THE KITCHEN TABLE
My first experience with blackjack was around the card table at my cousin’s house growing up. We would play cards after dinner when our families would get together. The house rules were that after each game, the deal would shift to the next person at the table and the dealer would choose the game. I am trying to remember the multitude of games played…guts (3 and 4 card), 5 card poker, night baseball, Acey-Deucey, some weird game my aunt made up called “Rouget” (she mispronounced roulette when naming the game) and finally, blackjack. Now, at the tender age of 13, and with nobody else knowing basic strategy, I cannot even imagine how horrific the plays we all made were but…I remember it being fun.
HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY
My first casino blackjack experience, that would have been Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on my 21st birthday. I went there with two friends of mine with a bankroll of $30 (yup, $30) and thought I knew how to play ( I probably knew to stay on 12—16 versus a 12-16) and stay on 17 or higher. Other than that, not much else. I remember playing at a $3 minimum table, lasting about an hour before losing it all. We had lunch then drove home to NY.
It was not until many moons after my 21st birthday that I ventured back into a casino based upon a dream. I was living in San Diego at the time and had a dream that I won $1,000 at Caesars Palace. The song playing in the background of this dream was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. So, I woke up the next morning, poured myself a bowl of cereal, and turned on the television. Apparently, the last channel I had on was VH1 the night before. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the video for “In the Air Tonight” illuminated the screen upon turning the tv on. Well, I took this as a sign and decided to drive through the desert to Vegas, no reservations, having never been there before. Five hours later, I was parked at Caesars and ventured into the casino. I had a bankroll of $1k and proceeded to play at a $5 table. After a few hours I was up about $300 and I was ecstatic. I got a written comp from a pit boss for the buffet and went exploring the city on a full belly. After dinner, I sat down at a $25 table, proud of myself for winning $300. Moments later, Lou Diamond Phillips sits down with a beautiful blonde and begins playing, very friendly guy. A strange thing occurred moments later when an elderly Asian woman came by the table and Lou and the blonde both turn to her and say “Hi mom!” To this day I have no idea who the lady was….
It was getting close to 11pm at this point and I had nowhere to stay so I went out to the parking garage and decided I would lock the doors, recline my seat, and take a nap. Well, 6 hours later, I was as refreshed as I could be and went back into the casino to use the facilities and freshen up. Of course, not having planned anything in advance, I had not even a change of clothes. I then hit the tables again and was up another $250 after a few more hours. By now, I had secured another paper comp for sustenance. Being up $500 felt like winning the lottery to me…little did I know I would then increase my fortune. While Evander Holyfield played at the table next to me at $5k per hand, 3 hands at a time, I started playing at a $100 table…where I was quickly up for the trip in the amount of $1200. Having believed that my dream was coming true, I decided to bet more and more…and, within moments, I had lost the $1200 plus the $1000 I had brought with me. I broke down, literally crying in the casino…venturing to find a payphone to call my parents to ask what in the world I should do. They were sympathetic and suggested I ask the pit boss for a room and drive home the next day. I did just that and was granted a comped room. This cheered me up but I felt lower than low. I did not gamble again until about 8 years later when my parents decided to go to Las Vegas. A few trips with the family and friends to Vegas over the years followed, wherein I would bet $5 to $25 minimums.
Lo and behold, about 4 years ago, I received an offer from Caesars AC inviting me to come down for the weekend and enjoy a complimentary room and $200 in free play. I was not sure about going but I decided that this time around, I would attempt to learn a counting system. Enter Speed Count.
That weekend, I began playing $100minimum and never looked back. I liked that playing black chips meant that 10 chips equaled $1k and was easy to keep track of the chips. I liked the simplicity of breaking things down by 10 and never looked back. I began playing about 7pm on Friday night and by 9am the next morning, with barely a break for dinner and Red Bulls a’plenty, I had used Speed Count to bring me to +$10k.
However, it was then that confidence became cockiness and I stopped Speed Counting and instead attempted to act like a high roller, betting from $500 to $1k at a clip. Needless to say, my newfound fortune was gone…I had just enough sense to walk away that weekend +$1k instead of giving it all back.
From there, the offers began pouring in to have me back.
WHY I PLAY BLACKJACK
I think I chose to learn about the game of blackjack because of its seeming simplicity…beat the dealer without busting and you are good to go. No fuss no muss. Craps always seemed complicated with all the bets on the table and I had always saw roulette as a carnival game. Slots never appealed to me as it seemed to have no interaction—no decision-making. Blackjack, to me, seemed the perfect mix of social interaction and simplicity.
However, what keeps me at the black chip level is something I speak about with friends of mine who gamble as well, the feeling of the ‘sting’. Basically, we all play at a level where we will feel the ‘sting’ of a loss. I have friends who play at a $10 level and those who play at a $100 level. However, the common denominator is that, if the $10 player played at a $1 table, he would not feel the adrenaline rush like he does at the $10 table. However, if the $10 player played at a $100 table, he would not have the ability to last into any negative variance and his level of excitement and/or fun would suffer. As such, the black chip level is my ‘sting’ level where the adrenaline kicks in as well as the excitement/fun.