Beating the shoe
  • Playing a shoe has a better overall advantage than single or double deck!
    Many would disagree, but here are my reasons:

    1. Shoe games are more consistent and do not have as many radical swings.
    2.Many shoe games have better rules with more penetration as a percentage. (6D, S17, DAS, RSA, LS and 75% pen) . You will NEVER find a SD or DD game with the above rules and 75% pen.
    3. A shoe may stay at a pos.ev for 2 or more decks, something that can't happen with DD or SD. You will frequently find hot slugs into a shoe that is TC+2 or more and it goes on for 100 or more cards. This NEVER happen in SD/DD games.
    4. More hands per hour.
    5. No preferential shuffle.
    6. Many more shoe games to choose from as opposed to the few good DD games and nonexistent good SD games.
    7. More tables available.
    8. You can beat the shoe game with “flat betting” ONLY, if you backcount and play the hot slug.

    Many players have been mislead by books and authors into favoring the SD and DD, despising the shoe. If you can endure, the shoe is a better game!
  • Alex- I agree with your view completely and for these simple reason:

    - You can avoid playing at a disadvantage almost completely....a
    lot of work but doable and we don't care about having fun.

    - The shoe games are very stable.....round after round you are somewhere close to neutral, but when it changes it stays that way for long periods (good or bad). This is why backcounting is so important.

    - Exit points like -1 or late shoe neutral/negative gives you even more
    control (depending on how conservative you play).

    - The only disadvantage may be that card removal is not as dependable
    and a slight reduction in BJ's.

    I will say this tho: If you just sit down at a shoe game and play
    through shoe after shoe, you will lose. There is just too much time at
    a disadvantage for the spread to overcome.

  • Edward O. Thorp should write a Sequel to his "Beat The Dealer" book, called "Beat The Shoe"...LOL...he and his wife live about 5 miles from me here in Newport Beach, Cal-eee-for-nee-ahh (as Arnold says)...they are very wealthy multi-millionares, and recently donated a large amout of $$$ to UCI Irvine last year.
  • Alex/Ray – I have heard your theory many times over the past years, usually from people who only play 6/8 decks. It is interesting, but in my opinion, “that dawg don’t hunt”.

    Put the theory/books aside for a minute and concentrate on the only number that really counts……How much money you put in your pocket per hour.

    I agree with everything you both say above except for the statement that you will play more hands per hour with six deck…..that is simply not true, and that is the reason your theory is not valid…..I also agree 100% with both your thoughts on backcounting, not playing negative counts, etc.

    I also agree that you can get your 6 deck EV higher than 2 deck if you backcount and don’t play negative counts, BUT you will not get the amount of hands you need to offset the inherent advantage of double deck when it comes to “$$$ per hour in your pocket”.

    Ray, especially at the crowded 6 deck riverboats you play, I would estimate you would be hard pressed to average 30 hands per hour after you figure in the time backcounting, buying-in, coloring in/out, etc. …..In a typical double deck game, playing all hands, you can easily triple that……….So, even if you can get your 6 deck EV up to 50% higher than double deck, you will still make “double the dollars per hour” with 2 deck.

  • Grifter, is it true that a basic strategy, non-counter, should also have a slight advantage playing 2D compared to a 6 deck shoe? ( Where I play, 2D and 6D both have DOA, RSA, and S17). My understanding is, fewer decks is always better.
  • PJ - Yep. For the games you just described, the 6D has an EV of -0.40 and the 2D has an EV of -0.17......Both of those are good games. Where are you playing?

  • Well, Grifter/Ray
    I am with you on this one 100%

    Yes, what counts is the money per hour that you make. Even if you only get 30 top quality hands per hour when you enter the shoe at TC+1 end exit at TC=0 you will have on average an edge of about 2.0% for the entire “slug”. You can easily flat bet with $700 the entire "slug” and have $21,000 action and a 2.0% edge that is $420 per hour income. You also have no heat and don’t worry about penetration or premature shuffle.

    On the other hand, if you play DD is kinda tough to bet $100 to $600 to generate a $210 average bet. And, even if you can pull that in real life you will have an action of $21,000 with an edge of about 1.25% that is $262 income.

    Now, the question is: Can you pull 6:1 black chip bet spread in DD? – Do you get 55% penetration in DD? With that pen your RC and TC will be a little inaccurate .. etc. You risk to get barred.

    Playing quality games when you get called in a hot shoe is a piece of cake. You will definitely do not need spread at all. Practically you have $700:0 spread while playing that shoe. More quality hands per hour.
  • Grifter said:
    Alex - For pete's sake, stop changing the numbers....

