I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gambling With an Edge - guest Michael Bluejay

Michael Bluejay is this weeks guest.  He talks about how to save money in Las Vegas and his website Vegas Click.
Click to listen - Alt click to download

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cyber Scouting

On Gambling With an Edge Bob and I had several shows where we talked about the importance of scouting.  I mentioned that it is important to check all the games in the casino, not just blackjack. This is especially true in casinos outside of Las Vegas where they are less savvy and often decide to run some promotion on a game where they really don't understand the math behind what they are doing.  Scouting is time consuming.  You could spend all day just scouting the casinos on the corner of Tropicana and the strip.

But there is another type of scouting that can be done from the comfort of your home.  I call it cyber scouting and I recently had some email questions asking if I could elaborate.  I break cyber scouting into two categories, news, and forums.  First let's talk about news.  Scouring news sources brings you information like: When the new casinos will be opening in Ohio (mid May) or places that are building new casinos (Fiji and Cyprus), or countries that are thinking of legalizing gambling (Japan).  You may find information on a cheating scam or new books coming out; all sorts of things turn up in my news sources.  So where do I find all this stuff?  Here is a list of the sources and websites I scan.

Google Reader is a collector of news and blogs that you choose.  Say there is a website that you like to read, that changes periodically, like this one.  You don't want to keep checking the site to see if there is something new, well Google reader will do it for you.  Whenever something new gets posted it will show up on your Google reader page.  Gambling sites that I subscribe to in Google Reader, The Wizard of Odds, The Bear Growls, Blair Rodman's blog, and the most informative is Online Gambling News at calvinayre.com.  That feed alone sends 15-20 gambling stories a day to my reader.  Many of them I can skip because they are about online gambling in Europe, or poker news that doesn't interest me, but it is still a great resource.

Google News  is a news aggregator that you can tell to search for news stories about gambling, poker, blackjack, or whatever you like.

Trapit This is another news aggregator and I like this site a lot.

BJ21 Newsletter This is a newsletter from Stanford Wong's site.  It is good but it only comes out once a week.

The Catwalk This is a newsletter for surveillance people that often has good articles by Bill Zender.

The next category is forums.  These are the forums I check, some much more than others.
http://www.beyondcounting.com/forums.html
http://www.qfit.com/bj/forum.php
http://backedoff.com/forums/index.php
http://bj21.com/frames/main.html
http://www.blackjackforumonline.com/w-agora/index.php?bn=bjf_forum
http://wizardofvegas.com/forum/gambling/
http://www.blackjackapprenticeship.com/

The thing about forums is there is a LOT of crap you have to wade through to find a little interesting or useful information.  Rarely will you find someone posting something like - I live in Podunk Utah and my local casino is having a promotion this weekend where blackjack pays 3 to 1, but it does happen.  The reason that forums are so valuable is because of the contacts you can make there. If you read people's posts you can tell pretty quickly who is a newbie, who believes in voodoo, who is a blowhard, and who just wants to stir up an argument.  But I also find that there are 5% or maybe less that are there for the same reasons I am.  They may still be new, or not have a big bankroll, but are serious.  I have made some tremendous friends that have become team mates just from talking to people in chat rooms.  I have made contacts all over the world on these forums. That means, I don't have to fly to Singapore to scout the new casinos; I know someone who lives there.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gambling With an Edge - guest Dollie Wong

Bob and Mike discuss Mike's getting a license to carry a firearm.  Their guest this week is Dollie Wong who is a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas.  Her websites are Cocktail Doll and Cocktail Blogspot.

Click to listen Alt click to download

Gambling With an Edge - guest Josh Axelrad

The guest on the show this week is Josh Axelrad.  Josh played on a very high-stakes blackjack team, and then lost all the money he made playing online poker.  Josh's story is told in his book, Repeat Until Rich.
Click to listen - Alt click to download

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gambling With an Edge - guest Jason Been

Hosts Bob Dancer and Mike Shackleford discuss Super Bowl betting with sports handicapper Jason Been.
Click to listen - Alt click to download

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Holy Rollers - A documentary about card counting Christians

Holy Rollers calls itself  "The True Story of Card Counting Christians" and documents a team of card counters that called itself "The Church Team."  The team was run by two guys, Ben and Colin, who shared a love of blackjack and Jesus. At some point they decided to expand their little blackjack team by recruiting and training new players.  Who better than members of their church? The team grows with both players, and investors, and from 2006 to 2009 they manage to win $3.2 million dollars before disbanding.

The film uses some simple animation to explain how card counting works at its most basic level, and also to explain how their bankroll is set up.  The Church Team had investors, players, and managers.  Their target was to win $100,000 at which time they would "close the bank" and divide the money.  The money was then divided among investors, managers, and players, but they never tell you what the percentages are.  The players are paid based on the number of hours they played.  In the case of the teams I played on the total number of hours played would be divided into the amount of players share dollars to determine the hourly rate.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A typical trip

When I tell people I am leaving town on a gambling trip they usually imagine something like this.
The only thing we have in common is our rugged good looks.
You need your tuxedo to blend in with all the other tuxedo-wearing high-rollers, and of course your silenced pistol to fend off the evil casino owners who all belong to the mafia and will kill you for counting cards; or at the very least take you to the basement, and beat you to a bloody pulp like in the movie 21. My experiences have been very different than James Bond so I thought I would offer some insight into what a typical gambling trip is like for me.

