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(Or if You Must, The Snake vs. the Mongoose)

by Joe Pane

Joe Pane is a professional blackjack, video poker, and poker player. He has appeared on the TV Show World Series of Blackjack and was a featured player on the UBT Show Poker Superstars vs. Blackjack Super Stars. Joe was also featured on an independent TV show that featured the worldís greatest gamblers. Joe was named the #1 Blackjack Tournament player by All In Magazine. He also has hosted three different radio shows that cover gaming and is a frequent guest on the Mark Hoke show in Las Vegas on KLAV 1230 am. Joe has taken his blackjack tournament skills over to poker with many poker tournament cashes under his belt, including a WSOP cash in a no limit event that had over 4,000 players in it . Joe's total tournament wins are in excess of $1,000,000

The life of an advantage player is sometimes glamorous but most of the time it calls for stealth-like behavior. Thatís because casinos HATE advantage players more than a snake hates a mongoose.

Before I go into the details of the battle that took place between the Palms and me, let me give you a time line that will set up the story.

When the Palms first opened in November 2001, they offered a double-deck blackjack game that was very beatable, with over 75% penetration and very little heat. (For the novice player, casino heat means weak floor people that could be fooled into not being able to recognize a player who could successfully count a deck down, spread their bets, and remove chips from the tables, undetected.

I engaged in this behavior for almost six months, appearing at their tables two to three times a week with playing session of 45 minutes or less. Now I know that every card counter will tell you that you should play a good game for as long as you can. However, this option is OK for players that visit Las Vegas maybe two or three times a year but when you live here your sessions must be no longer than an hour.

For the most part of my six-month "employment" J at the Palms, I held true to the above, booking wins almost every day that I played, or at worse, turning losses into a breakeven day or a small profit or loss. My goal was to pick up anywhere between $200-$300 at each session and then leave.

On this one day in March of 2002, I could not win a hand. The more positive the count, the more I bet but unfortunately, the losing continued. Before I knew it, I am stuck over $1,000 in less than 45 minutes. This was something that burnt a hole in my pants pocket literally.

Instead of taking the $1K hit and sucking it up to return another day to a game that I had been crushing, I failed the cardinal rule of giving too many people a chance to evaluate my skill level. Hereís what happened.

Six hours later, I had recouped the $1,000 and got even, but what I did not know at that time that my days of playing blackjack at the Palms was over.

A few days later, I returned to my personal ATM machine (i.e., the double-deck game at the Palms) only to see my bet pushed out of the circle and informed that my action was no longer wanted there.

Not to be deterred, I returned to the Palms about two months later and began playing on a $25 DD table without giving the dealer my playerís card. I was good for about 30 minutes, then the unthinkable happened ... Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson, and his friend sat down at my table. Reggieís friend proceeded to pull out of his jacket pocket over $10,000 in $500 chips and Reggie had about $2,000 in black chips. I knew at that moment I had to exit quickly, but not too quickly to raise eyebrows because who really leaves a table when a Hall Of Fame baseball player sits down with you to play.

So low and behold with Reggie sitting on 3rd base the first hand he is dealt is a 2 vs. a dealers up card of a 2 and he turns to me and says, "Hey NY (because I was wearing NYPD hat) how should I play this hand?" Trying to act cool and collected I said, "Mr. October, I believe basic strategy says to hit that hand." He follows my direction and catches a seven for 19 and the dealer flips over a 10 in the hole and proceeded to bust with a 10. If Reggie stands, the dealer wipes the table out with her own 19. Reggie gives me a high five, which Iím sure every NY Yankee fan would die for; however, for me that was not a big deal because I have always hated the Yankees (but I was about to be punished for it).

Next thing I recalled is a voice behind me saying, "Joe." I didnít respond. Again, he says, "Joe," and again, I didnít respond because today I am not Joe Pane. He then called out, "Joe Pane." I still didnít respond. Next thing I know he is...

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