    Flat bet with big denomination chips the hot slug for 30 hands per hour and you will be making a ton of money. I am sure you are aware of.
  • Grifter- How did you know it was only 30 hands an hr? If you play the
    shoe correctly more than half your time (sometimes 66%) is not playing.
    And yes, that is about it 30 hands or less. Amazing....go cats

    You may do a little better if you have the right conditions and can play
    two, but in these parts that don't happen.
  • Ray - I only knew it because I been around blackjack tables too many years, and honestly it was a swag. I'm glad you confirmed it..... Come on out here and we'll play the double deckers, and you can save the shoe leather.

    Your 'Cats are sumpin' else....I saw this morning where they will probably be a No. 1 seed.....AGAIN.

  • As you may have guessed I'm on the tube a lot during basketball
    season. I watch TV and all the games via or cbssportsline.
    Drives my wife nutts................
  • AlexD30 said:
    Yes, what counts is the money per hour that you make. Even if you only get 30 top quality hands per hour when you enter the shoe at TC+1 end exit at TC=0 you will have on average an edge of about 2.0% for the entire.....

    Alex - I think you need to check your math....I'm just a dumb ol' player, not a computer guy and I don't even own CVCX or any other simulator, but my old pencil and paper math says that the advantage you have will be 0.70%, not 2.0% as you are claiming.

    Therefore, the earnings on your $21,000 will be $147.00 per hour, or about half of the double deck I originally stated above.

  • Grifter,
    I play regularly in Louisiana. The conditions I mentioned are at Coushatta in Kinder. Lake Charles has a new casino that should be open this year. It is owned by Pinnacle. Can't wait to find out about their games. I hope they are better than the much deteriorated games currently being offered on the river boats.
  • Sorry guys but I go with 'grifter here.

    First some TC numbers from a 6d shoe sim.

    tc percent of hands played
    <0 31.3%<br />0 38.3%
    1 10.2%
    2 7.5%
    >2 12% approx.

    You will only be wonging in on about 30% of the playable hands. Note also that your (Alex) advantage of +2% only occurs at a TC of 5 or more, which is way rare, under 6% of total hands played. Of that 30% hands played at some advantage (6d TC of +1 is just _barely_ in the player's advantage, close enough to "break even" to be called even. That further reduces you to playing 20% of the hands, and at a TC of 2, your advantage is only .5%. You probably need to reduce your multiplier by at least 1/2 if not further.

    I play a lot of DD myself, that being my favorite game so long as penetration is beyond 60%. It is way more profitable than a shoe, based at least on my 5 + years of playing/counting. SD is the best opportunity although the games are usually watched very closely, and most are now 6:5 crapjack. Spreading 1-8 on DD has significantly less variance than spreading 1-20 on a 6D shoe... you can confirm that with CVCX...

    The main consideration is would you rather have 4 extra 10's spread within a single deck of cards (in a DD game) TC=4 with 1 deck left, or 16 extra 10's spread in 4 decks of cards (TC=+4 with 4 decks left). Answer, I am going to see those 4 extra tens come out over a shorter number of hands in DD than in that 6D shoe, raising the variance significantly when I bet big and the tens are in the next deck, not the deck popping out now...

    That "the count stays higher longer" also means the big cards can be non-uniformly distributed over a longer span of playable cards...

    Now if the choice is DD at 55% pen, or 6D at 83% pen, things would be a bit different. But I would just avoid that DD game.
  • 6D, S17, DAS, RSA, LS, 75% - This is the industry standard.

    The CVCX also gives you the 2.11% edge over the entire $$ action during the hot slug. If you manage to have a $15,000 or $22,500 action in 30 hands with a flat bet of $500 or $750 you make $316 or $474/hour as income.

    NEVER that score will be possible in SD or DD games no matter what game you play. You cannot beat SD, DD or any other game with flat bets play all unless you get to play into a hot slug by bacounting the shoe.

    For this to work, you have to have a big fat bankroll of about 700 average bets that gives you a 0.0% ROR. I personally bet flat "yellow" chip into the hot slug about 10 hours per week. I don't have any spread at all. My bet is my average bet and my theoretical spread is 1000:0
  • Alex- I assume you're going in on a low limit table for one shoe and then
    out the door and down the street. Is that right or do you figure the flat
    bet fools everyone? I don't see how they could say or do much. Maybe
    put up the mid shoe sign or have the floor man track you around the casino.
  • Ray said:
    Alex- I assume you're going in on a low limit table for one shoe and then
    out the door and down the street. Is that right or do you figure the flat
    bet fools everyone? I don't see how they could say or do much. Maybe
    put up the mid shoe sign or have the floor man track you around the casino.

