Two Plus Two Older Archives  

Go Back   Two Plus Two Older Archives > General Gambling > Probability

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-18-2005, 02:09 AM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

Greetings,

I hope this post is not off-topic as it deals with blackjack (it just as easily could deal with poker or other gambling games). Anyways, I was thinking back to my earlier gambling days and about a friend I used to play blackjack with.

My friend came into an inheritance of $70,000 and decided he was going to try to become a professional gambler playing blackjack at a tribal casino in Minnesota (Mystic Lake Casino). He was a very solid blackjack player and knew basic strategy and also several counting systems.

However, he considered the counting systems too boring and didn't like the grind. For some confounded reason he had this non-random shuffle theory and was influenced by 'New Blackjack.' In other words, he just used basic strategy and his betting was not dictated by the true count.

My opinion is that he was very lucky and was able to defy the odds for two years. The high-stake rules at Mystic were average in 1993-1995 (hand shuffled, 4-6 decks, split any two once, double after split, stay on soft seventeen). So, he probably was facing about a disadvantage of .005% (half a percent). Nevertheless, he was usually playing $25 tables and betting two hands between $25 and $500 on each hand. He played about 30 hours a week. After about one year of playing he was ahead $50,000! This would seem almost impossible given the negative expectation he was facing. The next year was more mixed and he ended having some long losing streaks. However, he was still ended up $30,000 ahead for the year. The next year he blew his profit plus $40,000 of his inheritance (playing $100 tables primarily).

It just surprises me that somebody can log so many sessions and play so many hands facing a negative expectation and win (or even stay alive). The reason this interests me is because I've recently started playing poker again (stopped playing for 3 years) and have had a substantial win rate for the last four months. I've probably logged over 500 hours (playing 3 tables at once) and I'm approximately 1,500 BB ahead (1/2 limit). I'm just wondering at what point you can say with reasonable certainty that skill is responsible for winning and not luck? I know this question will be hard to answer with the information I supplied. Nevertheless, any insights or comments would be greatly appreciated.

JeffreyREBT "Wherein I don't promise to make you rich without trying, or even trying very hard; I do promise to say things that will make you FEEL rich."
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-18-2005, 03:09 AM
ohnonotthat ohnonotthat is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: New Jersey - near A.C.
Posts: 511
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

Shuffle tracking has been used succesfully by a large number of people.

I don't know if your friend was good at it and hit a bad run or whether he was just kidding himself; the fact that alot of people used it succesfully doesn't change the fact that alot of people only THOUGHT they were.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-18-2005, 03:44 AM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

Greetings,

Yes, my friend did use terminology such as 'shuffle tracking.' It's been a long time so let me see if I can provide a somewhat accurate description of this tactic. Basically, the idea is to track the clumps of rich and poor cards and bet accordingly. This tactic works best with a clean shuffle as opposed to a strip shuffle (which randomizes the cards to much).

Conventional card counters just start at the beginning of the deck and divide the running count by the number of decks to obtain the true count. Many casinos offer poor penetration, which makes it hard to get high true counts. Shuffle tracking thwarts this countermeasure by telling you where the ideal cards are located.

Heck, I remember one riverboat casino (Catfish Bend in Iowa)
that had a shuffle whereby they simply put all the cards in a one pile, cut them in half, and shuffled each stack two times. Anyways, even though he was aware of shuffle tracking I think he was employing a different technique (trying to micromanage cards by remembering 'patterns'). I thought it was completely irrational, but possibly because I didn't understand his premise.

Neverthless, my belief is he effectively was playing basic strategy (despite his convoluted and dubious system). It is entirely possible though that he, like many others, was improperly shuffle tracking. I personally never attempted serious shuffle tracking because it seemed to arduous. I preferred using a simple hi/lo count and making adjustments to basic strategy that were contingent on the count (for example, if the true count was plus 1 I would stand on my hard 12 facing a 3, as opposed to hitting it with an even or negative count).

Thanks for the post,

JeffreyREBT "Wherein I don't promise to make you rich without trying, or even trying very hard; I do promise to say things that will make you FEEL rich."
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-18-2005, 08:03 AM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

All you need is this: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showfl...&PHPSESSID=

A reasonably certaint winrate is a confidence intervall with 95%+ of certainty.
The thread shows you how to calculate it.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-18-2005, 11:21 AM
AaronBrown AaronBrown is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: New York
Posts: 505
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

It is virtually impossible to be $80,000 ahead after two years of playing blackjack with a -0.5% expectation and a maximum bet of $500. Your chance of being $80,000 ahead is at a maximum around 20,000 hands played, a month or two of hands depending on how diligent a professional you are. Even then, the odds are something like 1 in 6 million.

Therefore, either your friend had an edge or some bad accounting.

I've met some very good card counters, and not one actually made money over the long term at the blackjack itself. Between deceptive measures to avoid detection, being cheated or not paid, mistakes and other problems, it's very rare to make money for more than a month or two. Now casinos track your actual winnings, so it's virtually impossible to fool them for long.

