1. Have a gambling question?

    Post it here and our gambling experts will answer it!
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Welcome to the #1 Gambling Community with the best minds across the entire gambling spectrum. REGISTER NOW!
  3. Join our $5,000 Cash Giveaway!

    Win Cash by Posting and Inviting New Members!

Blackjack The rollercoaster that is blackjack card-counting

Discussion in 'Blackjack Forum' started by KewlJ, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    In previous years, on whatever site I have participated on, I have shared my results as a fulltime card-counting blackjack player, as part of my effort to share my experiences, just as others shared their experiences with me a decade ago, when I was starting out. But on this site, sharing my results seems not very appreciated. It is perceived as some sort of bragging, which is completely not the intention, so I am not going to do so.

    Instead, I am going to repost a post of mine from another site that does share a bit of my 2016, especially the closing months. It's not so much about the numbers as it is about the mental psyche in dealing with "the rollercoaster that is blackjack card-counting".

    I entered 2016, my 13th year of supporting myself from card counting and a little supplemental AP play, $130k short of a million dollars earned in my career. From 2012 thru 2015, I had averaged $104,000 a year in total AP earnings, That is my blackjack card counting plus half of a bit of machine play supplemental stuff that my partner and I do. So for me to hit that little milestone of a million dollars earned, in 2016, I would need to come in significantly above expectation. But I had hit that $130k amount needed, twice before in my career, in 2012 and 2013, so it was not out of the question.

    So the first half of 2016 was pretty unremarkable for me. My blackjack numbers were mildly below expectation. Then in July and August, I caught fire, racking in some pretty big wins, I neared that magical, yet meaningless milestone, that for some reason, I was spending too much time obsessing about. o_O The first week in October it happened. After I small winning day my career earnings were $1100 above the million dollar mark! Que the celebration! :D:cool:

    That day in early October was my last ATH (all time high). I was above the 1M mark for a total of about 20 hours. It was like the BJ gods and/or Lady Variance allowed me to touch that mark and then began slapping me around. For the final 3 months of 2016, I went backwards. No major 5 figure losing days which often occur during one of my downturns, just constant small losses, always retreating from that ATH. I ended the year 34 grand off that ATH. And the first few days of 2017, I have continued that slide and am now 36,000+ off that ATH.

    Now I have had 3 different backwards slides that lasted 5 months or longer, so this slide is no where near my longest. But in the first couple days of 2017, it became my 'deepest' slide backwards. Prior to this my 'deepest' slide backwards was 34 thousand dollars in 2013, before things turned around.

    Now a $36,000 downturn is different to different players depending on your level of play. For a mid-level, green to mid black player like myself, we are talking about 90, 'average max bets'. At one time this would have been devastating but I now have the bankroll to easily withstand this kind of downturn, so it's just a little bit of an annoyance. A little frustration. And a little reminder of "the rollercoaster that is blackjack card counting"!
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  2. Dr. Sir Anyone Anyone

    Dr. Sir Anyone Anyone Active Member Web of Trust

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2015
    Likes:
    106
    Occupation:
    Shoe Cobbler
    Location:
    Merica
    You're documenting your wins/losses on here??? Kind of seems like you might be counting cards in order to cover your income from another source.

    I can't see how anyone can really make any money these days just counting cards unless they're mixing in some hole carding to the play.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  3. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Documenting wins and losses? I prefer to think that I am sharing some of my experiences as a professional blackjack player/card counter.

    And no, I haven't had income from another source since march 2004, when I quit my job to begin my blackjack career.

    Well, you would be wrong.

    While many AP's have gone to hole-carding and other plays that yield a larger advantage, I have never cared for hole-carding, which I did for a very short time, a number of years ago. I won't call it cheating, but it is jut not for me. It feels like you have info you are not supposed to have and I don't like winning that way. I still enjoy blackjack (after 13 years) and take great pride in winning with the elementary method of card counting.

    I don't know why so many people think you can no longer win employing card counting? The Math works the same as 20-30 years ago. You just have to make some adjustments to overcome slightly higher house edges. Adjustments like ramping slightly quicker and escaping some of the worst of the negative counts. Everything else is pretty much the same.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  4. Mission146

    Mission146 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2016
    Likes:
    11
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    KewlJ,

    Again, you know my experience counting is almost none, so please factor that into my reply:

    If I had to guess why people think one can't win that way, I think it is not just that the Rules are getting worse, but for those who want to stay in LV, there are fewer casinos that have decent Rules at a minimum bet level where the table isn't going to necessarily have inherent (eye in the sky) heat. I also think there is a perception that the heat is greater than it was in the past, even though it is much less likely that the casino will do anything physical or illegally detain someone...though still possible.

