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, December 26, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Brian McAllister

This week's guest is Brian McAllister, a long-time options trader.  He has been on the show before to talk about his video poker exploits, but tonight we will talk about what options trading can teach you about gambling.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Do you trust your partner?

I received an email recently in which a player asked about his partner. He said the partner had lost $220 scouting a hole card game with a $5 minimum. He said that he could usually tell in one or two hands if a dealer was good or not, and didn't I think this completely unreasonable for his partner to have lost so much.

First, can you scout a dealer in one or two hands? Usually no. I guess if you look at two hands and see absolutely nothing you can move on, but usually it takes longer than that. What if you sit down, and on the first hand you see the hole card clear as day. Then you play three more hands and get nothing. The fifth hand you see it pretty good, and then four more hands of nothing. You could easily play 10 hands before abandoning this game, and on some carnival games with multiple bets you can end up betting 10 times your initial wager. Is it unusual to lose $220 scouting a $5 carnival game? Absolutely not.

But this brings up a much more important question? Do you trust your partner? Did he lose $220 scouting? Or did he lose $20 and tell you it was $220 and put $200 in his pocket? If you are asking yourself these questions then you should really think long and hard about why he is your partner.

Secondly - Do you trust your partner's judgement? If my partner came back to the hotel room, and said he lost $1,000 because he also had to scout the craps, and roulette tables I wouldn't give it a second thought. Why? Because I trust his judgement. I know that he would not be on those games just because he likes to gamble. (Although I would ask what he had seen that would make him want to scout a craps or roulette game?)

Third, write this down and remember it: Every person is peculiar about money in their own way. We all have things we don't mind spending money on, and other things we don't like to spend money on. And mine are different than yours. Mine are different than anyone else, and yours are different than your partner's, or your wife's. So don't try to micromanage everything your partner does. Why were you betting $10 instead of $5? What difference does it make? If he is playing at -3% it costs him an extra 15 cents a hand to bet $10 instead of $5.

Partnerships are like marriages. Your partner may do things that drive you crazy, but like marriage, when it is good it is really, really good. So if you trust him, and you trust his judgement, then don't sweat the small stuff.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Moo the Cash Cow (and accountant)

Our guest this week is  Moo the Cash Cow. He is on to talk about what gamblers should be aware of tax-wise before the end of the year. In addition to being an accountant he is also a blackjack player so we are hiding his identity.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guests Tommy Hyland & John C.

Our guests this week are Tommy Hyland, and John Chang, on to talk about blackjack teams. Tommy runs the Hyland team, one of the longest running and most successful teams of all time. You can read about him in Gambling Wizards. (Shameless plug) John ran the MIT team and you can read more about him here. Interview.

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Show Notes

[1:00, ]: show introduction (questions for guests)

[2:03, ]: introduce guests

[2:15, ]: How do you recruit new members?

[4:05, ]: What percent of players that expressed interest actually followed through?

[5:13, ]: How do you evaluate member skill?

[6:21, ]: What was the testing process for new counters?

[9:35, ]: Accuracy of the movie 21- checkout process.

[10:58, ]: how do you split profits in a team (managers, investors, scouts, players, etc),

AND… how did that evolve over time?

[18:21, ]: what did management end up with?

[18:40, ]: how were comps treated w/r/t team compensation?

[24:30, ]: how did you deal with barrings?

[27:30, ]: [how] has the game, esp w/r/t barrings/backoffs, changed for teams since the advent of player lawyers such as BobN?

[30:58, ]: how do you detect and handle dishonest players when managing a team? did you use polygraphs ever?

[37:59, ]: do you require that everybody on the team have investment in the bankroll?

[40:41, ]: how do you deal with players that play sub-par games because they’re afraid of heat?


[46:35, ]: do you two (Tommy, John) still play yourself?

[48:50, ]: do you allow players to play games on the side (such as poker) while on team trips?

