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A Sporting Proposition at the Card Counter's Cafe

22 April 2001

By Walter Thomason

"Excuse me, Sir. When you choose to leave this table, I'd appreciate a few minutes of your time." The distinguished-looking gentleman handed me a business card. "I'll be in the coffee shop."

I read the card: "John Beardsford Tipton, Casino Manager, Card-Counter's Casino." I'd been playing blackjack for three days, suffering extreme hassling by pit bosses, and experiencing a negative fluctuation that wouldn't end. I needed a break from the game and was intrigued by Mr. Tipton's card. After losing four consecutive hands when the count was extremely positive, I left the table and headed for the coffee shop.

I spied Mr. Tipton in a quiet corner of the restaurant. As I approached his table, I saw that he was having a cup of coffee and a slice of banana creme pie, and that he had also ordered the same for me.

"I've been watching you for several hours," he said. "I saw the way your cards were running, and the 'heat' you've been receiving, and assumed that you would be joining me shortly."

"Thanks," I said. "I needed a break, but what's up? What's The Card-Counter's Casino?"

"Let me explain," he said. "We're a new casino management group and are attempting to attract players who are often maligned and rejected by other casinos. I'm talking about card counters, like you.... Now wait a minute! Don't be defensive, and don't try to deny that you're a skilled player and an expert counter. It's obvious to those of us who have been trained to spot players with your talents -- and it's OK! You're the type of customer that we want for our new casino."

I was mystified. "I don't follow you," I responded.

"Here's the deal -- pardon the pun. Our casino caters to card counters and provides a unique gaming opportunity that other casinos don't provide. We'll give you an honest game and let you bet your cards with a one-to-eight spread, with no heat! Our game rules aren't ideal for you, but they're not bad. We deal from a six-deck shoe, but guarantee 75 percent penetration with no early re-shuffles. We stand on all 17s, but don't allow doubling after splitting, nor do we allow Insurance or Surrender. You can split any pair, but you can only split twice. The table minimum is only $10, but you can bet up to $80 as the count dictates; as I said, a one-to-eight spread with no complaints from us. You play head-to-head with the dealer and should average 150 hands per hour."

"Sounds interesting," I said.

"There's more," he replied. "You don't have to use any camouflage bets, but you must complete every shoe dealt to you, even if the count is negative."

"I understand," I said.

"Now, here's the kicker," He said. "Since we know that counters rely on long-term play in order to enjoy a potential profit, we've made it possible for you to play millions of hands in minutes. You can play a lifetime of blackjack in less time than it normally takes to complete one shoe."

"How is this possible?" I asked.

"It's possible because we've saved you the time and effort by pre-playing millions of hands through computer simulation -- simulations like those used by blackjack statisticians who developed programs that illustrate the potential value of card counting. Each simulation, or 'run,' consists of 500,000+ hands, using the game conditions and rules that I've just explained to you. The card counter in these sims uses a very popular and highly respected system. What's more, you're absolutely guaranteed that perfect Basic Strategy is being applied, and that bet increases or decreases based on the count will flawlessly occur. You can't change Strategy based on the count, but you're guaranteed that you can't make any mental mistakes with the count or with Basic Strategy."

"What about bankroll?" I asked.

"Your minimum bet must be $10 per hand for 500,000 hands, and our casino is prepared to comp you up to $80 per hand for 500,000 hands of play, even though your average wager will fall somewhere between these two extremes. The well-respected accounting firm of Ernest & Ernest will verify and oversee the disbursement of wins and losses."

"That's all there is to it?" I asked.

"There's one additional stipulation," he said. "Because we're a unionized casino, our contract with the union requires that you tip the hypothetical dealer at the rate of $1 per hour for the time it would have taken to play 500,000 hands at 150 hands per hour in a normal shoe game. This gratuity is subtracted from your winnings or added to your losses at the conclusion of play. Since the dealer's job is being eliminated by computer play, and since the $1 tip is only 10 percent of one of your minimum bets, we feel that this is a reasonable concession to our employees."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"Yes -- a few more facts which are presented to assure you of our integrity. Our computer program has been authenticated by casino gaming experts and approved by the state casino gaming commission. Also, we offer you certain guarantees that are unprecedented: For each 500,000 hand run, 92 percent of the hands will result in a win or a loss, while 8 percent of the hands will be pushes. Excluding pushes, you will win 48 percent of the hands and the dealer will win 52 percent of the hands. As you know, this is normal expectation for long-term play."

"One last question," I said. "How do I select the 500,000 hands I'm going to play?"

"Simple," Mr. Tipton said. "We run 20 different groups of 500,000 hands for each player, and number them 1 through 20. Just pick a number from 1 to 20, and that group will be your 500,000 hands of play. If you choose to continue play, you obviously can't pick the same number again. When you see the net financial results of play for your chosen group -- only takes a minute -- you pay us or we pay you. It's that simple!"

