My final conclusion on card-counting

  • matt21

    My final conclusion on card-counting

    Hi everyone, i introduced myself to counting just over a year ago and spent just over 400 hours counting last year, as well as maybe another 200 hours of practicing, studying and mathematical modelling. I have now decided to stop my venture into this, as there are more profitable ventures for me to pursue!

    I found this forum very very helpful in my journey and wanted to say thanks to all of those who were willing to share some of their knowledge. For people starting out in counting I thought I would post my conclusions for stopping:

    Conclusions

    1. It is definitely possible to make money by counting cards. The requirements are that the player completes some study and practice, has a sufficient bankroll and finds good playing conditions. 1.5 units per hour is a good aim. But this doesnt allow for travel time or travel costs!
    2. Some people will be better suited to card counting than others. People with a good memory, good and fast basic mathematical skills, and who have a great discipline and persistence will be better suited to counting.
    3. In terms of bankroll, multiply your standard bet by 1,000 to determine your required bankroll. Thus if you are looking to make $7.50 an hour then you require a $5 unit and a $5,000 bankroll. For $75/hour a $50,000 roll and for $150/hr a $100,000 bankroll.
    4. Preferrably card counters should be living in places where there are numerous casinos within easy travel distance – this reduces travel costs and allows the player to play for more hours across a range of casinos every week.
    5. If you are planning to use a large bankroll, say $100k or more, then BJ is not such a good business proposition because it is difficult to consistently clock up large amounts of playing hours without getting barred.
    6. Card counting is really only beneficial over the long-run – i.e. hundreds or thousand of playing hours – only then can the player virtually expect to make money.
    7. Card counting can be seen as a “last resort” type if there is an abundance of free time with little else productive to do.
    8. A lot can be learned from card-counting – probability & statistics theory, understanding of EV, standard deviations, probability models – understanding of long-run expectancy – much of this can be applied in other games of chance or in the financial markets
    9. Additionally card counters will learn patience, persistence, memory, chit-chat skills and will have a lot of fun too.
    10. Possible opportunities to increase returns are forming black-jack teams and learning more advanced card techniques.
    11. A surprising potential “cost” of counting is the impact on the player’s personal life. Over the year of my counting career I found that many of my friendships suffered – partly because I was playing during times when I would have spent time with my friends, and secondly because I was being secretive about something that was quickly becoming a large part of my life.

    So whilst I am up some 600+ units after 400+ hours of counting, I am quitting while I am ahead.

    Good luck to you all out there!!

  • Sonny

     

    What a fantastic post! Thanks for taking the time to give us your insight. I think it will be incredibly helpful for anyone who is considering becoming a card counter. I’m going to make this a sticky post so that all the new players will see it.

    -Sonny-

  • Lonesome Gambler

     

    Agreed. Great insight from someone who’s learned the specifics, made them work, and decided that it wasn’t for them. As I’ve seen on here a million times: it’s a very hard way to make easy money. Still, congrats on coming out ahead!

  • callipygian

     

    If you’re still around to answer some questions …

    What’s the furthest you were ever ahead? The furthest you were ever behind? Biggest winning streak? Biggest losing streak?

  • RingyDingy

     

    Quote: matt21 said:
    11. A surprising potential “cost” of counting is the impact on the player’s personal life. Over the year of my counting career I found that many of my friendships suffered – partly because I was playing during times when I would have spent time with my friends, and secondly because I was being secretive about something that was quickly becoming a large part of my life.

    What a great piece of advice.

    Congrats on your positive outcome Matt and good luck to you in the future

  • matt21

    Detailed Results

    Quote: callipygian said:
    If you’re still around to answer some questions …

    What’s the furthest you were ever ahead? The furthest you were ever behind? Biggest winning streak? Biggest losing streak?

    Yes, no problem. I have attached my detailed results log here.

    Attachment: Results for the forum.xls

  • PrinceDragon

     

    Matt:
    Congrats on your successful adventure in Blackjack.
    Wish you luck and have fun with whatever you decide to do in your future

    P.D.

  • iCountNTrack

     

    Quote: matt21 said:
    Hi everyone, i introduced myself to counting just over a year ago and spent just over 400 hours counting last year, as well as maybe another 200 hours of practicing, studying and mathematical modelling. I have now decided to stop my venture into this, as there are more profitable ventures for me to pursue!

