We had the opportunity to ask BJA member mark_k about his blackjack journey. These are the questions we asked him and his responses. Enjoy!
1. How did you get into card counting?
I listened to a radio program on “This American Life” about blackjack that featured “The church team”. After listening to the program I searched for the Holy Rollers on Netflix and after that I looked up BJA on the internet. I read most everything I could from the site without being a member and decided to join. I figured I had wasted a lot more money than that playing craps.
2. How long have you been counting cards?
I joined BJA February 2014 and attended boot camp the following June and went live July 2014.
3. How long did it take you to trust your skills? How do you know you’re any good?
It took me about 6 months before I trusted myself. As far as if I’m any good my wife used to tell me good luck when I would go to play, now she tells me not to come home until I win. Seriously though, it was after about 60 hours of live play I looked back at my win/loss record and realized my hourly win rate was within about $5 per hour and each time I hit a new high point I get knocked down but I continually come back to hit a new high point within 2 to 3 weeks.
4. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced/had to overcome?
I would say the biggest challenge is patience and what I mean is to stick to your plan that fits your ROR and bankroll. In my case I’m seeing my bankroll increase at a rate of about $25 an hour and the thought keeps creeping in my mind, Wow if my betting unit was a black chip I could be up in the low 5 digits, but in reality a few bad sessions could wipe out my entire bankroll.
5. Any advice you would give to others? Anything you wish you would have known?
The best advice I can give is this, don’t become complacent. Stay on top of your game. I still practice 1 to 2 hours per day. I wish I had known how rough the emotional roller coaster was going to be, what a ride !
6. Any highlights of your career so far?
Meeting Ben and Colin at boot camp. Boot camp was a great experience meeting like minded people.
7. What’s your favorite thing about being a card counter?
The best thing about being a card counter, knowing I have the advantage over casinos.
8. What’s the most you’ve ever won/lost in a day? How did that feel? How did you respond?
My biggest win (so far) 59 units and biggest loss 38 units. Like everyone says, the loss is more memorable. After that loss I felt like puking, I drove home the whole time questioning my playing ability, the math, thinking I should quit while I’m still ahead. Later that day I got back on this site and re-read the parts about emotions and losses, that its all part of the game.
9. Any memorable story(stories) you’re willing to share?
I was playing heads up $25 double deck. Immediately the dealer is destroying me even with positive counts, no matter what I do I can’t win a hand. I have a 20 he draws to a 21, I have a pair of 8’s he has a 6, I split the 8’s draw another 8 split again draw a 10, another 10 and 7, yep he draws to a 19. It feels like this goes on for an eternity and he’s practically begging me to quit playing, tells me I should go play the $5 table. By now I’ve blown thru $750. He finally gets tapped out to go on break, the tide turns and now I can’t lose. Within 40 minutes I leave with a $250 win. This stands out to me because I’m sure he thought I was the typical ploppy and he was trying to give me sound advice but I knew I was playing correct and I would eventually come out on top although it may have not been that day.
10. What’s your favorite advantaged play have you done in your life that didn’t involve blackjack or casinos?
My family owns two businesses, one of our companies had a fair amount of excess cash on hand and about 5 years ago we took the opportunity to do some financing for a rent-to-own company. We let the income continue to roll over for 3 years and now we are drawing out the investment. By the time we have completely drawn out all of our money in another year, for every $1 invested we are getting $4 in return.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading mark_k’s blackjack journey. If you enjoyed this you might also check out the forum post that mark_k won the Post of the Month Award for: “Rookie Lessons Learned Along the Way.”