    I am not back counting the shoe myself. I am call-in by somebody else that is not even playing that particular shoe. Playing only 14 hours per week, two call-in per day at two different clubs, that is about 400 hands or so per week for a total action of about $300,000. Usually I get more action per week because sometime I parlay the bets after a winning hand. I would say a good productive week is when I can place half a million in action. The rest I let the math take care of it.
  • First, I am going to have to plead ignorance on a "yellow chip" bet. I've only seen yellow in one place years ago and the value was $20. All I have personally seen/handled has been red ($5), green ($25), black ($100), purple ($500), orange ($1000) and grey ($5000). So when you are betting "yellow" I have no idea what that means. I have seen a few places with white ($1) chips although most use silver for $1 and $0.50 everywhere I play.

    Second, if you are betting 500-1000 per hand, according to your numbers you have a bankroll of $350,000 to $700,000 on hand. Earth to Alex: I don't buy that. From a person that 3-4 months ago was trying to convince everyone here that a _progression_ could beat BJ, and that counting did _not_ work.

    Finally, we were talking about an individual playing the game of BJ. Suddenly you drop in the "team" concept, which is a completely different animal. It has nothing to do with an individual walking into a casino and beating a shoe vs a DD game. What team play has to do with the discussion at hand is as far beyond me as are yellow chips. Somewhere years ago I saw some $20 yellow chips. Can't remember where for the life of me and I have not seen any since.

    This sounds like a discussion in the twilight zone...
  • If my memory serves me correctly, the $1000 chips in LV were yellow. In AC, they are orange and the yellow chips are $20.
  • Another point to Ray:

    Only 20-30% of the 6D hands are playable. The remainder have a house advantage as my previous CVCX numbers showed. If you figure 100 hands per hour for a 6d game, you will play 20-30 per hour depending on where you wong in.

    But there is a way to improve this at larger stores. Find two tables close enough where you can back-count them both at the same time. Now you will find your hands per hour climbing since you are choosing from two different shoes and two will produce a positive shoe twice as frequently as one. Takes a bit of mental training but if you use CVBJ, it has a two-table backcounting drill that will help you learn to do this pretty well...

    As far as the rest of this twilight zone discussion goes, I'll leave scratching my head.. :)
  • casino conditions in the midwest determines what you can and cannot do.
    Typically, it is a boat in some populated area and about 100 miles to the
    next. In those places you can become well know in short order and the
    money you show is as bad as the way you play..................100 hands
    per hr is a dream, you can't get that at the higher limit tables.
  • jp;

    you might well be correct. My last visit to vegas, this past summer, saw me play primarily 10-25$ tables, with only one short session at a $100 table. I don't recall anything beyond purple chips at most of those, and at the $5-$10 tables, I'm not sure I saw anything beyond black although they might well have had a stack or two of purple in the center...

    But for Alex's bankroll, that seems a bit over the top based on looking back at his posts here for several months. He used to go on and on about how counting didn't work. He pointed to a post at another web site where a player mentioned a running count in the 50's, and losing hand after hand, as an example of why counting didn't work. Now suddenly he is a "big player" on a team?

    Anything can happen, of course. But it stretches the imagination a bit...

    The reality is that this game is hard as hell to beat, even with good counting skills and a reasonable bankroll. A team approach is far better, but most of us might do that on rare occasions, and play solo most of the time. We were talking solo here until we took a tangent into teams.
  • Purple is about it in most times you may see a player come
    from craps or wheel with larger chips....yellow(1k) That may be diff
    in AC or LV. I stop going there years ago........

    Alex has some interesting stories and stories and stories....
  • stainless steel rat said:
    But for Alex's bankroll, that seems a bit over the top based on looking back at his posts here for several months. He used to go on and on about how counting didn't work. He pointed to a post at another web site where a player mentioned a running count in the 50's, and losing hand after hand, as an example of why counting didn't work. Now suddenly he is a "big player" on a team?

    Anything can happen, of course. But it stretches the imagination a bit...

    The reality is that this game is hard as hell to beat, even with good counting skills and a reasonable bankroll. A team approach is far better, but most of us might do that on rare occasions, and play solo most of the time. We were talking solo here until we took a tangent into teams.