    I found this forum very very helpful in my journey and wanted to say thanks to all of those who were willing to share some of their knowledge. For people starting out in counting I thought I would post my conclusions for stopping:

    Conclusions

    1. It is definitely possible to make money by counting cards. The requirements are that the player completes some study and practice, has a sufficient bankroll and finds good playing conditions. 1.5 units per hour is a good aim. But this doesnt allow for travel time or travel costs!
    2. Some people will be better suited to card counting than others. People with a good memory, good and fast basic mathematical skills, and who have a great discipline and persistence will be better suited to counting.
    3. In terms of bankroll, multiply your standard bet by 1,000 to determine your required bankroll. Thus if you are looking to make $7.50 an hour then you require a $5 unit and a $5,000 bankroll. For $75/hour a $50,000 roll and for $150/hr a $100,000 bankroll.
    4. Preferrably card counters should be living in places where there are numerous casinos within easy travel distance – this reduces travel costs and allows the player to play for more hours across a range of casinos every week.
    5. If you are planning to use a large bankroll, say $100k or more, then BJ is not such a good business proposition because it is difficult to consistently clock up large amounts of playing hours without getting barred.
    6. Card counting is really only beneficial over the long-run – i.e. hundreds or thousand of playing hours – only then can the player virtually expect to make money.
    7. Card counting can be seen as a “last resort” type if there is an abundance of free time with little else productive to do.
    8. A lot can be learned from card-counting – probability & statistics theory, understanding of EV, standard deviations, probability models – understanding of long-run expectancy – much of this can be applied in other games of chance or in the financial markets
    9. Additionally card counters will learn patience, persistence, memory, chit-chat skills and will have a lot of fun too.
    10. Possible opportunities to increase returns are forming black-jack teams and learning more advanced card techniques.
    11. A surprising potential “cost” of counting is the impact on the player’s personal life. Over the year of my counting career I found that many of my friendships suffered – partly because I was playing during times when I would have spent time with my friends, and secondly because I was being secretive about something that was quickly becoming a large part of my life.

    So whilst I am up some 600+ units after 400+ hours of counting, I am quitting while I am ahead.

    Good luck to you all out there!!

    Good post, although i disagree with you on a few points:

    Your 1.5 unit/hour is a rather very conservative aim, it is also indicating that your are not playing the best games out there. i personally would not chose to play a game where is the expectation is only 1.5 unit/hour. Normally, i would aim for 2.5-3.0 units/hour
    400 hours of playing time, is not a lot of hours, it is less than 8 hours a week which is less than half the hours for a part-time job. Yes, granted there is some travel time depending on your location but still that is not a lot of hours. You should be able to rack up more hours easily.

    As far as personal life, you don’t have to be so serious and so secretive about it. Being AP requires a lot of discipline, but it doesn’t mean you can’t add some fun to it. You can plan a long weekend with family/friends at a nice casino resort, you can work out a schedule, be able to play 15-20 hours and spend sometime with them.

    At the end, playing BJ is just like any other business, you will need to find the thin balance between adapting your lifestyle to your playing and adapting your playing to your lifestyle…

  • Brock Windsor

     

    Congrats Matt. You have reached the point in your career where it is time to move “Beyond Counting”. From your log it looks like you still need to experience pitch games, flashing dealers, and barrings before you can color up for good… but maybe you left out a few details.
    BW

  • celadore

     

    Give it a month or two – you’ll be back. Trust me.
    I’m sure you are not planning on abandoning card counting completely after investing over 200+ hours in training.
    Just cut back to a socially acceptable playing amount, like once a month or so.

  • creeping panther

    Count

    At the end, playing BJ is just like any other business, you will need to find the thin balance between adapting your lifestyle to your playing and adapting your playing to your lifestyle…[/QUOTE]

    Count, BJ is not “like any other business”, it can become very addictive, the game and the lifestyle, and if you are not highly skilled and disciplined you can lose large amounts of money, “just because it happens”. What you are asking Matt to do is dance with the devil, just not real close. Foolish

    It can also easily destroy ones family and life style.

    If Matt wants out I say good for him! Let all here STOP trying to talk him out of his decision. Keep your Jones to yourself

    If any of my kids took up Bj as a serious pastime I would be mortified.

