We had the opportunity to ask BJA member “levimich” about his blackjack journey. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person, and he will be attending our upcoming Blackjack Bootcamp.
But before we get to the interview, I wanted to share with you what levimich’s teammate had to say about him:
My most profitable Advantage Play was teaming up with him and although he is 4 years younger than me, I look up to him in a lot of ways. For the longest time I studied him and wondered how he manages to win so much more frequently than me, even though we play the same way. And I started to see why… Even with advantage play, this game still hinges a lot on variance, but you still have control over creating situations that help you overcome it faster. That’s when I noticed how well [he handled himself in a casino compared to me]. He’s got the dealers on his side, so they could cut it thinner and easily get reserved tables to maximize his rounds/hr. And he plays until he’s hungry, tired, or backed off. It doesn’t matter if he’s up $5K already, he keeps playing. He’s the type that never knows how much he’s up until he’s back in the room to count it…
The kid’s a winner and is going to go far in life and I thank God I was able to find him before a more professional team took him in.
On top of that, he’s just a good person. He’ll always get employees gifts and food with his comps, every time we pass a homeless person he wants to give some money (one time in Vegas he wanted to pick up a homeless hitchhiker). In Phoenix, there was a dog in the road and he stopped the car to grab it and we called the cops to put it in a safe shelter. I am not making this up (photo attached). Needless to say, he’s a great teammate and there are no shortage of stories he could tell to help other BJA members.
I know we’re all likely interested in card counting to beat the game, make money, and do something exciting. But at the end of the day, we’re all people. And when we look back at our lives and card counting careers, being a good person is way more important than being a winning card counter. That’s why I felt the need to share this before getting into the details of levimich’s blackjack career.
Without further ado, check out his story below!
How did you get into card counting?
My older brother introduced me to blackjack when he took me to the casino a few months after I had turned 18. My friend and I got hooked and started going to the casino pretty frequently to play. Our goal was always to double our $20-30 or whatever small amount that would last us at the $5 table was. We seemed to do pretty well most of the time and we loved playing the game.
One day she suggested we watch the movie “21”. After watching that movie I googled “is it really possible to count cards”. I read stuff about it on the internet until 6am because I was so interested. I remember calling another friend I would gamble with the next day and saying, “Dude, we’re gonna be rich. We’re gonna learn how to count cards!” And he asked, “Ok, how much money do you think we’ll need to start?”. I said, “I don’t know, probably $100.”
After that, playing blackjack with chips at the casino became playing with pennies on my apartment floor for several months. I pretty much quit gambling and went back to the casino when I was ready.
How long have you been counting cards?
I have been counting cards for about two years now. About a year and a half playing full time.
How long did it take you to trust your skills? How do you know you’re any good?
I wasn’t going to start playing blackjack without knowing for sure that I was ready and had a perfect game. My friend and I came up with a pretty intense test out and she wasn’t going to let me play in the casino if I made any mistakes. I also spoke with some pros (on BJA) about my game to make sure I knew everything I needed to know.
Thankfully, I started off blackjack losing money. I took out a very small line of credit and played games making $7-10/hr.* After losing about 2/3 of my bankroll, things turned around after about 100 hours or so. As I continued to play, I watched my profit line up with my EV. I trusted my skills before I started my journey, but it’s a whole other thing to see things work out how they should after putting in the time and playing the right way.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced/had to overcome?
When I was a lower stakes full-time player, finding good conditions at my local casino was hard sometimes. One of the biggest obstacles was table minimums being too high with no midshoe entry rules. When you are limited to certain tables, a lot of times those tables are going to be full or not available. It was a 1:20 drive to the closest casino and there were many days I’d drive out there and have to drive back home. I had to work around that a lot and go at odd times of day to get the hours in that I needed too.
Another challenge that everyone will have to overcome is the variance. Even playing with low risk, you have losing sessions you’d never really think we’re possible. It’s hard to lose a huge chunk of your bankroll and have to slowly climb back up again. You get used to the swings the longer you play, but it can still be emotionally challenging when you go through a rough season of bad variance.
Any advice you would give to others? Anything you wish you would have known?
Don’t get ahead of yourself and play before your skills are up to par.
If you can’t afford to lose your bankroll, keep your RoR low. Play aggressively but with caution.
Every now and then, take time to have some fun and relax when you’re out there working hard grinding at the tables.
Lastly, always keep your eye open for other opportunities to beat the casino while you’re playing. Sometimes there’s value hidden in plain sight.
