LostWages
LostWages
Joined: May 6, 2013
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Thanks for this post from:
BleedingChipsSlowlyOnceDearRomes
April 15th, 2017 at 7:34:31 PM permalink
Confessions of a first-time card-counter, with thanks to Romes & Once Dear for their encouragement:

Quote: Romes

"Playing correctly means you've already won!"



Did you
Quote: OnceDear

Embrace the Variance?



Part 1 of 2 parts

Edit: I did not yet have courage to take pictures at the table, so I hope the layout I recreated at home was faithful to my story.

Apologies to the experienced BJ players - my confession is probably just a "walk in the park" for most of them. For me, it's a first-time treasured experience that I prepared for 6 months ago (my 1st BJ experience at a table!). I wanted to describe a detailed scenario, my thoughts and emotions, and other conditions to create the experiences I had. I wanted to write a short story I could refer back to months later, because my 3rd trip probably won't be till end of 2017 or early 2018! I want to elicit constructive comments now from the more experienced folk. This lengthy description is my way of letting the more experienced folk know that I think I did some good homework and planning. It would not do to leave any stone uncovered before I took this 6-hour flight from Honolulu to Las Vegas! Lastly, I also want to reach out to newbies with less experience and finesse (like me!) - I hope it will help you take YOUR first steps on your BJ journey!

My personality leans towards introvert, so I am not real comfortable in a socially interactive environment -- this explains why I've only played VP in previous visits. I'm short on words and long on concentrated thought - maybe too serious, like the academic in my soul. I hope to invert these ratios after more BJ play time, as many WoV posters say a little social interaction (even just passing "How's the weather?" conversation) goes a long way towards enjoying blackjack.

Gambling is not legal in Hawaii, so I paid a lot of attention to my preparation to visit our "9th island" (Las Vegas): reading and posting on the WoV forum, gathering tips and suggestions, card-counting down a single deck of cards (best time of 40 secs is "slow", but I've been able to count down perfectly 3 times in a row), and playing BJ & card-counting apps on my iPhone and iPad for 6 months straight!

In time, maybe after I've played a couple of hundred BJ sessions, I may then imagine: "Hah! This 2nd trip to the BJ tables and first-time card-counting? That was just a walk in the park!"

On this 2nd trip, I avoided the stronger smoke-filled rooms of the Cal, and tried the high-ceilinged (2 stories high?) BJ tables at MSS, featuring a row of 4 (6?) HDTVs with the latest sports channels on low volume.



The 6-seat BJ tables are comfortable, face the HDTVs without being too much of a distraction, cocktail waitresses make their rounds every 3-5 min, there's good cross-ventilation, restrooms are not too far away, and the pitch BJ table was equipped with an automatic shuffler. My comfort seats are middle seats #3 or #4, directly facing the dealer; I don't like sitting in 1st or 3rd base, but I've sat in position #2 or #5 a few times.

I found out something new (to me) - while you can't re-split Aces, you can re-split all other pairs you want up to 4 times. I had very, very bad vibes with my seat mates, rowdy and physically bumping me every deal. I was in Seat #3, and though the player to my right was on 1st base, his girth spread over Seat #2 into MY territory! He must have broken the scales at 300+ lbs! Every second word out of his mouth after a "bad" hit was: "Un-effing believable!", followed by several variations of "What an effing deal you give us". After I added in side comments from my wife and other players, my blood pressure hit the ceiling and I could feel my veins throbbing! Time to remove myself from the disaster zone. As luck would have it, he bet erratically and his $200 disappeared in less than 10 minutes and he just rudely and abruptly stood up without a word. I was able to card-count TWICE, on each of the two new shuffles, but only the first few deals, then lost count. My strategy was not to panic, so I just flat betted $5 with basic strategy. The remaining deck was full, so TC=RC after 6-8 cards. On this third shuffle, after 5 or 6 rounds to three players, the TC was up to +3 after the first deal. That's my signal! I realized that TC+3 didn't guarantee a win, but just a really darn good chance of winning. This was going to be the last deal of the shuffle. After dealing out to the 3 remaining players, here's what the table looked like:



1st base stood with the 4 (probably had count of 12-16?). 3rd base could not take action yet with the 10.

I was dealt an 8 four times in sequence! I now had $80 on the felt!!!

The TC is now at +8, greatly favoring a lot of high cards to come out to (hopefully) bust the dealer. I stood on all 4 of my hands (12, 13, 14, & 13).

Dealer excruciatingly hurt me with her final count of 20 (hole card 2, 4, A, the required hit on soft 17, and 3 to seal the deal)!










