What a Trip - My 300 Hour Card Counting Adventure in the US - Blackjack Apprenticeship

What a Trip – My 300 Hour Card Counting Adventure in the US



Story by BJA Member “Ultimate”

What at first sounded like a strange idea became true: After a year of reading, training and playing small stakes as a test, I came over to the US from overseas: Three months of playing Blackjack as an extended vacation, taking a break from work.

I decide to start in Vegas with Colin’s bootcamp – a fantastic experience. After the Bootcamp, I begin hitting the Vegas casinos…

Things start with mixed feelings as I see lots of fluctuations in my results. I knew that this happens, but experiencing the wins and losses is so different from reading about them.


I’m up after about a week in Las Vegas, so I head to Yellowstone. What a beautiful place!


I continue my card counting trip north, and on my way to Seattle I do it for the first time: splitting tens. It felt wonderful as I won the hand, and the people next to me were cheering and yelling… Soon later I also learned how it feels when you lose this kind of split. Up and down, up and down… I realize that it’s like that all the time – despite that we have the advantage. It’s so small and variance always shows both of its faces.

When I arrive in Seattle, I have logged 64h and my AV more or less equals EV. Thumbs up!

One night I drove my car on a ferry to visit a casino and after 6 hours of play, I had lost quite a lot. Getting tired, I leave the place and suddenly my GPS says “…turn right and take the ferry”. WHAT?!? It’s 3am and there is definitely no ferry going now! What to do? I had lost at the tables, was tired, but too awake to sleep in the car and my only other option was a two hour drive for a very short distance. Finally, I make a call home (it’s lunch time over there), go in the gas station, buy a large coffee and the largest energy drink available and head back to the casino…

Pit Boss: “Welcome back, you have just one more hour till we close.” Knowing about my previous losses, he’s letting me play like a mad man. Spreading from 1x table min to 2x table max is fine. When the last shoe is played, I’m more than happy with getting back three quarters of what I lost before. Shortly later I fall asleep waiting in line for the morning ferry.

After I decide it’s time to move on from Seattle, I begin my way south, where there are lots of experiences awaiting me: trespasses, convincing players with superstitious arguments that it’s better when I finish the shoe alone, and the shortest session possible… a dealer counts my money, laying it on the table and the Pit Boss comes over, moves it back to me and says “Sorry, we don’t want your action”.


Then there is this phase of incredible positive variance when everything seems to work, including a shoe where I win more than 150 units. Further on my way to the Mexican border there is so much of America’s beautiful nature and I enjoy being able to see this with my own eyes. And then there is this player who actually stops playing and argues for me against the Pit Boss when I am backed off. Looking at my results chart, I smilingly notice that after 180 hours I am 1 full standard deviation ahead of EV. Wow!

But then comes the unevitable: I lose session after session with a net loss of more than 700 units in a row. I ask other players for potential mistakes, check my deviations and my betting again and again… AV is back to EV. Somehow bad, but it’s also the mere fact that helps me to keep going.

And then, at a small casino my losing streak finally turns. I ask the lady at the cashier of a why the cash out takes so long. “Oh, we are sorry about that, but no one present has ever had such a large cash out.”

After this and some more winning sessions, a snow storm shows me yet some more pieces of beautiful landscape and blackjack-wise I’m ahead of EV, but another losing streak makes me lose 25 out of 33 sessions with a net loss of nearly 600 units. Damn.

To finish off my trip, I head back to Vegas for some final sessions. One of these is a marathon session where I play 9.5 hours straight; I’m being closely watched but not backed off. And in my final session I split tens again, have two 19s vs 4, dealer flips a 10, slowly pulls out the cut card and then…draws a 7. It’s time to leave not only the table, but the US.


When it’s all said and done, a final look at my graph before I fly back to Europe shows 291 hours and an AV that is 98% of EV, with a mid 5-figure profit! Needless to say, I’m happy with the results. What a trip!