[51:45, ]: in the event that a player is robbed, how would you handle that?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest David Schwartz

Our guest this week is  Professor David Schwartz. He is on to talk about his book Grandissimo.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

James Grosjean's new blog

For those who haven't heard James Grosjean has a new blog.  I wanted to get the link out there since any serious player should put this in their RSS feed. Here it is, enjoy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Joe Pane

Our guest this week is  blackjack and poker player, Joe Pane.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mike Shackleford

Our guest this week is Mike Shackleford on to talk about football parlay cards.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Royal Cat

Our guest this week is long time professional video poker player who goes by the name Royal Cat.
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Scott Bell aka ElevenGrover

Our guest this week is Scott Bell aka ElevenGrover in the poker world. Scott has produced a new documentary called Ultimate Beat about the cheating scandal at Ultimate Bet poker.
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Rich Muny of the PPA

The guest this week is Rich Muny of The Poker Players Alliance. The PPA lobbies for legal regulated poker in the US.
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Friday, October 18, 2013

No Work and All Play - Book Review

No Work and All Play: Audacious Chronicles of a Casino Boss

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with gambling. I was reading any book I could find, mostly about backgammon and poker, but also general gambling books. There was a pit boss from Las Vegas named Mike Goodman who wrote a book in the 60s called How to Win, and another in the 70s called Your Best Bet. You can pick these up for a penny now if you like - Mike Goodman books. These books were filled with a lot of nonsense about how to gamble, and about gamblers who were "sharp" or "tough" because they knew to bet more when they got on a streak. But what I liked about the books were the stories form the pits in Las Vegas. Superstitious bosses, or players. People who did crazy things in the casinos. High rollers and dames. It just made Vegas sound like the coolest place in the world. Then in the 80s another pit boss, this one named Barney Vinson wrote a couple books called Las Vegas Behind the Tables 1 & 2. Again, the advice on how to play was mostly voodoo and nonsense, but he had some great stories about the characters you find in Las Vegas on both sides of the tables. Now you know what I was expecting when I picked up this book. Unfortunately the book should be titled Chronicles of a Hotel Boss and Corporate Suit.

Roger Wagner went to UNLV, and graduated in 1969. He started working at the Dunes as at the front desk of the hotel. He bounced back and forth between the Sands and the Dunes during the 70s, working his way up the corporate ladder, but always working on the hotel side of these organizations. I found this mildly interesting only because I have a soft spot in my heart for the Sands. I spent my honeymoon there, and spent a lot of time there counting cards when I first started playing blackjack. Anyway, we get a step by step of Roger working in Reno, and Laughlin, and then Atlantic City, (He worked for Trump which provided a few interesting stories) and ultimately COO of the Horseshoe casinos under Jack Binion.

Anyone who has ever had a job has had a supervisor, or boss who was a complete moron, and/or grossly incompetent. Not Roger. Everyone he worked for is a "role model" or a "mentor". The harshest thing he has to say is he doesn't care for Harrahs. His favorite quote, which he mentions several times in the book is, "The boss aint always right, but the boss is always the boss." You can see why he ended up at the top of the corporate ladder.

I will recommend the final section of this book to anyone who works in casino management. The difference in the way Jack Binion ran his casinos is something most casinos could learn from. When Caesar's was in negotiations to buy Horseshoe they asked how many Harvard MBAs Jack had in the organization. (Caesar's is apparently very high on Harvard MBAs.) Jack said there might be one or two, but he had 60 CPAs at Horseshoe Hammond alone. They asked why he would have so many accountants. He said, not accountants, Car Parking Attendants. You know, people who actually have value to the customers.

I have to relate one story from the book about Jack's father, Benny Binion. There are hundreds of stories about the late Benny Binion, but this is the only one in the book. Benny was running a craps game in a hotel room in Dallas. Benny had a lookout in the hallway, and the guy tells Benny that the game is pretty noisy, and people coming down the hallway might hear it and know what was going on. Benny sends the guy across the street to buy a radio so he can play music in the hall, and cover the sound of the game. The guy does, comes back, but the radio doesn't work. He takes it back across the street, and the guy has a sign, "No Returns." They argue, but the guy refuses to take the radio back. The guy goes back across the street, and tells Benny the store won't take the radio back. Benny grabs the radio, and heads back across the street. The store owner points at the sign, and tells him, "I told your flunky i have a policy, no returns." Benny winds up and throws the radio into the shelf of radios behind the counter. He then whips out his pistol and puts a bullet into 6 more radios, and yells at the owner, "And I also have a policy. Don't ever let anyone screw me. That's my policy. Period." He then grabbed a working radio, and stormed out.

Roger tells this story as, "The funniest story about Benny Binion." All I could think when I read it was, "Why was this sociopath allowed to roam the streets?" Sorry Roger, I guess we just have very different senses of humor.

No Work and All Play: Audacious Chronicles of a Casino Boss  I give it...