All the players murmured their sympathies for me, agreeing that the dealer SHOULD have busted with high cards (but obviously didn't!). It was not meant to be a joyous moment for me this round!

But it was perfect timing to leave the table and my spouse (she was up several chips and happy to stay) after this last deal, and let my wounds heal silently at a VP machine with a double shot of Bailey's and black coffee.

Part 2 of 2 parts

After the Tue close-out loss ($80! aaaargh!) on 4 double-downs , I took a break Wed and did some shopping and dining with my spouse. The day was pleasant enough to let me resolve that loss experience and absorb it into my knowledge base. I rebuilt my enthusiasm, contained my excitement for a return "bout", and brought new courage to go head-to-head early Thu.

In his Romes's 3 articles,

http://wizardofvegas.com/articles/A-to-Z-Counting-Cards-in-Blackjack/

he suggests that a BJ player should come to the table with these questions answered -- otherwise I wouldn't be ready to gamble! I would feel slightly defeated if the experienced BJ players out there said: "Hey, LW! Nice try, but you forgot to . . . "

What is . . .

1. . . . the house edge? 0.60. Using BS & card-counting, I had a 1% edge

2. . . . your bet spread?
< TC +2 $5
TC +2 $10
TC +3 $20
TC >3 $25

3. . . . your session bankroll? $100 (plus emergency $50 only for double-down). This included a $50 loss stop, a $40 win stop or wong out after TC=-3 or the first bet of my maximum $25 spread, whichever came first.

4. . . . your hourly EV (expected value) of the game you’re going to play? With help from the WoV forum, I calculated my EV around $2.50/hr. This is quite low, and I knew my BR session was under-funded, but under all the conditions already described, I was ready to accept the results in exchange for having my first card-counting experience.

5. . . . the PEN? Don't play if < 60%, because you'll rarely get a TC to merit raising your bet. PEN at MSS was 55-65%, borderline. I took a chance!

I got down to the BJ tables at 8:35a, but all 6 seats were already taken. The PB said I was welcome to select a seat at the adjoining table which would open around 9:00a. I verified with the PB to make sure these were the table rules by showing him a 3x5 card I had prepared, and he personally reviewed each element with me.

DD 3:2 | $5 min to $1,000 | dealer hits on S17, no SURR, no DAS, no RSA

Source:
http://wizardofvegas.com/guides/blackjack-survey/

The WoV Jan 2016 survey showed a HE of 0.60 for this MSS game, but a good card counter should have at least a 1.0% edge on the house, right?

Admins - will there be a 2017 update to the WoV 18 Jan 2016 survey?

The PB added that players can split non-Ace pairs a maximum of 4 times only (new information for me!). He gave me a warm smile and wished me luck, saying I'll be ok, not to be nervous (he could tell I was either nervous or just excited to be there!), and to make sure I had a good time!

I observed the full BJ table to see the dealer's PEN was about 55-65% after every shuffle. Some WoV posters recommend avoiding 2DD games if the PEN is less than 60% (especially if you're counting at 2DD games). But at this point, I was satisfied with the conditions and mentally prepared to accept less than spectacular results with my under-funded bankroll. After all, my primary purpose this trip was to have my first card-counting experience without attracting attention.

I was even ready to deploy I18, if the opportunity showed. No, I haven't memorized all 18 deviations, but I can easily remember three right now:

1. at TC+3, take insurance against dealer's Ace

12 usually hits against dealer's 2 or 3 in BS, but for I18:
2. at TC+3, STAND on 12 vs 2
3. at TC+2, STAND on 12 vs 3

I leisurely began my mental and physical preparations: cleared my mind from Tuesday's big loss (I didn't feel revengeful, just glad to have a comeback round!), did a quick mental review of my Basic Strategy, reviewed my spread strategy, got a bottled water into my BJ table cup, Chapstick for my lips, made sure my BS card was readily available in my shirt pocket, breathed in and out as slowly as possible (I have SOB or shortness of breath, coupled with asthma), made sure my legs could stretch and wouldn't cramp . . . I was R-E-A-D-Y!

The other day I was able to card-count, but only for the first few deals! When I lost track of the count, I just played BS, flat bet, and played my best. Maybe today I would be able to card-count at least through one entire deal of pitch BJ. The dealer came in precisely at 8:55a, bright and cheery, and extremely sociable, friendly, and inviting without any overkill - all subdued natural charms. I openly announced that I was a newbie, and if the dealer would please be patient if I took a tad longer than usual to count my hand and decide my strategy. She said no problem, and besides, I had the entire table just for me! Then she added: "Don't worry, I'll help you count your hand if you get lost. If you brought your BS card, you can put it out near you so you have a reference. I'm here to help you!" With an introduction like that, who wouldn't feel more relaxed? I was! The PEN was about 55%!