    CP

  • iCountNTrack

     

    Quote: creeping panther said:
    At the end, playing BJ is just like any other business, you will need to find the thin balance between adapting your lifestyle to your playing and adapting your playing to your lifestyle…

    Count, BJ is not “like any other business”, it can become very addictive, the game and the lifestyle, and if you are not highly skilled and disciplined you can lose large amounts of money, “just because it happens”. What you are asking Matt to do is dance with the devil, just not real close. Foolish
    [/QUOTE]

    A business is a business, businesses might be different in appearance, but they all have the same building blocks for success: good planning, dedication, ,good management… all of which could heavily tax your time.
    So this is where good time management that suits your lifestyle preferences.

    Quote:
    If any of my kids took up Bj as a serious pastime I would be mortified

    If they become steaming gamblers surely, not if they understood ev, variance, SCORE, risk of ruin…

  • 31showtime

     

    Hey im playing this game at my casino that is identical to 21 but there are no 10’s in the deck only face cards….does this change everything….can i still count?

  • Pelerus

     

    Quote: 31showtime said:
    Hey im playing this game at my casino that is identical to 21 but there are no 10’s in the deck only face cards….does this change everything….can i still count?

    Not to hijack the thread, but…

    The game you are describing is called Spanish 21. The removal of tens from the deck is greatly disadvantageous to the player, but the game features several rule modifications from standard blackjack which decrease the house edge to between 0.40 and 0.76 percent, depending on the variation.

    This page from the Wizard of Odds outlines the basics:
    http://wizardofodds.com/spanish21

    Until a few years ago, the prevailing notion among the AP community was that “counting was not as advantageous as in blackjack but you could get away with a lot more. I know of no published material on this,” to quote the Wizard from March 6, 2004.

    That all changed with Katerina Walker’s “The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon,” in which she dismissed a lot of misconceptions about the game, showing it to be not only beatable, but potentially lucrative. The one downside for an existing blackjack player who has learned the basic strategies for the various standard games plus accompanying index deviations is that he would have to learn an entirely new set of basic strategies + deviations for Spanish!

    Nevertheless, if you have not yet spent a lot of time studying standard blackjack, and there are plenty of Spanish games available to you, going the Spanish route is an entirely feasible option.

  • bartmanxoxo

     

    being new 2 these boards …. id like 2 thinck the compsyouve recieved would be quite considerable ,unless that is that u dont usee a comnp card 4 reasons im not aware of ,2 day is my first day on thi s blog

  • vingtetun

    Agree with the Panther

    Blackjack is not like another job. You get to play a game that catches many people with addiction. You even have to pretend you are one of them. The more addicted and even degenerate and drunk you seem the better for your cover. But inside, you know its not true and its all an act. But if you don’t watch it you can easily fall over the fine line.

    If you don’t have a high level of self control your “AP” play can easily become a gambling habit. If someone wants to leave our little past time I say let them go, they’re probably better off.

  • tribute

     

    matt21,
    Thanks for your post. Now I know why I am NOT a card counter! You have explained it better than I ever could.

  • matt21

     

    it’s time for an additional post on this thread …..

    1. re-considered my decision-driving variables and other business opportunities out there.
    2. made some changes to my betting ramps.
    3. continued playing.
    4. got lucky (+459 units in 64 hours)
    5. have now doubled my bankroll. After 523 hours i am ahead by 1,005 units.
    6. & met lots of good-looking (female) dealers
    7. but agree with other people’s comments that it’s very hard work

    happy counting

  • UncrownedKing

     

    Quote: matt21 said:
    it’s time for an additional post on this thread …..

    1. re-considered my decision-driving variables and other business opportunities out there.
    2. made some changes to my betting ramps.
    3. continued playing.
    4. got lucky (+459 units in 64 hours)
    5. have now doubled my bankroll. After 523 hours i am ahead by 1,005 units.
    6. & met lots of good-looking (female) dealers
    7. but agree with other people’s comments that it’s very hard work

    happy counting

    Glad to have you back

  • tribute

     

    Quote: iCountNTrack said:

    As far as personal life, you don’t have to be so serious and so secretive about it. Being AP requires a lot of discipline, but it doesn’t mean you can’t add some fun to it. You can plan a long weekend with family/friends at a nice casino resort, you can work out a schedule, be able to play 15-20 hours and spend sometime with them.

