THOSE DEVASTATING SCOBLETES!
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.
The Beautiful A.P. and I became a great card counting team throughout the 1990’s – thanks to the early thrust of that Maxim Summer. We often spent close to 130 days a year in the casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas. When Tunica became a gambling venue we’d head to Mississippi as well.
John the pit person from Maxim was wrong about that Maxim Summer’s wins allowing me to retire from teaching. Even when my gambling books became best sellers, my outlay was a little more than just my teaching or book-writing career could handle.
Between A.P. and my teaching salaries; my article and book sales and our casino play it finally allowed us to buy a house, buy a car, send both of my sons to a private high school and then college. Everything the Beautiful A.P. said to me on the beach in Cape May on that summer day (when my whole world was crumbling) was now coming true. I was on my way up.
We started to call our summer trips to Las Vegas the "tuition runs" and that is literally what they were. We needed to make money to bring home. These were not summer vacations; they were summer jobs. Winter vacations such as Christmas and winter break became winter jobs. Easter was our spring job.
You might think spending every summer in Vegas and almost every weekend and school vacation in Atlantic City would be loads of fun. Not so. Yes, there were fine dinners, good workouts, good shows, interesting friendships but the pressure to win was overwhelming – we couldn’t afford to lose. Not affording to lose shines a totally different light on a Las Vegas experience.
I am sure many of you have seen those wildly outrageous Vegas comedies where drunken unshaven louts let it all hang out in the city of sin and indulgence. That is one of the two images Vegas (and all casinos) like to foster – wild abandonment of civilization in a frenzied whirl fueled by booze, sex and idiocy. The second image is the reverse; with genteel, happy, good looking, together people with scads of money enjoying a delightful pastime in an elegant way sipping their martinis. At least those were the images you’d see in the advertisements. You never saw a blue-haired old lady aimlessly playing slots as if she were a zombie; or some drunken man with cigarette ashes on his shirt and drool slowly making its way down his chin.
Those two distinct casino images were the exact opposite of our Vegas and Atlantic City careers. We were closer to being the Amish version of Las Vegas than the let-it-all-hang-out version. While we did treat ourselves to fine restaurants and the occasional show, we had to work hard because playing blackjack was hard work. I think most card counters will confirm that.
Vegas has never been – even now that our kids are in their mid-30s and I am not under the gun to win anymore – a vacation spot for me. The city is a Christmas ornament, surely, but it is not a real tree. It is a façade and that is all I see of the city, the make believe – I am just too experienced and too cynical to fall for the glitz and supposed glamour of it all. Playing blackjack from need changed the whole nature of sin city for me – and even more so for A.P. In fact, if she never sets foot on Nevada soil again it would not bother her one bit. "I’ll wave when I fly over on my way to Hawaii," she says.
Still in "those days" we had no choice. Need constantly propelled us. Vegas had the best games and when Christmas, winter break and Easter came around, we were on planes flying to our part-time jobs. The summer was always the major "tuition run."
And, without bragging (much) I must say we were highly successful. A.P. and I created a great way to play. At root, after the Maxim summer, I generally played two hands and made the bets; A.P. did the counting and signaled me what the count was.
We had an elaborate system of signals – both verbal and physical – that she would use to alert me to the count. For example, if A.P. talked about the President and his wife doing something (or any couple or pair doing or saying something or two movies she wanted to see), the count was a +2 – since a couple equaled two; if she told me I was drinking too much or I needed some water so I wouldn’t become dehydrated, or asked for a sip of water, or talked about how much you sweated in such hot weather, the count was a +7 – as in 7 & 7 the drink. If she touched my forearm, the count was a +4 or if she mentioned any boxer it was also a +4 (in honor of George Foreman). There were a few hundred possible signals and they could be slipped into any conversation or they could be understood depending on what part of my or her body was touched. The conversations could be with me, with the dealer, the waitress, the floor person or the pit boss.
Since the low counts were not as essential because the bet would usually be minimal, we tended to only have signals in minus counts that indicated the counts were three points lower than neutral. "The casino is crowded tonight." "The casino isn’t as crowded tonight." Number of people meant we were in the minus counts. Crowded meant we were lower than -3; not so crowded was at -1 or -2, give or take a fraction. I liked to know a general idea of the minus counts in order to change my playing strategy. Still this was not an important count or aspect of our play. The key to winning money at blackjack is getting the big bets out there when you have the decided advantage – all other things were secondary.
We had layer upon layer of signals. The above are just a few. The Beautiful A.P. would count, signal me, and I played the hands and did the betting. As all this was going on I was talking to the dealer, the floor person, the pit boss. I barely looked at the cards. I drank. I had "fun." I’m paying for that "fun" now. I gained 100 pounds during my casino playing career from the early 1990s to April 2012. If I were still in acting, I would have gone from the sexy, six-pack, svelte, leading man who enjoyed taking his shirt off to show his body all the way to the fat and funny gay neighbor with man problems.
