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## Blackjack Player Breaks the Bank At Atlantic City294

Posted by timothy
from the applied-mathematics dept.
Hugh Pickens writes with a link to Atlantic writer Mark Bowden's account of how one gambler has cleaned up against casinos: "[B]lackjack player Don Johnson won nearly \$6 million playing blackjack in one night, single-handedly decimating the monthly revenue of Atlantic City's Tropicana casino after previously taking the Borgata for \$5 million and Caesars for \$4 million. How did Johnson do it? For one thing, Johnson is an extraordinarily skilled blackjack player. 'He plays perfect cards,' says Tony Rodio. But that's not enough to beat the house edge. As good as Johnson is at playing cards, his advantage is that he's even better at playing the casinos. When revenues slump as they have for the last five years at Atlantic City, casinos must rely more heavily on their most prized customers, the high rollers who wager huge amounts and are willing to lessen its edge for them primarily by offering discounts, or 'loss rebates.' When a casino offers a discount of, say, 10 percent, that means if the player loses \$100,000 at the blackjack table, he has to pay only \$90,000."
Pickens continues: "Two years ago the casinos started getting desperate and offered Johnson a 20 per cent discount. They also offered playing with a hand-shuffled six-deck shoe; the right to split and double down on up to four hands at once; and a 'soft 17,' whittling the house edge down to one-fourth of 1 percent. In effect, Johnson was playing a 50-50 game against the house, and with the discount, he was risking only 80 cents of every dollar he played. Johnson had to pony up \$1 million of his own money to start, but, as he would say later: 'You'd never lose the million. If you got to [\$500,000 in losses], you would stop and take your 20 percent discount. You'd owe them only \$400,000.'"
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## Blackjack Player Breaks the Bank At Atlantic City

• #### That's how it's done... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:24PM (#39443855) Homepage Journal

Not a game - or entertainment or luck. Just calculation of reall odds and risk.

There are 3 such games: Craps, Blackjack and Baccarat. Poker is promoted so heavily, because it makes the Casinos so much lucre.

• #### I Can't Help But Feel (Score:4, Insightful)

<eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:28PM (#39443907) Journal

That's how it's done ...

Conversely, I can't help but feel like this article is just designed to put the idea into millions of readers' heads that you can go into a casino with a strategy or method or system and take home millions at the blackjack table. I can assure you that neither the Tropicana nor Borgata nor Caesars will be closing its doors anytime soon despite losing millions to this guy. If they do, it will be just to demolish the building to build an even bigger more expensive casino on top of the site.

Going to Atlantic City is a mistake, putting any real money down on a blackjack table is a bigger one. The casinos I've been to actually promote handing out these little cards that tell you (statistically) what to do given your two cards and what the dealer is showing. They want you playing "perfect cards" because it's just a steady continuous stream into their pockets and you feel like you're doing everything correctly as it happens.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:36PM (#39443979)

I can't help but feel like this article is just designed to put the idea into millions of readers' heads that you can go into a casino with a strategy or method or system and take home millions at the blackjack table.

It might help if you read the article, then you'd lose that feeling. It made it abundantly clear that he made deals that reduced his losses and gave him better odds. The word "discount" must be in the story a hundred times. Just skim the article and you'll see your feeling is dead wrong.

Anyway, I've known a number of "strategy" morons and there's nothing you can do to convince them that luck doesn't exist and that odds don't change after a run.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:55PM (#39444813)

Anyway, I've known a number of "strategy" morons and there's nothing you can do to convince them that luck doesn't exist and that odds don't change after a run.

Um.... The odds do change after a run in blackjack. You might want to research card counting as well as the Kelly coefficient. Unless they use continuous shuffle machines, the odds for the next hand change with each card dealt because you know the proportion of low to high cards that remain in the deck. When there are a lot of high cards left in the deck, that favors the player quite a bit.

The Kelly coefficient has to do with the amount of cash you need to have in order to have a 50% change of doubling your money before you half it based on a certain amount of cash that you place on each bet. It also has the property that it gives you a 10% chance of winning 10% more than your starting money before losing 10% etc. However, it seems unlikely that he had sufficient starting money to make use of this since he was betting like \$100,000 per hand. On the other hand, in his games, he was able to negotiate it to where they only had a 0.25% advantage on each hand. But, they were giving him 10-20% of his losses back, which mitigated some of his risk. Plus, they said that he wasn't card counting, but they didn't mention whether or not he was shuffle tracking. Since they were hand shuffling the decks, I would assume that he was. If you can determine when a 10 will be dealt, you have an 80% advantage over the house on that hand.

