Blackjack hobbyist in Las Vegas
Question: To the occasional Las Vegas visiting card counter -- Is there a reason for polite bet spreads or should I just bomb away? There have been a number of discussions on Green Chip about Las Vegas backoffs despite "polite" spreads. Many of us make only occasional trips to Las Vegas, quarterly or less.
Hodger: I play my own style, though many will criticize it. I go to Las Vegas usually twice per year for 4-5 days. I play every game in town and mostly $50 and $100 minimum double-deck games, though I will also hit the locals’ casinos and downtown stores. I will not play a double-deck game without at least a 1-10 spread. If I am playing $25 games, I usually play $50-800. My max bet is usually less than $1000 but not much less (say $950).
I usually get one or two backoffs per trip, but I get in a lot of hours. I never play with a player’s card. The comps are not worth it to me. I will play two-hour sessions or so. I never play shoe games. I have done this approach for years, and keep playing. I never get backed off in less than thirty minutes. I play for the money, but also have fun and don't sweat the backoffs. I try to play/drink like a tourist with wild bets, rainbow bets, and some tipping (not much). For me, the fun of playing is nearly as important as my winnings. There are a lot of different double-deck games to play. I was backed off three times in 18 months from one casino, but I have not been backed off there in two years since. Times change, employees change. My record is four backoffs from one locals’ casino, known for its sweatiness, over a seven-year period.
Of course, “your mileage may vary.” I play for fun and have been able to average well into five figures per year and treat this as primarily a hobby. I try to maximize my enjoyment first and EV second. I would rather play in games where I can sit down and play for a couple of hours instead of scouting shoe games. The EV may be higher for a shoe game, but honestly I would probably have a higher EV by staying home and working at my main business, than traveling to play blackjack. I am certainly not a full-time AP.
I think you find what works for you -- seek some advice here, but realize advice is just advice. Unless Don Schlesinger is giving you a mathematical answer to how to play, everything is just advice -- sort of like what to wear for a dinner party. I think many non-pros forget to figure in the enjoyment factor. It is a reason that I tip slightly when I play. I enjoy having a nice, friendly game. Of course, tipping is negative EV, which is why so many pros eschew it entirely. But so is tipping at a restaurant, donating to charity (after tax writeoff), and many other things in life. I treat blackjack like life and try to maximize my utility function of enjoyment. If I never tipped, I am sure I could have another $1-2k in EV each year but I view that as not worth it.
Now if I had to play for a living, then I may think differently. Blackjack for me never amounts to much either way in terms of income. I do enjoy playing though! I tend to get in around 700 hours a year between Seattle, Reno, Las Vegas and a few California trips to the San Diego area.
Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.