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Thread: The rollercoaster that is professional card counting.

  1. #1
    So some of you may remember back in September when I shared that I dad hit the million dollar milestone (year15) as far as blackjack results. A day or two after that was my last all-time high (ATH), as the following week, I experienced my work week of my blackjack career dropping 29k, including not one but two, five figure losing days (which are rare for me) in the same week. You might remember some of the goofy comments about how I should used some sort of 'stop limit' (voodoo concept).

    So anyway, I spent the last almost 4 months bouncing around between 20-30k below that last ATH. So a pretty nice little run over the past couple week and I am once again at a new ATH.

    I post this only to show the kind of elongated swings and down periods that card counters playing with such a small edge and huge variance deal with regularly.

    This period, just short of 4 months between ATH's, was actually fairly mild. I have had 4 different period that lasted 6 months and probably another 4 or 5 that have lasted at least this long (4 months). These periods usually result in a big loss and slow climb back, as this one did. The point is a blackjack card counter must be properly bankrolled and able to handle these elongated swings....because they will occur.

  2. #2
    "The point is a blackjack card counter must be properly bankrolled and able to handle these elongated swings....because they will occur. "

    For some of the beginners out there who are playing while building a bankroll, risk of ruin formulas are meant for 100% reinvestment of all winnings. Unless you have other sources of replinishing your bank, your risk will go through the roof if you are drawing from the bank on a regular basis. More than likely you will end up broke. Successful players who are moving up in levels of betting, play to a low ROR . Not only for perservation of capital but also to help avoid having to go back and forth downsizing which is not a plesant experiance.
    Last edited by BoSox; 02-07-2019 at 06:19 AM.

  3. #3
    Question: Could it be the 2? I know nothing about the shoe game. But, from what I've read, KJ does a better job than most when it comes to reducing variance. Still, his swings are volatile.

    In a pitch game, the 2 is of little consequence. A deficit played/surplus remaining might put a HiLo player into a bet they shouldn't make. A surplus played/deficit remaining could prevent a bet with a very strong deck composition.

    IT appears to me KJ sets the standard for shoes. He knows when to get in and when to get out and has the discipline to do so. Easier said than done. He counts two tables at the same time which ultimately reduces variance and increases his position of power.

  4. #4
    Originally Posted by Moses View Post
    But, from what I've read, KJ does a better job than most when it comes to reducing variance.
    Actually I don't do a good job at reducing variance....not at this point of my career. (I'll get to that in a second).

    Early on, when I was starting out, playing very underfunded and building my BR, I did something that really reduced variance. I did it by accident. And what it was, was I played lousy games, the lousy mediocre penetration games of Atlantic City.

    Playing such games is going to result in a low win rate, but it is also going to reduce variance, in that you will see fewer really high counts, max bets counts, where if you happen to lose a bunch of them in a row, will devastate a small BR. Instead you will see more small, moderate high counts. Not max bet counts, but counts that you only have a moderately higher bet out. The result is the win rate will be small, which is why it took me so long to build my BR, but on the positive side, the variance will be less, especially those severe negative swings. Like I said, I didn't plan for any of that....just stumbled into it by circumstance.

    Now back to the present. Now that I have built a decent bankroll, which has been the case for a while now, reducing variance is not top priority. Top priority is longevity. I want to continue to play for a while, unlike many professional card counter's who are done after 5 years (some less), unable to play. So I do things designed to increase longevity. And the cost of that is usually either slightly less win rate or increased variance. The trick is to find a balance.

    I'll give an example of one thing in particular. Multiple bet spreads and ramps. At different casinos I use different spread and ramps on basically the same game, based on what I have determined is a tolerance level for that circumstance. This will play havoc with variance, but greatly increase longevity. Also recently I talked about something else, sort of related that I do (and it was the only time I have ever mentioned it) that sends variance through the roof, but is tremendous cover. Duel spread and ramps. That is all I am going to say. Not going to go into detail again. You can afford to make these kind of decisions if properly bankrolled. But the result will be a little more extreme variance.

    I don't know, maybe because I now play a style that "invites" a little more variance, it is not right that I talk about such swings when they occur. But I have always tried to share my journey, plus there is a little bit of self soothing venting that occurs. Even though you understand an extended negative period and even play a style that "invited" it, it still helps to vent a little when you are down for months at a time.

  5. #5
    Originally Posted by kewlJ View Post
    The point is a blackjack card counter must be properly bankrolled and able to handle these elongated swings....because they will occur.
    This post almost seems directed at me. I`m sure just by coincidence though, because you`ve always been really helpful and nice to me so I can`t see you doing that. Anyway, I emailed you at blackjackinfo the same day you made this post that`s why I said that. You probably just haven`t seen it yet. The title of the email is about how I`ve been on a sick downswing, but really the point of the email was asking you your opinion on my idea of tweaking a specific element of my game because of that.