"I understand your program," I said. "I'd like some time to think about it, and maybe talk to some of my friends to see what they think."

"Fair enough," he replied. "We don't want to rush you. Incidentally, there's one more benefit that I've failed to mention. Even though most card counters don't ask to be rated and don't ask for casino comps for fear of drawing attention to themselves, we feel you should be treated to some of the benefits awarded to non-counters. Consequently, for each 500,000 hands of play, we'll give you a $100 room credit, a $100 entertainment credit, a $100 food and beverage credit, and a $200 reimbursement on your travel expenses. You deserve these perks as a reward for your action, and we'll give them to you, regardless of the outcome of play."

"Thanks for the coffee and pie, and thanks for inviting me to participate in your program. I'll give you an answer as soon as I talk to some of my friends," I said.

And so, my friends, would you accept Mr. Tipton's invitation and become a blackjack player at The Card Counter's Casino? If so, why? If not, why not? Think about it before you read on....

Now, read on!

ANALYSIS OF THE PROPOSITION OR "SHOULD I PLAY THIS GAME?"

The answer to the above question is, YES, take the proposition from Mr. Tipton -- if you can afford to play all 10 million hands. Here's why:

1. Game Rules

Many of the game rules offered by The Card Counter's Casino are unfavorable to both card counters and Basic Strategy players. No double after split, only split twice, six-deck shoes, no Surrender, and no Insurance all reduce the card counter's chances of showing a long-term profit. Also, the inability to quit play during negative counts and the inability to alter Basic Strategy based on the count are rules that hurt the card counter.

Group  # Hands Played  Player "Edge"Cash Results
1.505,861+ .26%$26,985.00
2.500,104+ .16%$16,740.00
3.500,043+ .49%$51,190.00
4.500,630- .12% -$12,160.00
5.500,293- .07% -$7,190.00
6.500,626 + .57% $59,670.00
7.500,925 + .03% $3,575.00
8.500,642 + .15% $15,165.00
9.500,271 + .47%$48,800.00
10.500,287 - .01%-$1,220.00
11.500,030 - .24%-$24,985.00
12.500,431+ .25%$26,435.00
13.500,029+ .02%$1,745.00
14.500,709- .13% -$13,870.00
15.500,049+ .34%$34,850.00
16.500,003+ .19%$19,790.00
17.501,064- .06% -$5,900.00
18.500,054- .23% -$23,525.00
19.500,018+ .32%$32,915.00
20.500,401+ .03%$2,730.00
  Total Net:10,102,470+ 2.42%  $251,740.00
Average:500,623+ .12%$12,857.00

In spite of these restrictions, the preceding chart shows that the counter would show a net profit of $251,740.00 if he played all 20 groups of 500,000+ hands, based on the game rules (without adjusting for the cost of tips and the profit from comps).

2. Casino Comps

The commitment by the casino to reward players with $500 in comps for each 500,000 hands of play is totally positive for the player and would add $10,000 to his profits if he played 10 million hands.

3. Tips to Dealers

The $1 per hour tip to the hypothetical dealer is a drawback for the player. Since it would cost $1 for each 150 hands of play, and it would take about 3,333 hours to play 500,000 hands at a rate of 150 hands per hour, our player would give away $3,333 for each 500,000 hand session. Based on the results of ten million hands of play, his average profit of $12,587 per group would be reduced to an average profit of $9,254 per group, but his overall profit by playing all 20 groups -- 10 million hands -- would be $185,080!

4. Playing fewer than 10 million hands.

If the player chose to select and play only a few of the 500,000 hand groups, the results could become very unfavorable for him. Seven of the twenty "runs" resulted in losses to the player, after considering the tip requirement and the gain from casino comps. The player has a 35 percent chance of randomly selecting a losing series of hands. Had he decided to play a total of four 500,000 hand runs, and selected Groups 4, 11, 14, and 18 (see chart,) his net loss after tips and casino comps would be $86,872.

On the other hand, had he randomly selected Groups 1, 3, 6, and 9, his net gain would have been $175,313! Who said that luck isn't a major part of the game of blackjack, even for card counters!

It appears that the only way to be assured of a net profit is to play all 10 million hands.

To conclude this analysis: I suspect that most card counters would choose to not play at the Card-Counter's Casino. Even though they preach the importance of long-term play, the game rules and conditions are restrictive enough to discourage them from playing.

I think that the majority will continue to play in the traditional manner, and hope for the best. Incidentally, in order to play the 10 million hands offered by this casino, the card counter would have to play 150 hands an hour, non-stop for 24 hours a day, for the next 7.6 years!

It's a good thing that he enjoys the game.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

21st Century Blackjack: New Strategies for a New Millennium by Walter Thomason
The Ultimate Blackjack Book by Walter Thomason
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

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