Winning at Blackjack?
August 14, 2002 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Winning at Blackjack? Many people claim you can. Some people do. via slashdot
posted by psychotic_venom (13 comments total)
Here's a link to the slashdot discussion.
posted by psychotic_venom at 10:56 AM on August 14, 2002

[couched in a totally polite, gentle, soothing and respectful voice] if i wanted to read slashdot, i'd go there.
posted by quonsar at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2002

real story: in 1992 after mastering the basic game strategy (no card counting) I hocked all my worldy possesions -- a $300 motorcycle -- and went to Atlantic City. Sat down at a table and within an hour or about 2 good shuffles had amased over $8,000. Within this time I had multiple people come up to me asking me questions like "are your professional? what are you going to do with your money?" -- cashed out and bought my motorcycle back. In retrospect I was lucky to sit down at the right time at a hot table and the basic rules gave me the confidence to bet big but it would be hard to repeat without card counting.
posted by stbalbach at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2002

As the Wired article mentions with card counting if you make 2 mistakes over the course of an hour your worse off if you hadnt counted cards at all. It can be done but its not trivial to pull off despite the books and glitsy Wired article.
posted by stbalbach at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2002

Awwww, quonsarzilla...that was so polite and proper. It brings tears to my eyes just reading it.

I'm really not trying to be sarcastic...keep that in mind when reading the above sentences. This one, too...well, I guess this is a new sentence now, so I should have said the previous one. (But that one is, by default, included.)
posted by byort at 12:04 PM on August 14, 2002

About 10 years ago I went on a Blackjack binge. I read all the books and learned basic strategy and started playing the $5 tables with 8 deck shoes in Atlantic City. I won more than I lost and eventually started playing $25 -100 a hand. I would drive two hours from NYC to A.C. twice a month and if I won or lost $500 I would go home. I kept track of every visit and became disciplined. Several times I was there less than an hour. Sometimes I would play and be up all day and only go home if I got tired or lost $500. Sometimes I would get a comped room and go home in the morning. Over the course of 2 years I was up about $3000.00. I felt pretty good about my habit. I had extra walking money.

Then I went to Vegas for a convention and gave back half of that in 4 days since I was trapped and chased good money for bad. I couldn't apply the discipline I developed back home. Emotions got in the way. I went to a small casino on the strip and started counting at a two deck $5 table. I was down about $50 when the pit boss refused to let me play. He said I was counting. I said I was losing. He said I was having a bad day and I was too good. I really wasn't all that good at counting. It's easy to count the cards but hard to apply the mathematical principals in varying your bets according to the count. I think I tipped him off with other things like moving from one table to another.

I've since gotten over my habit and get to a casino once or twice a year. I've probably lost more than I've won and would say that I am down a little since I began playing. It's all mathematical. Now some casinos use automatic shuffling machines. It makes it impossible to count and even harder to win. It's like playing with a fresh deck every hand. I consider myself lucky to have only lost a small amount at the casinos. I'm a small potato. There are people who lose their life savings. Good luck!
posted by chainring at 12:21 PM on August 14, 2002

Vegas blackjack stories? Cool. Here is mine:

I've been to LV twice, and the second time was a big eye opener for me. I have a math degree, so I know that gambling is a losing cause, and that black jack is really your only true hope of coming close to even against the house. That said, I played a couple of other games and was down about $50 over an hour. No big deal, but I was a bit annoyed at myself. I decided to control things by sitting at the $10-$1000 blackjack table. I sat down beside the only guy at the table because I like to look at the dealer's cards head on, instead of from the side. While I was playing $10/hand, the gentleman beside me was playing $100-$300/hand. He didn't look rich, he didn't look like he was anything but a working guy at the same convention I was attending, so I was a bit surprised to see him spending this money.