1 1/2  ACES

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Nersesian #8

The guest this week is Bob Nersesian.  Bob is a frequent guest to the show, and always entertaining.  Bob is the lawyer who advocates for the players against the casinos, and has successfully sued many Vegas casinos on the behalf of players.  He is also the author of Beat the Players.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - No guest this week

We have no guest this week, so Bob and I discuss various promotions and other gambling stories from our pasts.

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Advantage Play of the Day

Here is a free shot. The government just released a new $100 bill. See the article here. New $100.

I visited 3 banks today. Two had not received the bills yet, and one had 17 which I bought. The idea is if you are lucky enough to find bills with very low numbers, like 000000001, well that bill is going to be worth more than $100. Any unusual number could score. 314159... or 123456789. all it takes is a few minutes of your time.

Back in 2007 the government started releasing $1 coins with the faces of presidents. The first coin was of course George Washington. What makes these coins unique is they have printing around the edge of the coin.

Some of the first batch were printed in error, and this printing on the edge was missing. I bought all the rolls I could find at my local bank, and was lucky enough to score 24 of these. This netted me over $2,000 for about 15 minutes of my time. so give it a shot. Stop by your local bank, and try to hit your lucky number. It's like the lotto, except the ticket costs you nothing. Good luck, and good hunting.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Ed Miller

This week's guest is Ed Miller, author of Playing the Player, as well as 4 or 5 other books on poker. We talk about the new online poker, and the upcoming World Series November 9. We also discuss Poker Plays You Can Use by Doug Hull which Ed edited.
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK's Most Feared Professional Punter

Enemy Number One, by Peter Veitch is a chronicle of the life of a professional horse bettor in the UK. The first section is devoted to an eight year stretch, beginning in 1999, where he won ten million GBP. Ten million is nothing to sneeze at, but since the top horse bettors make many times that every year I hardly would call him "Enemy One." This first section is page after page of, I bet this horse, at that track, and won X amount, or lost Y amount. It very much reminded me of Stuart Perry's Las Vegas Blackjack Diary, which will teach you two important things. Record keeping is not the same as writing, and trying to make a living counting cards in Las Vegas is truly awful, tedious, and boring.

The book then takes an odd turn. Veitch gets extorted by a mobster who threatens to kill him. It appears he is just a rich guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. The police take this threat very seriously, and Veitch spends quite some time hiding out, and under police protection before this guy eventually goes to prison for killing a policeman. This does pick up the pace of the book some, but it has absolutely nothing to do with gambling.

Veitch eventually branches out into horse owner, as well as bettor. He flies around England in his private helicopter, which must be pretty cool, but it is still a lot of - I bet this horse - or this is how my horse won this race. We do hear about the frustrations of being a professional gambler. Much like sports bettors he gets barred from some books, uses beards to bet for him, throws the bookmakers off track by betting the opposite of what he wants, and then sending the real money in after they adjust the odds the wrong way. UK apparently does not use a parimutuel system for their racing which seems odd and old fashioned. There is one good chapter near the end of the book where he describes how a winning bettor thinks, and how he goes about finding an edge. Is this book worth reading for that one little nugget? I'll leave that to you. On my 4 Ace scale I give it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mike Shackleford G2E edition

The guest this week is Mike Shackleford . This week is the largest gaming conference of the year, G2E. Mike and Bob attended, and will discuss the new games they saw.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mark Dace

The guest this week is Mark Dace. Mark travels the world playing blackjack, betting sports, and doing whatever other advantage plays he can find.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ship It Holla Ballas - book review

Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

We've all seen the movies about what happens when guys go off to college.  Think Animal House, American Pie 2, or Van Wilder. There is usually a central party house, and guys who suddenly have no restrictions tend to go a bit overboard with sex, drugs, and crazy amounts of alcohol. Now imagine what would happen if every one of those guys was making five or ten thousand dollars PER WEEK playing online poker. If you are imagining complete partying insanity you would be exactly right.

