OUR FIRST BANNING: THE GOLDEN NUGGET
by Frank Scoblete
The following is an excerpt from Frank Scoblete’s new book, "I am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack." This new book is an excellent read and is available at a discounted price from our secure BJI store.
Your first barring is like your first baby, something to treasure, a golden time period, a... Actually it isn’t any of that. A first barring jangles the nerves; almost makes you feel a sense of shame, not that you were caught but that you dared to do this to the little, old people-loving casino. After all, the casinos exist to make you happy and you just made them unhappy. That feeling doesn’t last too long before the "Why offer a game and then not let me play it?" feelings come into play. Rarely does the "it’s their place so they can do what they want" idea come into play – at least at the start.
The Beautiful A.P. and I were "wonging" games on the Las Vegas Strip one early afternoon. Wonging is a technique developed by Stanford Wong where you don’t play every hand but count the cards at one or two tables from behind the players. When the count becomes positive you jump into the game with your bets. It’s kind of like the "big player" technique without actually using a spotter or big player.
Both A.P. and I were able to count two tables each since these were next to each other; thus we covered four in total. We’d count, jump in, and then get out if the count went negative. We’d only do this twice in each casino and then we’d head out the door.
We had great success at Flamingo Hilton (now called Flamingo Las Vegas). I jumped in the first time and I think I won almost every hand. A.P. jumped in the second time and I think she won all of her hands. We each did this once more with similar results. Then we headed for the door.
"That was great," I said as I hugged the Beautiful A.P. outside the Flamingo Hilton. "We kicked their ass!"
After a workout (sometimes we did our workouts after an early session of play) and a nap, we drove downtown to play at the Golden Nugget. We had been playing there every other day for a couple of weeks. There seemed to be no interest in our play so we kept going back. They had great single- and double-deck games.
I loved playing there because one of the pit bosses (or floor man, I don’t remember his title) was boxing referee Richard Steele. I had great conversations with him about all the matches he worked and the personalities of the fighters and famous managers. He was a hell of a nice man and I had a lot of respect for him.
This particular afternoon the floor man Michael Patti opened a table just for us. "We need to open another table and you guys can play alone right now if you want to."
Being a complete and utter idiot, I went over to the other table with the Beautiful A.P. So we played. We were down $600 when Michael came up behind me and tapped my shoulder.
"Hey, Michael, I was going to ask you for a comp," I said.
He laughed, "You can’t play here any more. I’m sorry you guys are too good for us."
I pulled out the tried and true statement many card counters have used, "Michael we’re down six hundred dollars."
He shook his head, "Doesn’t matter. We can see what you can do."
"Crap," I said.
"Your first time?" he asked.
"Uh, ahm, uh," I mumbled.
"Yes," said A.P.
"You shouldn’t have jumped at having your own table. It made it too easy to observe your play. Also, you should be more aware of the fact that when you wong in certain casinos they will photograph you and send those pictures to other casinos. We have a great picture of you two from the Flamingo Hilton. We let you play just to make sure they had you right," he smiled. "They had you right."
"Crap," I said. I was really down – first for being caught and second for being caught because I was an idiot. Yes, I had read all about barrings and bannings but I never really thought in my heart that it would happen to us. I thought we were so very clever. I was clever the way an idiot is clever. I should have known taking a table just for us was stupid. I should have realized that wonging up and down the Strip was stupid too.
"You look depressed," said Michael.
"I am," I said.
"We both are," said A.P.
"Okay, look," he said. "We took six hundred dollars from you. I am going to give you a comp for two hundred dollars to Stefano’s our Italian restaurant. That will cover a great meal and drinks. But stay away from Golden Nugget for as long as you are in town this trip. Okay?"
"Okay," said A.P.
"I was a card counter," said Michael. "I know how you feel. But I still don’t ever want to see you again."
This story does have an appendix that you might even call a somewhat happy ending. We had more than enough for dinner with that comp, so I ordered and drank most of two bottles of Pouilly Fuisse. I was high, no, I was drunk. As we came down the escalator I needed to go to the bathroom and turned right. There was a bank of one-dollar machines called, interestingly enough, Treasure Island. [Editor’s note: Treasure Island became Frank’s favorite casino for several years until….] I had some slot coins (I have no idea where I got those) and put three of them in. The reels spun as I held in my bladder. "Come on, come on," I said out loud.
The reels stopped. I looked through a drunken fog at the result. I won $1,600! I put all the coins in the bucket (in those days the machines actually used and paid in coins), cashed them in, ran to the bathroom and barely made it. I could have put out a large fire.
Sadly, we never did play at the Golden Nugget again – at least, not blackjack. The Golden Nugget games started to deteriorate in the summers after this barring so aside from walking through the place to keep cool, Michael Patti was the last person in the blackjack pit we ever talked to. Still, I did get to take home all that money from one lucky spin of a slot machine called Treasure Island. That must have been a foreshadowing of the casino where I would play for the longest time. That slot win more than made up for our loss at blackjack.
I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
They lived the life! Frank Scoblete and his wife the Beautiful A.P. were a devastating card counting team consistently beating the casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, the Midwest and Mississippi.
Now Frank will share with you everything he knows about beating the casinos at blackjack, including techniques that only he and a few true pros know such as End Play, the Fat Finger Method, Card Counting, Celebrity Play and Card Grouping.
The heart of this book focuses on what it means to be an expert player. Enjoy Frank and A.P.’s amazing true story; a story of phenomenal skill, teamwork, casino intrigue, and fascinating characters and, yes, how the casino bosses angrily reacted to a couple who knew more about winning money than almost anyone who ever challenged a casino. You’ll see what happens when the casino bosses go after Frank and the Beautiful A.P.
You’ll also meet such greats as Ken Uston, Henry Tamburin, the Stickman, Fred Renzey, Howard Schwartz, Edna Luckman, the Dominator, John Gollehon, Marvin Karlins, Walter Thomason, Stanford Wong, the real Rain Man, Joanna W., Silas the Miser, the Wheat Germ Man, and first and foremost, you will meet the man Frank considers the World’s Greatest Blackjack Player ever!
Enjoy their ride and learn their secrets!
"Frank Scoblete has won much money from casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere. This book describes how Frank and his wife cleaned up at blackjack by counting cards. Frank explains the details of how they did it, shares how they overcame the difficulties they encountered, and describes colorful characters they met along the way. Frank has a delightful way with words." – Stanford Wong, best-selling author of Professional Blackjack
"I've had the pleasure of working with some of the brightest minds and sharpest experts. Scoblete is in a class of his own." – Rob Wiser, managing editor, Casino Player magazine
"Frank Scoblete and the Beautiful A.P. are probably the standard for all husband/wife or couple blackjack teams. This book will blow your mind!" – Bill Burton, columnist About.com, Casino Player and Midwest Gaming and Travel
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