Insider Chronicles – A Year In Review

Goodbye 2020!

It’s a new year, of course, but more personally, it’s almost my birthday. Being that it falls just three weeks after New Year’s, I’ve always used my birthday as more of a starting/ending point for my year. Since it’s that time of year again, I thought I’d share with my small corner of the internet, a look at my year in review. So, its time for another peek behind the curtain into my personal and professional life, or as I’ve come to call it: The Insider Chronicles.

Keep in mind, nearly eight of this year’s twelve months saw me all but completely removed from casino life. So, this may be a fair bit more personal than professional, but hey, it’s my website, right? And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find what I went through relatable.

As I’m sure is the case for most people, 2020 was a year of unexpected events. Some of these events were tumultuous. Some were wonderful. A few I even created in my own head because, well, I had eight months off with my thoughts.

2020 For Me

The headline for my personal 2020 was family. For better or worse, family played a huge part in my year. The better of that was getting some quality time with my twelve-year-old son. There was a lot of time that I wouldn’t normally have gotten to have. It was my first full year having full and primary custody, and I spent a large part of it at home with him. After the crummy start to our year that included splitting up with his stepmom, changing his school, and moving to a new house, getting that quality time was wonderful!

Professionally, things were looking good until about March 16. With a renewed focus on my career, I had my eyes on a promotion. Not to sound presumptuous, but it seemed right within reach, until the sudden stoppage of play. “Delay of game! On the defense!” In hindsight, it might be for the best, as this doesn’t seem like a great time to be the newest person in any position on The Strip.

So began the eight months off. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, so I had a sense of urgency about using this time off to be productive. My son’s mother requested some extra time with him, since the schools closed and went to distance learning, and she lives out of state, so I found myself with a long to-do-list, and some time alone.

In a surprising twist, I actually did use this time to be productive. I finished writing my second book, a project I’d been working on and putting off for over a year. Reading was a big part of my year too. I read more books this year, especially the early stages of the shut down, than any other time in my life. I even started writing a third book (likely doomed to do nothing more than take up space on my hard drive).

In Blackjack

In the blackjack world, I stopped by The Blackjack Bootcamp to talk to some emerging card counters, giving my insight into counting in today’s casinos. This happened shortly after many of the casinos in Las Vegas reopened in June. Around this time, people started asking me the same question over and over again: Since I wasn’t working, was I thinking about getting back into playing blackjack?

My answer… of course I have thought about it. But it had nothing to do with working or not working. Blackjack is a part of me. It’s been top of mind for me for over ten years now. But, alas, I can still say that I have not played since I started writing The Blackjack Insiders.

 I’ve tried hard over the last few years to see what else is out there for me besides being a blackjack player. This year was no different. Rather than play, I’ve been creating. Creating my own content here, new manuscripts, episodes of The Drop Box Podcast, with Willy Allison, while trying to still be a present and involved father, and taking the occasional time to do something for myself.

Speaking of Doing Something For Myself

Doing something for myself this year took the form of traveling. I know, not a good year for travel. But sometimes you just have to do something, you know? Shake things up! So, I did. I took a few weeks to do some traveling, and let me tell you, I’ve never been more nervous for a trip in my life. I’ve also never been so glad I did. My brain, my body, and my soul all needed a press of the reset button, and boy did we get it!

I came back a different person, I feel like. My priorities have realigned. It was the perfect way to cap off a year that saw me focus on my life and my projects outside of work more than I’ve ever been able to before. My goal this year is to create more, here on my small corner of the web, in print elsewhere, on the air with our podcast, and on the shelves of the bookstore (fingers crossed).

I know I’m a “casino guy”, and this review might have been more “guy” than “casino”, but in all fairness, there wasn’t a lot of casino stuff going on this past year for me. And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I needed to be reminded I can be just a guy, without the casino.


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Opening Day Las Vegas Strip Walk

Las Vegas is Open!

After nearly three months, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip opened their doors on June 4th. There’s been much speculation about how different casino operations would be when the time finally came to reopen. My Drop Box cohost Willy Allison and I decided to walk the strip on June 4th, visiting each property that had decided to open its doors between MGM grand and the Strat. We took notes, asked questions, did a few experiments; some real investigative journalism (not). We walked 6.2 miles, and over 17,500 steps to bring you this analysis.