The book follows a group of teenagers, starting in about 2004.  Online poker is exploding, and this group of high schoolers starts putting in a lot of hours playing. And they find they have an aptitude for the game. This is not just luck, they start reading books, and when not playing they find each other in the twoplustwo poker forums. They start improving, and raising their stakes, and start making serious money. Now it is time to go off to college, but seriously, if you had a choice between a boring poli sci lecture, or playing some online poker and making $500 an hour which would you do? These guys, with names like Good2cu, Raptor, and Apathy start becoming online friends. One is in Texas, another in Michigan, but they immediately bond. They are failing college but making gobs of money. Someone gets the idea to rent a mansion in Vegas, and all go out there for the summer, and the World Series of Poker. It turns into a frat house, with a giant table in the dining room filled with computers and laptops. Cases of Dom, and Cristal, many nights at the strip clubs that result in 5-figure tabs. Someone gets the bright idea to buy a bunch of fireworks, and a bottle rocket fight breaks out INSIDE THE HOUSE. Yes, this is Animal House on steroids.

If you're going to form a posse you have to have a name right? One of my first blackjack teams called itself the A Team. (Okay, so we weren't very creative.) Jman suggests they come up with a "gay" name so it will be funny every time an ESPN announcers has to talk about them. He suggests the Pushbotting Panthers, but it is Good2cu who comes up with the Ship It Holla Ballas. If nothing else these guys are media savvy. They know there is money in being a name player, and they already know they are going to rule the poker world. I mean who else would ESPN want to talk about? (Ah to be 19 again.) But when the WSOP rolls around there is just one problem. NONE OF THEM IS OLD ENOUGH TO PLAY! Sure they can sneak in and play some cash games, but the events require ID and a social security number, and none of these guys is 21 yet.

One day Good2cu wakes up about noon, and it is about 100 degrees in his bedroom. He heads downstairs, and everyone awake has already gone to the Rio. He tries to fire up his laptop, and it won't come on. The XBox is out, and the refrigerator light is off. He walks over to the neighbor's house to ask if their power is out, but their power is working fine. A few house guests are waking up, and convince him to call the power company, which he does. When the guy comes it turns out to be just be a circuit breaker. He turns the power back on, and explains that if it happens again just unplug a few things, and flip the breaker. They fire up their laptops, and the bong, and sit down to play poker. About an hour later the power blows again. Good2cu wonders - where is this circuit breaker thing the guy talked about? Someone suggests it's in the basement. This is Vegas, there is no basement. Screw it, let's go to the Rio where there is air conditioning. A few hours later Good2cu gets a call from Jman, telling him to come home. Good2cu says he already knows the power is off. No man, we've been robbed. when the cop arrives he sees the house full of beer cans, spent bottle rockets, and garbage.

"Whoever did it really trashed the place," he says. "Terrible," Good2cu replies, "Just terrible."
"So what exactly got stolen?"
Everybody starts talking at once. Fourteen laptops. A couple desktop computers, and flat screen monitors. A few digital cameras and iPods. Bonaphone's video camera - considered priceless because it contained footage of Good2cu chucking the pool ball through the neighbors window. Around $10,000 in cash and casino chips.
The cop puts down his pen. These kids are clearly shitting him. "You know insurance fraud is a serious crime."
"It can't be insurance fraud," Raptor assures him, "when you don't have insurance."

The kids learn some life lessons.
If you plug in 27 computers, laptops, XBoxes, and Playstations you might blow a circuit.
Strippers don't make the best girlfriends.
Not everyone you allow to owe you $50,000 is going to pay it back.

As I read this book I would alternate from laughing out loud, to cringing, thinking, "This is not going to end well." But you know what? They grew up, and most of them have not crashed and burned. Some realized that sitting in front of a computer screen for 16 hours a day was an empty life, and did things to change that. Some went back to school, but some are today's top pros. Andrew Robl (Good2cu) has over $3 million in winnings, as does David Benefield (Raptor) and Tom Dwan (Durrr) is considered one of the best players in the world. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.

Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bill Robertie

Our guest this week was Bill Robertie. Bill has written many of the best backgammon and poker books on the market. You can see his author page here. Bill Robertie His website is The Gammon Press.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Arnold Snyder

This week's guest is Arnold Snyder talking about blackjack, and answering listener questions.
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Steve Cyr 2

Our guest this week was Steve Cyr, Super host. He is the subject of the book, Whale Hunt in the Desert which contains many of his crazier exploits. 
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest "Old-Timer"

"Old-Timer" is a current video poker player whose been playing for more than 25 years. O-T and Bob will share some stories of video poker from the good old days.
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Frank B. on dice control

The guest this week is Frank B. on to talk about his experience with dice control..
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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gambling With an edge - guest Ray Kondler CPA

