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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 the final story about M.R., one of Ralph Strickerís Big Players (BP). The period was mid-1990.

M.R. and I had returned from our play in Las Vegas and decided to play at the Mohegan Sun Casino. He assured me that he had been consistently playing there, and had received no heat whatsoever. Little did I know that I was not privy to all of the details.

I arrived at the casino, and M.R. showed me to my suite. It was luxurious with every convenience that a High Roller suite should have.

Before playing, he said to me, "Donít use the telephone for long distance calls, and donít take any of the amenities, such as nuts, candy, etc." I thought that he just wanted them for himself so I didnít put much credence to this. (I had no idea of what was to follow.)

I know that M.R. had made a substantial amount of money playing baccarat, and this was the reason that the casino tolerated his blackjack play. He introduced me to a female pit boss, and some other personnel, with whom he was friendly. I had a playerís card with a fake name so no one knew my real name. I cannot say that I was not uneasy over the situation.

We played two sessions that day and won some money. I wasnít very comfortable with the scenario because I felt M.R. was being too friendly with the casino personnel. After playing blackjack for almost 23 years, you get a sense of when something does not pass the "smell test." Nevertheless, I attributed it to my suspicion of ALL casino personnel because one or two in the past had betrayed me.

The next day M.R. and I met and we started playing at a $100 minimum table. I was allowed to bet a minimum of $25.00. (It was good that I was not spreading my bets from 1-10.) Therefore, I was actually playing with a slight disadvantage, but that was made up by M.R. spreading 1-10 units and playing two hands. He was spreading from $500 to $5,000 and this didnít seem to attract any attention from the pit. (Let me add that we were getting 75% deck penetration while playing at this betting level.) We finished playing after about 2.5 hours and decided to take a break and play again after dinner. I had gotten a meal comp and we had made plans to resume playing after a shift change.

As I was leaving to go to my room, I noticed a familiar face that had previously been an employee at Foxwoods Casino. In fact, this person followed me once or twice at Foxwoods and seemed to be interested in me. This made me uneasy, and I decided to discuss it with M.R. when we met to play. When I got to my room, I called an ex-student in the area, who knew M.R. very well. What he told me was not very good news. He had seen M.R. in the Sports Book Room, betting substantial amounts of money, and losing as much as $30,000 per game. This didnít make sense: M.R. was winning at blackjack and baccarat and throwing it away on sports betting. I decided to call M.R.ís brother to see what I could learn from him. Boy was I shocked at what he told me. It turns out that M.R. had sold his half of their business, and had lost it gambling. I knew it was time to have a serious talk with M.R.

We met and I told him what I had learned. He admitted it, and revealed that he had lost all of his winnings from blackjack, including what he had won playing as a BP with me, plus his home and a beautiful piece of property near Cape Cod. I couldnít believe what he was telling me, since at one time, he was sitting on top of the world. I asked him where he was getting the money to play on the trip to Las Vegas and this scenario with me. He said he borrowed some money and used his daughterís college fund money for bankroll. He also told me that his wife was threatening him with divorce if he didnít give up gambling.

I finally told M.R. I was no longer going to play blackjack with him and that he had better straighten out his life. I left in shock and drove back to NJ. That was in 2001 and I never again played blackjack with him. I subsequently had a life- threatening episode in 2002, where I almost died due to a serious episode with my lungs. I have been on oxygen 24/7 since 2005, and played my last game of blackjack in Las Vegas in 2002 using a portable oxygen tank.

I last spoke with M.R. in 2009 and he had not straightened out his life. This Dear Readers, is how a LACK OF DISCIPLINE LEADS TO DESTRUCTION


Stricker Tip of the Month

Some casinos allow a player to be "grandfathered in" while they are playing. This means that if a player is betting the table minimum table and the casino raises the minimum bet later on, the player can continue to bet the lower (original) amount he started with. This is an excellent scenario for the counter and the big player because the counter is playing with a negative expectancy; therefore, asking the floor person if you can be Ďgrandfathered in" is a good strategy for counters playing with a BP.

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