We recently had the pleasure of interviewing BJA member “Bubba” on his blackjack journey. Here are the questions we asked him and his responses.
1. How did you get into card counting?
I came across the documentary one night before going to bed, at first it sounded too good to be true. The scene came on where Ben explains how simple the concept is, and then he proceeds to say you have to memorize like 2 or 3 charts, do some calculations, etc. At that point I was thinking, forget about it. A few weeks later I was on a trip in Vegas when I recalled the documentary. I was in my room bored so I decided to look up how to count cards. What do you know, right there on top of the search was the guys from the documentary. Something felt right about it so I went ahead and bought the subscription, loved the videos, signed up for a year membership, and never looked back.
2. How long have you been counting cards?
My first day to the casino as an AP was just about 4 months ago. At this point I didn’t know any deviations. I shouldn’t have gone out there that early but I thought I would be moving away from where I am now so I might not have the opportunity to visit some of my home casinos with this much ease. It wasn’t until the deviation drill came out on the site that I really got them down, which was around my 3rd or 4th outing. 5 months ago I didn’t even know what a double down was. I guess I’ve made my way pretty quickly. Wow, I didn’t even realize this until just now.
3. How long did it take you to trust your skills? How do you know you’re any good?
It took me about 3 1/2 months before I built up some confidence in my game. I made a few mistakes almost every session, I’m very fortunate that I was aware and quickly learned from them. When you strive to be perfect the mistakes burn deep and you make sure you tell yourself it’s not going to happen again. I test myself all the time with different drills, I recently got tested out by Ben which was a great feeling, Because I knew he shows no mercy in his test outs and I did way better than I expected.
4. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced/had to overcome?
The biggest challenges for me was learning deviations and deck estimation. The deviation drill on the site was like my savior. I was struggling a lot with that, I made some flashcards but I wasn’t adapting very well. The drill on the site is nice because it tells you the mistakes quickly and your % rate and how many you’ve played. My deviations skyrocketed from 40% to 68% to 90’s to 100% the only time I make mistakes is when I’m going too fast and miss the surrender sign. The deck estimation was solved when BJA came out with those rulers, if you don’t have one I strongly recommend you get one, there cheap and save you a ton of time. Another thing I do is get bunch of decks and stack them up 1 deck, 2 decks, 3 decks, or 1/2 deck. One deck if you’re playing DD and put them in front of your computer desk or somewhere you spend a lot of time, and just look at them. Glance, until it becomes muscle memory you won’t second guess your deck estimations.
5. Any advice you would give to others? Anything you wish you would have known?
Variance STINGS, be prepared and when it comes, don’t use that to measure your skills, don’t lose confidence in yourself it happens to everyone. Always if you have any questions don’t be afraid to message someone or post about it on the forum, we are a community and were here to help each other out.
6. What’s your favorite thing about being a card counter?
I actually enjoy being in a casino most of the time. I like talking to people around the tables, making friends. I like trying to blend in with the normal people and rallying against the casino to increase our “luck”. As long as I’ve got my hours in, at the end of the day, I’ve always won.
7. Any highlights of your career so far?
The highlight of my career was the test out by Ben, I was worried before going in there. I’m not that aggressive at watching for payout errors or dealer hand totals, so I thought I wouldn’t do that well, I was also second guessing my deck estimation. I did pretty well at all of these things. I did mess up the running count because it was difficult for me to keep a constructive conversation going and remember the RC after the conversation’s over. That is something I will work on.
8. What’s the most you’ve ever won/lost in a day? How did that feel? How did you respond?
The most I’ve won in a day was 132 units, It was a good day it seemed like any table I went to I sat down and the count went positive and I was up after every shoe, I don’t even think I played that long that day. I had a bad month this past month. In one session I was up 80 units, went to have lunch with my family, came back and went down 240 units in one hour. It was horrible having to keep buying in watching your money deplete before you can even register what’s going on. I came back that session to only lose 23 units but It was still terrible at just how fast it all went, My next losing session I actually lost all the money I came with and that was about 20% of my bankroll. I went to go hang out with friends after that session and honestly forgot all about it. It was still in the back of my head but having been prepared for negative variance days it didn’t shock me as much because I was expecting it. Every ploppie in the casino is optimistic, they all think they’re going to win. But they’re playing a losing game where the odds are not in their favor. In regards to my AP outlook I’m always pessimistic. I expect negative variance every day, and when I break even I’m happy. When I win I’m ecstatic and when I lose I’m not that bummed because that’s what I was expecting.
9. Any memorable story(stories) you’re willing to share?
All the best memories I have from blackjack all come with splitting 10’s. It’s just the stupidest move to ploppies because it doesn’t make sense to them. Usually every time you split you have a big bet out there and every time you make the signal, the looks and comments never cease to amaze me. I love the expressions on their faces when the dealers bust and they proceed to tell me how crazy I am. Thankfully every time I’ve split 10’s I’ve never lost. Knock on wood 😉
10. What’s your favorite advantaged play have you done in your life that didn’t involve blackjack or casinos?
AP plays I can think of off the top of my head. I was in 3rd grade the class was supposed to do a book report 3 times a year on 3 different books we were required to read at home. I didn’t finish the first book and I wrote the report and made up the ending. I got an A-, the next 2 book reports I wrote on the same book but changed the name of the book, author, and character names. I got an A on one and a B on the other. Sorry Mrs. Rogers.
Thanks, Bubba, for sharing your story with us!
And whether you’re a fellow card counter or a counter-in-training, Keep Generating EV!