    On this, I concur. Sometimes I ask myself, “What is the reason I am willing to drive 5.5 hours for an opportunity to play a few hours at a simple game with high variance, sit next to cigar smokin’, intoxicated, sometimes rude beings, and hope to be able to take a little more cash away than what I brought?” It must be due to:
    1) Pure enjoyment of the game.
    2) The challenge and satisfaction of beating the house, at their game, on their own playing field, where the odds are tilted toward them.
    3) To escape from the weekly “routine”
    4) My compulsive nature (Maybe I’m just hopelessly addicted)
    5) Win or no win, the house still pays for my room and food, sometimes extra cash.

    What better form of entertainment could be found?

  • blackchipjim

    Reasons to play ap bj

    There may be different reasons to be a counter over just playing the game like everyone else at the bj table. The number one reason should be is that you know what the real score during the game. I for one fit the profile of a counter because I want the inside info on whats going on with the game. We all have had tough sessions that to seem rattle our very sense of what we are suppose to be about.

    This is a game of nerves and sometimes we are tested beyond our limits.This is when we need to take a break and review the past and plan for the future our break or breaks may be short or long but a break is needed. If it is a job for you then you have a achieved a level of playing some of us could only imagine.

    I’m glad you came back to playing and hope your’re enjoying the game more now than before. It seems we enjoy something more if we take a break then go back to it after a break. blackchipjim

  • Katweezel

    Mitch Hedberg quote

    Quote: tribute said:
    On this, I concur. Sometimes I ask myself, “What is the reason I am willing to drive 5.5 hours for an opportunity to play a few hours at a simple game with high variance, sit next to cigar smokin’, intoxicated, sometimes rude beings, and hope to be able to take a little more cash away than what I brought?” It must be due to:
    1) Pure enjoyment of the game.
    2) The challenge and satisfaction of beating the house, at their game, on their own playing field, where the odds are tilted toward them.
    3) To escape from the weekly “routine”
    4) My compulsive nature (Maybe I’m just hopelessly addicted)
    5) Win or no win, the house still pays for my room and food, sometimes extra cash.

    What better form of entertainment could be found?

    I could not resist posting this Mitch Hedberg quote after reading your #4.

    I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.”

  • matt21

     

    Quote: blackchipjim said:
    This is a game of nerves and sometimes we are tested beyond our limits.This is when we need to take a break and review the past and plan for the future our break or breaks may be short or long but a break is needed. If it is a job for you then you have a achieved a level of playing some of us could only imagine.

    I’m glad you came back to playing and hope your’re enjoying the game more now than before. It seems we enjoy something more if we take a break then go back to it after a break. blackchipjim

    I’m enjoying the game when playing it and when i think i am not getting too much heat. What I am not enjoying is the essential double-life that I am leading – the silence (or lying?) to friends and family as to how and where i spend my time, and trying to organize my playing schedule from day to day and week to week. And the loneliness of it all. At least my actual playing results are pretty close to my EV and not two standard deviations below it.

    Anyways I am putting together some medium term plans now to ensure that i dont become a dinosaur too quickly (and trying to simultaneously get another business started).

  • sagefr0g

    to be or not to be, that is the question

    Quote: matt21 said:
    I’m enjoying the game when playing it and when i think i am not getting too much heat. What I am not enjoying is the essential double-life that I am leading – the silence (or lying?) to friends and family as to how and where i spend my time, and trying to organize my playing schedule from day to day and week to week. And the loneliness of it all. At least my actual playing results are pretty close to my EV and not two standard deviations below it.

    Anyways I am putting together some medium term plans now to ensure that i dont become a dinosaur too quickly (and trying to simultaneously get another business started).

    the great thing is that the intelligent, savvy and chic magnet gentleman that you are, well you just are not the type to become mired in any sort of self destructive addiction. so you can and i’m sure will decide and determine how AP stuff is going to fit into your life.