On the 1st shuffle, I was able to keep count of the TC for a complete deal, using the cancellation principle. I did not count until each spot had two cards; then I scanned the entire table cancelling, adding and subtracting as hands were played. The first two shuffles were head-to-head.

On the 2nd shuffle, I did not have to buy-in, as I was up $25. I continued tracking the TC, which never went below +1 or higher than +2. While I didn't have to "ride the wave" of negative counts, I didn't get any "big" opportunities to increase my bets! Regardless, what a relief and contrast to the distractions just the other day: much less noise, much smaller crowds, no 300 lb gorilla bumping my legs or shoulders with his every breath, none of his foul-mouthed cussing, no spouse or other seat mates providing unwanted side comments. I was relaxed and in BJ nirvana. Ah! But I recognized and accepted that I must fully enjoy this brief moment now, as it is not the usual condition (unless you always play at 6:00a!). The dealer complimented my newbie manners and table etiquette, and was pleased she didn't have to call my attention to any mistakes . . . yet . . .

I continued holding my concentration and counted like a hawk. Although 55% PEN wasn't the greatest, it also meant that after about 6-8 cards, my RC was actually my TC! That is, no fractions or decimal places to estimate to TC from RC divided by the estimated remaining deck. During this 2nd shuffle, however, on my first double-down of the morning, I committed a no-no and got a light (pleasant) reprimand from the dealer. I peaked at the card under my chips!

Dealer: "Oh no, hon! Can't do that! No peeking! If you want, I can show you the card so only you see it, not me. But you just can't bend the card to peak at the value, ok? You gotta wait!"

LW: Totally innocent impish grin. "OMG! I didn't know that!" <I must have had brain-freeze, but at that moment in time, I honestly forgot!>

Aaaaargh! I was embarrassed, but she couldn't see my face turn red, as I was still sunburned from my daily swims in Hawaii, just before the trip! It may have been the excitement of the moment, even if the double down was only a total of 2 red chips (Wow! $10!) Lady Luck was on my side, and I won my double down.

On the 3rd shuffle some excitement blessed the table as 2 elegant (mature?) ladies joined me on 1st base and 3rd base. They were both greeted by first name with small banter like "How was your breakfast? . . . How come you came so late? . . . " The dealer intervened on my behalf and gently told the ladies: "We have a newbie here, girls, so please help him out if you see him struggling. Looks like he's got a good hold of Basic Strategy, and he's up a handful of chips. He's well-mannered, has good etiquette, and needs to relax! Help him out, ok?" And they sure did! Peeking over my hand when I looked perplexed.

And then it happened.

After five (six?) rounds of play, I'm down about $20, but the count is now TC+3. We're on the last deal for the shuffle. I could hear the alarm bells going off in my head, held my excitement, and pulled my chips from the betting square (so I could take my time to relax before continuing). My bet spread said to ramp up to $20 at TC+3. 1st base had 1 red chip, as did 3rd base. I took my time, and even waited for the dealer to ask me for my bet. As nonchalantly as I could manage, I placed 4 red chips in my betting box.

Dealer: "Oh ladies, we have a gambling man, here!" Good luck, sir!

Ladies: "You can do it, man, go for it!" "Now we'll see some action!" (phrases to that effect)

LW: "Just trying to go with the flow, ladies! Thanks for your support!"

1st base got a 2, I was dealt A-A, and doubled down. 3rd base got a K, and dealer had a 6. 1st base asked for a card and got a 6 and stood (probably had an A for a 19). TC was still +3.
My double-down was as ordinary as I could muster and slowly but deliberately pushed 4 more chips towards my other A; dealer arranged the cards and the bet.
Was I going to win (43% of the time)? Maybe lose again like Tue (48% of the time)? Or was this a push (9% of the time)?

A Jack and a Queen for BLACKJACK!!!!



Indeed, this was the last deal of the shuffle. For my $100 buy-in, my 2 blackjacks gave me $60; I was down $20, so my net was $40, matching my win STOP. Dealer colored me up, and I left a $2.50 tip and the table with $137.50. Small round of applause from my 2 elegant seat mates! What a blessing! After a quick bathroom break, I realized that in my haste, I forgot to ask the PB if he thought I deserved my "newbie" comps - and got a $20 meal coupon! Right on!