I think the correct strategy, in his case, would have been to bet big at one casino and then if he won, go to a different casino that was also giving him the 10-20% loss discount. Because while the first casino wouldn't count his newfound winnings as part of the loss stuff, the new casino would. So, if he won \$100,000 at casino 1, and he gambles that at casino 2, the most he could lose is \$80-90,000 of it. His expected value if they gave him an 80,000 loss guarantee would be \$9,550. That is per hand.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:04PM (#39444943) Journal

I can't help but feel like this article is just designed to put the idea into millions of readers' heads that you can go into a casino with a strategy or method or system and take home millions at the blackjack table.

It might help if you read the article, then you'd lose that feeling.

I think this is the only quote I needed to lose the feeling of heading to a blackjack table to be a millionaire:
"He had to pony up \$1 million of his own money to start, [theatlantic.com] but, as he would say later: “You’d never lose the million. If you got to [\$500,000 in losses], you would stop and take your 20 percent discount. You’d owe them only \$400,000.” "

So he was already a millionaire... actually, multi-millionaire, because he had one million to just hand to the casino to play a game.

The whole article they make him sound like Joe the Plumber that just played one day and won millions. Nothing could be further from the truth, this guy reaches in his pocket and hands out a million dollars to play a game.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Insightful)

<slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:38PM (#39447673) Homepage

I know a guaranteed way to become a millionaire!

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:4, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:39PM (#39443999)

Conversely, I can't help but feel like this article is just designed to put the idea into millions of readers' heads that you can go into a casino with a strategy or method or system and take home millions at the blackjack table.

Only if it ends with a guy trying to sell just such a "system". The only sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme is selling get-rich-quick schemes.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Insightful)

<joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:36PM (#39444617)

Only if it ends with a guy trying to sell just such a "system". The only sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme is selling get-rich-quick schemes.

Well, there's always opening a brown envelope and briefcase store in Washington DC during lobbying season.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:4, Funny)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:23PM (#39445743) Homepage Journal

Only if it ends with a guy trying to sell just such a "system". The only sure-fire get-rich-quick scheme is selling get-rich-quick schemes.

Well, there's always opening a brown envelope and briefcase store in Washington DC during lobbying season.

Hey, I used to know a great place like that. It was right next to the place that sold signs with catchy, grossly one-sided messages to protesters.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Insightful)

<.enderandrew. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:51PM (#39444119) Homepage Journal

I worked for Harrahs which has two casinos in Council Bluffs. We had a customer take us for a few million between our two properties in a month. There is a competing casino in town. He ended up losing the millions back to the third casino.

People focus on the stories when people win big, but that usually isn't sustained long term. If the casinos gave up their statistical advantage, that is foolish and they'll revise those decisions. But you're absolutely correct that people should not for a moment believe that this is something you can do under most circumstances.

The house wins over time.

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:16PM (#39444411) Homepage Journal

I want to contradict you, but after reading the entire article, there's no claim that he had actually proved a way to beat the house, even with his custom rule changes.

The article seems to indicate that he always like gambling (ie. playing even when you can lose), but only increased his rate of gambling once he started getting these special custom deals. Since he hadn't played big before, he wasn't known at the time, and that gave him the opportunity to get in and out fast. The evidence that he took enough from 3 chains to be banned is anecdotal evidence only.

I saw a 60-minutes special on a sports gambler who hired 4-5 people to do full-time research for him. He turned it into a sustainable business, and kept extremely close records of every wager placed. I don't see any evidence that Don Johnson has done the same thing. He could have won big a few places and been thrown out, and lost just as much at other casinos, and the article would still have been written.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

by Anonymous Coward

Exactly. The only special thing he did was know how to negotiate these high-roller deals with the casino management. He also benefited from the fact that casinos are more willing to wheel and deal now because of the economic situation and the increased competition among casinos in the USA.

