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MY 100-YEAR STORM

by JPB

JPB has been playing blackjack and counting cards part-time since 1996. He plays throughout the country but primarily in Missouri. He has been a Green Chip member of BJ21.com for four years and one-time winner of the Post-of-the-Month. JPB is a professional engineer with three engineering degrees and works as a consulting engineer.

I have now been playing blackjack as a card counter for about 15 years. During that time, I have had my share of good as well as bad luck. Like most playerís experience, Iíve had streaks where it seems like the dealer never busts and I just keep getting one stiff after another. I think I have had about as many blackjacks, and seen the dealer bust, about as frequently as the probability calculations predict. The key to winning at card counting is to get the big bets on the table when the probability equations are tilted just slightly in your favor.

Over my 15-year stint, I have had one blackjack trip that stood out where I took a horrendous loss. This one stint was my equivalent of a 100-year blackjack storm (the storm that statistics and probability predict will occur once in a hundred years) or the equivalent of calling the flip of a coin wrong 7-10 times in a row. Iíll describe my 100-year blackjack storm and look-back in a way that might be useful to other card counters.

Leading Up to the Storm

A few years ago, I attended a conference in Arizona. Prior to the conference, I checked out Current Blackjack News to see if there were any casinos worth playing blackjack. I found one: the CBJN report says Casino X had a 6-deck game, with S17, DAS, RSA, and Late Surrender. I believe the penetration was reported as around 4.8 or 5.0 out of 6 decks. This is an excellent game. The only catch was that CBJ news reported that the table limit was only $250. I would prefer a limit of at least $500, but this still appeared like a good game. Obviously, it could have been like the Rainbow casino in Mississippi where the game looks good on paper until you go there and in less than 15 minutes of playing are told no more blackjack.

When I showed up at Casino X, I found the conditions better than I expected. The table maximum was $500 on some tables; they offered several 3-deck games with outstanding penetration (80-90%) and the same favorable rules as the 6 deck, including penetration close to 5.5 out of 6 decks. The tables were virtually empty, and the pit seemed tolerant of my aggressive bet spread. I only had a few hours to play blackjack on this trip and had not planned to need a big bankroll. However, I managed to lose about $4000. Nevertheless, I vowed to return here since these were the best blackjack conditions I had ever encountered.

  • A house advantage of only about 0.15% (on the 3-deck)
  • Outstanding penetration
  • Tolerant pit and I had a decent size loss on the books so I did not appear to be a threat
  • Uncrowded tables with reasonably fast dealers
  • Since the CBJN report understated the conditions, I suspected that most of the big time, high stakes advantage players had not exploited this place.

I had done some quick calculations and had estimated my win rate would be about $400/hour with my bet spread.

The 100-Year Storm

I returned for a short two-day trip to Casino X. I generally bet $100 on the first bet out of the shuffle and increased up to $500 x 2 bets at true counts of greater than +5. I would drop down to $50 (and $25 after I decided I had a free pass) at negative counts or switch tables and take bathroom breaks at big negative counts. I played near impeccable blackjack with a 20 to 1 (or greater) spread.

I am not going to recount all the stiffs I got and how the dealer seemed to pull cards out of nowhere. The blood bath started early and it was ugly. Within a few hours, I heard a suit coming up behind me...

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