I'm relatively new to card counting and its strategies. The question that I have is: Would it look “suspicious” to back count one table when I first arrive at a casino, and if the count gets to my wong in point I play -- if I don't play, I go to a different table and sit down at a new shoe and place a two-unit bet off the top? Then repeat the process of back counting one table -- if the wong in happens or it doesn't, I go to a new shoe and play there. Could I get away with back counting two tables for every one time I play from the start of a new shoe? I'm just wondering how much of this back counting in general and sitting down to play a shoe from the beginning I could get away with nowadays. Is there a better strategy?
21forme: Depends where, how long you linger, and how obvious you are. In my experience, casino personnel in Las Vegas are pretty attuned to back counters, so I never "loiter" more than a few rounds. What I find works well in some casinos, dependent on table placement and seats available, is to play one table and back count the adjacent table at the same time. Then just pick up and move, if conditions warrant it. Just grab your chips and move -- no need to explain or justify moving to anyone. Regular chump gamblers don't, so you shouldn't.
bigplayer: Approximately 20% of shoes go substantially positive. You don't have to wait for a 1% edge to wong in. If you just enter when the running count has risen enough to create a break-even type game, your chance of a substantially positive shoe almost doubles and your chance of a substantially negative shoe is cut by 50%. Rather than having a count distribution that looks like 20% plus, 60% neutral, 20% minus, you'll wind up with something that looks like 40% plus, 40% neutral, 10% slightly minus, and 10% minus.
If you're using a big bet spread type approach with wong-outs, play-all doesn't really cost you much in terms of EV drain. What it costs is time and opportunity cost. You can double the number of positive shoes you get per hour played by simply refusing to sit through negative counts (and I don't mean just going to the restroom, but actually moving to a fresh shuffle). Also, the more you table hop, the more polite your spread can be. Your “inner voice” will tell you when you're being too much of a jerk about it.
McBain: What you describe is visually indistinguishable from what people do all the time -- stare for a while, then walk off. Or walk from somewhere else and jump in for a few hands, then leave. But will it arouse suspicion? Not likely -- be sure not to look like you are concentrating, and be ready to make small talk with people. It is okay to appear like you are trying to figure out if the “flow of the cards” is good or not, a common ploppy strategy.
Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.