The guest this week is Ray Kondler. Ray is a CPA in Las Vegas and handles the taxes for many professional gamblers. If you have gambling income you should listen to this show.
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gambling With an edge - guest Kent Goulding

The guest this week is Kent Goulding. Kent has been one of the top backgammon players in the world for over 30 years. He also plays poker, and advantage slots.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Gavin Smith

The guest this week is poker pro Gavin Smith. Gavin has one World Series bracelet from 2010, and won the World Poker Tour player of the year in 2005.
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Nersesian #7

The guest this week is Bob Nersesian.  Bob is a frequent guest to the show, and always entertaining.  Bob is the lawyer who advocates for the players against the casinos, and has successfully sued many Vegas casinos on the behalf of players.  He is also the author of Beat the Players.
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest BJ Traveller

The guest on the show this week is BJ Traveller.  BJT is Chinese and has played blackjack in 76 casinos around the world, and written 10 books about his exploits.  You can read my print interview with him here under the interviews link.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gambling With an edge - guest Kevin Lewis

The guest this week is Kevin Lewis, on to talk about video poker in the Reno/Tahoe area. We also discuss the upcoming loss rebate promotion at Revel in Atlantic City.
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Don't Revel in your loss rebate

The internet is all aflutter with the announcement by Revel Hotel-Casino in Atlantic City, that for the month of July they are offering a 100% loss rebate up to $100,000. That's right, 100% on 100k. The offer applies to action on slots, video poker, and electronic table games. There are threads on Wizard of Odds, VPfree, and several blackjack sites. I am sure that casino consultants will weigh in very shortly.

Before you get too excited you should know that to collect this rebate you receive 5% of your loss back each week for 20 weeks. You may be able to do this in 10 trips if say the new week begins on Monday you can schedule your trips so that on Sunday you collect for week 1, and then after midnight collect for week 2. But this would still mean making 10 trips to AC.

But there is a bigger problem. Casinos often have promotions that give away money. They often cost themselves more than they realize, and many players take advantage of these promotions. Usually when they stick their foot in it they lose 6 figures, maybe into 7 on a really bad one. This promo has the potential to cost them tens of millions of dollars. There is a long history of casinos changing the rules in the middle of a promo, or even after the fact. Every player faces the danger of the casino suddenly saying, "We changed our mind, Video Poker doesn't count," or "Sorry, we didn't mean those slot machines that you played, it was only for these that you didn't." On the flyer I read it said, "See the Revel card desk for details." I haven't been able to find any additional details online. So if you live fairly close to AC and want to give it a shot, by all means. Just don't expect this to be a walk in the park.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bill Zender

The guest on the show this week is Bill Zender, head of Bill Zender and Associates Consulting. Bill is a former gaming control agent, and has worked in many aspects of the casino business, from dealer to casino manager. He is the author of, How To Detect Casino Cheating at Blackjack, and Advantage Play for the Casino Executive as well as his two Casino-ology books.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Forming a team - part 1

There has been a lot of chatter on the blackjack boards recently about new teams forming. I wanted to take this opportunity to pass on some of my thoughts on teams. I have played on 5 or 6 teams over my career, and what I mean by a team is a group of players who have a shared bankroll, and a target they must hit before they break that bank. The target can be either a monetary win, or it can be a fixed number of hours, weeks, or months. When the target is hit the bank breaks, money is distributed, and a new bank is formed.

Before I get into it I want to say that it has been over 20 years since I played on a large team, and 15 since I played on a small one. Now I have partnerships. The difference is that I now have a handful of partners. 2 or 3 of us will get together for a short trip, maybe 2-7 days. We play together for that trip and split the money equally. No commitment, no muss, no fuss. We are all together so we know exactly what games we are playing, and how much we are betting. On my last large team, when we finished we had money on 4 continents in 6 currencies. It was like working for a large corporation. In other words, it was like a job. Teams are great for guys with short bankrolls. It is a chance to grow your BR, see the world, and meet other professional players. But I much prefer the way I do it now.

I am going to lay out some of the problems that I have encountered

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mark Anduss

The guest on the show this week is Mark Anduss. Mark is a poker player that runs the website Mark's Las Vegas.  Mark is on to talk about the difference between the Total Rewards program at Caesar's properties, and the MLife program at the MGM properties
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Andy Bloch

The guest on the show this week is Andy Bloch. Andy is a very well known professional poker player, and a former member of the MIT blackjack team.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Name That Casino - Pit Boss edition

If you are singing "Viva Las Vegas," don't get "All Shook Up" if you see Hawaiian Elvis sweating your blackjack game.
Hawaiian Elvis
Hawaiian Elvis used to wear Elvis glasses like this...

but now he is trying to tone down his look. Tell him you want, "A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action," but don't "Step on his 6 Deck Shoes."