    One thing I`ve learned since starting to count cards is, you can look at the sims/numbers/stats/whatever and see how bad your scenario can get. However, when you`re in that situation, there`s nothing that can prepare you for being in that situation and getting absolutely decimated in short order. To quote Mike Tyson (not something I do often, but it`s appropriate): "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face". I think this sums up a horrific downswing nicely. You can have a plan that looks really good on paper, but when things go really south, it makes you analyze what you`re doing and start thinking if there`s anyway you can do to improve your approach. As for my situation, I don`t have to resize or anything thankfully, but I`m looking to make other improvements. This isn`t my first downswing or anything like that, but this one really shook me. That could be an interesting topic of discussion for KJ, Moses, BoSox, or any of the other counters on this site: have you ever had a downswing so terrible that it made you take a break to analyze your strategies? Keep in mind I`ve been tweaking my strategies constantly ever since I started playing, however in this instance it made me literally stop playing before moving forward.

  6. #6
    No splitface, not directed at you. I wouldn't do that. If you ask me something privately, I will answer in private. I just haven't yet seen your pm. I will get to it when I get home.

  7. #7
    I'll be honest.

    The thing I hate about blackjack is that you can never play long enough to smooth out the variance.

    You can get destroyed at the beginning of a session, and you know you're never coming close to breaking even, and in fact it will take a number of future sessions at average luck to get back to even.

    It's soul crushing.
    Check out my poker forum, and weekly internet radio show at http://pokerfraudalert.com

  8. #8
    SplitFaceDisaster wrote:


    "As for my situation, I don`t have to resize or anything thankfully,"


    That is very good, goes to show that you have strong money management skills. I know I had to resize a few times early on.


    "This isn`t my first downswing or anything like that, but this one really shook me. That could be an interesting topic of discussion for KJ, Moses, BoSox, or any of the other counters on this site: have you ever had a downswing so terrible that it made you take a break to analyze your strategies? Keep in mind I`ve been tweaking my strategies constantly ever since I started playing, however in this instance it made me literally stop playing before moving forward."


    Your above quote really hits home, and I do not think it is unusual in any way to feel like that, and I have a theory "at least for me" on why that is the case. Speaking for myself "and that is not exactly right as I am married" the different levels of play that I wager at do not by any means match how I live my conserative lifestyle. I do not think I ever really got used to living two completely different ways. Over the years many times I would ask myself what the fuck am I doing, and take a break from playing. Everything always seems to work itself out, but the pitfalls along the way is a real tough road to follow as it takes a little bit out of us each time. When one day I decide to stop playing, I will actually get some sort of relief just to be living like most normal people. What we now go through I would not call a normal simple life.
    Last edited by BoSox; 02-08-2019 at 07:31 PM.

  9. #9
    Originally Posted by Dan Druff View Post
    I'll be honest.

    The thing I hate about blackjack is that you can never play long enough to smooth out the variance.

    You can get destroyed at the beginning of a session, and you know you're never coming close to breaking even, and in fact it will take a number of future sessions at average luck to get back to even.

    It's soul crushing.
    There is some voodoo-ism in your statement Dan Druff. I expected a little more from you. Your post sounds like something Alan would say.

    I don't play poker Dan, so I can't make a comparison to that, but we both play VP (although I am getting a way from it). So in VP, you can have that same "get destroyed" early on. But you know if you keep playing, you will hit some big hands and eventually a royal or two and results will come in line with expectation. It is long-term thinking. Same with Blackjack. Why would you even make that kind of silly Mendelson-like statement?

    Almost anything in the casino, short term results can reak havoc.

  10. #10
    I was surprised to see that from Dan also. But not for the same reason as Kewl. What Dan said is what the casual recreational gambler feels. There is no long term and there is no certainty of getting even other than hitting a big hand when you go to the casino a few times a year or even every month for a few hours.

    And by the way, Alan is not here anymore so can we refrain from comments that are negative to him. I said the same thing a while back when Rob was not here.

  11. #11
    Originally Posted by regnis View Post
    And by the way, Alan is not here anymore so can we refrain from comments that are negative to him. I said the same thing a while back when Rob was not here.
    Fair enough. I really didn't mean it as an attack on Alan. I just have never encountered a casino player, AP, or not that only considers the short-term like Alan does, that is why I brought it up. It was quite shocking to me, to see someone like Dan Druff seem to take a similar position.

    Perhaps, Dan just chose some odd terminology and didn't mean it the way I am thinking he did.

