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By Paul Wilson

BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November 2014 issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.

Blackjack is about more than X's and O's. Sure there's basic strategy, managing a bankroll - on and off the table, and perhaps even learning a counting system. It can be a stressful and lonely endeavor. Have you ever thought about your preparation before you play? Before you sit down at the table, you need to be prepared to play. You need to bring the best version of you that you can at the time. We're going to change things up a bit with this month's Paul's Pointers and talk about little things you can do to be healthier on your casino visits or "working vacations" and hopefully present a "better you" when you sit down to do battle with the casinos and dance with Lady Luck.


I have to admit this may seem like the kind of piece you'd read in January amidst the cannon fodder of "New Year's Resolutions" junk. So before we dive in and under the guise of transparency, I'll let you in on my own motivations. Like many of you out there, I've been fighting the battle of the bulge for a while and slowly losing. After a dreadful February that saw negative casino returns and the worst documented sports betting run of my life, I got on the scale at my local gym and it told me I'd gained four pounds in the past month. I was depressed, not working out, or eating right - things normally saved for football season! The results on the scale were definitely not good, but the real wake-up call was a photo; a selfie if you will.

An out-of-town friend and I attended an event a few days later and she wanted to take a selfie of us together. I didn't pay much attention to the picture initially, but upon further review, I looked terrible! I later texted my friend that it looks like Mr. Wilson has some work to do! In my own defense, I wasn't going to look good up against my friend. I won't reveal her identity, but she's a very attractive woman that has done some fitness modeling during her career and appears to be getting better looking with age.

My friend said she would be back in town in about two months for work. I knew what I had to do. I needed to lose a few pounds and get another selfie with her! I had two months and set a goal that I needed to lose at least 8 pounds or I couldn't see her again. Ideally, I would drop 10 or even 12, but I figured 8 would be noticeable in a photo. First things first, right? It's kind of like winning that first blackjack hand of a session and then putting a positive number on the scoreboard during your first trip session. Chances are it won't impact your session or trip results too drastically, but it sure feels good to get off to a positive start. It builds momentum and that builds confidence.


When you visit Las Vegas or other gaming destinations, chances are there's a buffet at the casino. Chances are the food is pretty good too! I've had three buffets since my story above and have tentative plans to use a comp for one tomorrow. However, when I hit the casino buffet lately I've been pounding the salad bar, eating more fruit, and sticking with baked turkey as an entrée, even cutting back (but not eliminating) the desserts. I've cut some calories and am eating more apples, oranges, and bananas at home as well.

Watching your diet can help you be more attentive and have more energy during your blackjack playing sessions. When I used to come to Las Vegas or hit the Mississippi casinos I enjoyed raiding the buffet. However, even in my early days, I didn't like to play blackjack with an overly full stomach. I generally played a mid-morning session on an empty stomach or off a light snack in my room. The same held in the late afternoon. I'd often play a session after making my sports bets. I'd usually avoid the big crowds in the evenings and play a late night session, often after being out at a night spot until the wee hours. That last one I don't necessarily recommend, but I felt like I could play basic strategy in my sleep in those days and I was never a heavy drinker.

Depending who I was with, the dining game plans was normally a lunch buffet for the big meal of the day. Often we'd go to a diner or conventional restaurant for a late dinner and sometimes we'd hit the cheap grave-yard specials. On occasion, we'd skip meals entirely during the day and hit a dinner buffet early. My running mate for many Las Vegas adventures had to endure my foul moods more than once while we waited in a long line of senior citizens at 4:45 p.m. with stomachs growling. I've mellowed with age; allegedly!

In addition to having a dining-game plan, try to go easy on the rich foods and alcohol. I'm no saint and I fully understand you go on casino vacations to live it up and enjoy things you wouldn't necessarily do at home. Believe me, I get it. I'm just recommending that you limit your playing sessions after these dining and drinking outings. Digesting a large meal takes additional blood flow that could be used trying to remember if the true count is +4 or -4 while talking to Kim the Waitress, and waiting for the guy at first base to decide if he's going to hit his soft 17!


