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!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1536 Free Waters - book review

The full title of this book is actually, 1536 Free Waters and Other Blackjack Endeavors: Finding Profit and Humor in Card-Counting. The author is Glen Wiggy, an amateur card counter, and a mathematician. The book is part "how to", part memoir, and part miscellaneous stories that started out as blog posts at blackjackstories.com.

This is NOT a book for someone starting out that wants to learn to count cards. Why? First of all the count he advocates is the Hi Opt 1. Now this is a fine count for playing against single or double deck games if you use a side count for aces. Glen is using this count, without the side count of aces, and using it against 6 deck shoes. He also divides his running count by half decks to get a true count. So he is using a weaker count that is more difficult to use. If you want a basic primer on how to learn card counting I would recommend Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder.

After Glen learns to count he runs a simulation of 500 hands, and compares the results of a card counter to someone playing basic strategy. WHAT?! This guy is a mathematician and he thinks 500 hands can tell you anything about anything? But he goes off and starts playing. And let me tell you this is one of the luckiest players you have ever heard of. He never says exactly what his starting bankroll was, or exactly how big a spread he was using, but he won 15 of his first 21 sessions. He steadily raised his unit size from $5 units to - well this is about 50 sessions into his play:

I entered Santa Ana Casino around ten o'clock on a Saturday morning. I was betting $50 per hand with a $750 bankroll.

Again, WHAT?! $50 isn't his top bet, it is his unit size. The fact this he never went broke is just incredible. Here is a graph of his first 5 months of play.

Now I'm sure if his graph had looked like this he would have quit playing long before the 5 months were up.

Now the losing starts. He goes to the casino with $1,000 and starts betting a $25 unit. He gets up $1,000 and decides to raise his betting to a $75 unit!? He gets a monster count, loses a few hands, and shoves out his entire remaining stack, $1,115, and gets a pair of aces. He has no money so he runs around the casino, and finds a guy he works with who loans him the money. He loses the hand, and this is what he says:

What happened? Was it poor money management? Was it simply the result of a stinky boot? (Glen's term for a bad shoe.)Was there a simpler answer? Yes. Greed. I could have quit several times during the day, even toward the end when the count was unbelievably high. There is no rule, written or unwritten, that says you must continue to play when the count is high. Greed got the best of me.

I know I keep saying this, but this guy is supposed to be a mathematician! Several times in the book he blames his losses on "getting greedy." No Glen, this is not greed, this is not understanding how to size your betting based on your bankroll. Something a guy with a masters degree in mathematics from the University of Arizona should understand.

One of the stories in the book involves Glen wanting to buy a TV. He is ahead $1500 for the day, but he needs $1600. He wants to win the extra $100 so he decides to Martingale it. The Martingale is a betting system where you make a bet, and if you lose you double it, and if you lose that you double again etc until you go broke. Because ultimately you will go broke as no betting system can overcome a negative expectation bet. Of course he loses his $1500.

I'm sorry, but this is a card counting book written by a ploppy.

Maybe the book has improved, since I got an advance copy that wasn't quite finished yet. If you look on Amazon you will see there is one review - 5 stars! You might also notice the reviewer has no other reviews. On my 4 aces scale I give it
one ace


Glen Wiggy said...

Richard, even with one ace, I respectfully want to thank you for putting significant time and effort into reviewing my book.

Regrettably, I wish you would’ve mentioned some of the humor in it--that is my main selling point, not the strategy. The book is 80% humor and 20% basic strategy and intro card-counting. (By the way, I do use a side count of aces.) I didn’t go into the finer aspects of counting strategy and money management in the book because it is widely available elsewhere. I went for the funny! Please let me know if you cracked a smile at least once.


Richard W. Munchkin said...

Yes, my review kind of took off on the "how to part". There is a lot of humor in the book, and I did crack a few smiles. I actually found the most interesting stuff to be the memoir part. I would have liked to see more of that.