ALMOST $80,000 IN ONE DAY: THE REST OF THE STORY
by Kenneth R Smith
Tournament expert Ken Smith has appeared on all four seasons of GSN's World Series of Blackjack, and had several appearances on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS. He is the author of the e-book. How to Win More Blackjack Tournaments: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Supercharge Your Game. Ken hosts the popular website www.BlackjackInfo.com as well as the online tournament community at www.BlackjackTournaments.com. You can subscribe to his free email newsletter at http://www.blackjackinfo.com/news/. Ken also recently released his new pocket blackjack strategy cards, which are available in our BJI store.
Back in 2008, the Blackjack Insider published an article by Joe Pane titledOne Crazy Day in the Life of a Professional Blackjack Player. Joe related a story involving a cross-country trip with Micky Rosa of MIT Blackjack fame to play a promotion where blackjacks were paid at 2:1 at a remote small Indian casino.
That story didn't have the ending that Joe and Micky had hoped for, because when they arrived they found that the previous max bet of $500 had already been lowered to $100 instead. Making matters worse, the cross-country players weren't able to play for very long even at those stakes, and eventually were asked to leave shortly after they began playing.Read the original article for all the entertaining details, including a crazy non-stop drive to beat a rental car deadline.
Now that more than a few years have passed, I think I can reveal the "rest of the story," as the late radio personality Paul Harvey used to say.
Joe mentions in his article that he could have saved a lot of wasted travel if he had simply called a different player to team up for the promo. That other player was me. It turns out that I learned of this game a day or two before Joe, and it was me and a couple of friends who had heated up the game and caused the rules to be changed. Here’s what happened.
I learned through some of my contacts about a month-long promotion at a tiny and remote casino in the middle of the country. The casino planned to pay 2:1 on blackjack instead of the usual 3:2 on all their blackjack tables for an entire month, and at the casino's usual maximum betting limit of $500.
Paying an extra half bet on a blackjack does not sound like a big deal, but it turns the usual house advantage of blackjack on its head. Instead of a half percent house edge, a 2:1 blackjack game gives the basic strategy player an edge of more than 1.5%. I don't remember the exact rules at this casino, but the basic strategy edge was probably around 1.8%. A typical full table might play 60 rounds an hour, so if you can play two hands of $500 each, your expected win is around $1080 per hour. Hopefully, you can encourage the other players on your table and the dealer to play more quickly, and win even more. The more hands you play, the more money you make. (And, the more hands you get in, the better the chance you have of smoothing out the luck factor!)
Of course, even though our advantage was 1.8%, that's still a small percentage edge. That luck factor I mentioned can be huge! After all, your entire advantage works out to winning about one bet per hour on each betting circle that you are playing. Anyone who plays much blackjack knows that an edge of one bet per hour will easily be buried in the noise of winning or losing because of good or bad luck. If you are even a little unlucky, you can lose tens of thousands of dollars betting 2 X $500, even though you have the advantage. But hey, these kinds of situations offer a great opportunity to just camp out on a game and have the edge without even thinking (i.e., without card counting). The variance is a pain, but the edge is very real.
I knew from experience that the promo could easily be changed or canceled, or worse, the casino might just back off anyone who was winning a lot on the game. Still, I hoped that maybe I could get in a few days of play before the ax fell. With visions of a possible six-figure expected win, I was definitely in. I contacted a couple of friends, quickly made some arrangements, gathered a lot of cash, and headed to the airport.
My friends and I arrived at the casino around noon, which was actually just right because the table games at this casino didn't open until then. I had known that the casino would be small, but I didn't realize just how small it was. There was no point in trying to blend in with the locals or act like we weren't together. Everyone there seemed to be on a first-name basis with the employees. We stuck out like a sore thumb!
We started with bets around $100, to see how the dealers and pit would react to black chip play before increasing our bets. Since the pit had just opened, at first we were forced to play on the same table. With some civilians also playing, none of us could spread to two spots yet either. Fortunately, other tables began to open and we quickly spread out. By playing on different tables, we could reduce our risk. After all, if you play at the same table, you will likely have the same kind of results and a hot dealer will wipe you out equally. But by playing on different tables instead, your results are not correlated.
The $100 bets didn't seem to be a problem, so we increased our bet sizes until after a short time we were all betting the table max (i.e., $500) on two spots at each of our tables.
If you have never played at this kind of betting level, it can be hard to understand just how much...
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