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HOW AND WHERE IT BEGAN:
LACK OF DISCIPLINE LEADS
TO DESTRUCTION-Part 3

by Ralph "Silver Fox" Stricker

Ralph Stricker has been a successful professional blackjack player for many years. He is the developer of the Silver Fox Card Counting system and author of "Silver Fox Blackjack SystemóYou Can Count On It." Note: This is the system that BJI contributing writer Barfarkel uses and mentions in his BJI trip reports, and in his book, "Youíve Got Heat." In his articles for the BJI, Stricker describes his blackjack career, specifically how and where he started playing, teaching, and managing blackjack teams, as well some personal experiences that affected him along the way. He is one of the blackjack legends described in the book, "Legends of Blackjack."

 

Editorís Note: This is a continuation of a story about one of Strickerís team players, who eventually self-destructed.

It was in the mid-1990s when M.R. and I made our first trip together to Las Vegas. Although each of us had been there many times before (me, many more times), it would be a good test for our playing scenario because the scrutiny in Las Vegas was much more than it was for Atlantic City and the Bahamas.

M.R. had a line of credit at three or four Vegas casinos, which was good for our purpose. They looked upon him as a "flounder," and, therefore, he wouldnít be noticed betting big money as much as someone new to the casino security personnel watching the games.

M. R. stayed in a casino hotel where he had stayed previously. I stayed in a hotel off the Strip in a (small) Marriott hotel. This allowed us to save on expenses because I always received an excellent room rate with my frequent bookings there. I would always arrive a day earlier than M.R. to check things out at the casinos that we planned to play. (I called this doing my "due diligence," making notes concerning any changes to rules, personnel, etc.)

After M.R. arrived, we met at a pre-planned meeting place and discussed our itinerary for the day. I decided that our first "play" would be at the Treasure Island Casino on the Strip. It was about 10:30 am and I felt we could get in a play before shift change. (I didnít want to play during an overlap in shifts.)

I sat at a $25.00 minimum table to get the feel of the pit-personnel. M.R. secluded himself by the slot machines so he could see my signal to enter the game at a positive count. It was in the middle of the third shoe that the count was positive and it looked like it was going to remain there for a few hands. I signaled M.R. to enter the game, and he sat down and bet $500 on two hands each. After a couple of rounds, the shoe dropped to a neutral count, so I signaled him to leave, and to remind the dealer to save two playing spots for him. (He made an excuse that he had to use the menís room.)

Another player entered the game and sat at first base. After three rounds, the shoe turned positive and I signaled M.R. to enter the game. He sat down and immediately bet $1,000 on each of two hands. The shoe remained positive for three rounds, and then went to a count that was still positive: however, it wasnít positive enough to warrant betting $1,000 per hand.

M.R. dropped his betting to $250.00 per hand, saying, "How long can I stay lucky."  One thing I will say, he had a great act and knew what to say at the right time. He was offered a comped meal and accepted it. I also took one, which was for $25.00, and that was fine with me, since I never spent more than the amount of the comp. I had a playerís card with a different name because I knew how to get a card without showing identity. We were ahead $7,200 for the session, and I decided to pull the play because I didnít want to overstay our welcome.

We met at a predetermined location to discuss our play during the session, and to correct any mistakes. We decided to meet at 3:30 pm at the Mirage Casino, even though it was the "sister casino" of the Treasure Island Casino. 

We used the same operating procedure at the Mirage. I went there a little early to scope out the situation in the casino. I decided on playing on a table next to the high roller pit. M.R. was within the proximity of the table I had chosen. It was a $50.00 minimum table with only one player, and it was at the end of the shoe when I sat down. 

After five rounds, the shoe became positive, enough for a top bet. I signaled M.R. into the game and he proceeded to bet $2000 on each of two hands. After three rounds were dealt, the count was still positive, but was not enough for a big bet. I signaled M.R. to play one hand of $1,000. (He had previously won four out of last six top ($2000) bets and at this point was winning.) Meanwhile, I had been flat betting and was down about $350.00.

I decided to use another playing scenario, where I would leave the table and let M.R. play on his own since he had assimilated my counting and playing system very well and was a good player. To let him know what the count was (after all he wasnít paying attention to the cards), I asked the dealer how much time I had to get back. He said, "10 minutes." I said, "Iíll be back in less than 8 minutes." This meant to M.R. that the Running Count was minus 8. 

When I came back to the table, the shoe was nearly over. I knew that the count had not gotten high enough for a top bet in the past shoe. M.R. said to the dealer, "I think Iíll go to the craps table." (It was convenient to play craps because it was near the pit where we were playing.) 

After two shoes, nothing happened and I never called him back to the table. I decided to pull the play for that session. We met at our designated meeting place and decided to play again after supper. M.R. had gotten a restaurant comp, and I had one for the buffet, which was one of my favorite inexpensive "eating-places" in any of the casinos. I always had a rental car and M.R. used a taxi for transportation. Therefore, the casinos could not track us after we left the casinos. We also never ate together even in non-casino restaurants.

We spent the next three days playing at various casinos and encountered no heat at any of them. Financially, it was a good trip and good experience for our playing scenario. However, I noticed some lack of discipline issues with M.R. but they didnít (at least at this point in time) have affect our relationship. However, little did I know that these issues would escalate over time.

M.R. netted $13,000 after expenses ("expenses" included his expenses, my expenses, my percentage of the win, plus a per diem for me). Note: When there was a loss, that loss would be carried forward until it was made up. Therefore, my only compensation would be my expenses and a per diem.

We decided that the next play would be at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in two weeks. Stay tuned for the results of this trip (you wonít believe what happened).

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