Seriously, what pit boss carries his own microphone? Name that casino!

Send me your own photos of funny looking pit bosses for future episodes. I know one of you readers just played with a pit boss that looks like female Al Pacino. Snap away!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Colin Jones

The guest on the show this week is Colin Jones. Colin is one of the founders of the "Church Team" which was profiled in the documentary The Holy Rollers. You can read my review here.

He has the website Blackjack Apprenticeship where he trains new card counters.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Ed Miller

This week's guest is Ed Miller, author of Small Stakes No Limit Hold Em, and How to Read Hands, as well as 4 other books on poker. We talk about the new online poker, and the upcoming World Series.
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We are now on Stitcher! Get the Stitcher app here Stitcher.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cool new app - at least it's new to me.

This has nothing to do with gambling, but when I find something new that I like I want to pass it along. I got an app today called Paper Karma. Do you get junk mail? Well whip out your phone with this app, snap a picture of the junk mail, and send it off to paper karma and they get the sender to stop sending you junk mail. I have no idea how well this works, but even if it just cuts some of the junk I'll be happy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Disguise Part 2

In part one I talked about some disguises that didn't work, and a few that did. The bottom line is that everyone I know gave up on them because they were too much of a hassle. Now I want to talk about the things you can do that are more practical. Here are the things to work with: Hair, facial hair, hats, glasses, clothes, physicality, and a few random extras.

First I want to make special mention of your home casino. If you have a home casino you probably spend tons of hours there. When you eventually get backed off there, (which will happen if you are a winning player) it will take a very long time for them to forget you. Do not be the guy who is everyone's friend, the guy who knows every dealer, and boss, and how many kids they have, and what their hobbies are. That guy they are never going to forget even if you come dressed as a Klingon. If you are a guy who keeps his head down, and never talks to anyone you will have a chance of coming back in a year with a change of look. Especially if you avoid certain bosses and dealers.

Hair is your biggest asset since it can be changed the most, and has a big effect on your look. You can play with the length, (from completely bald to "get a job, hippie.") color, and texture. Perms can be a hassle, but once they are done they last quite a while. I think hair that obscures part of your face is much better than long hair pulled back in a ponytail. When it comes to facial hair I think more is better. A thin mustache doesn't change your look much, but a full beard can change the shape of your jaw or chin, and hide a lot about your face.

There is some controversy regarding hats. Some people claim they bring extra heat. Here is my answer - tough. Maybe it is true, but whatever slight amount of heat you avoid without a hat is greatly overshadowed by the difference in the picture they take of you. Have you ever watched surveillance footage on the news? Do you want your flier to look like the first guy, or the second?
By the way - wearing a hat backwards is the same as no hat at all.

By the way, it doesn't have to be a baseball cap. Nothing wrong with these looks in a casino.

Hats should be as nondescript as possible. There is a big difference when one boss tells another, "Hey, watch for a guy in a red hat with Bugs Bunny on it." versus, "Hey, watch for a guy in a black hat." Once you have had any heat in a particular hat get rid of it.

Speaking of nondescript, I ran into an AP in Las Vegas on 3 separate occasions. All three times he was wearing the same shirt. The shirt was meant to be ironic, but it is very memorable. First of all, I hope he does a lot of laundry, and second this is a really bad idea. Anything that makes you memorable is bad. I'm sure if I wrote here what it said on his shirt I would get several emails saying, "I know that guy." Actually, I will probably get several without revealing what it said.

When it comes to glasses bigger is better.

Wear glasses like this and they will remember the glasses, not the face.

What if you knew that sometime in the future the casino was going to take your picture, and distribute it? You do not that! If you are any kind of serious player it is just a matter of time. Have you prepared? You know this is going to happen, so how are you going to change your look? Once you realize this it is kind of liberating, and you can do some serious planning. Every time you walk into a casino it should be with the idea that "today they are going to take my picture."  I believe that it is a bigger change if you remove things than add them. You can cut your hair and beard in an hour; you can't grow them back quickly. I would try to grow as much hair as possible, add a hat and big glasses, and when the eventual flier comes, take it all off.