For me it always starts with a phone call.  Someone calls and says, "I found a game.  When are you free?" When I was young and single it would be nothing to take off for 2 or 3 weeks to Aruba, or Poland, or Korea, but now I have family obligations so I am limiting myself to domestic trips of 3 to 5 days. I check with my boss wife, and X and I pick some dates.  I head to kayak.com to look for flights and a car, but I like to use travelaxe.com to look for hotels. Booked and done.

Travel day - I'm up at 5:30am because I have an early flight.  The number one concern is how much cash to bring, and where to carry it.  Just as in the olden days when travelers had to worry about highway robbers, professional gamblers have the same concern.  Today it is not thieves on horseback with bandannas around their face; now it is TSA, DEA, and State Police who steal your money. When they find someone carrying a large amount of cash their attitude is confiscate it first, and ask questions later.  Anyone who carries cash must be a drug dealer right?  The professional gambler must then spend four or five thousand dollars on a lawyer to get his money back.  Cash will not set off the metal detectors in the airport so I usually carry it in a money belt and in my pockets.  I also have some chips for this casino we are going to, so I also carry those in my pocket.  Chips will show up in the Xray as something unknown.  The TSA will flag a bag that has chips in it so better to carry them on my body, and make sure I have nothing metal to set off the detectors.  If I were carrying a lot of chips, too many for my pockets, then I double bag them in clear Ziploc bags, and put them in the bin with my shoes and cell phone.  Be sure to keep your eye on that bin when it goes through because there have been cases of TSA Agents stealing from those bins. I zip through without problem and wait for my flight.

It's a few hours to Dallas, and now I have a couple hour layover.  Dallas is a great airport, but they don't have free wifi.  What's up with that?  I grab something to eat, and do some practicing.  I'm not going to this casino to count cards so I need some last minute brushing up.  I board one of those little puddle-jumper airplanes they use for regional flights.  I hate these things but I'm headed to the middle of nowhere and don't have a choice.  These planes have a row of single seats on one side, and 2 seats on the other.  Always book the A seat so you don't have to squeeze in next to someone.  The other bad thing about these planes is you can't take a normal size carry on bag onto the plane with you.  They take them when you board and then toss them out on the tarmac when you land, usually in a slush puddle.

By the time I land it is 10pm local time.  I pick up the rental car and now have about a hundred mile drive to the hotel.  The car is some type of new Ford, and it looks like an airplane cockpit.  There are nobs and lights everywhere.  I hit what I think is the cruise control and the car starts talking at me.  I can't figure out how to make it stop but I do find the thermometer.  It says 12.  When I left L.A. it was 80 degrees, and now it is freaking 12.  I don't have clothes for this.  I roll into the Super 8 Motel around midnight, and try not to wake X as I crash into bed.

The next morning X and I are up early.  We head off to the casino and find a disaster.  The game we were planning to play is no good anymore.  It is worthless.  This is a small casino, and there is nothing else here we want to play.  We head back to the hotel to decide what to do next.  I call the airline, and my ticket can not be changed so I am stuck here for 2 more days.  We take the next option, drive 3 hours to the next casino and see if there is anything there for us to play.  3 hours in the car, but at least it has warmed up to a balmy 22 degrees.  We get to Casino 2 and get some good luck - they have a game even better than the one we were hoping to play at Casino 1.  We get in a few hours of play, and book a small win.  We drive a few miles out of town to have some dinner and celebrate our good fortune.  We don't want to be too close since it would not be good for some casino employee to see us eating together. This is the midwest so the restaurant was named something like Deep Fried Lard on a Stick. Yum.

The next morning we get to the casino before the games open.  The tables open, we get to work, and spend 8 hours on the game.  We go up, we go down, we go back up.  I'm pleasantly surprised after 8 hours when X wants to call it a night since he is getting fatigued.  I used to play with a guy called The Vampire.  On my last trip with him we played 8 hours of day shift, then 8 hours of swing shift, and then he said, "I know a really good game on graveyard."  This isn't an Ipad Factory in China.  16 straight hours is about my limit.

The good news, after hitting a disaster at the first casino we have found a great game and scored a 5-figure win.  The bad news, I will have to get up at 3:30am and drive 3 hours to catch my early morning flight.  It's snowing pretty hard when I hit the freeway at 4am.  The freeway has not been plowed yet, and the driving is quite scary, especially when passing trucks.  But I make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

I was gone 4 days.  I spent 20 hours either in airports or on airplanes, 8 hours driving, and maybe 12 hours playing.  We won less than expectation but still good considering it could easily have been a busted trip. It may not be tuxedos and Bond girls, but it sure beats digging ditches.