casino. On the table next to me there was a civilian (ploppy) playing very big action…I’m talking betting up to table max ($10K a hand). At first I though he might be an AP, but after I noted a couple of things about his play, I was convinced he was not (e.g. betting and/or tipping black chips for the dealer). Read More »
The Blackjack Hall of Fame at Barona Casino in San Diego, California stands as a curious testament to the giants who mastered the game of 21 and/or paved the way for its continued mastery.
The shrine is more than curious; it is paradoxical. Unlike the “Winners Wall” you can find down one hallway or another in every casino, filled with old bats smiling at having lucked their way into a big slot payout—this is different. Casinos are happy to celebrate luck. They are loathe to celebrate mastery. Luck represents a mere tax on their mathematically guaranteed profits. Mastery represents where profit got away from them. More often than not, Casinos boot people from the premises for mastery at Blackjack. Yes, even Barona Casino where, after being booted for mastery, you can walk a few feet and see them celebrating it with great gusto. It all is very strange if you allow yourself to stop and take it in, which I did one day on the way to the gaming floor at Barona Casino. Or I tried to do. I had no idea it was there to begin with.
Hello Card Counter!
Last weekend was the Blackjack Bootcamp.
We had a great group of people at various stages in their careers.
As always, one of the biggest highlights was listening to the Legendary Tommy Hyland talk about his infamous blackjack career. He shared his philosophy on why he plays aggressively and his advice for new card counters. We recorded our talk with him and we’re excited for our premium members to listen to it on the site in the coming weeks.
Our favorite quote from one of our bootcamp attendees this weekend was, “From now on I’m going to tell people that I’ve been card counting for ONE DAY because whatever I was doing before the bootcamp was NOT card counting.” Note: He played perfect basic strategy and was pretty good at counting… but that’s how high our standards are for card counters!
Recently one of our active members on the forum posted about one of his early back off experiences. We can relate! Enjoy his story:
It’s been a long time coming since I felt the pressure mount, ready to explode.
Ever aware of my surroundings and nonchalantly scanning the room every so often. Watching the hawks that watch me. The vultures finally went in for the kill after letting me traverse their territory for 3.5 hours. It was a much anticipated session.
I’d been there 3 prior sessions on the weekends, but this time, this time I was going in for the kill. I planned on hitting them, and hitting them hard. I waltz into the place, get my free $5 slot play, cash out, and cash out my points to cash. Nice $99 to start off the session.
I plop myself down at the $5 DD table eager to implement a 1-56 spread. EV around $80/hr. Off we went.
Like many other people, he tried to use sheer intimidation to test out. But the cards will not fear you… you must fear the cards.
Fortunately for Mike (and our team), he put in the time and eventually tested out. Eager to start making some money and kicking some casino tail, he planned his first trip. But Mike needed a trip worthy of his personality, so he planned a 4 day assault the Mecca for card counters: Las Vegas. And he wasn’t going alone, but with one of the most infamous card counters on our team, Ford.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing BJA member Skywayman on his blackjack journey. Here are the questions we asked him and his responses.
1. How did you get into card counting?
I got into card counting when I first watched Holly Rollers on Netflix. That led me to BJA.
2. How long have you been counting cards?
I’ve been counting for a little over a year.
3. How long did it take you to trust your skills? How do you know you’re any good?
It took me about a month and half of training for me to trust my skills. I knew I had it down when I could deal multiple hands to myself while carrying a conversation and watching TV. Also, playing CVBJ was a great tool that I used when I was practicing every day. If you can play flawlessly on their live game mode, you aren’t too far away from moving your training into the casino.
This came in an email this week and warmed our heart so we can’t wait to share it with you.- Ben & Colin
“As of today your services will no longer be required….no reason, we’re just changing direction… would you like to take your personal things with you now, or make arrangements to come back for them?”
Is there an option C where I shove them…..”
And thus ended my twenty plus years of corporate life as a senior manager.
At fifty years young, I suddenly realized that I had just invested most of my life in security that didn’t exist, for fewer peanuts than it takes to make your average chimp dance. As I walked out the back door with a cardboard box containing family pictures, some mouth wash, shoe polish, awards, certificates and a plant, I decided that my next adventure would be exciting, stimulating, lucrative and a whole lot of fun. I had no idea what it would be.
My wife and I grew up in the same small town we live in today, raised five kids here, and have two still in high school. She’s had the same job for thirty years, and though she loves her work, it does not pay enough to keep the wolves away from the door. Employment opportunities are as rare as hen’s teeth, but we have both agreed that moving at this time in our lives is not an option. I received a small settlement that would last nine months if I was careful.