Go from this...
To this.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I always argue against using a players card. All this discussion is mute if you let them scan your ID into their computer when you got that players card, because now they have a full frontal photo of your FACE in the computer from that scan! I hope the free buffet was worth it.

When it is time to change your look remember to change your whole persona, not just your hair, hat, and glasses. If you used to look like a poker scrub then the new look should maybe be business suit. You should also consider your posture, and mannerisms at the table. Try to change those along with the look, and make sure to get rid of any distinctive jewelry. More than one AP has been picked off by a distinctive watch or ring.

Have you ever seen a friend from behind, but you know it is him by the way he walks? Think about changing your walk. In acting classes they teach you to alter your gait by imagining a rope attached to different parts of your body. We have all seen guys who look like they are being pulled forward by their chest; imagine instead the rope was attached to your chin, or your hips.

Here are a few random extra ideas. These include casts, bandages, and fake tatoos. Imagine you are recruited to be a big player for a large team for a weekend. You know that you will be betting huge amounts of money, and you will play until barred. You will get massive exposure, so you want something that will make you look as different as possible so when it is over you still will be able to play. I would consider something drastic. Maybe a fake face tatoo, or a large bandage on one side of my forehead. Obviously you need a story to go with the bandage, but that is no problem. Most people see others in generalities: the guy with the cast, or the guy with the tatoo on his face. A month later when those things are gone you will be hard to recognize.

Note to my female readers. Women have a lot of advantages in the changing looks department. Since I am not a woman I'm sure you already know far more about how to go about what works for you.

I hope some of these ideas have been helpful, and as always I welcome your feedback.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Michael Gaughan

The guest on the show this week is Michael Gaughan, owner of the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. We talk with Mr. Gaughan about legendary owner of the Horseshoe, Benny Binion.
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Back Room

The Back Room by rwm1710 on GoAnimate

 Our hero finds himself in the back room after winning at craps!

Friday, May 10, 2013


When I talk to civilians about professional gambling a question I often get is, "Do you wear disguises?" I have on a couple occasions worn a disguise, and I think the topic of changing your appearance is an important one. My first attempt at disguise was a character I called "The Mover From Vancouver." (This was 30+ years ago.) I had a pair of green coveralls, the kind a mechanic wears when working on cars. I put those on, along with a Red Man (chewing tobacco) hat. I popped the hood of my car and rubbed some grease into my hands, and to complete the look bought a cheap cigar. My story was that I was a truck driver from Canada, and I talked like a real hoser, aye. I played at the old Aladdin in Las Vegas, and the one good thing came out of it. When you chew on a cigar you get little pieces of tobacco in your mouth. I was sitting on first base, and I would turn my head toward the pit, and spit the tobacco flakes. Trust me, no boss hung around my side of the table. The bad thing was they just thought it odd that a guy dressed like me was betting two hands of $500. Later that day I ran into a friend who said, "I saw a homeless guy outside the Aladdin today that looked just like you." Yeah, not the best disguise.

The lesson - make sure your character looks like he can afford to bet big money. And, if you want to keep bosses away, spit tobacco at them.

Around the same time one of my teammates had a lot of heat from the Griffin Agency. He had black hair, and a beard, and almost always wore a suit and tie. He shaved the beard, dyed his hair blond, got a black satin jumpsuit open to the navel, and wrap-around sunglasses. Enter - Neon Leon! To complete the disguise he had a little bottle that he held up to his nose, and pretended to snort cocaine. Today that sounds completely insane, but in the late 70s and early 80s cocaine was everywhere. People wore coke spoons as jewelry. I even saw people wearing crucifixes that were coke spoons! Neon Leon played at the Marina for about an hour, losing a few thousand dollars. On his way to the cage he was grabbed by security, and hauled into the back room. Not for counting! They thought he was there to make a drug deal! Neon showed them he had no drugs, the bottle was empty, and explained that this was all a disguise because he was a famous card counter, and if the pit bosses knew who he was they would not let him play blackjack. The security guards called up to the blackjack pit and told them the story. The pit bosses started laughing, and told them, "Tell him he can come back and play all he wants."

The lesson - make sure your character doesn't look like a criminal.

