Profile of a Card Counter: Spartan

 

Spartan, one of the Pros at BJA, has become a regular at our Blackjack Bootcamps and has become a friend in the past year. He was willing to share a bit about his journey as a card counter, including outlining an epic 8,000 mile road trip with LeviMich

Check out his story…



1. What were you doing before becoming a card counter?

I was an automotive wire harness shield design engineer for a year. Basically, I’d be given data on wire routing in a car and figure out ways to hold them in place using brackets and plastic shields to protect them. Make sure the prints were in a standardized format, visit the plant to make sure everything fit well in the prototype, sit in on GoToMeetings while my ideas are scrapped because they changed the routing…

Jim Paper Talk

2. How did you get into card counting?

I saw Holy Rollers on Netflix, figured I could do it, and the rest is history

3. What was your training like?

Mix of software training and physically dealing cards to myself. I got a buddy involved so it was easier to train. I played a lot of blackjack at home and kept continuous track of my results to prove to myself that I could do this and it was profitable.

4. Did you quit your job right away, or what did that transition look like?

I started training April 2015. I was ready to play by June, but didn’t professionally start until September 2015. On September 1, 2016, exactly one year later, I quit my job to be a full-time card counter. From Sept 2015 to Dec 2015, I had the good fortune of grinding away at a local casino 30 minutes from home. My average day was waking up at 5am, getting to the casino by 6am, and playing for an hour. Regular work from 8-5. Back to the casino until 8. Sleep by 10pm. I’m looking back at my early records and I did this pretty much everyday…Geez. I don’t know how I had the energy, It’s all kind of a blur now. I clocked 98 hours in November while maintaining a 40-hour workweek.

Spartan Time Split

This chart assumed I slept 8 hours a day (I didn’t) and there are 5 days that month I took off. I generated 12 hours and 15 minutes of EV on Thanksgiving Day. I remember that day clearly, down to what I had for dinner: a turkey sandwich from the deli.

I never took a payout from my bankroll for over a year, choosing to grow my investment. By June 2016, I had grown my bankroll to $30K and chose to team up with Levimich (who had the same amount). We had grown our bankrolls separately, yet stayed in touch. It seemed foolish for us to put off working together and I regret not doing it sooner. Working with him was one of the greatest decisions in my career, although it was a bumpy beginning. We went on a continuous losing streak from June 2016 to Sept 2016. I had run out of my local joints and had to resort to weekends trips anywhere from 5-10 hour one-way drives. It was in August that I decided, when we were down half our bankroll, to quit my job to pursue blackjack full-time. Those were uncertain times, but definitely the most exciting. The day I quit my job, I was on the road with Levimich across the country. I had no idea that trip would have lasted a full month, traversing through 8k miles and resuscitating our bankroll.

5. Can you share a little more about this 8k mile road trip?

Blackjack Trip Route

9/1: Start Trip.

Blackjack Backpack
blankets

9/2: @Tunica, MS. AV: +$5,537.50. Total: $5,537.50

9/3 – 9/5: @Biloxi, MS. AV: -$3,050. Total: $2,487.50

Where we first started implementing BP-Spotter strategy to counter against they’re quick flyers. We made up the system we still use today and sort of just improvised the whole thing. This was also around the time I realized the extent of Levimich’s addiction to Chick-fil-A. When you literally just ate lunch and then want to stop by a Chick-fil-A (forgetting you had just eaten), you have a problem.

9/5 – 9/6: @Baton Rouge, LA. AV: -$1,445.50. Total: $1,042

First day on the trip we slept in the car in the parking ramp at L’Auberge. The next day we got a comped suite. You can see my car where I slept the night before from the window of the suite. In the life of an AP, today you can be eating hot dogs from the side of a gas station and sleeping in the car, tomorrow you eat comped filet mignon and sleep in a suite.

9/6 – 9/9: @TX. Rest at Levimich brother’s house.

Sometimes you just gotta wind down and relax. Spent some quality time eating good food, hanging out, goofing off, binging Netflix, drinking beer.

