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Thread: 1st Time Counting in a Casino

  1. #1
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    1st Time Counting in a Casino

    Hello all,

    Just wanted to post about my first attempt at counting IRL and possibly get some more advice.

    Last night I went and played an S17 6 Deck game for about an hour and 45 minutes. Everything went okay (although I’m sure I my count was off at least a few times). My bankroll isn’t big enough to win in the long term but I just wanted to see how my skills would fair while under pressure. I played a 1-10 spread with a $10 betting unit. I ended leaving down $200 because I felt like I was getting a lot of heat.

    Here’s my question: when do you know that it’s time to leave? My dealer was talking to some coworker and said “yep I already told them. All three are watching right now. It might be a problem like last night.” I had the pit bosses watching me play for the last hour and right before I left, the pit boss actually walked up and watched me play from right next to me. I tried to smile good heartedly and made as much small talk as I could but I needed to use almost all my attention to keep the count. I learned how much more practice I really need because I made a few playing errors. The worse one was I accidentally split 4s vs 7 on my max bet because I flipped them around in my head and played them like 7s vs 4.

    Also my dealer asked for my ID when I sat down and I foolishly handed it over. She gave it to the pit boss who signed me up for a member’s card. This is a local casino so how should I proceed next time? Don’t give them the player’s card? Avoid it altogether because they now know my identity? There are many casinos in my area and I’m concerned that they will put me to all the other ones in my area.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    -LTT

  2. #2


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    Quote Originally Posted by LicenseToTilt View Post
    Hello all,

    Just wanted to post about my first attempt at counting IRL and possibly get some more advice.

    Last night I went and played an S17 6 Deck game for about an hour and 45 minutes. Everything went okay (although I’m sure I my count was off at least a few times). My bankroll isn’t big enough to win in the long term but I just wanted to see how my skills would fair while under pressure. I played a 1-10 spread with a $10 betting unit. I ended leaving down $200 because I felt like I was getting a lot of heat.

    Here’s my question: when do you know that it’s time to leave? My dealer was talking to some coworker and said “yep I already told them. All three are watching right now. It might be a problem like last night.” I had the pit bosses watching me play for the last hour and right before I left, the pit boss actually walked up and watched me play from right next to me. I tried to smile good heartedly and made as much small talk as I could but I needed to use almost all my attention to keep the count. I learned how much more practice I really need because I made a few playing errors. The worse one was I accidentally split 4s vs 7 on my max bet because I flipped them around in my head and played them like 7s vs 4.

    Also my dealer asked for my ID when I sat down and I foolishly handed it over. She gave it to the pit boss who signed me up for a member’s card. This is a local casino so how should I proceed next time? Don’t give them the player’s card? Avoid it altogether because they now know my identity? There are many casinos in my area and I’m concerned that they will put me to all the other ones in my area.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    -LTT
    Well, first off they have your ID and you have a players card in your real name. No turning back the clock on that. I'd try to use it and get some comps. After you practice more and improve your 'act'.

    Your biggest mistake was if this was just to have been a practice session under casino conditions, you should have played the lowest limits possible, at a small spread, regardless of game quality and then only keep doing so until you feel totally comfortable counting in the casino environment. Keep adding to your total playing bankroll until it's sufficient to play at your initial desired 'serious' bet level ($10 min?) and element of Ruin (5%?). I take it a $100 bet is considered 'high' for this casino and is why you got some attention? Or did you often jump your bets (up or down) in the process of getting your 10-1 spread? Was the penetration in that game 75% or better?

    I would recommend more practice at home until you can keep your count and play your indices with confidence, and with audio and visual distractions. Put the TV and/or your stereo on while you play.. make it loud! Generate some distractions during your practice.
    And when you go out to play again in a casino, you want to keep your sessions to between 45minutes - 1 hour, maximum. Get in the habit of doing that.

    A general rule of thumb is either you win or lose 30 units or else 1 hour goes by, then that's when you end your session and leave.

    My best to you.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aragorn View Post
    Well, first off they have your ID and you have a players card in your real name. No turning back the clock on that. I'd try to use it and get some comps. After you practice more and improve your 'act'.

