Disaster! Tragedy! Can it be overcome?
  • Melodramatic and eye-catching subject line aside, I'm looking for some help here.

    I'm a member of a 3-member team of card counters. After training for the better part of a year, we recently began making actual casino runs. The results have been perplexing and I was hoping someone from the counting community might be able to shed some light on our predicament.

    Originally we started with a $6,000 bankroll. So far we have made five casino trips and we've lost money four of the five trips. Each time we've lost, we lost around $500-$800 dollars. On the trip that we won, we won a little over $1,000. I know that losses are an expected part of counting, but losing 4 out of 5 times seems excessive. Each trip we've spent roughly 24 hours in the casino counting. During each trip, we've fluctuated wildly between winning and losing money. At one moment we'll be up $500 or so, then we'll be down $700, make the $700 back and get up a couple hundred, and then, more often than not, lose it again. The way I've heard counting described by other counters, the profits seem slow but sure. This is what perplexes me the most: How could we have logged so many hours in the casino and still be losing money unless we're doing something wrong? How could we spend so many hours in the casino and not be completely bankrupt unless we're doing something right?

    Here's what we've been doing: At the beginning of the night we each take $2000 of the bankroll. Inside the casino we each find separate tables to count at. If a shoe is very hot, we may signal another member in, but for the most part we operate alone and total are wins/losses at the end of the night. Our betting increments for playing a single hand have been $20 for a true count of +1, $40 for +2, $60 for +3 and $80 for any count +4 or greater. If we're playing two hands we use $15 increments. We usually backcount until a shoe is positive and then join in, but sometimes we'll just sit down and place the minimum $10 bet until the shoe becomes positive. Whenever the count drops below a true count of negative two we leave the table. When calculating the true count, we subtract 1 to account for the house's edge.

    Here are the rules of the casino we count at:

    Blackjack pays 1.5 to 1

    Resplit up to four hands

    No resplitting aces

    Double down on any two cards

    Dealer peeks for aces and tens

    No surrender

    Minimum bet is $10

    The casino places the cut card 4 - 4 ½ decks deep.

    The only thing I can think of that may be the problem is that usually there are 4 to 6 other players at the table with us. Could this account for the fluctuations we've seen? Can anyone think of anything else that might account for our losses?

    We've tested and retested our counting under extreme conditions so we are certain that the problem is not lack of skill. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
  • Two questions first, then I will try to give you an answer:

    1. Why are you subtracting 1 from the TC. Where did that idea come from?

    2. What counting method are you using?

  • Rules...Does the casinos hit or stand on soft 17?

    Take advantage of Grifter's interest in your post. Nobody more qualified to give to accurate, experienced reply.
  • You mentioned that you do go up several hundreds. Do you have a limit on losses and winnings? Playing time limit? Answers to Grifter's and Jimpenn's questions will help a lot to analyze why. Their advices and analyses are best to be taken into consideration. 4 out of 5 isn't enough frequency, for me, to determine a conclusion on your predicament. That is, assuming you were using a good counting system and are following correct indices. But since you were deducting 1 from the TC, that made me think otherwise.
  • Grifter:

    1. we're subtracting one from the True Count because we calculated our odds at the start of the shoe to be -.6% and the counting system we're using gives us +.5% per true count.

    2. We are using a basic Hi-Lo counting method, where 2-6 are +1, etc.


    The dealer hits on Soft 17, six deck shoe.
  • Saturday 6:00 a.m.......I will be out of town playing poker the next two days......Someone jump in and go ahead and answer Soft18.

  • - Would only recommend playing with 4-6 players if your back counting and jump in and out. I usually won’t even step up to a table if there are more than 3 other players (yes this often means showing up to the casino at 3 in the morning)
    - Penetration of 4 decks is unplayable unless you are playing 1-2 players at the table or just wonging in and out.
    - Use the advantages of playing on a team, one person backcount or play minimum bet and signal the big player in.
    - Try only play on positive counts even if you wind up standing around for hours and not playing until you see one.
    - You didn’t mention if you are using index numbers.. such as Illustrious 18 (actually 22) are critical.
    - Don’t make mistakes (unless small bets and camouflage plays), a single big mistake per hour will cost you your advantage.
    - Find the dealers with the 4 ½ penetration and try to only play against them.
    - Also I don’t think your spread is big enough, for 6 decks I use 1-10 playing units (so $10-$100 in your situation). When the count gets high and there is only 4 deck penetration you ‘ve got to get the big money out.
    - Read up on “Risk of Ruin”, I don’t think your bankroll is enough (maybe someone else can expand on this) for 3 players and 6k bankroll.
    - Try playing against software (www.qfit.com) and see if you are making any mistakes.
    - Lastly, losing as much as you have is certainly within probability. Even the MIT folks lost 1 out of 4 sessions.

    And some personal experience, I play only solo and use an unbalanced count (marginally worse the hi-lo) and have steaks where I’ve won 11 sessions in a row. I play extremely tight though (using above suggestions).

    Am curious what books you’ve read..

    Sammy Lightfoot
  • Also curious about books you have read. Did you read Frank Scoblete's (see my post above) counting method? He claims it is the easiest one to learn.

  • Soft18 – Sorry for the late response but it looks like Sammylightfoot gave you some solid answers. I agree with everything he said, and here are some additional comments:

    - It appears you have lost about $2,000 over the five trips you have made. That is well within one standard deviation, whether you are playing exactly like you said you “usually” play (strict wonging) or if you are playing more hands than you should be……..and I am guessing you may be doing that because that loss with strict wonging is on the very high side of one SD.

    - As Sammylightfoot pointed out above, the game you are playing is terrible if you are only getting 65% pen……don’t play it unless you only play positive counts. With a 1-8 spread your EV is only +0.26 or so if you play all……If you only play positive counts the EV goes up to about +1.10 but as Sammy said you won’t be playing many hands (about 30%).

    - You mentioned you were perplexed because of losing after “logging so many hours in a casino”. You really don’t have that many hours of actual play.....If you are wonging in and out exactly like you say you only have about 125 hours of so of actual playing.

    - Subtracting 1 from your true count: Don’t do this. Without getting into a big math discussion…..the house edge you mentioned (-0.60) is only applicable before the first hand is dealt, it changes as each and every card is dealt. By subtracting 1 from your TC when you are wonging and only playing positive counts, you are actually reducing the number of hands you play. The 30% I mentioned above will drop to around 15% (and your EV increase will be minimal).

    - Bankroll: Sammy mentioned this and I agree. In my opinion, for the game and stakes you are playing you need a combined bankroll of at least $10,000 for the 25 hour trips you make, and that would be bare minimum.

    Bottom Line……..If you follow all of the advice Sammylightfoot gave you in the post above you should be o.k……….but I sure would be looking for a better game.

  • I agree with Grifter and Sammylightfoot. Especially, the bankroll issue and that of you deducting 1 from the TC. I would like to add that aside from moving around and looking for a better game than one that offers only 4-4 1/2 penetration and dealer hits on soft 17, try to take a longer trip. This will give you more time to rest and keep you relaxed on a tight game.

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