9/10: @NM. AV: +$8,397.50. Total: $9,439.50

9/11 – 9/13: @AZ. AV: +$5,080. Total: $14,519.50

Pool Relaxing
Levimich and a Dog

On the first night, Levimich had the worst shoe of his career: -$7,650 (Top bets were 2x$400). We had even finished the session for the night. I asked him to go down and get some rubber bands and on his way back up, he backcounted a shoe and wonged in. We now refer any extremely bad variance shoe as “a rubber-band shoe”. We recovered that loss the next day. Somewhere on the road, Levimich saved and tried to take with us a stray dog. It smelled really bad.

9/13 – 9/16: @Las Vegas. AV: +$7,200. Total: $21,719.50

cash cabinet
Vegas Hotel Suite

Things are starting to look good. We get to Vegas and instantly get backed off spreading the normal way. We develop a new strategy to play in Vegas that we still do today.

Vegas Roadtrip

9/17 – 9/20: @Seattle, WA. AV: +$4,560. Total: $26,279.50

Seattle Skyline at Night
Tipping at a casino

Sleep in the most comfortable beds in the world. On the first night there, we were cumulatively down over $20,000. I remember Levimich texting me if we should go to the bathroom to hug and cry. They let us play and we made back all our money and more. After the backoff, we stuck around for a cash raffle, due to the number of entries we accumulated from the past 3 days. We won a $500 cash prize. We also received so much comps, even after filling up gas, and stocking up on snacks, energy drinks, clothes from the gift shop; we were able to buy a bunch of snacks and drinks for the staff there. And if you were interested why my split ten photo has some white chips they paid out, those were $1 tips to the dealer. Why did I tip here? Two reasons, we got a lot of comps from them and there was no cut card for penetration (the dealer chose when to end the shoe).

Card Counting Money

9/22 – 9/24: @Deadwood, SD. AV: -$13,347.50. Total: $12,932

Deadwood South Dakota

What can be said about Deadwood? Levimich had one place he could camp with extremely good penetration. I got flyered and backed off every casino in town fairly quickly and had to sit around in the room while he just kept losing. It never ended. On the way out, we stopped by a gift store where he fell in love with a bear lamp. I bought it for him as a late birthday present.

9/25 – 9/27: Way back home. AV: +$2,007.50. Total: $14,939.50

Blackjack Apology Note

Car finally broke down in the Upper Peninsula, MI. We asked the mechanic to drop us off at the nearest casino and went to work. The next day, Casino management did not take kindly and wanted to speak with us the next morning. We ran out of the room when the coast was clear, but not before leaving a note. Finally, the end of the trip.

When I got back home, I moved out of my apartment and traveled the country and played blackjack for the next 3 months. In Jan 2016, I finally settled in Las Vegas.

6. Do you miss your old job?

Not in the slightest. I have done extremely well self-employed and would wish to stay so the rest of my life.

7. Any life lesson you’ve learned from card counting?

Patience and Perseverance. Knowing when to attack with aggression and when to pull back in defense. Seeing things in the big picture and maintaining consistency towards that goal.

I chose the name Spartan to exemplify the qualities I seeked to embody.

Stoicism, to react the same whether great loss or huge positive variance.

Minimalism in both physical possessions and in way of life. I chose to have few possessions to freely travel and have everything I need.

Aggression and Loyalty. When the bankroll was at its weakest, I chose to sacrifice my safety net to aid my team and be able to increase my hours and EV generated. I believe that my success was only possible because I gave myself no other option but to succeed. I worked like my life depended on it, because it did.

Oh, and if you’re trying to fill a void in your life, money won’t solve that. Blackjack will give you two things: Money and interesting stories to tell. I’d urge you to figure out what your endgame is and use blackjack as a vehicle to guide you to that goal.

8. What’s your favorite thing about being a card counter and AP?

Being in control of my own time and money. The friends that I made through this journey. The freedom to travel anytime and anywhere. The stories that I get to tell.

 

And here’s a graph of Spartan’s career progress:

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Spartan!