    In addition to that, I also think that there is not much in the way of new information about card counting, because there isn't much actual new information. However, information about other forms of advantage play (and not always tables) has become more widespread and many of these methods have a better player edge and improved hourly. Therefore, they inherently seem more attractive. I think there is also a conception that VP and reels don't catch any heat, but of course, that's not always true. Of course, I've rightly deserved SOME any heat that I've caught, and the same for the people that I've worked with, on some occasions, when I've personally been with them.

    As far as the actual ability to win is concerned, I don't think that people naturally believe that it is no longer viable at all, I just think they believe there are more lucrative means with better hourly that take only the same amount of concentration, or sometimes less.
     
  5. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    I agree with a couple things in your post Mission. The rules are getting worse. Or they got worse sometime in the last decade. I don't actually see a whole lot of continued movement, except on the strip. Professional BJ players in Vegas don't spend much time on the strip. The better games are off strip spread all over town. BUT the fact that rules/conditions got worse sometime in the last decade doesn't mean you can't win and do so fairly easily. Like I said, you need to play a little more aggressively than 20 years ago, like ramping up slightly quicker, and avoiding some of the most negative counts/situations.

    I also agree, advances in surveillance and player tracking is a growing concern. I personally am more concerned about these advancements than deteriorating conditions.

    And I certainly agree there are more lucrative opportunities.

    When I said "I don't know why so many people think you can no longer win employing card counting", I was referring to statements like the one by Dr. Sir Anyone Anyone (above), who said "I can't see how anyone can really make any money these days just counting cards", or a recent post on WoV in the Moving out to play thread, where there was a response by PGD that went "Card counting is dead at this time. You cannot make a f!#/ing dime from it, or various other statements on various sites claiming that card counting is dead and money can no longer be made counting cards. I don't know why, but there have been a rash of these statements of late, and it's just non-sense. You might have to make some adjustments from the old days where a player would just sit at one table for hours on end, playing all, BUT the math still works just fine.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  6. Mission146

    Mission146 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2016
    Likes:
    11
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I also agree with you on those things, and was actually somewhat aware of them. I've also spoken to people, and I'm sure they are not referring to 6:5, but they have said that some of the games with worse rules have virtually no heat (sometimes even on the back count) because the house will occasionally will just assume nobody would bother to try to count them. I don't know whether or not you engage in back counting at all, and even if you did, whether or not you would target a game with otherwise terrible rules, but there are some out there who claim to.

    What about the sessions? I understand a big part of your long-term game was to hit a bunch of different places and to stick to short sessions, mix up shifts, go days (or over a week?) without hitting a certain place again. Has that changed at all for you, do you now risk spending a little bit more time at a good house for you at the risk of identification, or is that aspect of your game pretty much the same?

    I think another question that I have for you is you often mentioned staying within the, 'Comfort level,' of a house. Do you perceive that the comfort levels have gone down anywhere, or are they about the same?

    I would be. Facial recognition is one thing on the slot floor, but it is somewhat flawed, and I think the casinos would genuinely want to avoid accusing a non-AP of being an AP. However, if you have a guy that gets hit with the facial recognition, and he always or mostly plays Blackjack, shit, I guess that narrows it down a bit. Fortunately, I don't think most casinos have that technology just yet, and double fortunately, my understanding is that technology is pretty easily fooled.


    100% agree.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  7. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    I have a rotation of what I consider "playable" games. Some are better than others. Based on conditions or rules, or how much of a top wager that I feel I can comfortably (on their end) get down, or even if the place is usually crowded or not, each place has a number (expected value) per round played. So obviously some stores are worth more to me, which is what you are referring to as the "good houses". But I don't play the "good houses" any more than others. As long as the games are playable and in my rotation, it is all about spreading my play out and that is how my schedule is determined. The EV all adds up and will work out in the end.