That was our usual method of playing, although we sometimes changed things depending on the game we were playing. I never did master shuffle tracking but we tended to stick to single-deck and double-deck games. I tried to practice the shuffle tracking; I just couldn’t do it. I did, however, discover some new blackjack strategies that I never wrote about until recently. One was the "fat finger" strategy.
For several years some Las Vegas casinos offered a two-deck game dealt face up – mostly the Mirage properties. This was unusual since most double-deckers are dealt face down. You will probably find some casinos throughout the country that continue to do the face-up double-deck game and if so the "fat finger" strategy can give you a startlingly large advantage.
The ultimate spot on the table is at first base for the "fat finger" strategy so when you see that a dealer is falling into "fatitude" you must get yourself to first base (first base is the very first seat to the dealer’s left and is the first position to get cards).
So here is how this technique works: The dealer deals the cards to the players face up. When the dealer gets to third base (immediately to the dealer’s right) and he starts to flip the card over for the player, there are times when he double flips – that is, he starts to flip two cards at the same time. In a normal deal the top card is the player’s but in a double flip the second card is shown – that will be the dealer’s hole card. The dealer catches the almost-mistake and knowing he was about to show his hole card, he quickly stops the flip and fixes the cards so the player gets the correct card without the dealer’s hole card being seen or being flipped. Or so he thinks.
That hole card is often visible from first base. That’s right; he isn’t able to hide the card completely from the first base player – meaning you. Now you know his hole-card and can play your hands with that knowledge. A huge edge has just now been given to you on a golden plate.
What makes this a great way to play has to do with some of the hitting and standing decisions that you can make. If you know the dealer has a 6 under his up-card of 10, you might want to stand on your 15’s and 16’s, or double on your 9’s. He will not know that you know he has a 6 in the hole. Your playing decisions can really help you bring in the money. Of course, you could go completely nuts with your decisions. You would be foolish to stand on a 12 against a dealer’s 10 card even if you knew the dealer had a 6 in the hole. That would be something of a give away. You have to keep yourself somewhat reigned in so the pit wasn’t aware of the fact that you were not actually dumb (as you appeared to be based on your strategies) but actually smart enough to catch a problem in their game. Smart is bad in a casino; dumb is prized.
The reason I call this the "fat finger strategy" has to do with which dealers tended to make this misstep. These were usually large guys with big, thick fingers. For some reason when they flipped the cards, they had a tendency to double-card flip. That double card-flip was no big deal when it occurred to the players before the last player since you were going to see those cards anyway, but when it was the last player being double-card-flipped – voila there was a nice fat edge for you.
Yes, at times all types of dealers made this mistake but the large, thick fingered ones made it the most. Be thankful so many Americans are out-of-shape and over-weight or nicely plump due to so much protein, sugar and fat in our diets – they’ve made it perfect for some blackjack players such as me.
The best dealer I ever had was at Bellagio; he did it almost ten percent of the time. Still, I didn’t go all out to take hits. If I had an 18 or 19 I stayed on my hand even though I knew the dealer had, say, a 20. Again, hitting an 18 or 19 would have been too radical a hit unless you looked like Alfred E. Newman with drool dripping down your chin.
I did, however, double-down on hands such as a nine against a dealer’s 10 up-card when I knew he had a small card in the hole. This merely looked as if I were stupid whereas hitting on an 18 or 19 would have made me look crazy or smart. Again: Stupid is loved in the casinos. Also: Crazy gives the casino pit people pause. Again: Smart makes the casinos hate you.
A.P. and I played these face-up two-deck games for over a year and it was a very, very satisfying year indeed. Money was made, tuitions got paid. And A.P. and I paid off our mortgage in seven years to boot!
At the original Aladdin casino before the hotel was torn down and made into the new Aladdin casino which was then sold and made into Planet Hollywood, I used a "shiny coin" technique to catch a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card. Instead of having one-dollar white (or blue) chips, the Aladdin used slot coins. Some of these were not the grimy, fingered ones that went in and out of the machines, but coins that (I assume) were basically only used for blackjack. (Coins were not real coins; but slot coins.)
As the dealer would slide his hole card under his up-card, occasionally you could get a quick peek at it. The picture cards were easy to spot even if you couldn’t always tell which ones they were – the massive coloration and the lines at the top told you that the dealer had a 10-valued card in the hole. It was not as easy to distinguish the other cards as readily.
As A.P. and I made our sweep of the old Aladdin before we played, I always looked to see if those slot coins were shiny enough to give me a glimpse of the hole card. Sometimes they were; sometimes they weren’t. It never hurt to look.
Obviously during our casino runs we used match play, aces play (the casino gives you a free ace to be used whenever you wanted), and whatever other "play" the casinos generously awarded. We took everything we could take and gave them as little as we could give.
Our goal was simple. We wanted to take the casinos the same way the casinos took all those players who just threw their money away on "fun and good times" as one of my acquaintances once said. I don’t know how you can have "fun and good times" after coming home having lost about seven thousand dollars. Fun and good times? For us? Nope. Just show us the money! That was fun. That was a good time.
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
To order the book with a BJI discount, click here.
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