After my 300 hour card counting adventure in the US, I took a break back at home. But then I continued the path and played in Europe and finally finishing in Bahamas.
It all starts with some changes compared to playing in the US: Different rules (ENHC), I always have to show ID to get access, I do some investigation in advance to find out about the different currencies and the cash transport across borders including cash declaration etc. Moreover, BJ in Europe is much harder to research about – information in the internet might well be old or not in English, if you find something at all; people on the phone often do not speak English and if they do, they hardly know whether cards are shuffled by hand or a machine, much less the rules…
Belgium, France, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland
So I planned a several-week trip to Belgium and France, being prepared for new BJ experiences…and they came. My self-made map on my phone shows a huge number of casinos, especially in France. But one thing I am not fully prepared for is the ridiculous number of casinos/ blackjack tables with CSMs (continuous shuffle machines). This actually turns out to be THE most annoying part of the whole story.
I arrive at the third casino…finally I can play. It even offers early surrender vs. 10s (but not vs. Ace) – good! There is only one table (this would turn out to often be the case), but there is not too much going on and I can play…and play… When the place closes (yes, most casinos in Europe have opening times!), I played nearly 7 hours and I broke my personal record for one session. What a fantastic start! The day after I return and win again. As the place is quite near to my home I leave them alone and want to come back later. Big mistake! When I return several weeks later, I am told that I cannot enter but they didn’t know why. Finally I insist to speak to a manager. As the guy shows up, he makes it clear to me that we both know why and I am not welcome anymore. Who knows how long it took them to figure it out and how much EV* I let go by not playing there after two sessions and a total of 13 hours.
I move on to the north of France where, in one place, the pit boss offers me a security guard for the way to my car, which I happily accept. What follows is lots of driving through France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. On my way, I discover A LOT more CSMs or otherwise unplayable places. Then, all of a sudden, there is this remarkable place with early surrender (this time vs. any dealer up-card) and hence, a small edge off-the-top. The lamb is ready to slaughter the butcher. Unfortunately, this time I am the butcher!! Shortly before the place closes, I run out of money and finish the day with my worst session result in my career. I can’t believe it – I just lost the equivalent of 32 table max bets in 3:20 … At another place in the south of France, before I can place any big bet, the dealer is told to cut-off 3 of 6 decks; ok, I think, let’s have some fun. I play negligible bets till the count rises to TC2. I win; then they cut off 4 decks and I start to backcount while sitting at the table. Some other guys at the table get annoyed and ask the dealer why the heck they shuffle so often. After some time, the dealer is told to cut off 4.5 decks(!) and I still backcount – just for fun. When he cuts the deck, I make some chicken-like sounds and they all laugh – including 3 dealers and 3 PBs talking about the ridiculous scene…! Finally, they cut off 5.2 decks(!!) and I talk to the floor manager – he tells me that he is “…not allowed to back you off…”. I take my winnings and leave them alone. 5.2 out of 6 decks…no more words…
After a small break, I travel to UK… and meet our friend variance again. On the first four days I hit a negative 3% percentile (650 units) and I am forced to reduce my betting pattern since my trip bankroll reduces dramatically fast. But fortunately, positive variance strikes right back (you can actually observe this in my all-time chart) and makes me win even more than I lost… After more than 70 hours I return home with above-EV winnings. That was a crazy sub-trip!
France and Italy, again
Not much later, I feel ready to play the butcher again in the edge-off-the-top-game in France and… playing there for two days, I lose again. Meanwhile they have worsened the penetration to 2-3 decks. I must move on. In Italy I meet a card-counting friend and we even manage to play together in a casino. This evening was great fun despite having a losing night.
Atlantic City, Bahamas
The final trip of this incredible year leads me to the Bahamas. On my way, I spend a couple of days in Atlantic City and Philadelphia. I remember some pit bosses standing in a cowboy manner when I return from the cashier: “Go and try the other casino, they’re easier there.” Hmmm, thanks, I think, have already been there! Before moving on to the Bahamas, I get a free ride with a police car to the Golden Nugget (after I was involved in a car accident). Would like to get the surveillance video of my arrival…
Bahamas: Again, you never know what you get until you sit down at their tables: In the end, I could play as long as I wanted to in a casino that was supposed to be super sweaty. It was a fantastic trip with my best results ever in terms of profit/hour. One tip for all who want to go there: If you leave from Nassau and head to the US by flight, it is good to know that US customs is already on the island…I did not know and nearly missed my flight due to declaration!
I plan my return from the Bahamas on a specific day so that I can participate at a BJ tournament this very same day. I read Wong’s book about tournaments (it helps a lot!) and discussed the completely different betting strategy with a friend who also participates. Next to a good betting strategy you actually do need to have a good portion of luck in a tournament in order to proceed to the next round… Bottom line: Still very tired from my trip I manage to win the trophy out of 42 participants. Yeah!
Some weeks later I manage to meet a card counting friend from the US who is about to finish a BJ trip to Europe. We do exchange stories and cash, so to save some extra $$$ for both of us.
Looking on my all-time chart I realize I have made 111% of EV in 576 hours logged hours plus some extra $$$ from the tournament. What a year!