    A casino's comfort level consists of several different things. Top wager is one of them. Even if you are not counting or varying wagers, there are different amounts for each casino, that is going to draw more scrutiny and attention. These thresholds vary not only by casino, but also by time of day and day of the week. At 10 o'clock on a Tuesday Morning the threshold that draws extra attention is going to be very different than 9pm on a Saturday night. I want to identify and avoid (stay under) this threshold for the period that I am playing. Mostly this is a trial and error thing. If I get backed off...I have misjudged this threshold. lol

    A second comfort area to figure out is session wins. Losses won't be a problem naturally, but each casino has win threshold that is going to set extra "things" in motion. For example if a player walks with a 10K win, someone in the pit is going get some questions about it, and someone in surveillance is going to review the tape. I want to avoid that as much as possible. Playing short sessions makes it less likely that you will have such a large win. Occasionally you still register a large win (oh darn....lol), but less frequently. Instead, you will have more smaller wins which....are better tolerated.

    Number 3 has to do with bet spread. Card counters vary their wagers. Some other players do as well, but everyone knows that card counters do. Generally the big "tell" with spread is when you retreat back to a smaller wager at the shuffle after playing your top wager, or a higher wager. Short sessions and in particular exiting after showing your spread, which will ensure short sessions, eliminates this 'tell'. That's not really about casinos comfort level, but it is a side benefit...a big side benefit from playing short sessions to avoid that big win threshold...which is about comfort level.

    One of the big disadvantages that blackjack or any table game player has vs machine players is that at some point we must cash our chips at the cage. And EVERY casino has probably there best camera right there at face level. That is where the casino gets the best face shot. (I learned this directly from a surveillance guy). Most card counters will try to avoid this situation, by not cashing out right after playing, especially after a big win that might have drawn some extra attention. Cash out at a later time, or have a partner cash out at a later time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  8. Mission146

    Mission146 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2016
    Likes:
    11
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I probably could have phrased my question a little better, what I really meant is, as good houses drop off the radar either by way of closing or employing unplayable rules, do you have to redistribute your time accordingly, or do you just take the hit in EV? I understand that you wouldn't go back to that house if the game is no longer playable, but I mean, would you then spend a little more time, a little more exposure, at one or more of your other houses in order to make up for the lost EV of the other place either closing or becoming unplayable?

    For instance, when they had tables, I imagine that Las Vegas Club was a place that you would play, difficult to imagine that they wouldn't have good rules when they had 100%+ VP right off the top on quite a few of their few machines. The Las Vegas Club stops having table games at some point, as a result, do you just eat the EV loss or redo the schedule and take a little more risk spending a little more time at other places to keep your EV the same? Another more recent example may have been The Alamo, which changed their Blackjack rules not that long ago, I don't know if you could get enough down there that the place would have been of interest. But, they changed their rules, game went from great to terrible. Would you try to make up for that elsewhere even if it meant spending more time at, or hitting something in your rotation more frequently?


    I remember you talking about those things before, but again, that's not what I meant by my question. I meant, within the last couple years, are there any houses where you feel like the comfort level has gone down, in general, at that specific house? Don't mention any specifically, obviously, I was just wondering on a yes/no basis. And, if there are, do you pick up that EV elsewhere even if it means hitting something on your rotation more frequently?

    Oh yeah, that definitely has to hurt. Although, I would say that one counter disadvantage that machine players sometimes have is that of the handpay. Granted, there are many machines where a handpay is literally not possible, and those are great if you're just running coin for one reason or another, but there are some actual plays that either result in the possibility of a handpay, or are good plays BECAUSE of the handpays. Another thing is running cards that don't necessarily have your name on them, and then hitting a handpay. 19/20 times, not a problem, but that five percenter is a bitch when it comes up.

    I think the partner way is almost always the best way to go for the chips. I wouldn't want anyone at the casino who, even with short sessions, will eventually remember who you are to see me walk away from the tables with my chips, and then, on multiple occasions, go to the cage and cash in chips and leave without doing anything else.
     
  9. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Oh I see what your asking. My rotation has stayed pretty steady in recent years. I usually have about 30 games in my rotation. I have had as many as 36 at one point and had it dwindle to 25 a couple years ago. When that occurred I was like "Oh my god Vegas is drying up on me". But it wasn't. I just had become lazy with scouting. I started scouting some places that I hadn't checked in a while and got a couple tips from guys I network with and built it back up to 30 and now I try to scout a little more....pop in a place every once in a while to see if anything has changed.

    Because things do change. Not so much rules, but penetration can really change dramatically in a short time. I have seen certain casino tighten up after being hit by a team of AP's, then go back to where they were some time later. In addition to rules changing (infrequently) and penetration changing, occasionally there is a new side bet introduced that makes an otherwise non-playable game, now playable. So scouting really is important and shouldn't be neglected as I some times do.
     