    Your biggest mistake was if this was just to have been a practice session under casino conditions, you should have played the lowest limits possible, at a small spread, regardless of game quality and then only keep doing so until you feel totally comfortable counting in the casino environment. Keep adding to your total playing bankroll until it's sufficient to play at your initial desired 'serious' bet level ($10 min?) and element of Ruin (5%?). I take it a $100 bet is considered 'high' for this casino and is why you got some attention? Or did you often jump your bets (up or down) in the process of getting your 10-1 spread? Was the penetration in that game 75% or better?

    I would recommend more practice at home until you can keep your count and play your indices with confidence, and with audio and visual distractions. Put the TV and/or your stereo on while you play.. make it loud! Generate some distractions during your practice.
    And when you go out to play again in a casino, you want to keep your sessions to between 45minutes - 1 hour, maximum. Get in the habit of doing that.

    A general rule of thumb is either you win or lose 30 units or else 1 hour goes by, then that's when you end your session and leave.

    My best to you.
    I changed my bet around to match the true count. For one shoe it jumped around a lot. For another I was betting the max or at least $75 for most of the shoe. As for what a “high” bet is at this place, I live in a big casino city but I didn’t see anybody around me betting as much as I was. The penetration was decent, I’d say just over 75%. I also used absolutely no cover and tried to play optimally. I’m sure I was checking off every box they had for a newbie counter hah.

    I must admit that the experience has actually made me much more confident that I will get this down. Counting was difficult in that environment but it was surreal getting a very high count and watching the 10s and Aces flow out of the shoe (to the OTHER players, annoyingly)

    Thanks for the advice to cut my sessions down in length. I think this would have been better for me because not only was I up at the 1 hour mark, but I think that was about the time they actually started to keep an eye on me.

    -LTT

  4. #4


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    Quote Originally Posted by LicenseToTilt View Post
    I learned how much more practice I really need because I made a few playing errors. The worse one was I accidentally split 4s vs 7 on my max bet because I flipped them around in my head and played them like 7s vs 4.
    You simply can't do things like this. That's a huge mistake. Probably threw away 30% of the value of your max bet. That's several hour's EV down the drain. You need to practice a lot more with basic strategy software before you go back to a casino. You should be able to play thousands of hands in a row, quickly, without making a single error.

    As far as heat, I'm surprised you got heat spreading that little. That's not common. The dealer's comment actually doesn't make it clear to me that you were heated up. That could be referring to anything. The "pit boss" watching you could be heat, but it could be a bored pit boss. You should actually figure out what the title of that person was. A mere supervisor (lowest level of suit at most places) watching you isn't usually a big deal. An actual pit boss could be a big deal, while a "casino manager" or "table games manager" or the like is definitely a problem. It's not 100% clear to me yet that you were even getting heat, although it's likely. Need more information, like how many other tables were open, how many people were playing, etc.

    Nonetheless, you shouldn't play through heat like that for a count game when you're rated. You should be taking countermeasures, the easiest of which is just leaving.
    The Cash Cow.

  5. #5


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    Okay,, have you read any books on blackjack? There are about 6 core books written by the 'gods' of blackjack which would give you a lot of insight into the game. You were red chipping with a max bet of $100 and you think they were giving you heat? That really seems weird... You could go back.. just watch other players and see if they are getting heat for placing $100 bets, if they are then you might want to really consider a new casino to play at. It's okay to give over your ID and get a players card if your goal is to use this place as a practice casino and take advantage of special promotions and free plays. I am going to my local casino tomorrow and will take advantage of the $25.00 in free bet table games and I have $50.00 in free slot play as well coming. I will probably use some points for a free lunch as well. It all depends what YOUR goal is for playing black jack and again, read some books which can help with that. When I go to a casino to really play hard then I don't give my name or ID and only if they won't cash me out without an ID then I do. A lot of tribal casinos in my area WILL not pay you out unless you produce an ID.. Sometimes I come back the next day and try again to cash out and I normally get lucky and get paid out then without an ID. So, I might want to suggest that you were doing something VERY VERY obvious like counting the cards and moving your lips while counting rather than doing it in your head or it could be you simply fit the profile of a card counter to them.. Who knows.. I guess my advice is to try another casino, see if you get the same reception and then try another.. If all THREE do the same thing then I would say you are giving off some huge tells to your counting.. I just find it hard to believe that from 1 game and you were $200 down and red-chipping that the are going to flyer you to every other casino in the area.. Why bother?? If you were playing in the high limit room then that might be another matter.. Best of luck to you, read some books, tons of youtube videos out there as well.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by moo321 View Post
    You simply can't do things like this. That's a huge mistake. Probably threw away 30% of the value of your max bet. That's several hour's EV down the drain. You need to practice a lot more with basic strategy software before you go back to a casino. You should be able to play thousands of hands in a row, quickly, without making a single error.

