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, 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.
click to listen - alt click to download

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.
Click to listen Alt click to download

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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