    Yes, I recall that there have been some posts made by Alex that have made me wonder. If he is the "big player" on a team, then I would hope that they are counting and that he is also counting after getting the count passed to him. I can't agree with a flat betting approach as he says he is using. If the count goes south and he is still betting $1000 a pop, that could be a problem. That is, unless he is counting and he knows to get up or he is signaled to get up. I agree, he would need a very large bankroll for his action.
  • I think talking that much money is B/S and I don't mean Basic Stratagy.... Lets be honest about how much we really bet and profit if we do....
  • Couldn't agree more.

    My normal betting levels are:

    6D $5-$100 (1-20 spread). I wong when I can, play all when I can't...

    DD $5-$40 to $5-2x$25, although I have been known to play $25-$100 at times.

    SD $5-$40, $10-$40, and $25-$100 has been it. Haven't played a lot of SD in last couple of years thanks to the 6:5 crapjack stuff.

    So I am more of a "guppy" as opposed to a "whale". But I have fun, ply my trade, and do OK overall... Can't ask for much more than that...
  • I generally play 6D with a 1-20 spread. I will bet from $50-$1000 or $100-$2000 depending on the situation. (Yes, I have the BR to back it up.) I prefer the $50 min tables or even the $25 min tables if they are available for 6D. The lower min tables allow me to bet lower when the count isn't that great. These tables are usually NMS in AC, so I have to usually play all or excuse myself from the table when the count goes really bad. I will also back-count and wong when I can.

    I don't consider myself a whale either, just another fish in the sea. I do OK for myself. I am not the best, but I try to do the best I can and try to keep learning more so I can improve.
  • This and That:

    - This thread started with the question of which game was typically better, 2D or 6D. I proved mathematically and SSRat collaborated with a simulator that 2D is still the best game.....End of Discussion in my opinion.

    - Chip Colors: I have found throughout the US that "typically":
    - $1 = White
    - $5 = Red
    - $25 = Green
    - $100 = Black
    - $500 = Purple (called Barneys)
    - $1,000 = Yellow/Orange
    The denominations of the chips you see at the table in the dealer's tray will typically vary depending on the table minimum (e.g. You won't see larger than Barney's at a $5 table, maybe just black)

    - Exagerated Claims: I agree with you 100%, Uncle Norm. It's almost ridiculous and "over the top" as someone said. If you extend the numbers posted above, the poster is making $520,000.00 per year, and only playing 14 hours a week........Hmmmmm.

    - Spreads: Stainless and JP, your spreads are incredible (and I don't doubt you). I don't know how you get away with them. I've played almost "forever" (40 yrs) in LV and Laughlin and wouldn't even think about anything that wide. My normal is 1-4, occasionally 1-5/6 for DD.

  • I have been using 1-4 for SD, 1-8 (when possible) for DD and 1-12 to 1-20 for 6D for a long while. In DD unless in headsup mode, I usually try $5 to 2x$25. And of course I have been zapped a few times.

    My playing policy has been short sessions, avoiding the same pit crew/dealer if I play more than once at a single store on a single day. _never_ more than one hour, sometimes less. I have watched my favorite DD game (which even has LS) get banged by someone spreading way more than me. $5-$50 to $5-2X$50. I watched an unknown spread $100 to $1200 at another DD game I play (no LS but other rules good, pen "ok". Beats hell out of me how they get away with it with zero attention too. :)

    If you think 1-8 is wild for DD, I'll watch it. But dropping to $5-$20 sure does turn it into a slow grind. $10-$40 would work. And note that if I go green, $25-$100 does work well. But at a $5 min bet, 1-4 and flippin' burgers are fairly close. :)

    Note I don't play much in Vegas, but want to visit Laughlin (at your recommendation) at some point when I can. Our MS coast is not quite so paranoid. I'd as soon try 1-8 at Barbary as I would try juggling dynamite sticks. :)
  • ......if they even thought you were even thinkin' 1-8 at BC, they would bounce your butt. :D
  • I play a minimum 1-16 spread and go up to 1-20. AC has some tough games so I try to get away with as much as I can to beat them. I play short sessions as well. When I am done in one store, I will move on to the next for another session. Done right, I can circle back to each casino for the next shift. I like to play during the graveyard shift if I can so that I can get lower minimums and also avoid the heavy crowds. I try to keep alert concerning the pit critters. If I feel like I am getting some heat, I will not be so aggressive and color up at the most opportune time. I try to put on a good act too. There are other aspects to my play that help me get away with the spread. I can't discuss them in a public forum though.

    I haven't been to LV for quite some time and I have never been to Laughlin. I guess I should visit. I would want to learn how to play double deck before I go though.
  • If you just stop and think how long some of the casino folks have
    been at it, you're not going to fool many of them. This floor guy
    I knew at the Stardust more or less told me that. In the early years at low
    limit tables they would let a guy just play (most lost anyway), but now
    from what I've been told Corporate America don't allow much of anything.

