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The highs and lows of card counting3 May 2007
I came up to our two-bathroom, two-Jacuzzi, two-bedroom suite at a famous hotel and looked at my wife, the beautiful A.P., taking a bubble bath. She looked so happy.
"What's wrong?" she said as I skulked by the bathroom.
"I'm going to bed. Wake me after the Second Coming."
"How much did you lose?" she asked.
I crawled into bed and assumed the fetal position. I put the covers over my head. "Enough to make me want to suck my thumb," I yelled from under the covers. "Would you lose respect for me if I sucked my thumb?"
"Whatever it was, you'll get it back," she said.
"I lost five figures," and I then told her exactly how much. I thought she might try to drown herself but she just splashed in the tub, unconcerned. "I couldn't win a hand in the high counts for two straight hours," I continued. "Magical small cards would come out of the deck to let the dealer hit to 21 on bust hands. I didn't know there could be that many small cards in a two-deck game with counts in the double digits."
"You'll get it all back. You've been through this before," she said calmly.
Yeah, I had been through this before - through the 1980s as a red-green chip player, through the 1990s as a green-black chip player, and now in the 21st century as a "big" player, I had been through losing streaks and bad times and "I want to suck my thumb" blowouts. But this one was the biggest single loss I had ever had in one night - in just two hours, no less. I have never been able to disassociate myself from the true value of the money I bet. A five-figure loss might be "X" percent of my bankroll but "X" percent when I was a red-green chip player wasn't as frightening as "X" percent when I am a "big" player.
Chips are real money to me. A thousand dollars can be two-tenths of one percent of a bankroll but it is still a thousand dollars. That's a lot of money. One dollar could be two-tenths of one percent of a bankroll but losing one dollar just doesn't seem that awful. To me money has real value, not relative value, and a five-figure loss just makes me want to suck my thumb right off my hand.
The good news about card counting the traditional way is that it works if you are mentally strong enough to do the work necessary to get that edge over the casino. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of blackjack players just don't have the mental toughness to learn how to successfully count the traditional way. Yes, you can beat many of the blackjack games that the casinos offer, but you need tremendous skill to do so.
The bad news is that your edge when counting cards is small, on the order of one percent, plus or minus maybe another half percent. That means that while you can indeed beat the game, you had better expect to get bloodied and beaten mercilessly on many occasions. All blackjack card counters know this fact: To beat blackjack, you have to be ready to take a beating yourself.
If you can't handle the many downs of card counting, then it isn't for you. It also isn't for you if you can't handle a traditional count system in the casino environment. Traditional count systems, even the easiest ones such as hi-lo, are not that easy to successfully do in the casinos.
To become a successful card counter requires the following: complete knowledge of the computer-derived basic strategy of what to do with each and every hand you receive against each and every dealer upcard; knowledge of a workable count system that you can use successfully in the casinos; a large bankroll to allow you to survive those many blowouts that you'll have, and knowledge of when to deviate from basic strategy to improve your chances of taking home the casino's money.
Since 2003, I have stopped playing the traditional hi-lo count and switched over to a new system called Speed Count with the new Optimal Basic Strategy which is taught in the Golden Touch Blackjack course and cannot be found in any books or articles [see my book Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution!]. This extremely simple system, designed by Dan Pronovost, a software genius and mathematician, has most of the power of the hi-lo system but does not operate as a normal card counting system all the time because it has built-in cover and is usually much harder for casinos to detect.
That's the good news about the system I now use, but the bad news is the same as always: No system can guarantee a winning session, day, week, month or year. All card counting systems have you betting substantially more money when the remaining cards favor you and the losses during these times are the ones that dig an economic grave for you. If you are usually betting $50 and the count calls for a $500 bet, you lose a string of those big bets and thumb sucking is in your future, whether you use the new Speed Count, or the traditional hi-lo, or some other counting system.
Interestingly enough, devastating blowouts are not usually in the cards (pun intended) for basic strategy players who flat bet. If you are a $50 player flat betting that amount over and over and over again, you need a wickedly bad streak to make you lose a $1,000 but if you are a card counter who must hit that $500 bet during favorable counts a loss of several, many, or most of those hands is monumental.
Frankly speaking, you now know the highs and the lows of card counting.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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