Thursday, July 29, 2004

So, as I was saying, my coworkers and I go to Reno for some gambling about twice a year. I looooove gambling.

Mostly I love blackjack. (Not as much as I love you, wife. Wife you're #1, blackjack is #2.) Getting a table packed with my coworkers with a fun dealer at the helm is always a blast (Oh, crap, I love my daughter too. Ok, wife and daughter, you guys are tied for #1, then blackjack is #3. Yeah. I'll deal with the rest of the extended family when they eventually find this blog.)

Blackjack is the only game in the casino where you can play against the house and have the odds in your favor. This requires keeping track of the high and low cards that go by and betting accordingly. There are more complicated counting schemes that are a bit more lucrative, but Rainman I'm not (despite my alleged inability to relate normally to humans).

I've been counting cards for about a decade and in that time I've probably lost a bit more than I've won. I'm not an expert at counting cards and if I'm with a bunch of friends, sometimes I just don't bother. Of course, the bottomless alcoholic drinks that the cocktail waitresses force down my throat don't help either. There ought to be a law.

The casinos, however, frown upon this whole counting business. They rudely consider it to be cheating and in less civilized times they'd punish your kneecaps.

One time, about 3 years ago, I was at the Peppermill casino by myself, my favorite place to play, doing my thing. I try not to be too obvious when I'm counting the cards. I keep up a little chatter during the game and I do my damndest not to move my lips as I count. Generally I only play at $3 or $5 tables, so I'm clearly not much of a financial threat to the casino.

I won about $50 at one table and then when the count went bad, I left the table to play some craps. Almost immediately I felt a tap on my shoulder and a pit-bossy looking man gestured for me to come speak to him. I instinctively clutched my kneecaps and waddled over. "Sir," he said, "Please stop playing blackjack here at the Peppermill. You may continue to play other games, eat in our restaurants, and stay at our hotel, but you may not play blackjack."

I was stunned. "Why?" I asked, being a coy and panicked little devil. "Well," he replied, "You're just too good of a player." And he gave me a cheesy little half smile.

"For how long?" I asked.

"For life," he ominously replied, still smiling.

That was it. He walked away. After years of patronizing the Peppermill, I had been banned from my favorite game FOR LIFE. They must have seen how I was varying my bets according to the count and pegged me as a counter. Or perhaps my lips were moving. Either way, this was pretty absurd considering that although I was up $50 that evening, I was probably down about $1000 in that casino over all my visits throughout the years. I've never stepped foot in the Peppermill since then.

I've since modified my counting technique a bit to be less obvious and am now playing at other casinos. I'm also winning a bit more than I'm losing, which is a nice change. I still can't believe that I've been banned from a casino though. It just doesn't seem like the sort of thing that should happen to me. Dammit Jim, I'm a boob, not a major casino financial threat!

So last night at the casino I tried something new. I made some sports bets. Since I've been playing fantasy baseball for a couple years, I've become pretty knowledgeable about baseball, so I thought I'd try my hand at making some sports book bets. Years ago, after I read a couple books on blackjack and card counting, I wrote a computer program to run a million hands using a realistic version of my counting system to see if it would really be profitable. The simulation indicated that it would indeed be SLIGHTLY profitable. Now, with even less data about sports betting, I'm fairly convinced that I can make money off of baseball. I am the reason that casinos continue to exist. You know what they say, those who don't learn from history are doomed to make hair-brained schemes about sports bets.

Let the record show, however, that this isn't a totally absurd thing to do with my money. I'm even worse at the stock market than I am with gambling. I'm a money sieve.

Considering that Aaron Gleeman, who knows 10 times what I know about baseball, consistently loses money on his virtual bets, it's idiotic to think that I can be successful at this. Unfortunately, I won all 3 of my bets and I would have won 3 more had I gotten to the sports book before those games began. I'm emboldened by my statistically insignificant 6 for 6 track record.

I'm not a religious man, but let's pray that I don't figure out how to make sports bets online. (Is it even legal? Does anyone know?).


nomax said...

> ... let's pray that I don't figure out how to make
> sports bets online. (Is it even legal? Does anyone
> know?).

I believe it is illegal in the USA under the Wire Act.

Conclusions by the couts support this:

"...The district court concluded that the Wire Act concerns gambling on sporting events or contests..."

I found this whilst researching whether online poker games are legal (they probably are, but this is
untested in court).

Commentary on this at:

Looks like you'll need to move to Reno!

Mike said...

Thanks, Max! You have officially saved my bank account.... for now.