    As far as heat, I'm surprised you got heat spreading that little. That's not common. The dealer's comment actually doesn't make it clear to me that you were heated up. That could be referring to anything. The "pit boss" watching you could be heat, but it could be a bored pit boss. You should actually figure out what the title of that person was. A mere supervisor (lowest level of suit at most places) watching you isn't usually a big deal. An actual pit boss could be a big deal, while a "casino manager" or "table games manager" or the like is definitely a problem. It's not 100% clear to me yet that you were even getting heat, although it's likely. Need more information, like how many other tables were open, how many people were playing, etc.

    Nonetheless, you shouldn't play through heat like that for a count game when you're rated. You should be taking countermeasures, the easiest of which is just leaving.
    I 100% agree with you. I believe I made the mistake not from being unaware of the correct play, but more so just being so nervous and flustered. I'm sure you can remember how scary it felt when you made your first attempt at counting in a real casino. I have a 98% playing accuracy on CVBJ after putting in 10-20 hours a week for the last 3 months or so and almost every error was made in the first few weeks on the software. I can keep the count with 5 players on there and can play just over 2.0 rounds a minute consistently. Over the last 2 weekends, I think I have put in a solid 15 hours of play in real casinos and I never made such a horrid mistake again. As for the heat, I just have no way of knowing. Last night at another casino, the pit boss (I'm sure) started removing the decks from the discard tray and I thought they were doing it because I was counting. Turns out they were just replacing the decks. Another time, he brought security to my table. I thought I was getting backed off! Once again it was unrelated. They were just adding chips to the table.

    The pit boss did eventually make a comment that sounded like he knew I was counting. I made a side bet for cover after betting my max for like 6 hands in a row, winning a few blackjacks and double downs. This was after betting the minimum for several hours because every shoe had such low counts. I won the side bet and asked the dealer how much it paid and the pit boss looked at me sternly and said "You know how much it pays. You seem like you're good at math." That was my queue to leave and they refused to pay me without ID. I told them I didn't have it and pleaded my case that if there was an issue they should have never let me play in the first place but they have already accepted my money. They hit me with the "well, it's our policy" excuse. I left with my chips. Funny because it wasn't their policy the other day and its not their policy for any of the other players. I was playing with a $5 unit so I don't know how much they really care anyways even if they know I'm counting. Do you have any advice on how to proceed? They let me play for like 9 hours.