    just a note on the ‘double-life’ sort of thing, i would just say i know what you mean. it can be an uncomfortable sort of way to have to conduct one’s self. it was my observation at the bj-bash that leads me to believe imho us AP’s have a tendency to lend to much import to the the prospects of heat and that doesn’t mean we should be careless and rub the casinos noses in our business, lmao. just it’s a battle and we are warriors and warriors don’t let spies infiltrate their ranks, lol. so what ever, to me it’s just a long way of saying, much like anything else in life there are things we say and do and things we don’t.
    so lmao, i must be pretty good because do you remember having to ask if that little incident at the table between Y and me was an act or not?
    the answer is, it was and it wasn’t. it was her really upset with me, but it was me using the incident for the viewing and listening pleasure of the dealer and the pit. did you and the dealer have a good laugh over that?
    point being, an ‘act’ can be real, we just as we take advantage of the nature of the game of blackjack, we take advantage of the game of life.
    what ever, lol, but just a bit more on this ‘double-life’ sort of stuff. have you ever watched the gamblers in the casino? you know like at the craps, roulette tables or slot machines. they haven’t a care in the world other than maybe losing or winning, they are for the most part gambling and having fun. i just want to say this about that, at some point in my blackjack AP endeavors i realized my discomfort that you allude to and i saw that the gamblers in the casino don’t suffer from that. then i had a horrific losing streak where i lost one seventh of my meager bankroll. there upon i took a blackjack sabbatical and considered it all with a bit of self reflection. i concluded that AP in the very least is gambling in the short run, and infact due to the nature of our AP play being dependent on probability in the long term is really still a gamble. the point being, there is really no reason that i shouldn’t be just as happy and carefree as the rest of the gamblers in the house.

    so anyway, where ever or what ever you decide about your AP endeavors, i’ll just say it was a pleasure sharing the tables with you.

  • matt21

     

    Bump…
    Another five months have gone by since my “final conclusion” post! I have again come to some kind of decision-making point. But before I explain why a decision is needed here are some of the things that have happened in the last 5 months:

    – After doubling my allocated investment to this venture I ramped up my standard unit from $25 to $50 – allowing me profitable access to $25min tables and consequently mostly heads-up play as well as ability to request dealer changes, table openings and re-shuffles.
    – Session swings have increased dramatically (naturally!). Both biggest loss biggest gain are above $6k – and there are regularly shoes with swings of several thousand dollars.
    – The first 170 hours were superb – my ‘career’ profit+loss went from $7k to $40k in three months, running 10-15k above expectation most times.
    – Next I got very paranoid about heat (since I was winning a lot), even though to date there have been no back-off’s or warnings.
    – So I made several changes to my game – further statistical analysis and simulating, experimenting with various betting ramps, increased accuracy in assessing playing conditions, reduced session lengths, hunted for new venues and increased cover.
    – Recently I have lost about $12k (some 240 units) over 35 hours of play. For the first time (in the $50 unit zone) my actual return is below EV. Incidentally the start of the losses has coincided perfectly with the time that I changed my ‘better cover’ betting approach (i.e. Burning Tables in Las Vegas).
    – This last losing streak is only halfway to my losing streak from 2008 where I dropped about 440 units over 126 hours, although that one was ‘worth’ only $3k (in the $10 unit zone) and I was playing at most half as many hands per hour as I am playing now.

    So now I am hurting. Even though my return is pretty close to the expected return I am obviously feeling as if I am giving my hard earned money back to the casino’s coffers. And I feel that negative variance. All the worst possible card combinations are coming to the dealer’s hand and the black chips are quickly making their way back into the dealer’s rack!

    I am suddenly realizing that the $27k of remaining profits could realistically (and statistically) evaporate if I just happen to continue to have negative variance fall my way. Fear has come into the equation. Even though, I am just actually now getting the swings that I statistically should be getting.

    I have thought of several actions to take:

    – Carry on fearlessly, objectively and aggressively and simply accept these variations as part of this profession
    – Reduce my bet ramp for some time until I regain my confidence at the table and actually mentally believe that I am able to win
    – Carefully review all the simulations and calculations I have completed to check whether my expected rate of returns are indeed correct (according to them I could still make money if the penetration in shoe games falls into the low 60’s!)
    – Stop playing altogether/color up for good – take the $27k cash and put it into the bank and/or the next business opportunity
    – Move beyond counting – and focus on advanced techniques
    – Other suggestions?

    I have made some experiences in the sporting world this year where I have learned that I need to be very persistent in order to achieve success and to work very hard. Tasting failure in this was a very valuable lesson. I generally also believe that one needs to decide what they want to achieve and then stick to that decision! Is it foolish to apply this lesson here in the realm of professional gambling?

    I would really welcome some advice/suggestions from like-minded folk here…

    Matt

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