wads of cashThe Setting

Our team was growing.

We had six players tested out and traveling the country and had reached our $100,000 profit goal twice since securing a $500,000 bankroll.

We were officially underway on “Churchteam Bankroll 3” with what felt like unstoppable momentum.

“Frank” and “Gary” were two of our veteran players (meaning they’d both been tested out for more than 6 months and had each won over $100,000 since testing out). Even though we didn’t know anyone who’d played there yet, Frank and Gary decided to meet up in Detroit to test their casinos. Detroit has some high limit games, so they decided to each bring about $50,000. What they were unaware of is that the Detroit casinos don’t handle big action very well. One day into their five day trip, they had been backed off and flyered to the other Detroit casinos. Two eager card counters with $110,000 aren’t going to sit on their laurels. They called “Management”, meaning Ben and I, to see if we had any suggestions.

We knew there were some casinos across the border in Windsor, Canada, so even though they didn’t have passports with them we told them to give it a try. Ben and I had played successfully in Canada a few times, the main complication being the currency conversion from US to Canadian and back. If they could find a place with a fair exchange rate, or even play at the casino with US money, it would be worth the drive. If they get turned back at the border, they would have just wasted a bit of time. We briefed them on how important it is to report your money at the border and wished them good EV.

Two hours later, we get a phone call from Frank. The $110,000 had been taken from them and the border guards are cussing them out. Gary is freaking out and it sounds like he’s about to get arrested for yelling back at US border patrol.

The Mistake

Frank and Gary had properly reported their money entering Canada, but got turned back at the border for not having passports. Upon “re-entering” the US (they had merely tried to enter Canada), they report their money to the US border guards, but found out they had made one mistake: Not only do you need to report money entering a country, you need to report money when leaving a country! The US border claimed they didn’t have $110,000 an hour before when they left the US, so the US government would be confiscating it until we were able to prove we were the rightful owners of the money.

Getting it Back

Friends and family had been asking Ben and I for a few years if they could invest in our casino endeavors. It was always flattering, but we didn’t want the stress of being responsible for other people’s money; we didn’t mind having our own net worth go up or down by six figures. But this changed when we saw an opportunity to grow our team to a scale we hadn’t previously considered, so we opened up investing to our family and friends. Now, a few months later, $110K of their (and our) money was in the hands of the government. Rather than paying a lawyer $20K, we did the work ourselves. It became Ben’s fulltime job to get that money back. Ben put together a binder, 4 inches thick, with records of every session we had ever played, signed letters from every investor we’d worked with, tax returns, bank statements, player contracts, and investor agreements. A long 3 months later, we found out we were getting our money back!… minus a $10,000 fine. They never explained the fine. I’m still confused why we had to pay $10,000 to reclaim what was rightfully ours. But we didn’t fight it… we were just glad to not lose the other $100,000!

What We Learned

It’s a fun story, but there’s actually a lot we learned, and you can learn, from the experience. Here’s some of the top things we learned:

  1. Keep Immaculate Records. The last thing you feel like doing at 4AM after a long day of grinding it out at the tables is fill out a spreadsheet. You’re dealing with a lack of sleep and it feels arduous to track to the minute every session played, wins and losses, every exchange of money with a teammate, the place, circumstances, casino name, and so on. But when we got audited, a player got audited, or there was a discrepancy, we were glad we had elaborate records to deal with the problem. Our team would have been shut down by this border seizure, the team audit, or a monetary discrepancy had we not kept close tabs on every penny and session. Our Results Tracker Pro and Team Tracker Pro spreadsheets are built upon the same excel spreadsheets our team used to keep track of play.
  2. Have a Plan B. This wasn’t the only trip that went to pot in the first day. Soon after this, we made every player have a backup plan for their trip. Frank and Gary had planned ahead, they would have brought their passports or known that there’s lots of other good casinos stateside within a few hours’ drive. But they ended up winging it without passports, not knowing the proper way to declare their money at the border. At this point, I can’t imagine this scenario playing out because we would have a better idea of backup casinos outside of the main destination.
  3. Always Cooperate with Law Enforcement. It’s really important to know your rights in a casino. They can act like law authorities, but they aren’t. Casino security doesn’t need to see your ID if you’re leaving (and haven’t had a cash transaction over $10K). But when it comes to the real law, don’t give them grief. We’ve had players detained from FBI, DEA, TSA/Homeland Security, US Customs/Border Patrol, and local police. They don’t understand card counting and finding a twenty-something with $100,000 stuffed in their pants has got to be a red flag. Be patient, calm, and willing to spend plenty of time explaining what you do, how you do it, and even why you do it. Be gracious, remembering that you are a law-abiding citizen, so it just might take some time to clear things up.
  4. Don’t Panic. This situation could have been the end of our team. If we’d panicked, we would have lost the players’ and investors’ confidence. By keeping level heads, working quickly, and committing ourselves to reclaiming the money, we actually grew in confidence ourselves and set players and investors at ease that we could handle adversity. And to be honest, if this would have happened a year or two earlier, we probably would have panicked. But we had already dealt with $100,000 losing streaks and other dramas, so we were familiar with running into unforeseen challenges. Adversity is inherent to card counting. More adversity than you are expecting. Being able to fight through it with a cool head will differentiate you from those who give up when the going gets tough.

Overall, the whole thing could have been much worse. I know we’re not the only team that’s had part of their bankroll seized. So be smart, keep fighting, and maybe our disaster will save a few other card counters some grief.





Author: Colin Jones