    It takes a lot of busted 16 vs 10 to pay for a 2 billion dollar joint. I wonder
    about the KVA requirements for some of these places. Good thing the dam
    is just up the road.
  • To All:

    I know BS from one end to the other, so to speak...smiles

    However, I really would like to learn how to count cards. I know how to count two decks of cards and end up with "0" each time. I was told if did not get a "0" after each count, I had done something wrong.

    I am totally lost when I read about these different spreads. Could someone please explain to me, how I might learn about that?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated.
  • The best way to understand "spreads" is to buy a software tool like CVCX from The point is that counting lets you recognize circumstances where you have an advantage due to remaining deck composition. In order to take advantage of that edge, you have to somehow bet less when the house has the edge (negative counts) or bet more when you have the edge (positive counts).

    One oft-used solution is called "Wonging" (named after Stanford Wong who wrote about this idea in his book). There you bet zero when the house has the edge, and you only play when the count is positive. There your "spread" is effectively infinite as you are betting either 0 or something greater than zero. But you can't do that if conditions are crowded or at some games that only allow you to enter at the shuffle.

    For those games, you have to spread your bet. You bet table minimum at negative/zero counts, and something above the table minimum when the count is positive. The wider you "spread" the greater your hourly income, up to the point where you spread so wide that the pit critters notice what you are doing and bounce you into the parking lot. My "rough" spreads are 1-4 at single-deck, 1-8 at double-deck, and 1-20 at 6deck, but for 6 deck I try to "wong" and not play at negative counts, so that I don't have to spread as wildly when the count does climb. Table conditions dictate whether or not you can pull that off. Go to the MGM Grand on a Saturday night, and forget about Wonging. Go there at 7am on a weekday morning and you might have several tables you can wong in on...

    CVCX is a tool that will let you simulate the precise game(s) you have available, and you can try various betting schemes / spreads to see how they will affect your hourly win rate. Just remember that bigger spread -> bigger hourly win rate but also means more pit attention as you can become pretty obvious in what you are doing if they decide to replay the tapes and do a "skills check" on you... Your task is to convince the pit you are some sort of wacko that plays blackjack with no idea about what you are doing. All the while winning money right under their nose...
  • Stainless Steel Rat:

    Wow! You sound like you've been there and done that!!!!! LOL

    It sounds as if I need to get a book and read, read, read. I must say, all this sound difficult to me. No doubt, I need to take many more lesson too.
    Thank you kindly for all the time you put in this post. I do pay attention and will take your word........Thank you
  • go to and look at the "blackjack school" link. It is free, and it really covers everything from basic strategy, to hi-lo counting, to money management, to proper bet sizing, to basic strategy departures based on the count. It is a complete "how to win at blackjack" that is not some hokey progression system that won't work. He gives practice drills and so forth. Then CVBJ should be your first "expense" as it will drill you, let you play and count, and correct every mistake you make while playing so that when you hit a casino, you know you can play 100 hands an hour and not make more than one mistake in that hour, including counting, TC conversion, betting, basic strategy decisions, basic strategy departures, etc.

    It is nice to hit a casino knowing that all you have to worry about is getting good cards...
  • Stainless Steel Rat:

    Thanks again. I have been to before but I've only done about 5 lessons. I have made the flash cards and done the simulator, etc..... I think, I know how to count the cards right as I can come up with a "0" each time as opposed to a minus or plus (high/low). Howoever, I'm not as fast as I would like to be. I thought was a great place to learn and with your input, I'm more convinced. I will continue further as no doubt, I'm missing a lot still. Thank you kindly for the information.

    I'm going to be in a blackjack tournament March 31, 2005. This will be my second one. I know basic strategy well enough but don't know how to count cards that well or know anything about what the spread actually means or how it helps. The tournament is not costing me anything so, what the heck but a try.........smiles

    I will be taking mor lessons through though.

    Thanks again!!!!!!!!!!!
  • let me add that tournament BJ is a completely different animal from normal BJ. Normal BJ is all about playing correctly. Tournament BJ is all about betting correctly, and making some really wild plays at the right time to reach a specific bankroll point necessary to win (for example, you might be dealt a 10 7 and find it correct to double down in very odd situations...

    Stanford Wong wrote a good book on tournament BJ.

    Counting is useful for BS deviations and more accurate playing decisions, but you will often have to go against the count to stay in the game and have a chance of winning when the last round rolls around.

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