What's more, their numbers guys checked out his play patterns and they actually found no evidence that he was using a system, counting cards, or anything like that. He just got lucky, plus took advantage of the casinos' wi

• #### Re: (Score:3)

The article explains how he won: He negotiated got the odds very close to 50/50, and once he was on a winning streak, continued. He would only walk once he was down \$500,000, but only owe \$400,000. In contrast, the casinos wouldn't shut him off until he was up in the millions. Basically, instead of counting cards, he got lucky at outsmarting the casinos at their own business.
• #### Re: (Score:3)

he _was_ known before. he was a known high roller, enough of a high roller that they called him up and offered a stupid deal(for the casino).

whats interesting is that he was shown to _not_ count cards. he only played (mathematically) perfect games though to minimize the house edge, and was lucky when it mattered(and he had enough bank so that he could maximize when he had a good chance to split and so on and since he was approved for 100 000 dollar bets.. ). so he can still go to most places where the casin

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:35PM (#39444593)
Yes, for the plebs who can't get these kinds of discounts the house always wins, he was able to get some amazing discounts and the pit bosses made it even worse in that a discount that is normally across all play for a year was given to him on a per trip basis meaning he could actually come out ahead. Basically he pulled an old cracker trick and rather than attack the system (card counting), he attacked the human who could manipulate the system.
• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:4, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:00PM (#39444893)
And now we have this story that a player won big (really big) at the Tropicana. How many people visiting Atlantic City are going to pick the Tropicana to gamble at from a (perhaps unconscious) idea that they can win big too (when they lack the real prerequisite here, having enough money to be considered a high-roller)
• #### Re: (Score:3)

The house wins over time.

Yup. Like Pittsburgh Phil is alleged to have said, "If you could beat the ponies they wouldn't be racing them."

• #### Re:I Can't Help But Feel (Score:5, Informative)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:51PM (#39444121)

Well to put this in perspective, while Tropicana AC's (a.k.a "East") Net revenues was \$279m, their operating income was only \$2.3m after operating expenses are deducted.

So no, Tropicana AC's management definitely does feel a \$6m hit. It's not a lot of money compared to consolidated net revenues of \$623m. However, on a consolidated level, Tropicana entertainment had a net loss of \$2.8m.

Bear in mind that Tropicana AC had also gone through a bankruptcy reorganization in March 2010.

A \$6m hit still stings them considerably when margins run tight. Atlantic City in general has not been doing well over the past few years due to the recession. While house odds are in their favor, they're not wildly in their favor, so to make money they need lots of people playing a lot of lot of rounds. When attendance drops, their operating costs can't be cut as quickly, they do have unionized employees.

All of this information can be found on their latest 10-K: http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1476246/000144530512000602/a20111231-10k.htm#s18F7C3BC4B5443E4BDFBC1717B852C6C [sec.gov]

• #### "Hollywood accounting", Vegas style. (Score:4, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:22PM (#39444467)

I guarantee you whatever "loss" is on paper, is exactly that, only on paper. I worked in the backroom, everyone in there is either ex-IRS, or current IRS who happen to be on the payroll.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

That's how it's done ...

Conversely, I can't help but feel like this article is just designed to put the idea into millions of readers' heads that you can go into a casino with a strategy or method or system and take home millions at the blackjack table.

You are not a Jedi. Do not trust your feelings on this.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:46PM (#39444069)
Hi. DBA at a gaming company, here. We dropped poker from the majority of our locations as a result of entirely too small hold percentage (% the house holds on your average bet). Something around 1-2%. This is primarily an artifact of players playing players, instead of playing the house. It is hardly worth the labor when you can push those players to one of two things: Other table games (craps/blackjack run around 8-12% hold on average) or video poker (about 6-7% and no labor involved).

No insult intended, this is just anecdotal evidence that your statement may be misinformation. The reason some of our locations hold on to poker is because the outcry from these players is so dramatic that it effects the turnstyle numbers in a statistically significant way. Even if it is only a fraction of a percentage, it is relevantly outside our margin of error - and so can cost those locations money. This is not because of the game itself, but because word of mouth keeps people off other games.
• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Informative)

<.enderandrew. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:54PM (#39444155) Homepage Journal

I worked for Harrahs. We had poker at both Council Bluffs properties. Certainly it makes less money directly than other table games, and less money than slots. But Harrahs owning the World Series of Poker creates a lot of visibility for the company and gets people in the door.

