I had the pleasure of meeting “Ryemo” while I was in Las Vegas for a recent Blackjack Bootcamp. He wasn’t attending the Bootcamp, but happened to be in town for a blackjack trip and was friends with several of the BJA Pros who were helping with the Bootcamp that weekend.
He’s a successful full-time card counter, as well as a really great person. Enjoy learning more about his journey, as well as some sage advice from “Ryemo”!
A friend of mine introduced me into card counting at the beginning of 2014. He would boast about his winnings on Facebook, so this caught my attention. He told me he was making money playing blackjack, via counting cards. I looked into the subject briefly once before, so I was immediately intrigued. That is what sparked my interest in blackjack and it’s also how I adopted the Zen count as my system of choice.
My friend never became an accomplished blackjack player and no longer plays anymore, but he’s the reason that I am playing blackjack today.
2. How long have you been counting cards?
I’ve been counting for almost 4 years now. My first 2 or 2.5 years was purely recreational, but blackjack has been my primary source of income for the last year and half or so.
3. How long did it take you to trust your skills? How do you know you’re any good?
By the end of my first year, I was becoming more confident in my skills. By the time I got past the 1,000 hour mark and my winnings were in the low 6-figure range, I think that was all the affirmation that I needed.
Even though correlation doesn’t always imply causation, I have been backed off from well over 50 casinos and I know I’m in almost all the databases.
4. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced/had to overcome?
AP and Family Life – Some of the bigger challenges I’ve faced is trying to make this endeavor work with my wife and kids. My wife has been very supportive of my AP exploits and has a pretty good understanding of how it all works. The big problem that most APs face though is losing their ability to play at home. I haven’t been welcomed in my local casinos for quite some time now, so my only opportunity to play is when I travel.
Leading the life of a traveling AP while trying to maintain and balance a “normal” family life is fairly difficult. It has worked out this far, but I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to stay this active. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing for good, but I could definitely see myself slowing down over the next year or two maybe. I guess time will only tell.
5. Any advice you would give to others? Anything you wish you would have known?
If I had to give some general advice for up and coming players, it would be this:
6. Any highlights of your career so far?
I would say the highlights of my career have been traveling to destinations that I normally wouldn’t have traveled to, and meeting a lot of great people along the way! I’ve had the opportunity to meet many “high profile” APs, which has been amazing! I’ve also made friends with a lot of great people all over the country too!
7. What’s your favorite thing about being a card counter?
I’ve always liked the idea of beating the system, legally. Knowing that I have the edge is what motivates me to play. Before card counting, I never had any interest in casino gambling whatsoever. When I learned that blackjack was a beatable game, it really intrigued me. Beating the house just feels good psychologically!
8. Whats the most you’ve ever won/lost in a day? How did that feel? How did you respond?
The most I ever lost in a single session was about $23,000. I was playing a marathon-long session that went on for at least 12 hours, and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t win! My top bet was 2×500 and I was just getting absolutely destroyed. I made a decent comeback half way through that session, but only to give it all right back again, which was pretty demoralizing!
My single best winning session (in one sitting) wasn’t nearly as high, but it was certainly a lot more fun! It was my first time at this casino and I found some really good conditions on their shoe game. My plan at this casino was to just play until they backed me off or until I was too tired to continue. I started the session pretty conservatively, betting 2×25 to 2×300, but I got more and more aggressive as the session continued. Half way through the session, I was betting 1×10 to 2×500. They let me play for 4 hours and I won just a little over $11,000 before I was backed off and trespassed. After I got escorted off the property, the head of security actually showed me the BOLO (“be on the look out”) that was circulating around town from another casino. I was amazed they let me play for so long and win so much before finally taking stopping me.
I also had one trip where I won just over $22K in just under 9 hours of play. That was my best trip so far.
9. Any memorable story (stories) you’re willing to share?
In my short AP career, I think I’ve had a lot of memorable moments, but the one that immediately comes to mind was the time that I was forcibly back roomed. I was at casino that had backed me off once before (I guess you could say that I was 86’d because I was walked out by security). I came back several months later, with a couple thousand dollars in chips from this place that I had been holding onto for almost a year. When I walked in that evening, my intentions were to either play with those chips or possibly just cash them out. I scoped out the game selection and didn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided I wasn’t going to play.
I’m standing around, getting ready to leave, and all of a sudden I get a tap on the shoulder; it’s a suit requesting my ID. I refuse, but then he explains that he’s a cop and he flashes me his badge. For those of you who don’t know, in certain states, casino gaming agents also happen to be state police (which was the case in this situation). I refused to show ID and that’s when security came along and starts to intervene. I ask the cop if I’m being arrested or detained, and if so, I asked what the charge was. He couldn’t answer my question, so I repeated it a few more times. Finally, the cop looks at the security guard and asks him if I’m being arrested. The security guard says “he is if he doesn’t come to the back with us.”
I made it clear over and over that I was NOT going to any back room and that I wanted to leave, but my protests fell on deaf ears. As I kept moving forward towards the exit, both guys kept blocking my path. By the time I got to the exit, I called another fellow AP friend and asked him if I should call a lawyer. As this was happening, both the security guard and cop grabbed my arms and put them behind my back and forced me into the back.
When I got to the back, I was pretty much given an ultimatum; cooperate by providing my ID and sign some paperwork, or risk going to jail. At this point, I finally decided to give in. It was 2:30am, I was in a high-crime area, and I had about $10K on me. Going to jail under these circumstances seemed less than ideal, so I signed the forms and finally gave up my ID. They agreed to cash out the remainder of my chips and that was pretty much the end of that. I was escorted off the property for the second and final time. I don’t think I’ll be going back again.
10) What’s your favorite advantage play that you have done in your life that didn’t involve blackjack or casinos?
When I was 20 years old, I stumbled upon a retail business that seemed very lucrative at the time. I prefer not mention what products we were selling, only because it could easily contribute to identifying me. This particular business was typically owned/operated by foreigners and was usually in operation during the holiday season only. I saw a lot more potential for this business and took it in a different direction. I was one of the first guys in this industry to employ all Americans and keep the business running year round, as opposed to strictly seasonal. I started with one location in 2006 and got to 8 locations by 2013, at the height of our expansion. As online retail was starting to ramp up, we began down-sizing and closed the business in 2016.
The reason I consider this an AP move is because the products that we were selling were marketed almost solely to women. It’s not something that I would ever use for myself personally. I dove into this business because I saw an opportunity and an advantage. Healthy mark-up, highly incentivized employees, and low overhead all seemed like a recipe for success. Many of my friends at the time thought that my business of choice was “odd” to say the least. But many of them also changed their opinion when they realized I was drawing a 6 figure salary from my company for about 7 out of the 10 years we were in operation.
With online retailers really starting to take off, we noticed a large decline in revenue starting in 2013, and the declines only worse year by year. A lot of the issues that we faced were out of our control, so the business took a loss in the last couple years. While the business didn’t end as smoothly as I would have liked, It was certainly a big financial success overall. Like many great opportunities, it didn’t last forever; but we knew that going into it. At least we took advantage of those opportunities while we could. It was great while it lasted!
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Ryemo!