  12. #12
    Originally Posted by SplitFaceDisaster View Post

    One thing I`ve learned since starting to count cards is, you can look at the sims/numbers/stats/whatever and see how bad your scenario can get. However, when you`re in that situation, there`s nothing that can prepare you for being in that situation and getting absolutely decimated in short order. To quote Mike Tyson (not something I do often, but it`s appropriate): "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face". I think this sums up a horrific downswing nicely. You can have a plan that looks really good on paper, but when things go really south, it makes you analyze what you`re doing and start thinking if there`s anyway you can do to improve your approach. As for my situation, I don`t have to resize or anything thankfully, but I`m looking to make other improvements. This isn`t my first downswing or anything like that, but this one really shook me. That could be an interesting topic of discussion for KJ, Moses, BoSox, or any of the other counters on this site: have you ever had a downswing so terrible that it made you take a break to analyze your strategies?
    Ok, I did answer your Pm on the other forum, but since you also posted some of it here and Bosox has responded, I will add a little something here to. As to the line I made bold. Yes, there is something that can prepare you, but unfortunately it isn't the sims, or reading about the possibility of such downswings, it is actually going through a few and coming out the other side. Easier said than done, I know. But it really is something you have to experience a few times.

    But, while the sims, the reading about such swings in books and online, and even reading about other players going through such swings, doesn't completely prepare you for it, it helps. Knowledge is powerful things. And in particular other players, on these forums, that you sort of get to know, even if you haven't met them....reading their experiences in this area, as they go through these experiences, in particular is valuable. I think that is one of the most valuable things of the card counting/AP communities and forums. Players sharing their experiences for the benefit of one another. That has always been my draw.

    Unfortunately it has also been my undoing, as I get very upset, when here are frauds or phony members making unrealistic claims that mislead other players. I take that sort of personally. Maybe harder than I should, but I just think we (legitimate players) have a responsibility to call out that BS. And it has gotten me into trouble a bit.

  13. #13
    Originally Posted by kewlJ View Post
    No splitface, not directed at you. I wouldn't do that. If you ask me something privately, I will answer in private. I just haven't yet seen your pm. I will get to it when I get home.
    Yeah, I figured the timing had to be a coincidence and you wouldn`t do something like that. As I said, you`ve always been very helpful to me and I really appreciate that. I thought I`d comment on the thread since the subject matter was similar to what I`ve been going through also.

  14. #14
    Originally Posted by BoSox View Post
    SplitFaceDisaster wrote:


    "As for my situation, I don`t have to resize or anything thankfully,"


    That is very good, goes to show that you have strong money management skills. I know I had to resize a few times early on.


    "This isn`t my first downswing or anything like that, but this one really shook me. That could be an interesting topic of discussion for KJ, Moses, BoSox, or any of the other counters on this site: have you ever had a downswing so terrible that it made you take a break to analyze your strategies? Keep in mind I`ve been tweaking my strategies constantly ever since I started playing, however in this instance it made me literally stop playing before moving forward."


    Your above quote really hits home, and I do not think it is unusual in any way to feel like that, and I have a theory "at least for me" on why that is the case. Speaking for myself "and that is not exactly right as I am married" the different levels of play that I wager at do not by any means match how I live my conserative lifestyle. I do not think I ever really got used to living two completely different ways. Over the years many times I would ask myself what the fuck am I doing, and take a break from playing. Everything always seems to work itself out, but the pitfalls along the way is a real tough road to follow as it takes a little bit out of us each time. When one day I decide to stop playing, I will actually get some sort of relief just to be living like most normal people. What we now go through I would not call a normal simple life.
    Thanks for weighing in. I have a very similar personality in that financially I`ve always been pretty frugal in general. I knew I wouldn`t get used to it overnight due to that and the volatility in general, but it`s still been way more of a struggle than I thought it would be! As you alluded to, when a downswing is really bad it takes something out of you that`s really unlike anything else. Usually with any other activity, your results follow pretty closely to how much work you`ve put into it. The cards don`t care how much time you`ve put in and how well you execute though, they`re gonna fall how they`re gonna fall. You`ll get ahead with it eventually, it`s just not going to be predictable or go the way you think it will. I have an even higher respect now for professional counters that are able to make it work year in and year out.