Often men don't enjoy slots as much as women. For some, having poker allows a couple to come and have both partners play something they enjoy.

Slots will make more money in the same space, but I don't know that you're more profitable overall dropping poker in the long run.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:01PM (#39444237)
Our properties are relatively small, but stay busy. That real estate is way more important to us than it would be in a Harrahs, especially during any given promotion. I've shopped both of those properties :)

I have figures from about a year ago showing a promo year over year. The poker tables were full the first year, gone the second year. Sure, there were some men who were displeased. But, response on the promotion went up (as a result of the men having something to do other than head directly to their table until their wives were broke), and profit on the night is up significantly. It could be a shift in play, but analysis says otherwise - the tables never went back in.
• #### Yeah, I was going to say (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:27PM (#39445203)

As a poker player from before the poker boom, I can assure you the house doesn't make a ton of money on it. That's why poker rooms were disappearing all up and down the strip before the boom. Caesar's Palace had even closed the poker room on their main floor about 18 months before the poker boom started (with Chris Moneymaker's win).

Poker was seen by most casinos as only being there to bring in players who wouldn't otherwise come in. So it was located next to the sportsbook if it was there at all. Only Wynn's properties (The Mirage and later Bellagio) were trying to use poker with the casual (as opposed to townie) crowd.

I was sure glad to see that change, but I don't kid myself that it could easily swing back. Because the house loves high take games, and poker isn't one of them. They also like things that are cheap to run (automated systems like slots) and poker isn't one of those either.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:50PM (#39444105)

Not a game - or entertainment or luck. Just calculation of reall odds and risk.

Luck is a huge component, as the winner himself said he was ready to walk away with a \$400k loss which could have happened had the cards come out differently.

Only if you have an infinite amount of time and an infinite loss tolerance (or if you cheat) can you avoid the impact of luck.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

He could also have been hit by a bus walking to church instead of going to a casino, probably with higher probability than losing \$500,000 in his situation. It's relatively easy to cause unlucky events to be of the unavoidable kind instead of the avoidable (gambling irresponsibly) kind.
• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:17PM (#39444425)

Busses walk to church?! Why wouldn't it just drive there?

• #### Re: (Score:3)

He doesn't roll on Shabbas.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

Not a game - or entertainment or luck. Just calculation of reall odds and risk.

Luck is a huge component, as the winner himself said he was ready to walk away with a \$400k loss which could have happened had the cards come out differently.

Only if you have an infinite amount of time and an infinite loss tolerance (or if you cheat) can you avoid the impact of luck.

Just like the folks at CERN and the LHC are relying on luck. What an atom or subatomic particle does at any particular moment is as much subject to chance as what card is dealt next.

But just like the scientist doesn't fire a single particle down the collider, this guy didn't play a single hand.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:36PM (#39444609)

With a proper size bankroll, and correct play, you can profit. Usually that goes more for poker against actual players, but blackjack with discounts can (obviously) approach that sort of profit.

When you discuss risk in play for profit, you have to realize that even if the odds are on your side, you have to be able to keep playing when there are dips. That is the function of the bankroll. You need enough money to not be wiped out by a few correctly played hands where the luck did not come out on your side.

For instance, in hold'em, you have an 80% chance of winning on AA against one remaining opponent on the flop. At that point you try to induce an all-in and go all in yourself. 80% of the time, you win, but 20% of the time, you are cleaned out. Despite the chance for being cleaned out, this is the exact play you have to make to make a profit over time. You need to make sure you have enough money to cover the hands that you are going to lose despite correct play. Thus, if you lose your first few potentially profitable hands due to luck, you're still there to collect the other 8/10 times you don't lose.

So being "prepared" to lose 400K meant that his bankroll was set to that much and he could absorb that much bad luck to keep himself playing long enough to realize a profit on correct play. Mind you, he did have to play perfect cards, because the odds require that. You only get the percentage if you play the exact cards under the exact conditions and be ready to assume the risk of losing. It is *not* easy to do, and it is rarely fun in the same way that a miraculous alcohol fueled victory would be. It is an exercise in patience and consistency.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:54PM (#39444807)

With a proper size bankroll, and correct play, you can profit. Usually that goes more for poker against actual players

That depends on who the "you" is. If by "you" you mean the average poker player, then what you're suggesting is self-evidently wrong. Poker between a group of players is a zero sum game, therefore, the hypothetical "average" player breaks even. Add the house taking a cut, and the average player is losing money. Those who make money from poker are making money because the money is coming from suckers who hope that they'll make money from poker. Therefore, it's in the interest of good poker players to constantly try to push the image that "you" can make money playing poker because it helps ensure a fresh flow of suckers to the bottom rung of the pyramid scheme.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:4, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:56PM (#39444175)

Poker is promoted so heavily, because it makes the Casinos so much lucre.