Any highlights of your career so far?
Traveling has been pretty cool. Having a job where you can pack up and go pretty much anywhere you want to work is liberating. I’ve seen a lot of cool things, met a lot of great people, and have had amazing times with my friends and teammates along the way.
What’s your favorite thing about being a card counter?
I like the freedom that comes with it. I’m not really cut out for a 9-5. I like the idea of thinking outside the box and doing something so adventurous.
What’s the most you’ve ever won/lost in a day? How did that feel? How did you respond?
I had a day where I was up about 3k or so. I was about to call it quits but I wanted to play a little longer because the conditions were so good at this casino. When I went back to play I lost about 8k back on the lower limit tables. Then went to high stakes and at one point I was down a little over 20k for the day at the lowest point before I made a little bit back. I had started playing at 2pm and they backed me off around 6:30am the next morning. It was really annoying having no chance at winning my money back there. I am planning revenge on that casino though. You have to be prepared for the swings you will have and always be prepared for the worst.
Tomorrow’s a new day and you’ll get the money back soon enough if you keep playing. My biggest session win so far is 11.5k. It’s hard to book large wins without drawing extreme heat or being backed off before you can make more. I have had larger unit wins playing smaller spreads, but usually sessions are shorter now.
Any memorable story(stories) you’re willing to share?
Oh man. There are so many. Running from security, giving $100’s of food comps to random people, meeting other APs at tables, etc.
Here’s a funny one… I was at a casino on the gulf coast at about 3am. My teammate had been trespassed there the day before and we were flyered all over town so I knew it wasn’t going to last long once I sat down. I parked on the street outside and went in to play. In 2 DD shoes, the heat turned on and I was about to get backed off. I overheard the pit boss say to the manager that he already called security. I just laughed and called out to them, “so do you guys just want me to leave now? Or…” They had the security guard escort me out. He was bothering me for my name but I wouldn’t give it to him. He was trying to suck up to me and be nice so I would tell him.
Once we got to the car he asked me one last time for my name. I told him “Sorry,” I couldn’t make it that easy for ’em. So as I’m making my grand escape, I learned the hard way that someone had parked their Mustang behind me in the street while I was inside. Like an idiot, I BARELY bumped into it while I was pulling out. The security squad got real excited about it and started threatening me that if I left, I’d be “fleeing the scene of an accident”. Keep in mind, there is no damage on the cars at all. No scratches or paint missing or anything.
They called the police who showed up about 20 awkward minutes later. For some reason, they felt the need to send out like 5 cops to handle it, several cars had their lights flashing. It looked like a murder scene or something. Anyway, I had to pull the cops aside and explain to them what was going on. I told them how the casino was trying to use the situation as leverage to get my name and that it is important that my name is protected for the sake of my job. The cops just thought it was awesome that I was a card counter and started asking me a bunch of questions about blackjack. My name was never given to security and the owner of the Mustang (who ended up being a dealer at the casino) saw that there was clearly no damage and didn’t want to file a report. Security tried manipulating the dealer into filing a report just to get my name, but I told her what was happening and during my explanation, security just said, “screw it, just let him go”. That’s right!
I went back to the casino I was staying at (where I had also been backed off) and told the manager I had befriended what had happened down the road and we just laughed about it and talked about how crazy some casinos can act. That’s just one of many stories.
What’s your favorite advantaged play have you done in your life that didn’t involve blackjack or casinos?
When I was pretty young, 10-12 or so, my brother and I would always go to our local YMCA and hang out and then eat at McDonalds with the loose change we scraped up from home. They had a sandwich called the “southern style chicken sandwich” and it was around 4 bucks. It had chicken, pickles, and a special bun. I would order the cheapest 90¢ hamburger with nothing on it but pickles, request the different bun for free, and then buy the chicken separate. I got the same exact sandwich for $2 instead. That’s kind of a silly example but I was always proud of it.
Another thing I did when I was 16- my bank did this promotion where if you open a checking account, deposit $50 and make 10 transactions with your card, they’d put $150 in your checking account. I would bring different friends to the bank with me and have them open an account. I’d deposit $50 and then immediately withdraw it. Then I used the Square app on my phone to pay myself $1 ten times with their debit card. I did that with 4 friends and made $600.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading levimich’s blackjack journey.
*Just a personal note… I don’t recommend taking out lines of credit to become a card counter. Just be patient and save up some money. =)