Here's to trip #3, learning the rest of I18, and memorizing the FabFour!!!! Thank you to all the WoV posters who've showered me with their tips, tricks, and encouragement!

Eat real food . . . and you won't need medicine (or a lot less!)
MaxPen
MaxPen
Joined: Feb 4, 2015
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Thanks for this post from:
LostWages
April 15th, 2017 at 8:45:43 PM permalink
Sounds like you had a good time. Congrats. You might want to edit your post to state that you split the aces.
LostWages
LostWages
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April 16th, 2017 at 8:48:00 AM permalink
Quote: MaxPen

Sounds like you had a good time. Congrats. You might want to edit your post to state that you split the aces.

Thanks, Max. Yes, it was the highlight of my BJ journey (just my 2nd trip!). Since I don't really know all the BJ terminology and writing styles, may I check in with you?

I thought that "I was dealt A-A and doubled-down . . . " meant that I split my A-A. Or is stating "I split my A-A" preferred when writing about the specific action I took? Thanks for your help, LW.
Eat real food . . . and you won't need medicine (or a lot less!)
TomG
TomG
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Thanks for this post from:
LostWages
April 16th, 2017 at 11:08:43 AM permalink
Good story and good practice. Be as introverted as possible at the table. You're not obligated to chat with the dealer or acknowledge the other players -- and the dealer may even find it refreshing as now she can focus more on her job and not bother with the small talk. $2.50 per hour does not sound like much at all, but it is definitely better than negative $4.00 per hour.
LostWages
LostWages
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April 16th, 2017 at 11:35:35 AM permalink
Quote: TomG

Good story and good practice. Be as introverted as possible at the table. You're not obligated to chat with the dealer or acknowledge the other players -- and the dealer may even find it refreshing as now she can focus more on her job and not bother with the small talk. $2.50 per hour does not sound like much at all, but it is definitely better than negative $4.00 per hour.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions, Tom. I only mentioned I should try to be more extrovert based on what I read on the WoV forum - I guess being an extrovert adds a touch of "disguise" for when you really want your card-counting to be NOT noticed!
Eat real food . . . and you won't need medicine (or a lot less!)
OnceDear
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OnceDear
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April 16th, 2017 at 2:08:02 PM permalink
Quote: LostWages

Thanks for your comments and suggestions, Tom. I only mentioned I should try to be more extrovert based on what I read on the WoV forum - I guess being an extrovert adds a touch of "disguise" for when you really want your card-counting to be NOT noticed!


Great that you had a fun session and even made a few dollars. You certainly got entertainment value out of your adventure, which is 100% what it's all about.
There's a certain sense of mischief isn't there, knowing that you are probably smarter than the dealer thinks and even possibly the most savvy player at the table. Having the dealer tell you not to be shy at having your bs card out is funny. You probably came over as a keen newbie, just the kind of player they cherish.
Even if you can only keep and use the count for a few hands, you just get a bit of extra excitement from the mischief that only you are aware of. Having an 'experienced' lady either side of you is a bonus too. I'd have felt hot under the collar, especially with a female dealer, so well done for keeping your cool.
Making that error would have just confirmed that you are a newbie and no threat to the house, so don't give it another thought. I was amused by how you sounded so excited about ramping up that bet in the good count. Truth is, at that table with those stakes you could have been card counting out loud and wearing your 'I'm a card counter' t-shirt and they would not have given you heat.
It also sounds like you got the social level about right. Getting etiquette right is the essential and will buy you some leeway. We none of us want to be the 300 lb loudmouth, and neither do we want to be at his table. There's one guy at my local place who is an obnoxious sh1t. He swears at the dealers, plays like a twunt and worst of all, he is unclear with his instructions. The casino tolerates him because he's a big loser, but I can't bear to play at a table while he is there. Heads up with a pretty and hopefully inexperienced dealer every time :o)
Yes. With a split, we say 'split', we never refer to splitting as doubling down. Always take care if you have a pair of fives and push your additional stake forward. Some dealers will playfully ask you if you are splitting them, which you must make clear is not what you are doing.
Just one tiny observation: You gave the impression that you thought that you were at a significant advantage on the one occasion where the count was high. You weren't really. No single hand in a high count is at much of an advantage in the grand scheme of things.
Beware. The earth is NOT flat. Hit and run is not a winning strategy: Pressing into trends IS not a winning strategy: Progressives are not a winning strategy: Don't Buy It! .Don't even take it for free.
OnceDear
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OnceDear
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April 16th, 2017 at 2:47:36 PM permalink
Quote: LostWages





