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RapturesoftheDeep
Jan 6, 2013


It's not really mathematically feasible anymore, as blackjack rules have deteriorated almost everywhere in recent years, but I counted cards pretty seriously for a few years ending in around 2008. I made a substantial amount of money off of it (over $10K on around a $3K investment), although a lot of that was dumb luck and there were a lot of huge swings (sometimes $2-3K in a few minutes).

It was a pretty exciting pastime as I approached middle age-- I've been escorted out of the casino by security a few times, encountered a bunch of odd people, and at one point was carrying around enough money that I considered everything smaller than a hundred small change. But it got to be a stressful grind and it was only a matter of time before I was going to get banned from the few profitable games I could afford to play in, so I switched to poker for a few years after that.

I can still keep a count though-- even though I haven't played for years and don't even know all the basic strategy.

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Enfys
Feb 17, 2013

i am a dragon


I know nothing about this other than it seeming like wizardry in tv shows or movies so my questions come from the depths of ignorance:

Is that something you set out to teach yourself (and if so, how?) or did you already have some kind of savant memory or ability?

What made you decide to do/learn it?

Why is it not feasible anymore?

RapturesoftheDeep
Jan 6, 2013


Enfys posted:

I know nothing about this other than it seeming like wizardry in tv shows or movies so my questions come from the depths of ignorance:

Is that something you set out to teach yourself (and if so, how?) or did you already have some kind of savant memory or ability?

What made you decide to do/learn it?

Why is it not feasible anymore?

Yeah, it's pretty simple-- you just need a lot of discipline and practice and some ability to do math in your head. Since high cards are good for the player and low cards are good for the house, you count down one for every 10-A that comes out and up one for every 2-6, increase your bets if enough low cards come out, and adjust some of your strategy appropriately. There were a bunch of active card counting forums at the time-- bj21.com still has a lot of info.

I got a 70s-era book about card counting from a thrift store when I was in college and the combination of nerdiness, screwing over the man, and sleazy glamor caught my fancy, and I started doing it as soon as I had enough money to throw around.

The rules in blackjack have increased the house's edge to the point that the player can gain very little edge compared to the big risks. Also, a lot of places restrict your ability to just come up to the table and make big bets out of nowhere, which is a big source of your advantage in a 6-8 deck game. Even back in 2005-8, the game's heyday was well behind it-- among other things, the counting crew dramatized in the movie "Twenty One" made the casinos tighten up on the shoe games.

Enfys
Feb 17, 2013

i am a dragon


This is really fascinating.

What would make security finally escort you out?

How did they treat you when they did? If you were escorted out, could you go back another day or was that it for that casino?

Who was the oddest person you met doing this?

RapturesoftheDeep
Jan 6, 2013


Enfys posted:

What would make security finally escort you out?

How did they treat you when they did? If you were escorted out, could you go back another day or was that it for that casino?

Who was the oddest person you met doing this?

Mostly just playing at double-deck tables rather than my usual shoe games. Card counting is very easy to detect in those games, and they were mostly in the lower-rent casinos where they are paranoid about counters anyway. I looked pretty much like a stereotypical card counter (dorky white guy) so I was very easy to spot if you were looking.

The one time they actually physically escorted me out, they were no-nonsense but polite even though I was kind of mouthy (thanking them for letting me skip the line at the cashier's cage). Most of the time the pit boss would just politely tell you that you were welcome to play any game other than blackjack (or sometimes just limit you to the minimum bet). In Atlantic City, they couldn't even ask you to stop playing, just lower the maximum bet for the entire table. The games in AC were poor enough that it wasn't really worth bothering with, anyway.

The one that comes to mind first was this stereotypical degenerate gambling addict I was sitting next to at Treasure Island at like 11 AM on a Sunday. He was one of those guys that seem to masochistically crave losing and he was winning every single hand. He had a huge sloppy pile of chips in front of him (probably $10-20K at one of the cheap tables) and was playing two hands at like 500 each and doing poo poo like doubling down on 12-- just bending over backwards trying to lose and winning. He looked more miserable than anyone I've ever seen, it was like something out of Dante.

Also, a fellow counter-- 50ish guy who worked in computers and was very clearly in the throes of a midlife crisis-- the kind of guy who's renting a Ferrari and paying for a suite in order to "look like a rich ploppy [counter derogatory argot for non-counters]." Unsurprisingly his wife was threatening divorce.

AHH F/UGH
May 25, 2002



FYI we have a thread about AP already, check it out.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





RapturesoftheDeep posted:

In Atlantic City, they couldn't even ask you to stop playing, just lower the maximum bet for the entire table. The games in AC were poor enough that it wasn't really worth bothering with, anyway.

They can also enforce the max bet on you and then waive the limit for everyone else at the table, which Iíve seen happen more than once when an advantage player was being a colossal dipshit about it.

RapturesoftheDeep
Jan 6, 2013


Midjack posted:

They can also enforce the max bet on you and then waive the limit for everyone else at the table, which Iíve seen happen more than once when an advantage player was being a colossal dipshit about it.

That may be new (or at least within the last decade), or maybe I just had bad information-- I never got heat there and counters tended to avoid AC. The games there were actually pretty good (you could spread 20:1 without much attention and the rules were tolerable), but tables under like $50 a hand were all packed and thus didn't let you get enough hands in per hour.

Doughbaron
Apr 28, 2005


I tried counting a bit around the same time you were playing. I knew I was failing when dealers told me they knew I was counting without removing me or restricting my betting. Even with my full concentration, I couldn't' keep an accurate track of the cards that were dealt.

Was betting on insurance a part of your strategy? Did you ever deviate from basic strategy on really high or low counts?

RapturesoftheDeep
Jan 6, 2013


Ha, there were definitely times that the dealers cottoned on to me-- one time at the Wynn, I had a really chatty dealer I got along with and she asked me a question kind of suddenly and I replied "Plus 11!."

It really did take a lot of rote repetition to get it down-- probably 3 months of counting decks constantly whenever watching TV, and I kept up that level of practice throughout my time counting.

Insurance was a huge plus of going out to Las Vegas to play-- it adds a lot to your advantage and lowers the variance a little as well. I played all of the so-called "illustrious 18" strategy changes except splitting 10s-- it's just impossible to do that at a busy table without there being a brouhaha.

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Baddog
May 12, 2001


RapturesoftheDeep posted:

I had a really chatty dealer I got along with and she asked me a question kind of suddenly and I replied "Plus 11!."

Chatty dealers!! I like a full table just so I can sit back and be quiet.

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