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by Mark Gruetze

Mark Gruetze writes the biweekly "Player's Advantage" gambling column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in Pennsylvania. His columns are online at He has been a skilled recreational player for more than 30 years, focusing on blackjack, video poker, and poker. E-Mail questions or comments to

Casinos have far more to fear from "lucky idiots" than from the best card counters, says one of the country's top gambling mathematicians.

While many "lucky idiots" are nothing more than what they appear to be, a few are skilled in techniques that give them a far higher edge - and earning potential - than counters could ever achieve, says Eliot Jacobson, operator of and author of "Advanced Advantage Play: Beating and Safeguarding Modern Casino Games, Side Bets and Promotions."

"The lucky idiot's the guy you can't believe is winning," Jacobson says. "He's playing so poorly, (you think) how can this guy be winning?" He might stand on 12 against a face card, but the dealer's hole card turns out to be small; he might raise his bet for no apparent reason and consistently catch an Ace or face on the first card.

Jacobson presented an April 28 webinar, sponsored by CDC Gaming Seminars and directed at casino game-protection executives, on advantage plays such as hole carding, Ace sequencing, edge sorting, and card steering. (Disclosure: I am a contributing writer for CDC Gaming Reports).

"Advantage play is not cheating," Jacobson emphasized. "These methods would be what you do after you became a proficient card counter and were looking for some better way to earn income."

He said a highly skilled card counter posting a $100 max bet at a standard six-deck Las Vegas blackjack game with only one deck cut off - deeper penetration than casinos typically allow - makes about $22 an hour.

"That's a surprise to many people that this card counter is making so little" said Jacobson, who was a counter and Advantage Player before starting a consulting firm and doing work for the casino industry. "It's barely a living wage considering that this guy has to run around, trying to find games, avoid detection and everything else."

In contrast, an edge sorter with a $100 max bet can make between...

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