Situations like that are staggeringly frequent (maybe something like that in every 5 sessions or so) : Regardless of count, you can often find yourself out at 4 hands, maybe with two or more times your base bet out on each of them after resplitting a few times and DASing. They are shit or bust hands which can wipe out several good sessions of profit or can turn a bad week into a great week. This is why we must hold a few dollars in reserve and why we should not feel too good or too bad at how much we have won or lost this session, this week, or this month. These hands are pure adrenalin and you are totally at the mercy of lady variance, so roll with them and enjoy them win or lose. Surely some you will win and some you will lose.
In one early bricks and mortar session, where I'd just about established myself as the polite newbie low roller, I found myself at the end of my stack of chips and went all in with £20, which split and doubled so much I had to reach to my wallet twice, putting about £100 out there. I lost the lot and let out an expletive 'F*** me rigid' or similar. The dealer and fellow players and I just fell about laughing at my outburst which was so out of character and just so terribly fitting. I apologised of course. Broke the ice: Pity I was out of money by then. The comedy value and the excitement made it all worth while.
Beware. The earth is NOT flat. Hit and run is not a winning strategy: Pressing into trends IS not a winning strategy: Progressives are not a winning strategy: Don't Buy It! .Don't even take it for free.
Ibeatyouraces
Ibeatyouraces
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Thanks for this post from:
LostWages
April 16th, 2017 at 2:54:38 PM permalink
Played blackjack for a bit the other night to break the monotony. In those few hours, about 10 different players joined. Not one of them had a clue as to basic strategy. Remember what I said, you just knowing BS you're doing better than 95% of others.
DUHHIIIIIIIII HEARD THAT!
LostWages
LostWages
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April 16th, 2017 at 3:28:02 PM permalink
Quote: OnceDear

Just one tiny observation: You gave the impression that you thought that you were at a significant advantage on the one occasion where the count was high. You weren't really. No single hand in a high count is at much of an advantage in the grand scheme of things.



OD - it is great to hear from you again! I can't believe it's 8 months since I first "met" you on the forum. Appreciate all your impressions, too! Yeah, the 2 elegant ladies really poured it on to me, sincerely asking almost every other hand or so if I needed help. I admired how relaxed they seemed to be, like at girls' night out - compared to me, sitting up straight (more for my breathing issue than for posture) wearing a nicely ironed long-sleeved shirt, cleanly shaven, hmmmm. . . Looking back, I guess a little high school mischief did show.

You are really quite adept at capturing all the nuances of social interaction between the lines - how I admire that ability to bring out a bigger picture than what was presented.

I like that phrase "keen newbie". I think it will be an appropriate persona to become, until the casinos start recognizing me (OMG! I'm on OSN!), or when my card-counting shirt shows its colors. . . but that's going to take a while.

So I thought I had a significant advantage on both Tue and Thu with almost identical conditions: 3rd shuffle, after 5 or 6 rounds to 3 players, and likely to be the last deal of the shuffle.

Why wouldn't TC+3 be considered a significant advantage? Because of my low bet spread and ramping? My bet was $20 at TC+3, and a maximum of $25 for TC+4 or higher . . . Maybe I should tone down TC+3 just as a positive event vice a "really significant advantage"? Is that what you meant?

Perhaps there are some other elements I have not yet taken into consideration. Would greatly appreciate additional clarification!

Tue:
On this third shuffle, after 5 or 6 rounds to three players, the TC was up to +3 after the first deal. That's my signal! I realized that TC+3 didn't guarantee a win, but just a really darn good chance of winning.

Thu:
After five (six?) rounds of play, I'm down about $20, but the count is now TC+3. We're on the last deal for the shuffle. I could hear the alarm bells going off in my head, held my excitement, and pulled my chips from the betting square (so I could take my time to relax before continuing). My bet spread said to ramp up to $20 at TC+3.
Eat real food . . . and you won't need medicine (or a lot less!)
LostWages
LostWages
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April 16th, 2017 at 3:35:15 PM permalink
Quote: Ibeatyouraces

Played blackjack for a bit the other night to break the monotony. In those few hours, about 10 different players joined. Not one of them had a clue as to basic strategy. Remember what I said, you just knowing BS you're doing better than 95% of others.

IBYA - thanks for your encouragement in my OP, and on several other occasions! I will often read a thread that I don't find appealing if I see your name on it, because you always seems to have something positive to say about the on-going issues, serious or not.
Eat real food . . . and you won't need medicine (or a lot less!)

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