Over the span of 30 mintues, I couldn't win a hand to save my life. Double-tens were losing to 5-card 21's, split aces were pulling up 14s all the time and getting beat by 17s, it was tragic. I lost $250 in that half hour by chasing good after bad (doubling down, splitting). What really scared me was that the guy beside me was losing in the same manner. Except, by my calculations, he lost somewhere in the range of $6000-$8000. He, too, was increasing his bets to cover previous losses and getting burned even worse. He left the table the same time as I did and he had no chips in his hands and he looked almost suicidal. His shoulders were slumped, he looked like he had tears in his eyes and he seemed lost and confused.

I didn't play too much afterwards and spent most of the rest of the 3 days just wandering the strip and enjoying the sights. That poor guy's look will always be something I remember whenever I walk into a casino again.
posted by grum@work at 1:56 PM on August 14, 2002

I was raised by a pair of degenerate, inveterate gamblers. Okay, my parents are nice people and not degenerate. But they did drag me to casinos all over the Caribbean throughout my youth, where they would play until closing at 2-3 in the morning. We never went on a family vacation to a locale unless the place had gambling.

My mother celebrated my reaching legal gambling age in Nevada with an all-night lesson in Craps. Of course, this was after several years of playing BJ and Roulette on the islands.

Surprisingly, both of the folks do understand the concept of restraint and generally risked no more than $50-100 per night on a one week (once per year) trip. So no biggie. Now that they're retired (and still living in NJ) they tend to go every month or two on one of those old people day junkets to AC.

The lesson I learned is that you're not going to walk away with big piles of casino money. However, you can have an entertaining evening for about the cost of a Broadway show (another of their lifelong passions).

So I go to (mainly) Vegas once or twice a year and bring maybe $500 to play with. It's a nice weekend of a kind of fun I'm not going to get in Mountain View.

posted by billsaysthis at 2:25 PM on August 14, 2002

I had a friend who had to sign over his car to a casino. That tends to keep me at the nickel slots on the rare occasions I'm at one.
posted by jalexei at 3:22 PM on August 14, 2002

The hardest part of card-counting (from what I understand) is looking like you're not doing it. On my last trip to Vegas I observed this fellow whom I'm sure was counting: he was making odd strategy choices for his own hand (but giving perfect advice to others at the table), varying his bet for no discernable reason.. and seemed to have a real knack for knowing when he was going to get a ten. He was toking the dealer rather heavily, though, so I think everyone at the table was happy.

Blackjack is too stressful for me -- I'm too weak-willed to keep hitting those sixteens -- but luckily with a little practice and perseverance video poker has a similar house advantage (and, of course, there's always craps when I need to lose some money fast).
posted by jess at 3:22 PM on August 14, 2002

I had a college Comp Sci professor who, with a math professor, worked out a counting mechanism. Part of their goal in devising it was to make it easy to do after a couple of drinks. He told me how one house kept comping them drinks, but they kept staying ahead and gaining. That's when they were encouraged to stay away. Immediately.
posted by plinth at 6:16 PM on August 14, 2002

ooh, blackjack.

when i went with my parents to vegas in may, we played two deck handshuffled at a little hotel downtown.

well, at first i was playing 'blondie' quarter slots, but i lost all my money, and dude, i hate that comic strip anyway.

so my mom dealt me in with three bucks and i started hitting the 21s!

i won more than i lost, but i also play like a poon, and i can easily see how you can lose all your money.

i am too scared to go to the casinos here, totally.
posted by sugarfish at 9:14 PM on August 14, 2002

I've been to a casino, once. I ended up being the "babysitter" for the two people in our big group who were along for the ride but under 21, so I only got a couple minutes to sit down and try out the whole gambling thing.

So I planted myself at a $10 Blackjack table, and bought a $10 chip, and bet it. Got dealt blackjack. $25, and I got such a lovely rush, and so I did the manly thing and let it ride. Beat the dealer with a 19 to his 18, looked at the $50, and did the smart thing. It was as satisfying as it was brief.
posted by cortex at 1:44 AM on August 15, 2002

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