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Beating Tough Games: Part 1
Beating Tough Games - Part 2
Beating Tough Games - Part 3
Beating Tough Games - Part 4
The word "tough" probably means something different to all of us, so let me explain how I view it as it relates to Blackjack games. What I'm referring to are games where the rules suck or the penetration is shallow or there's a lot of scrutiny from the casino supervisory personnel (the 'pit critters' as we lovingly call them) and so forth. Let me first say that to gain even a tiny edge in a tough game, you'll likely have to count the cards, so that ability is a prerequisite for the tricks I'll describe. In other words, if you're not a counter, you won't find a lot in here to help you.
However, let's say you are a counter, find yourself on a cruise and the boat has a casino. But, when you check it out, you find that the rules are horrible. (I should point out that there are two types of 'cruising' casinos: those on ships that take trips to 'nowhere' and the main activity is gambling and those on boats that are 'pleasure' boats that actually go somewhere - the "Love Boat". On the first type, the Blackjack is usually pretty good and on the latter, the casino is just one of many diversions for the passengers so the Blackjack is usually lousy. The tricks I'm talking about here apply to the second type of boat.) Anyway, you'll typically find that the Love Boat's rules allow double only on 10 and 11, no double after split, etc. so the casino has a 1% or so edge over the player.
Naturally, you shouldn't even play at such a game, but here you are in the middle of the Caribbean and yesterday's sunburn hurts like hell so what's a counter to do? Play a little Blackjack, I suppose.
Back when I had a 'real' job, I was VP-Marketing for a company and I escorted a bunch of salespeople on a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas. The boat had a casino with horrible rules, but I was a counter and I had just given the ship's purser a $50,000 check to pay the balance due on our accommodations, so I figured they weren't going to throw me off the boat if I beat them for a few $$$. With table limits of $5-$50, even if I had a great day, I might make $300 or $400, so nobody was going to get hurt much, either way.
The way to approach a game like this is to first realize that they probably aren't going to 'bar' you from the casino if you win. And, if they do, what have you really lost, anyway? So, over the side goes the 'camouflage' which I normally espouse for this game. My approach was simple: bet $5 when the casino had the edge and bet $50 when the count indicated that I had the edge. I played that way for several hours and my actions didn't raise an eyebrow, even when I cashed out $500 ahead.
Later, I went back to the casino to play, but had done a little preparation for the session. What I did was to give a friend $500 in cash and told her to look for my signal, then come to the table and make a $50 bet. What I was doing, of course, was "calling" her in when the count was in my favor and then telling her how to play the hands with non-verbal signals. That effectively made my spread about 15 to 1 (it's not 20 to 1 due to what we call "covariance". See my series on multiple-hand play for more information on that) and there are darn few games that a 15 to 1 spread can't beat, especially since this one offered 70+% penetration. The downside to this method of play is that the swings in your bankroll can be considerable, since you're making a $50 bet with a very small edge, however that's offset somewhat by the poor rules. Since the ship's rules allowed double only on 10 or 11 and did not allow double after split, the casino's edge was fairly large, but the player is making far fewer bets as compared to a game where one may double on soft hands or double after split. So, there were fewer times that I'd lose two $50 bets and that has a 'smoothing' effect on my bankroll swings.
Anyway, I was joined at the table by some of my co-workers and we ended up making over $5000 that day! The added bonus was that they didn't throw me into a lifeboat and tow me behind the ship for the rest of the trip, though we all were pretty broke on the trip back, so the casino got off easy. But, what would normally be termed a "tough" game was converted to a "candy store" by recognizing that the risk of being barred was very small.
So, whether it's a cruise, or if you find yourself at a casino where you won't likely return for some time, go for the $$$. If you get barred, it's not a big problem (though, honestly, I'd do this only in the United States), but most likely you'll find that your 'hit-and-run' tactics go unnoticed. I've often thought of taking a 'tour' where I go from casino to casino, playing this way and never spend more than two hours in each. That may not work in Las Vegas, but I'll bet (and, remember, I'm not a gambler) that this will work very well in Iowa, Michigan or Minnesota.
See you here next time when I'll discuss some more "tough" games.