    -LTT

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by VonDox View Post
    Okay,, have you read any books on blackjack? There are about 6 core books written by the 'gods' of blackjack which would give you a lot of insight into the game. You were red chipping with a max bet of $100 and you think they were giving you heat? That really seems weird... You could go back.. just watch other players and see if they are getting heat for placing $100 bets, if they are then you might want to really consider a new casino to play at. It's okay to give over your ID and get a players card if your goal is to use this place as a practice casino and take advantage of special promotions and free plays. I am going to my local casino tomorrow and will take advantage of the $25.00 in free bet table games and I have $50.00 in free slot play as well coming. I will probably use some points for a free lunch as well. It all depends what YOUR goal is for playing black jack and again, read some books which can help with that. When I go to a casino to really play hard then I don't give my name or ID and only if they won't cash me out without an ID then I do. A lot of tribal casinos in my area WILL not pay you out unless you produce an ID.. Sometimes I come back the next day and try again to cash out and I normally get lucky and get paid out then without an ID. So, I might want to suggest that you were doing something VERY VERY obvious like counting the cards and moving your lips while counting rather than doing it in your head or it could be you simply fit the profile of a card counter to them.. Who knows.. I guess my advice is to try another casino, see if you get the same reception and then try another.. If all THREE do the same thing then I would say you are giving off some huge tells to your counting.. I just find it hard to believe that from 1 game and you were $200 down and red-chipping that the are going to flyer you to every other casino in the area.. Why bother?? If you were playing in the high limit room then that might be another matter.. Best of luck to you, read some books, tons of youtube videos out there as well.
    It must have been be my nervous disposition! I managed to count for like 9 hours straight last night without drawing any heat until the very end. I was very relaxed this time.

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    9 hours straight..?? Seriously? Considering all the previous responses to your OP?

    I'm reminded of a line by Norm, in an episode of the classic TV sitcom 'Cheers', where Cliff and he are talking about how bad it is that so many people waste their time in bars.
    Norm says: "Yeah, like this one guy the other day.. he sat next to me for 11 hours!"

    Unreal.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aragorn View Post
    9 hours straight..?? Seriously? Considering all the previous responses to your OP?

    I'm reminded of a line by Norm, in an episode of the classic TV sitcom 'Cheers', where Cliff and he are talking about how bad it is that so many people waste their time in bars.
    Norm says: "Yeah, like this one guy the other day.. he sat next to me for 11 hours!"

    Unreal.
    I know, I know. I felt like a bit of a degenerate but I wasn't sensing any heat and I felt like I needed the practice. Not to mention this was the only table I could find that had a $5 minimum and a spread with a $10 unit is too volatile for my bankroll. I think the experience was valuable and worth my time. No family, no kids. What better time in my life to grind out some practice so I can get good at this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LicenseToTilt View Post
    I 100% agree with you. I believe I made the mistake not from being unaware of the correct play, but more so just being so nervous and flustered. I'm sure you can remember how scary it felt when you made your first attempt at counting in a real casino.
    It's good that you're listening to advice. A lot of the new guys get upset when people tell them they need to practice more. We don't tell people to practice more to be rude. We tell them because we don't want them to lose their shirt.

    The phenomenon of nervousness affecting play is very common, very real, and I have not seen it discussed much in the literature or the boards. Other high stress occupations, such as the military or emergency medical services, attempt to mitigate this with realistic training. One exercise is to have recruits crawl under barbed wire while a machine fires just a few feet over their heads.


    You can definitely mitigate this a bit by trying to imitate real conditions in your practice. Use real cards, on a real felt layout, give hand signals, etc. You can add some stress, such as loud music, people talking to you, etc. But I don't know of any way to combine the stress of playing your hands and avoiding detection with the nervous system arousal caused by risking money. I think you simply have to ease into it by playing low stakes and then moving up.
    The Cash Cow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moo321 View Post
    It's good that you're listening to advice. A lot of the new guys get upset when people tell them they need to practice more. We don't tell people to practice more to be rude. We tell them because we don't want them to lose their shirt.

    The phenomenon of nervousness affecting play is very common, very real, and I have not seen it discussed much in the literature or the boards. Other high stress occupations, such as the military or emergency medical services, attempt to mitigate this with realistic training. One exercise is to have recruits crawl under barbed wire while a machine fires just a few feet over their heads.


    You can definitely mitigate this a bit by trying to imitate real conditions in your practice. Use real cards, on a real felt layout, give hand signals, etc. You can add some stress, such as loud music, people talking to you, etc. But I don't know of any way to combine the stress of playing your hands and avoiding detection with the nervous system arousal caused by risking money. I think you simply have to ease into it by playing low stakes and then moving up.
    I've been listening to my podcasts while playing. Or stand up comedy. Perhaps I should switch to an action movie or horror haha. I will try to find more distracting stuff to have in the background.

    -LTT

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