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October 27th, 2016 at 7:39:23 PM permalink
My last trip to Las Vegas was this past August, and since then I've been thinking about my next incursion into this town--my next raid on the casinos. Actually, it's not so much a raid as it is like being a spy behind enemy lines, blending in with the civilians. In times of war spies can be shot, but I don't think I have to worry about that, or being buried in the desert like Russian Louie. The modern game of blackjack is more genteel and civilized than in bygone days. Besides, I'm a pretty good spy; my charts and indices aren't even written with invisible ink, they're committed to memory. And if casino security were to examine my phone they might find a cryptic contact referred to as "Bob N", but then they're guilty of illegal search and seizure.

But I don't wish to find myself in a legal squabble over my detention. I'm not litigious by nature. And I've put a lot of time and energy into developing stealth. I'll just try to fly under the radar and avoid detection.

But If surveillance review the tapes, and know what to look for, I'm screwed. If the past is any indication, however, that would only mean an amicable cessation of my playing at their blackjack tables (and possibly that of their sister properties).

The blackjack table; the baize layout; the cheques--the way stacks can build and resemble a nascent metropolis; the dealer, poised to separate you from your money; the etiquette; the action. The game!

I remember an occasion on my last trip to Vegas, playing two hands of $50 each. I doubled down on the first hand (got a fair amount of money on the table, for me). I then look at my second hand and see two kings. I am delighted that your Royal Highnesses could attend my little soirée, I'm thinking. I stare at them for and extra second to savor the strength of the hand before tucking. 20 ought to do it. The dealer busted and I won, but approximately 8% of the time your 20s get bested when the dealer draws to a perfect 21, and you remember your once strong offering with a lingering tinge of disappointment, the bite of summer cold.

Playing $10 to $80 a hand I've lost about $1,000 in 45 minutes on a couple of occasions. If it happens, I accept it. Of course, it could get even uglier than that but it's very unlikely.

Let me say, here, for the first time: I wouldn't play blackjack if the game could not be beaten. And the fact that it can be is what gives the game its allure. Understanding the correct plays for any set of rules and deck composition requires study, and the execution of this knowledge must be finessed in a casino environment averse to its implementation; and then there's betting ramp, money management, self-control and luck to contend with. Blackjack is a unique and beguiling game.

Before I embark on my blackjack vacation, I ask myself, how will I feel coming home with a $2,000 loss? It could be even double that playing $10 to $80 a hand. How will I feel? The question lends itself to somber reflection...

Well heck, I'll probably win. In my last 90 trips to Vegas as a card counter I'm 56 - 34. I'm playing with money I can afford to lose. I enjoy the game and accept the risk because there's a greater chance for reward. It's exciting to get big bets onto the felt in high counts. It's fun to not take even money and then get paid 3:2.

I'm looking forward to this trip. There's a lot to be said for looking forward to something. And I accept the vagaries of luck and will play my best game, win or lose. So here we go. Que Sera Sera...

All of the preceding was written a few weeks ago in anticipation of this October trip. I had hoped to motivate myself with optimism and desire. Well, after all is said and done I won $267 playing blackjack on this trip. And I only played about 3.5 hours of blackjack over two days--I just wasn't enthused to play more. I split this 3.5 hours over 5 sessions so as to not give the help much time to interpret my counting. This was, however, my fifth winning trip to Vegas in a row. Only twice in 91 prior trips to Vegas have I had a winning streak like that. This trip wasn't a big win but I'll take it any day.

I was up about $740 at one point. Then I decided to go to the El Cortez to play $25-$75 a hand at their SD game. (I stopped playing at the El Cortez a couple years ago because they stopped sending me mailers. Now I want to see if any cash/comps build up. Besides, it's the best game in Vegas.)

I opened for $50 each new deal. Lost the first three hands. About 30 minutes in I was down almost $400 when I had a little rally and worked my way to being only $50 down. Then a few hands later I was down $325. The TC was +6 and I had out a $75 wager. Got two 7s vs dealer 4 up. I split and ended up with two 17s. The dealer turned over an 8 and I'm thinking come on ten! The dealer draws a 9. $300 negative swing. I only played for about 30 minutes. I wasn't in the mood to dip in for more. And after this session I just didn't feel like playing more blackjack. And besides, I wanted to preserve my small win. It's nice to drive home a winner.

Earlier in the trip there was a weird occurrence. I was playing a DD pitch game at XYZ, and when a new dealer took over she started to deal the cards face up. I ask her why she was doing that and in broken English she said that that it was the house rules. I asked her when they started that because the game had been dealt 'down' before she started dealing. She asked a suit and he said, "Pitch." Then she dealt all the hands face down after that. I've never seen that before.

And then there was this little anecdote. I was at SLS just scoping it out. This guy with long hair, dressed conservatively in a blue long sleeve shirt and khakis walks up to a dead DD table and lays $2,000 on the table and asks for two $1,000 cheques. Places them both in the betting square. As he is standing in anticipation of his hand the dealer implores him in a friendly manner that he must play seated. Dealer's up-card is an 8 as the player looks at his dealt-down cards with a lack of enthusiasm. He takes a hit and draws a 5. I'm thinking he has 20 or 21 now. He pauses and takes another hit and draws an 8. He then drops his cards on the felt face down and stands up. I'm thinking he's busted. The dealer looks at the player's down cards and tucks them. Then the dealer draws out to a bust. Guy wins the bet and walks away with $4,000. I say to the dealer, "I wonder what he would have done if he had to double or split?"

It rained in Vegas for a lot of this trip. And it was raining in Barstow as I was driving to Vegas at night. I would never normally drive to Vegas at night but I had obligations that didn't allow me to embark in the morning as usual. I had hoped to check out Route 66 just east of Barstow, but the rain and night driving made this undesirable.

I didn't play a lot of blackjack on this trip--3.5 hours. On my prior two trips I played 7 and 9 hours respectively. It felt good to play more on those prior trips; it was nice to be in the groove.
Last edited by: Greasyjohn on Oct 28, 2016
Joined: Dec 8, 2013
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October 31st, 2016 at 8:05:05 AM permalink
I mentioned that I scoped out SLS on this trip. They have a $15 DD, 3:2 game. I came back the following day (this was mid-week) but the game was not open. The gaming floor was dead at 2:00 pm. There were only 5 people at all their table games. Had I played the pit boss could have spent all his time just paying attention to me.

It's probably just as well that I didn't play blackjack there. I've heard that if you employ a greater than 1-4 spread at their DD game they might show you the door.

All the VP Bonus Poker at SLS was 7:5 at best. I put a little action through just to get on their radar. Broke even. (When SLS first opened I played off their sign up $5 free play and they sent me a room comp for one night mid-week.)

For some reason there appears to be a large security presence at SLS. I asked the armed guard at the parking garage if they're trying to keep out a certain element, and he said, "I can't say." (I've never heard of any problems there.)

SLS is a trendy place. Nicely appointed with a Palms/Hard Rock kind of feel. It was fun looking the place over. Watched the players at midi baccarat destroy the cards. What an unnecessary waste. What's that all about?
Joined: Jul 22, 2014
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October 31st, 2016 at 11:09:12 AM permalink
Always a good read on your trip reports GJ; loved the preface before the trip. Glad to hear while you didn't get as many hours as normal, you still drove home a winner =). Until next time Vegas...
Playing it correctly means you've already won.

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