Black action: High-limit room vs. the main floor; busy vs. slow

High limit room vs the main floor

I have mixed feelings about when and where is best to play heavy green chips to medium black chips. I have faced the following situations :

  1. Medium-busy floor or high-limit room (“HL”) where you can play with only one or two other players and blend in with other black chip or bigger players. To me this is ideal but often high-limit is no mid-entry, so medium-busy floor taking black action with the ability to wong in and wong out is the best.
  2. Busy HL room with full tables. You can blend in, but playing conditions are less than ideal.
  3. Busy floor but little black action and where you are the biggest player at the table. Obviously not good. I find myself playing this too much. "Why aren't you in the high-limit room?"
  4. Sparsely populated high-limit room with high pit critter to player ratio. Good conditions, but many eyes on your play. I will play this but am uncomfortable and often weaken my bet spread to avoid heat.
  5. A small casino where you are one of the only or the only big player. I have often found myself in this situation. You find this great game but stick out like a sore thumb with "black action" and "checks play" called every few hands, even just parlaying a bet from $100 to $200. You either play small, which is not worth the trip, or weaken your spread which similarly is not worth the trip.

I could hammer away at #5, I suppose -- spread like a maniac and pound away at table max until sprinting out or being pushed out the door. It’s just not my style or comfort level.

If I limit myself to #1, then I am only able to play big stores during off-peak hours -- maybe weeknights and weekend day shifts.

Unfortunately, I have encountered #3 and #4 on the same night. Crazy-busy floor and empty HL room with four or five staring faces as you walk in. If all you care about is good playing condition and heat-be-damned, then #4 is your choice. This is the place where the Oscar winners shine. I hope to join this guild someday.

The situations presented apply to many casinos that I have observed on different shifts. This is over the last several months as a recreational card counter. I agree to avoid the floor with too much black action. There are some upper-end Las Vegas Strip places that have decent black action on the floor at times. A busy floor where black is present or a decently populated HL room are my favorites. Alternatively, when you are one of only two or three players in a HL room, you know eyes are on you. Your spread is naked even with cover and you have to be Houdini to rathole and not be noticed. These thoughts are what make me keep down my spread. I try to only play in HL rooms that have good games so a power spread is not necessary to extract decent EV. For example, 1-12 spread at a good six decker or 1-8 on a good double deck. I don't see how you could get away with a stronger spread unless you hit and run. Since I try to preserve the ability to return, hit and run really isn't an option. This is what’s worked for me so far but I am willing to entertain other opinions.

Emerald: I hate high-limit rooms. There will always be more people watching your play (pit, surveillance, etc.) in a HL room. In the vast majority of cases, wonging a HL room is a bad idea, even if they don't have the no-mid-entry rule. HL is usually a small, confined space. They lack the crowds that would allow you to blend in, and you'll annoy some high rollers by loitering around and/or jumping into their shoe. If the casino values the high rollers, you don't want the attention associated with annoying them.

There are situations where HL rooms are a necessary evil (limits too low on the main floor, unplayable rule sets on the main floor, etc). However, if given a choice, I'm going to play the main floor, even if I have to deal with a few random "Why aren't you in the HL room?" comments.

Notime: Should your "act" be any different in a HL room as opposed to on the floor? Yes -- I see people dressed to the nines in some HL rooms, but also some unshaven guy in sweats who looks like he just went outside to walk his dog. I agree that table hopping in HL is limited as there is little crowd for cover. One guy wandered in behind my table and the floorperson chased him out saying he couldn't just linger and watch. Definitely, more attention is paid in the HL setting.

Bull Rider: I would play the main floor first, then maybe the HL room. I suggest starting a session with a no-negative action shoe -- either wong in or spread from nowhere depending on conditions. If you are not well known at the place, you could usually back count your first shoe without drawing attention. When you finish a high-expectation shoe, you can go to a higher-limit table on the main floor or the high-limit room (assuming it's not time to leave). After a big shoe, you would probably want to come off the top with a stronger bet and tighten your bet spread anyway.

BoSox: My observations on the five situations:

  1. I would be careful if I were you, wonging in and out on the floor, playing black. It is sure to get you noticed. You should play in very short sessions.
  2. Do not play in crowded conditions, it’s bad for EV. Find another casino.
  3. Check out the high-limit room -- otherwise, find another casino.
  4. Short sessions. You say you weaken your spread to avoid heat. Weaken it to what? When done with a session, do not go and play out on the floor in the same house, as surveillance will follow you from the HL room.
  5. Do not try to win big money in a small, sweaty casino unless you want to go there only once. Play somewhere else.

How well do you know the casino, or for that matter, all the casinos where you are playing? What level of bets is acceptable (blending in) in their house? The best way of knowing this is by walking around and observing what other players are wagering. Is there dealer discretion on penetration?

How important is this casino to you? Some players couldn’t care less whether they are asked to leave or not because they don’t like the current house policies. They are forgetting the fact that policies change all the time, for many reasons, such as a change in top personnel, more competition, added promotions, and invited-guest events.

In the high limit rooms, short sessions are usually called for. Use some ingenuity to get an extra chip or two out there when needed.

Originally published on Green Chip, edited for this format.


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