Enter… my 15 year old son with a deck of cards “Let’s play blackjack Dad”. Who would have guessed he was about to save his family from financial ruin. I had seen the movies, and was totally intrigued, but counting cards, in my mind, was reserved for those blessed with genius (which I am certainly not) Besides, I had not spent more than $100 gambling in my entire life and I even regretted that.
And so my training began. I shall never again doubt that we learn as much from our children as they do from us – in many and often surprising ways. Thanks bud. You are truly awesome. For the next nine months I practiced from four to six hours a day, striving to master basic strategy and Hi Lo, and committing thirty nine variations to memory. I also read every blackjack book I could get my hands on including T. Dane’s “Behind the Black Dome”.
I used real cards and learned to count multiple hands, quickly and effortlessly. I created my own distractions by playing loud music, having the TV on, talking to myself or singing while I counted. I used my peripheral vision, turning my head as slightly as possible. I focused on, making quick glances to count and learned to count in pairs to improve speed. The speed, I discovered was not as important to keeping up with the game (it became easy to keep up with even the quickest most distracting dealers) but rather to minimize the risk of detection. (It’s much more difficult to spot a counter who takes two seconds to count a table of six hands, than it is to spot a counter who stares at each players cards for two seconds with a puzzled look on their face…I’ve seen them).
I also discovered Ben and Colin’s website early on and the drills they provide online were key to my success. Even though I play at least twenty to thirty hours per week in casinos, I still use the drills every single day without fail. I do this to monitor my accuracy and skill. If I pick up a habit that causes errors I get immediate feedback from the drills. Errors cost money and I can’t afford to loose money. I owe Colin and Ben an enormous debt of gratitude and hope to attend their Blackjack Bootcamp in the near future.
I remember clearly the excitement the first morning I crossed the casino parking lot with a $100 bankroll in my pocket. I felt like I was one of the new Ocean’s 11 (Okay, a bit dramatic, but I had led a pretty sheltered life for the previous nine months). I had never even played blackjack in a casino…ever. I sat at the $5 minimum table. I played for three hours and made $15. Success!! I was elated, but I also realized that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of what I needed to know to become a professional advantage player.
Even with all my preparation I didn’t start to win money (with any consistency) for at least six months. I kept comprehensive records of every hour of my play and attacked my new career like I would any conventional business. As a result of persistence, discipline and let’s not forget some good fortune, I started seeing results. At one point I had twenty two winning days in a row and netted $9,000 that month. I started traveling a bit to other casinos to reduce my exposure.
I still consider myself a rookie having entered a casino to play blackjack for the first time just over a year ago. I did, however, spend 600 hours at the tables in the first year and as near as I can figure (using frequency distribution charts for the games I play) I have wagered about 1.5 million. I rarely take more than $2,000 into the casino with me and I normally buy in for $500. My goal now is to grow my bank roll and start playing higher stakes.
If pressed to pass on one thing that I learned it would be this. You must have discipline or you will loose money. My big losses and there were quite a few, could always be attributed to errors I made due to panic or lack of discipline. Please don’t try to make up losses by betting with progressive systems. I even tried to incorporate them into my play as camo and it didn’t work for me. I now play an extremely tight and simple game. I bet one unit until I see a true count of two (even when I’m winning on a negative count). Then I spread according to the Kelly Criterion (sometimes a bit more aggressively if I can afford it).
I still occasionally face what I call “the attack of the bad math” and endure some painful losses as all advantage players do, but my win rate (by day or session) is over 75% and I’m paying my bills. It hasn’t been an easy road, but “easy” wasn’t what I signed up for. My wonderful wife has been enormously patient and understanding and I couldn’t have attempted this adventure without her support. It has been exciting, fun, challenging and I have met the most interesting and wildly unique people I could imagine. It’s also awesome knowing I could make some mad stacks!!
Play smart, be patient and disciplined and good luck to you all!!
I got together recently with friend and fellow card counter, Josh Axelrad. Josh wrote “Repeat Until Rich”, which chronicles his involvement with one of the most active Blackjack Teams of the late 90′s and early 2000′s, as well as Josh’s addiction to online poker.
We discuss his book, his card counting exploits, pathological gambling, and why to treat card counting like an investment, rather than a job.
*MUST BE LOGGED IN TO LISTEN DO OR DOWNLOAD PODCAST
by Colin Jones
Just over 5 years ago, a group of about 10 aspiring card counters took a huge risk to fly to Las Vegas to spend the day with a couple of guys who had been posting blackjack training videos on an oddly named website called “Blackjack Appretish”, or something like that.
Ben and I had a vision of taking card counting training beyond our $1M blackjack team (which we never mentioned on the website or even at our first few bootcamps).
We knew we had something to offer to the card counting community, and we wanted to see card counters crushing casinos long after we were no longer playing or running a team.