On the other hand, any moderately disciplined person can learn to play break-even blackjack, and that requires no deception. I know several people who made nice livings for many years playing break-even blackjack and cheating on the comps. For example, you book rooms in five Vegas casinos (all comped) and get two first-class roundtrip airline tickets from each; which you cash in and fly coach by yourself. You circulate among the casinos playing some high stakes break even blackjack.

This never appealed to me, it's petty embezzlement, not gambling or play of any kind. It's only an appealing life to the extent you enjoy being wined and dined at casinos, that pales pretty fast. It makes you fat and stupid, and sooner or later you do get caught.

The other people who made real livings at blackjack did it by writing books and teaching. They were good counters and had no trouble winning over a few sessions most of the time. But there's a world of difference between demonstrating your skill over an evening to get paying customers, and taking steady money out of casinos.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-18-2005, 06:10 PM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

Greetings Aaron,

Thank you for the thoughtful post. I am still puzzled as to my friend's success and he is as well. One variable that I left out is the fact he occasionally played hundred dollar tables and made thousand dollar bets. Also, given that he played 2 hands it increased his wager. But, even still, he gave 95% of his action to the $25-500 table (playing 2 hands).

I am pretty sure he isn't fooling me because he liked to show me his bankroll (which eventually wouldn't fit in an oversized wallet even though it was all 100's). Also, he must have won even more money when you factor in all of the $90 a night stays at the Canterbury Inn (a fancy hotel), travel between Missouri and Minnesota, and living expenses. Furthermore, I used regularily watch him play and functioned as an emotional crutch during his downswings. We were and are good buddies and he was very candid (to me) about his winning and losses.

While I wasn't shuffle tracking, I cannot say with any certainty whether or not he was. I do know how to count cards using simple, primitive systems. However, at the time I knew almost nothing about shuffle tracking. While he claimed not to care about the count, he did take an obsessive interest in having the cut card. Another point of interest is that he refused to play at casinos that used a fly or strip shuffle. He liked simple, clean shuffles like the one implemented at Mystic Lake. Also, he had many convoluted theories on clumped cards and would make dramatic variations of his bet contingent on where he thought the 'good' cards were hiding. Perhaps he had an edge and just busted out by playing $100 tables while on tilt.

I used to play extensively at this same casino as well. This was back in 93-95 when the casino was in its infancy (Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake). They had relatively decent rules and modest penetration at the high stakes. I was able to sustain myself for a lengthy period of time using a hi/lo counting system and making adjustments (to my basic strategy) contingent on the count. I had once worked a $2,000 bank loan to $23,000 over a half year. Whether or not I actually had an edge, I don't know. I did eventually lose my entire bankroll in one night of $100 table insanity (where I lost my head).

I no longer play blackjack and I can't say with certainty if I'm a winner or loser (over my lifetime). As mentioned previously, I am winning at poker and this captures all my gaming interest. I hope it isn't just a fluke ;-) Neverthless, I'm confounded at my friends success and he claims he is taken aback at his previous sustained run. I guess it's POSSIBLE it's an abberation. Maybe I'm overstating the casino's advantage or missing some other variable. Anyway, thanks for the feedback!

BTW, my friend is currently playing video poker for a living. Playing 100.1% and greater video poker and combining it with comps is his new passion. He and his father play regularily and neither have formal employment. Sounds interesting to me but I think I'll stick with conventional poker.

JeffreyREBT "Wherein I don't promise to make you rich without trying, or even trying very hard; I do promise to say things that will make you feel rich."
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-18-2005, 06:15 PM
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

Greetings nofutures,

Thank you for supplying me with the neat link! I am currently tinkering with the formula and hopefully will gain some insight into my question.

JeffreyREBT "Wherein I don't promise to make you rich without trying, or even trying very hard; I do promise to say things that will make you FEEL rich."
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-18-2005, 11:52 PM
AaronBrown AaronBrown is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: New York
Posts: 505
Default Re: Winning long-term at blackjack with negative expectation...

I find it puzzling. The people I know who did well at blackjack were obsessive card player types with excellent memories and computation skills. Several won world or national championships at games like bridge, backgammon and chess. They practiced intensely and had careful theory behind them.

That does not sound like your friend. I wonder if his edge didn't spring from a more intuitive source. He was careful enough to learn the correct strategy and he could count cards, but he didn't like to do count consistently and he doesn't seem to be working from an explicit theory.

Perhaps he has an excellent card memory that helps him predict cards without being conscious of it. If you see some cards that you saw together before the last shuffle, and you can remember the card you saw next, you can predict its location pretty well most of the time.

You'd only have to notice a few patterns once in a while to make a big difference. And your friend wouldn't look like my friends, who had to work hard to look like anything but nerds trying to count and shuffle track. He would look like a real gambler, which would be a big advantage.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 04:07 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.