One friend had a lot of Griffin heat so he got himself a cheap wig, and fake beard. He was sitting on a BJ game in the Silver Slipper where he was very well known. A boss came walking through the pit, glanced at him, and did a 180. He walked over to my friend and said, "Is that a fake beard?" My friend rather sheepishly said, "Yeah." The boss said, "I thought so." and walked away.

The lesson - if you are going to get a wig or fake beard don't get the cheap one.

When I first started playing I had a dark brown, bushy fro, a dark mustache, and rather large tinted glasses with big gold frames. After a while I got pretty well known around Las Vegas, and decided it was time for a major change of look. I got contact lenses, cut my hair very short and dyed it blond, shaved the mustache, put on a neck brace, and walked with a limp using a cane. One day I was playing at the Sands, and I could tell that bosses were having conversations about me. They knew I looked familiar, but they just couldn't put their finger on it. I decided to finish out the shoe I was playing when a woman boss came back from a break. She took one look at me and said, "What happened to you?" I said, "I had a  car accident." She said, "No, I mean to your hair!" I told her that I had done it for a part in a movie back in Los Angeles. That story worked with her, but I left before she started describing me to the other bosses.

The lesson - one boss in 500 is just sharp. There are some that just aren't going to be fooled. I tend to think women are more observant than men, but maybe that is just my sexism.

My friend D was very, very well known in Atlantic City after the famed "experiment." He decided to make a serious project out of changing his appearance. He started working out, and lost a lot of weight. He had his name changed, grew a goatee, permed his hair, and dyed his hair and beard black. He then added skin tint to darken his skin to the point that he looked African American. To really seal the deal he went to DMV and had his drivers license photo taken with his new look. He borrowed a full length man's mink coat from a friend. (What kind of friend owns a men's full length mink?) He showed up  at Resorts with two young girls, and a Dr's bag. He walked up to a blackjack table, and poured $100,000 out on the table saying, "Boys, I came to play." The disguise worked perfectly, and they treated him like royalty. When the play was over he flew out to CA and I picked him up at the airport. I took him to a car rental place, and the guy behind the counter took one look at his driver's license and said, "You kind of lost your tan." (D had shaved, and was no longer wearing the skin tint, and his hair was back to light brown. He casually said, "Oh, I was wearing makeup when that photo was taken." The guy behind the counter called the police! Fortunately the police weren't interested, and D was able to rent the car.

The lesson - If you take the time to do it right disguises can work wonders.

When I was a dealer one night the pit was buzzing. I asked what was going on, and a boss said, "See that woman on table 4? That's a guy!" I remember thinking that this caused such a distraction that players could be doing anything on the other tables and no one would notice. In my interviews John C. of the MIT team talked about playing in drag, and Cat Hulbert tried dressing as a man. Neither of them got away with it for long.

The lesson - Switching gender probably won't work as a player, but might work great to turn the pit for someone else.

The most complicated disguise we tried happened when I was working in the movie business. We hired a special effects makeup artist to make over a teammate. C was a bald white guy. She stretched elastic behind his head, and glued it behind his temples. This pulled his eyes back making him look Asian. She then got very small pieces of plastic tubing and inserted them in his nostrils to make his nose bigger. She topped it off with skin tint, and a black wig. She taught C how to apply all this, and the procedure took about an hour. C thought he looked completely ridiculous, and the casino would spot it immediately. We were playing in Korea at the time, and looking Asian would be a big plus. He put on his getup, and when he stepped into the elevator a guy looked at him and said, "What part of India are you from?" He got a lot of extended life in Korea off that disguise.

The lesson - Paying for professional help can pay off.

My friends have tried it all: wigs, beards, makeup, eye stretching, fat suits, and even dressing up as Santa Claus. Some worked, most did not. Everyone I know eventually gave up on the disguises, even the ones that worked well, because they are just too much hassle. You spend an hour or more applying this disguise, and then go out and sometimes only get to play for 20 minutes. The makeup runs, the tint gets on your hands, and then on the chips. You can't rub your face or scratch your nose without fearing that you smeared something. Eventually everyone gets sick of it. So what's a player to do? I'll talk about that in part 2. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Brad Fredella.

The guest this week is Brad Fredella, Manager of Gaming Analytics for United Coin Machine Company and the Gamblers Bonus group of properties.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gambling With an Edge - guest Anthony Curtis

Our guest this week is Anthony Curtis, owner of The Las Vegas Advisor and Huntington Press publishing.  We discuss the new legal online poker in Nevada,  and a young player who asks if he should turn pro. 
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