    Mission146 likes this.
  10. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Actually, in re-reading, I still didn't really answer what you asked. :( You were talking more about casino comfort levels or heat changing, rather than rules and conditions changing.

    I haven't had a lot of that. Really it's not as complicated as I am probably making it sound. Smaller casinos have lower tolerance or comfort levels and once you figure out what they are, that doesn't change all that much. I might lose a casino for a brief period after a backoff, or other event that draws some heat (like a big win), because I take it out of the rotation for a period, while things cool down, but other than that these levels seem pretty stable, once you identify what they are.
     
    Mission146 likes this.
  11. Bombus

    Bombus Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2016
    Likes:
    32
    Location:
    amongst flowers
    Hello KJ,

    I apologise in advance if this has already been covered.

    I have a long standing (30+ years) interest in blackjack card counting as I was acquainted with some early pioneers of the field, most of whom were warned off after winning fortunes for their efforts in the 1980's.

    Back then, the shoes consisted of two decks of which were played through to the end. Nowadays where I play, the shoes consist of four (or is it six?) decks, which are arbitrarily shuffled every 15 minutes.

    Given a 4 deck shoe shuffled every 15 minutes, is it still possible to effectively count the cards to advantage?

    Also, the card counters I knew played a very strict mechanical bet selection system within their game to minimise variance while awaiting shoe development. Often profiting outright before any real count advantage was identified.

    Therefore, I would like to hear more about how you actually play the game while counting the cards. Like hold @ 14 no matter what for instance?
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  12. RS

    RS Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2016
    Likes:
    9
    Location:
    USA
    Bombus: You'd be better off just getting a book and reading about CC.


    One good thing about LV is there are lots of places to go for short periods of time. Unfortunately I don't play BJ as much as I'd like to (I'll give you $50 if you give me the details of all your playable games KJ and tolerance levels :) ). But I have found a few places that seem to be really tolerant, at least for an hour or so a week (which isn't a lot of EV, but adds up to a decent chunk over the course of a year). Hope I didn't just jinx myself. :(

    RE Mission -- at least for me, if something falls off and isn't playable anymore, whether it's BJ or a machine play, doesn't really effect my other plays. Ultimately, I'm trying to make the most money I can on each play (within reason). I'm not going to start hitting something else harder just because something else falls off and I want to "make up for lost EV", especially if it'll jeopardize the play I'd be hitting harder.

    APs typically aren't living a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. So if some EV goes away, it's not like it immediately needs to be "taken care of". It's just less predicted revenue. I don't think APs figure out their EV for the year or whatever and that's what their expenses are gonna be. For the most part, they're continuously growing their bankroll and could survive on 1/2 of what they make. One might need 40k in profit to live off of, and everything on top of that is increase in BR.
     
  13. KewlJ

    KewlJ Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Likes:
    134
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    You are a funny guy RS. :D

    Bombus, I can't speak from experience about the 1980's, because I was born in the early 1980's, so I obviously wasn't playing blackjack. But from what I hear and read, I am really jealous I didn't have the opportunity to play against those better conditions.

    But, YES, it is still very possible to count cards to an advantage. The mathematics works the same, basically, a small percentage of rounds where the player will be at an advantage and needs to bet bigger to offset all the other rounds. You just need to make a few adjustments to compensate for the fact that these player positive rounds are fewer and farther between. These "adjustments" would include, getting out of playing at least some of the negative rounds (rather than play-all approach) and a larger bet spread, so as to maximize those few positive situation opportunities.

    Now a question for you, Bombus. can you elaborate on the following statement, because you have lost me. ??

    "Also, the card counters I knew played a very strict mechanical bet selection system within their game to minimize variance while awaiting shoe development. Often profiting outright before any real count advantage was identified."
     
  14. SplitFaceDisaster

    SplitFaceDisaster New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2017
    Likes:
    0
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Sad to hear that people take you sharing your results as bragging. As you said, I think that people new to card counting would benefit a lot in seeing what the real world swings look like over time so they can know what to expect. Something like CVCX can give you spans of numbers, but it`s just not the same. I`ve only been a member of two other 21 forums (new to this one and another one recently), but I noticed that not a lot of people do show their results. I guess that surprised me a lot since I got into cards originally through playing poker. It seems like some poker players don`t even post unless there`s a winnings graph somewhere included haha. I think it`s a really motivating thing though: "this guy crushed it last year, I can do the same if I work hard!" In regards to your current downswing, you`ve done very well so far, so I`m sure the rollercoaster will peak again soon.
     

Share This Page