Are you talking about Video Poker? Because that's not really heavily promoted. But if you're talking about table poker, you're just dead wrong. In table poker, players play each other, not the house, so the house makes a shitty fixed percentage, significantly less than it makes on any other game. The only reason they keep it around is because it's hugely popular and gets people in the door. It's very common for poker winners to piss away all their winnings on other games.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:18PM (#39444437)
^Story of my life, heh.

I go to AC with my roommate maybe 3-4 times a year, along with 1-2 vegas trips. We can easily take in +1000 a weekend playing poker. We then turn around and burn 800 or so playing everything else and having a big meal. Leaving up 200 is usually depends on how reckless we are on the craps table.
• #### Re: (Score:2)

There are 3 such games: Craps, Blackjack and Baccarat. Poker is promoted so heavily, because it makes the Casinos so much lucre.

It may be true that they make more money on poker, but it is still an easier game to beat, because you primarily fight other players and not the house.

In black jack, only the most extremely skilled players under very unusual conditions can generate a positive average return based on their strategy.

In poker, there may be one player at every table of 10 (i.e. 10%) that shows a positive average return based on their strategy.

• #### Re:That's how it's done... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:01PM (#39444235)

Not a game - or entertainment or luck. Just calculation of reall odds and risk. There are 3 such games: Craps, Blackjack and Baccarat. Poker is promoted so heavily, because it makes the Casinos so much lucre.

The first three games you mentioned are all played to the house advantage against the house. The best of the three for the player is blackjack where the house percentage can be low (and depends on the specific house rules). But it still favors the house. Blackjack is also the game where counting cards can help you win.

Poker is played not against the house, but against other people. The only money the poker rooms make is from the rake, or a percentage of each pot. The rake doesn't change the odds of winning a hand, only the amount you win by a small amount. It biases the expected return calculations and thus should have a small effect on how players bet.

The largest effects on player behaviour are the bonuses like "high hand" or "bad beat", where players who know they are likely to win \$500 for getting four of a kind are going to underbet their hands to keep the other players in until the end (trading pot size for jackpot). Or, as I did once, a player who knows the other person has made their straight flush may stay in the pot hoping to complete quads so he'd win his half of the bad beat jackpot.

The other money poker brings in is from the players who play other games waiting for a seat, or visit the buffet. Getting people in the door is the first step to robbing them blind with Carribean Stud or Craps or Roulette.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

There are 3 such games: Craps, Blackjack and Baccarat. Poker is promoted so heavily, because it makes the Casinos so much lucre.

Yeah, no. Poker is not a great casino money-maker. It's a way to draw players into the building for the more lucrative games

There are many professional and semi-professional poker players. I'm sure there are some successful blackjack players, perhaps like the article is suggesting, but nothing on the scale of poker.

Think about it -- player poker profits are fueled by the innumer

• #### Decimate (Score:2, Informative)

I don't think decimate means what the submitter thinks it means. (or it doesn't mean what I think it means).

I was always under the impression it meant to take "one tenth" based on the practice of the Roman's killing one in ten men of a legion that showed undue cowardice.

It sounds like the gambler took more than one tenth of their income based on the article.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

You are right, but so is the submitter...
Decimate [merriam-webster.com]

• #### Re:Decimate (Score:4, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:35PM (#39443971)

Don't do this. Now 'decimate' is in the top 20% of lookups on Merriam-Webster.com and etymologists everywhere will be confused by its popularity.

• #### Rebate didn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:25PM (#39443885)

The rebate did not factor in at all once he was ahead. The soft 17, playing perfect cards, and being allowed to vary his bets as he saw fit did it. Kid Dynamite covered this much better.