Speaking of Kim the Waitress; be sure to order a few bottled waters from her amidst your alcoholic or caffeine infused beverages. My first stop after picking up my rental car in Las Vegas was Foods for Less. Included in my purchases of what I dubbed the "chemistry set," was a case of bottled water and a few 32-ounce Gatorades. I tell people this all the time in Las Vegas: "You can't drink enough water here." Really, you can't!

You may not realize it, but most of us run around slightly dehydrated during our daily lives. When we combine that with travel, less sleep, adrenaline, more alcohol, more caffeine, and the dry air in the casinos and outside under the desert sun at the pool or even at night, well we don't stand a chance! All these things have a cumulative effect. Dehydration can really sneak up on you; especially in Las Vegas! However, it's true in the high humidity of the South and everywhere else you might want to play. Dehydration limits your mental acuity. It can also impair you physically. No one wants to interrupt a hot shoe because they passed out and needed an IV at the local hospital. Drink water. Then drink more water! (Be sure to tip Kim the Waitress too; she's on your side if you're cool!)


Most casino destinations have plenty to do besides gambling. Take a break from the tables to see the sights and refresh your mind and get the blood flowing. Even simply taking a walk can be a great way to burn some calories and help you relax and get refocused for your next session. Even during a session, there's nothing wrong with taking the long route to the restroom. The game will still be there when you get back and it gives you an excuse to wait for a new shuffle or get out of a negative-count shuffle, while still keeping your "play meter" running for the ratings slip. If you like the nightlife, don't be a wallflower. Take your favorite gal or guy by the hand and hit the dance floor. Its exercise and it'll take your mind off blackjack while you try not to be the worst dancer on the floor (this applies to the fellas out there)!

If you like to work out, or even if you don't, find the gym once or twice during your visit and do a light workout. You'll work out some stress and get some of those toxins out of the body by working up a good ole fashioned sweat. I'll admit most hotels pools are not conducive to lap swimming, but if you are a serious swimmer, that's generally an early morning option. If you roll out of bed "around whenever," like I used to on my casino "vacations," heading to the pool is a good way to start the day. Just getting in the water and splashing around can burn a few calories and help you beat the summer heat. If you are in Las Vegas or even some Mississippi casino pools in the summertime, it should be pretty easy to get the heart rate elevated - if you know what I mean!


This month I shared a recent personal story that prompted me to try to lose a few pounds and get a bit healthier. This was the nexus for putting some ideas on paper that can help you be more healthy and more prepared when you sit down at the blackjack tables during your casino destination trips. The ideas and tips I shared are simple. I'm not a certified nutritionist or personal training, but I am a gambler and know my way around the casino world. For that later reason, I didn't advise you to get plenty of sleep. Let's face it, you're not going too! Just get the sleep you need. There's no shame in taking a nap at the pool or in the room as necessary, but you're in Las Vegas or wherever to have fun, win money, and live it up.

Let's review:

  1. Don't overindulge before sessions. Watch your diet and alcoholic intake. Strive to be focused and mentally sharp. Also, you want your body to feel good and not limit you during those long sessions - planned or otherwise. Let's face it, some sessions don't go as planned and you have to be physically and mentally ready.
  2. Drink water. You don't want to be dehydrated when you play or even when you are not. Dehydration can cause headaches and much worse in severe cases. Drinking plenty of water also helps you avoid overeating and overdrinking per item #1 above. If you have access to a car, grab a case of water from a local grocer. If you don't, split up your alcohol and heavily caffeinated drinks with a round of water in between.
  3. Get some exercise. Walk around the casino a few times. Hit the gym or dancefloor. Get in the water and take a swim or just splash around and enjoy the sights! Take the stairs every chance you get. These are all good ways to burn a few calories and to get the blood flowing.

That's it. Sometimes simple is good. Perhaps you have your own tips or processes to add, I'd love to hear them. If you do the things I mentioned above, you should be better prepared and feeling good when you hit the green felt during your next casino adventure!

(Note: In case you are wondering, I've been taking the stairs, hitting the gym, watching my diet, and drinking more water. I've got some momentum and can safely see my friend next time she's in town and her work schedule permits. I haven't told anyone, but I also swore off pizza until I see her again. We have a tentative pizza date set. I hope it works out. I'm hungry and need to get another selfie - before dinner!)


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