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Best of Frank Scoblete

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The Quotable Captain: Empty pockets

18 September 2018

(The late Captain was my mentor in gambling. I’ve written six books about him. This series contains some of his quotes, ideas and advice. This particular piece is the story of my fall and rise as an advantage player.)

The Captain: “There they are with empty pockets.” — from the book I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack (2014)

I was 40 years old. This was the late 1980s and the early 1990s. I was getting a divorce. I was $50 thousand in debt. I was about to lose my teaching job.

So you can see I was really, really down in the dumps, sitting on a lovely beach at Cape May. I looked at the ocean, so blue, so peaceful and I looked at my life, so blue, so full of pieces and I whined.

My future wife, the Beautiful A.P., has a can-do attitude and she “can-doed” me right there as I listed my miseries. “You have nowhere to go but up,” she said. “I am telling you things are going to work out. You’ll see. You’ll pay off your debts; you’ll get the divorce; your kids will go to Chaminade, you’ll even be able to pay for them to go to college without them taking loans. And you’ll even become a famous writer.”

Now, I had written two plays and many articles for local papers, but I really thought I had no big future as a writer. I was 40 and had achieved very little.

“In what?” I said. “I don’t have any other ideas for plays or anything.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just have a feeling. I can tell you this, think of this scene right here on the beach, right here in Cape May, because from right here and right now you go all the way up.”

I threw a couple of small stones into the ocean. “I hope you’re right, my beauty, I hope you’re right. I don’t know how I am going to do this.”

“You’ll do it; you’ll see,” she said.

In the midst of decay new life can sprout – think of winter into spring – and that is exactly what happened to me. I learned how to count cards and the Beautiful A.P. and King Scobe (my students used to call me King Scobe or Scobe and A.P. calls me Scobe – that’s my personal name) headed for Atlantic City, this time not to watch but to finally play. That first week was great. We spent eight days there and we won each and every day. I say “we” but A.P. preferred to watch during this time so she could feel comfortable knowing she could actually count with a casino dealer dealing the cards.

That week was so special I actually conned myself into thinking that if we continued to do this well, we’d wind up owning a casino. I was a small-stakes player too, going from $5 on my low hand to $50 on my highest hand – in shoe games your bet spread, low to high, has to be greater than in single- and double-deck games.

I recall walking along the Boardwalk trying to figure out which casino I would buy. I would tell A.P. how we would run our own casino. She just smiled and shook her head. Such was my imagination; such was hubris; such were the seeds of destruction.

We won $5,000 that week, an amazing amount considering how much I was betting. The games we were playing were good, mostly four decks with deep penetration. Penetration, meaning how many cards are cut out of play, can determine whether a game is good or bad. The better the penetration, the better the game. The actual rules of the game are not usually as important as the depth of its penetration.

I was truly a strutting cock of the Boardwalk after that first visit and then we went back to Atlantic City a few weeks later and I was the cock that got squashed by a car while trying to cross the road. I had put aside five thousand dollars as a bankroll and during that first trip we doubled it. This second trip saw me lose every penny of that money – every penny of our win and every penny of my initial bankroll.

My final destruction occurred at the Claridge in the high roller room when I had a bet of 25 hundred dollars on the table on various hands that I had split, resplit and doubled on. I was so convinced that my bad luck had to (had to!) change that I was betting way too much for my almost non-existent bankroll. Succinctly, I was a complete idiot, trying to recover all my money in just a few hands. I was on tilt; I wasn’t thinking straight – hell, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was the very “ploppy” player I have made fun of over the years.

At this moment of the “Frank Scoblete is the Titanic about to hit the iceberg,” the count was sky high; my hands went from 18 to 20. The dealer was showing a six. He had to have a 10 in the hole because so many small cards had already been played and I was sure he would bust with his piddling 16 and I would come roaring back and recapture my original 5K stake. From there on, casino ownership had only been delayed by a small losing streak. Move over Steve Wynn and Donald Trump, the new boy, Frank Scoblete, card counter, was in town.

The dealer flipped over his hole card. Oh, yeah, a 10! He had 16, just as I thought.
My heart was racing with joy; it was racing with excitement. Then something hit me; a small thought in the back of my mind that now came roaring to the front of my mind, I haven’t seen many fives during this shoe. I started to sweat. I started to really, really sweat and everything went in slow motion from this point – at least that is how my memory sees it. Slow motion: He pulls out a card from the shoe and slowly flips it over. Slow motion as the card flips: A five! Slow motion first on my forehead, then on my nose, then on the layout: A bead of sweat goes down my nose and drops onto the table. A five, oh, my God, a damn five!

I was busted. I had lost every penny I had reserved to play blackjack and start my casino-playing career in order to get myself out of debt. On one flip of the cards I had lost twenty-five hundred dollars. In one trip, I had lost ten thousand dollars. My gambling stake was gone. My confidence was gone. The casino I was going to buy was gone. I was, at that moment, the ultimate loser.

On the way back to Long Island, the Beautiful A.P. and I stopped at the Captain’s house. As soon as he saw us, he smiled and said, “There they are with empty pockets.”

I guess he could see it written on our foreheads and he could see it in our depressed state. He then proceeded to give me a lesson I have never forgotten; a lesson on bankroll and betting within your bankroll. He discussed the underlying emotions of having an advantage at a game and how those emotions can do you in if you aren’t careful.

Those emotions had certainly done me in because I wagered a monstrous amount of money against a mini-amount of bankroll on that trip. Emotions will often cancel out thinking; in advantage gambling emotion is often one of the worst elements in maintaining an edge over the house. The Captain would always tell me, “The struggle is not between you and the casino; it is between you and yourself.”

He was right. I lost my bankroll not because I couldn’t beat the casinos at blackjack; I lost my bankroll because I couldn’t beat back my feelings.

I learned my lesson too. I never lost another bankroll. I built up a bankroll that would take the “end of days” to lose. I have used the Captain’s insights and advice all these years and they have stood me in good stead. Perhaps it is best to take your beating right off the bat.

And to make everything wonderful, I also got his permission to write a book about him and his ideas – a book he wanted no money from or even publicity from. I just had to keep his name a secret. That book launched my career as a writer. It was Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos: How to Play Craps and Win! Since then I have written or edited over 40 books, some of which are about the Captain’s methods of play; the particulars of which I write about in "I Am A Dice Controller."


Visit Frank’s website at www.frankscoblete.com . Frank’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack. Available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.
Recent Articles
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution!

> More Books By Frank Scoblete