• #### indeed - Rebate didn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:51PM (#39444123)

"Johnson, 49, of Bensalem, Pa., is the chief executive officer of
Heritage Development LLC, a Wyoming-based company that uses
computer-assisted wagering programs for horseracing."

Sure enough, Don Johnson is "CEO of Heritage Development, LLC". Sure enough, Heritage Development is in the "Cheyenne, Wyoming Area". And what business is Heritage Development in? Programing? Software? Investment? Gaming? No, no, no & no. Rather...it's in "Public Relations and Communications".

Methinks the Johnson/casino story has a wee bit of the rotten egg stink about it.

• #### Card counting (Score:5, Informative)

<tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:52PM (#39444125) Homepage Journal

and being allowed to vary his bets as he saw fit

Isn't that just the old standby of card counting, like what the MIT Blackjack Team did? The system relies on the fact that 10s and aces are better for the player than for the house because of the 3:2 payout on a player's blackjack (two-card soft 21) and make it more likely for the dealer to bust on a hard 12-16. The common "high-low" system looks like this:

• 2-6: +1
• 7-9: 0
• 10-A: -1
• When the running count is more than four times the number of decks left in the shoe, bet high.

And Atlantic City casinos can't do smurf-all about it except end shoes early, as blackjack is legally a game of skill there (Uston v. Resorts International).

• #### Not much skill (Score:3, Insightful)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:33PM (#39443947)

There is little skill in playing Blackjack. Sure there's an optimum strategy that everyone should follow but I would hardly call that 'skill'.

Of course you could say that he was card counting, but if there was any suggestion of that his ass would have been out of the door and he would have been banned from every casino in the city. The casinos have counter measures to this anyway, such as more frequent shuffling or stopping players from entering half way through a shoe.

The only news here is that the casino offered a discount which negated the house edge. In other words the casino gambled and lost.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Also the article states that in the last casino, his \$100,000 a hand bets were authorized by a high ranking employee meaning those large bets are not normally allowed. The employee was let go afterwards. The article suggests that similar events happened in the other casinos.
• #### Re:Not much skill (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:22PM (#39444481)

Actually the real news wasn't mentioned in this awful slashdot summary. The discount didn't help him win - it would only have reduced his losses if he lost.

The real reason he was able to win, was because the casinos were willing to drastically negotiate the rules of the game (in addition to the discount) to the point where the house had only the tiniest advantage.

The guy was of course under heavy scrutity at the casinos (gambling \$100K per hand), and they didn't detect him card counting, but I suspect he probably was counting but only acted occasionally when the payoff was huge (such as the single hand where he split twice and won \$800K, mentioned in the article).

One of the many rule changes he negotiated was a small hand shuffled shoe, so he may well have been tracking cards through the shuffle too, as the top players are able to, thereby giving him a further edge beyond that nominally calculatable per the agreed rules.

• #### Re: (Score:3)

You are not understanding the discounts and how it applies in this case. In games of odds reducing lose is as good as winning (assuming there is at least some chance of winning). As his example explains if he spent 500k, he could cash out and actually get 100k of that back. It's the same as a rebate, where you buy something for 500k and then you get 100k back after purchase. Even if the house had a 19% advantage he would still be able to profit if he played statistically perfectly (as the article claims

• #### Money to burn? (Score:4, Funny)

<john3@NospAm.cornells.com> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:36PM (#39443981) Homepage Journal

'You'd never lose the million. If you got to [\$500,000 in losses], you would stop and take your 20 percent discount. You'd owe them only \$400,000.'

Only \$400,000? This guy has money to burn.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

'You'd never lose the million. If you got to [\$500,000 in losses], you would stop and take your 20 percent discount. You'd owe them only \$400,000.'

Only \$400,000? This guy has money to burn.

No, he's planning to make it up on volume!

• #### Re: (Score:2)

Thank you Captain Obvious.

The whole premise is that the guy is a "whale", aka someone with a lot of money to burn.

• #### Re: (Score:2)

True.

However the example seems to be poorly thought out. Shouldn't he have said "If you got to \$1,000,000 in losses you would stop and take your 20 percent discount. You'd owe them only \$800,000". Why did he choose the arbitrary \$500,000 to stop at for his example, especially since he was explaining how you'd never lose the \$1,000,000.