  15. #15
    Originally Posted by kewlJ View Post
    Originally Posted by SplitFaceDisaster View Post

    One thing I`ve learned since starting to count cards is, you can look at the sims/numbers/stats/whatever and see how bad your scenario can get. However, when you`re in that situation, there`s nothing that can prepare you for being in that situation and getting absolutely decimated in short order. To quote Mike Tyson (not something I do often, but it`s appropriate): "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face". I think this sums up a horrific downswing nicely. You can have a plan that looks really good on paper, but when things go really south, it makes you analyze what you`re doing and start thinking if there`s anyway you can do to improve your approach. As for my situation, I don`t have to resize or anything thankfully, but I`m looking to make other improvements. This isn`t my first downswing or anything like that, but this one really shook me. That could be an interesting topic of discussion for KJ, Moses, BoSox, or any of the other counters on this site: have you ever had a downswing so terrible that it made you take a break to analyze your strategies?
    Ok, I did answer your Pm on the other forum, but since you also posted some of it here and Bosox has responded, I will add a little something here to. As to the line I made bold. Yes, there is something that can prepare you, but unfortunately it isn't the sims, or reading about the possibility of such downswings, it is actually going through a few and coming out the other side. Easier said than done, I know. But it really is something you have to experience a few times.

    But, while the sims, the reading about such swings in books and online, and even reading about other players going through such swings, doesn't completely prepare you for it, it helps. Knowledge is powerful things. And in particular other players, on these forums, that you sort of get to know, even if you haven't met them....reading their experiences in this area, as they go through these experiences, in particular is valuable. I think that is one of the most valuable things of the card counting/AP communities and forums. Players sharing their experiences for the benefit of one another. That has always been my draw.

    Unfortunately it has also been my undoing, as I get very upset, when here are frauds or phony members making unrealistic claims that mislead other players. I take that sort of personally. Maybe harder than I should, but I just think we (legitimate players) have a responsibility to call out that BS. And it has gotten me into trouble a bit.
    Yeah, going through it a few times will surely help, along with interacting with others. That week you described recently is just pretty jarring to even hear about; I can`t imagine something like that. I`ve been through some swings so far that seemed pretty big for my level of play... Nothing like this one though, and it`s only a -2 SD swing. I can`t even imagine how bad a -3 SD swing would be!

  16. #16
    If you’re gonna sim something, don’t look (only) at the hourly data. Extrapolate and look at 50, 100, 500, and/or 2,000 hours of possible results. You also (obviously) want to look at the hourly stuff, too. Good to have both perspectives because your play is in the short term but your results are in the long term.
    #FreeTyde

  17. #17
    Originally Posted by RS__ View Post
    If you’re gonna sim something, don’t look (only) at the hourly data. Extrapolate and look at 50, 100, 500, and/or 2,000 hours of possible results. You also (obviously) want to look at the hourly stuff, too. Good to have both perspectives because your play is in the short term but your results are in the long term.
    Very true. I do look at both and have pretty much simmed all of it to death at this point. Unless you have a massive bankroll, with the blackjack game conditions of today I think you have to have kind of a "glass half-full" perspective while also being conservatively realistic about what can be done. When you look at the n-zero figures they`re pretty daunting.

  18. #18
    What percentage of your play is shoes vs Doubles? RS, it's possible to figure win rate by multiple hours? I never thought of that. How would you do it on CV Data? That probably would've saved me a lot of work.
    Last edited by Moses; 02-09-2019 at 10:05 AM.

  19. #19
    Originally Posted by Moses View Post
    What percentage of your play is shoes vs Doubles? RS, it's possible to figure win rate by multiple hours? I never thought of that. How would you do it on CV Data? That probably would've saved me a lot of work.
    I don't play BJ anymore. But I played mostly double deck. Occasionally I'd do some back-counting on the strip....but that's hardly worth it, when you include parking, walking in, etc. and on top of it all, it's still more work for less EV.

    Not sure what you mean by win rate for multiple hours. EV is linear/additive, so you just multiply 1 hour of EV times the number of hours you're gonna play, and voila! If you're talking about variance, then the Std. Dev. is going to be:

    ((1_hour_SD^2) * hours)^0.5


    This is, of course, how N0 is calculated, since EV outpaces SD the more hours you put in, while EV remains linear.


    A real life example (with easy numbers, too) -- Say you have $100/hr in EV and 1_hour SD is $1k. That means after 10 years at 1,000 hours a year....


    SD = (1,000,000 * 10,000)^0.5 = $100,000.
    EV = 10,000 * $100 = $1,000,000.

    EV +/- 1_SD = $900,000 to $1,100,000.
    EV +/- 2_SD = $800,000 to $1,200,000.
    #FreeTyde

  20. #20
    Originally Posted by Moses View Post
    What percentage of your play is shoes vs Doubles? RS, it's possible to figure win rate by multiple hours? I never thought of that. How would you do it on CV Data? That probably would've saved me a lot of work.
    I don`t really ever play DD. After seeing the volatile swings I have, I`m starting to realize more and more why some players just refuse to play shoe games though. That said, you have to be really careful where/how you play DD in Vegas if you don`t want to get flyered.

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