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PLAYING EXPERIENCES IN CARIBBEAN CASINOS

by Ralph Stricker 

Ralph Stricker has been a successful professional blackjack player for many years, developer of the famous Silver Fox Card Blackjack System, and one of the blackjack legends described in the book, "Legends of Blackjack." 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. You can purchase a copy of Strickerís "Silver Fox Blackjack System" through Gamblerís Book Club in Las Vegas. If you want the book autographed, send a check for $32.95 made payable to Ralph Stricker (price includes priority mailing in US), and mail to Ralph Stricker, 500 Adams Lane, Ste.14R, North Brunswick, NJ 08902.

Iíve been asked this question many times: "Where do you prefer to play outside of the U.S., European or Caribbean casinos"

Before I give you my answer, let me briefly summarize my experiences as an unskilled blackjack player (before I learned and became a successful advantage player, meaning knowing how to count and how to bet based on the count).

I was a stockbroker way back in 1971 and I remember being involved in an underwriting of a casino that was going to be built in St. Martens (Caribbean) by Ray Parker. He owned a resort in the Catskills and now he wanted to open a casino next door to a resort in St. Martens called Mullet Bay. The casino would be built on the beach below Mullet Bay, which had a small casino and a golf course. I was sent to St. Maarten to do a "due diligence," meaning that I had to verify what was being planned and to sure the underwriting of the stock was valid, according to the prospectus. Mrs. Ray Parker was my host and guide, showing me the site and the start of construction.

While I was there, I played blackjack at the Mullet Bay casino and, fortunately, was winning money. I say "fortunatelyí because I didnít really know a lot about blackjack, except the little I learned while I was in the service. As it happened, when a player is winning, the casinos donít like it. It was closing time but they insisted that I keep playing and they kept the casino open just to get me to (hopefully) lose the money that I had won. After an hour or so, I finally told the pit boss, "Iím stopping and leaving." They tried to intimidate me to keep me playing, but after I raised my voice and demanded they call the police, they finally let me leave. (This was my first experience with a casino and how they operated.)

My next casino experience was with a friend, who had an all-expense paid trip to Monte Carlo. Naturally, we went to the Grand Casino there and commenced to play blackjack. The rules allowed players, who are standing and not playing, to bet on a seated playerís hand. However, what I didnít know back then was that the person with the largest bet (either the seated player or standing player) makes the playing decision for the hand. Even though I didnít know the game that well, it just didnít sit right with me to have someone else make a playing decision on my hand. Lesson learned. (BTW: I also played some blackjack in Las Vegas & England prior to becoming an advantage player.)

My first playing experience after studying and mastering a card-counting system was in Las Vegas. I played a single-deck game at the Maxim Casino and did very well. That was only a three-day trip; however, at that moment, I fell in love with blackjack and Iíve been playing it for 27 years since.

In the late 1970s, Atlantic City was opening up its first casino (Resorts International). The conditions to get into the casino were terrible because of the crowds. (In fact, when they initially opened there was a "stampede" to get in.) I realized that if I were going to play blackjack in Atlantic City as an advantage player, I would have to get involved with other expert players, who wanted to play on a steady basis. That is when I started to play and manage blackjack teams.

Screening players for my team was critical because I wanted skilled players who were compatible to me and to each other. After assembling a group of players, I began an intense period of training, which lasted approximately 5-6 weeks. After the training was completed, I felt we were ready to make our first venture into a casino. Fortunately, I had an ex-student who lived in the Bahamas during the winter, and he owned two condominiums, which could house the team. This saved lodging expenses, which is a big part of a teamís expense.

After five days of hammering the casino...

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