Even someone who flunked math wouldn't lose the million if they stopped at \$500,000 in losses (with or without the 20% discount).

• #### Re: (Score:3)

The 20% discount only applies to the first \$500,000 lost. After that, there is no discount. Thus, the casino requires him to bank a million, but he won't lose that much, because he will stop when the discount no longer applies.
• #### Re:Money to burn? (Score:5, Funny)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:50PM (#39444113)
Overheard on the flight to Atlantic City: "I hope I break even this time. I sure could use the money."
• #### Roulette (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:37PM (#39443991)
I worked as an intern for two summers at the Casino Dealers School in Atlantic City in the late 1980s. Roulette wasn't a legal game in the casinos there at the time, but he had a table in the back for kicks (nobody was trained on it). He said anyone who's dealt roulette for 10 years could make the ball land wherever he wants 8/10 times or more. He then showed me first-hand, telling me in advance the color and number on which the ball would land. 8/10 times.
• #### Re:Roulette (Score:5, Insightful)

<.enderandrew. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:01PM (#39444241) Homepage Journal

Having worked for Harrahs and having been trained on roulette, I'm highly skeptical. Even if you spun at roughly the same force every time, the position of your hand, the twist of your fingers, and the variables of a BOUNCING ball will change greatly.

There are a few individuals who have exceptional fine motor control with their fingers (card magicians come to mind), but I doubt even someone with exceptional fine motor control could get a ball on a certain number 2 times out of 10, let alone 8. And I certainly don't believe all experienced roulette dealers could do this.

• #### Re:Roulette (Score:5, Funny)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:05PM (#39444955)

Why so skeptical? If you can't trust an internet comment from THE_WELL_HUNG_OYSTER, what *can* you trust?

P.S. Clams got legs!

• #### Re: (Score:3)

given the online competition, the time of the casino may be over.

Yes, because sitting at your computer gambling alone in your underpants is exactly the same as going to Vegas.

• #### The casino's will be just fine (Score:5, Interesting)

<.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:41PM (#39444025)

The casino's will still come out ahead though in the end. This guy will inspire a thousand some imitators and those imitators will repay the casino in spades. They lose money on one guy just to make it up by the throng inspired from the first. It's the same reason casino's put a big winners in their advertisements and a jackpot has lots of flashing lights and noise. /Credit to the guy for doing this without cheating, not an easy thing to do.

• #### decimate? (Score:2)

He split the bank into 10 parts? Or did he apply a 10% tax maybe? ... Maybe the author means devastate?
• #### Can't bust the bank in OZ (Score:5, Informative)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @02:44PM (#39444049)

For some Blackjack games, Crown casino has gotten the gambling regulators to allow the dealer to go bust, but not pay out to the players: Crown can bust and still not lose [theage.com.au]

• #### 50% expected return still not enough to "live on" (Score:5, Interesting)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:05PM (#39444275)

you have to play roughly 100,000 hands of blackjack to
establish a reasonable bell curve. You need about a 60%
expected return (and there do exist such methods using
teams and card counting)

Eventually, a losing streak will break your bank.

Las Vegas wins because it is able to play 100,000 hands of blackjack
in a relatively short amount of time while risking only a fraction of their bankroll.

• #### Anybody can win at casino games (Score:3)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:09PM (#39444331)
People who think they're winning tend to remember the hands they win and forget the hands they lose. Lottery winners are the same way, spend \$100/week and brag when they hit a \$500 ticket every six months...
• #### Blackjack is the only game I play (Score:4, Informative)

on Thursday March 22, 2012 @03:09PM (#39444337) Journal
When I go to a casino, Blackjack is the only game I'll play, since it has the best odds of any card game. I don't count cards, I just play by the standard strategy. It's also important to know the house rules. What's the payout on a Blackjack? Some casinos pay 3/2, but many have switched to 6/5. I don't play there. I also like to play either \$5 or \$10 tables. You can go to a \$5 table and play for hours on \$200. The most important thing though is money management. Only gamble what you can afford to lose. I have two stacks in front of me. The left is my betting pile, and my right is my winnings pile. When the left pile is gone, that's when I quit. I might take a break, put my original amount in my pocket, and then just gamble on the houses money if I feel like it. At that point it's pure entertainment. This strategy has served me very well. I have very seldom left the casino with less money than I walked in with.

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