The analysis is not meant to praise any one company or bash any other. It’s meant to share information, so operators out there can see what’s going on in Las Vegas on the Strip. It’s meant to give readers insight into what is working (granted the small sample size). I’m going to talk about casinos that went above and beyond what was expected and needed (to a fault, in some ways), casinos that didn’t do enough, and casinos that seem to have found the right balance. Again, it’s not meant to bash or pander, but to share information. Without further ado:

(Note: all employees at every property were required to wear face masks)

Above and Beyond

Our first few stops on our long walk were MGM Grand and New York New York. What we found here were the most readily accessible face masks for the public. There were stands at all the entrances with boxes of masks customers could grab themselves. The downside of this is the box isn’t controlled, so it’s possible to touch more than one mask while grabbing for your own. Sanitizer was abundantly placed throughout the casino floor, and available on every table. Maybe the most impressive thing about these properties was the several “Hand Washing Stations” found throughout the properties. These are large stands containing four sinks with soap (two on each side), partitioned from each other. The end caps of the stations had self-serve boxes of masks and gloves. To me, these were a real show of investment in safety.

As for the table games, I was interested to find that they were using two sets of dice on each craps table, so one could be cleaned between shooters without slowing the game down. We saw this tactic used by several other casinos as well.

There was a vast showing of the plexiglass shields separating the players from each other, and the players from the dealer. While playing on a table with said shield, guests were not required to wear a mask and were allowed to smoke. On the few tables that did not have the shields, roulette, and craps (craps had small shields between players, but nothing between them and the dealer), guests were required to wear masks and were not allowed to smoke.

If this seems reasonable, I’ll explain why I thought it was overkill. The shields, to me, are ridiculous. They’re big, bulky, expensive, and frankly, it’s just another surface to clean. I envision them becoming petri dishes of germs, and dread when I start to see drunk people and people that think they’re funny start banging on them or shaking them. Do they serve a purpose? Yes. Know what serves the exact same purpose for a fraction of the price? Face masks.

“But Andrew, we can’t force players to wear masks, can we? They’ll just leave.” Stay tuned my friends. We’ll get to that.

Not Enough

I was surprised to find several high-profile properties (and one north strip) to have looser rules than I expected. I won’t mention names because I’m not here to throw dirt on anyone. But there were several casinos that, once inside, seem to have changed nothing besides requiring their employees to wear masks. There were no requirements of the players to wear masks. Players were allowed to smoke. We also found it difficult at these properties to obtain a face mask, if you didn’t have one with you (part of the experiment we did in each property). It’s worth noting that these properties were among the slowest and least busy, especially in table games.

Rules are meant to be broken. I’m going to break my rule about not mentioning names due to the conditions we observed at Treasure Island and Circus Circus. We noticed some employees at Treasure Island were wearing different masks. We asked them why and were saddened to learn they had to provide their own, unlike every other stop on our trip. It was also difficult to obtain a mask or locate sanitizer stations.

I’m only mentioning Circus Circus because of the two table games employees I came across. There were no conventional table games open, but two dealers were at small stadium game stations. We asked them questions about when other things would open. They didn’t appear to have been told anything. We also saw some sections where every slot machine was on and playable, separated by a small, frankly inadequate, partition. Some of these machines were so close together you couldn’t sit down without pulling the chair back from the partitions.

The Perfect Balance?

This one is going to be short and sweet. Admittedly, I was nervous about what I might find at Caesars properties. But I was quite pleased to find the conditions I found at Caesar’s Palace and Flamingo. There was no showing of the plexiglass shields. Players on all tables were required to wear a face mask. No smoking allowed while playing (must step back six feet from the table). It’s also worth noting that these were the busiest properties we came across. I mention this in case you were wondering if not allowing players to smoke at the table would drive away business. Masks were accessible. Washing and sanitizing stations were found throughout the floor. Caesar’s Entertainment may have found the perfect balance of safety and still conducting business on a high level.

Other Interesting Findings

  • Sahara (formerly the SLS, formerly the Sahara) did something we didn’t see anywhere else that impressed us. They provided goggles to employees. This makes so much sense, because as we all know, the face mask covers just your nose and mouth. This extra effort to protect the staff’s eyes is admirable. They weren’t big and bulky and cheap looking either. We thought they looked great. Bravo.
  • After all the talk about temperature checks, we were only checked by two casino companies. The process seems strange to me, but I’m not a doctor or public safety expert. The process was fast though, faster than I thought it would be. We did come across another casino company that was temperature checking hotel guests but not casino guests. It seems to me, if anything, it should be the other way around. But what do I know, really?
  • We observed an option for cashless buy-ins at the Strat. They were using this tech before the closure, I believe. But I wanted to mention it because this section is about interesting findings. There were debit card machines on every table that one could buy in with, for a 3% fee. If the fee goes down, and availability of this tech goes up, I could see a future with this.
  • Every casino we went through had removed every other slot machine chair (except the aforementioned Circus Circus). Most of them had every other machine turned off. A few though, had all machines on. This leaves room for people moving chairs and playing machines next to each other, which we did observe on a few occasions. There also didn’t seem to be much personnel floating around to enforce the recommended guidelines.
  • It’s also worth mentioning that there was tons of additional cleaning, sanitizing, and wiping down of equipment by dealers and table games supervisors. Chairs, chips, shufflers, dice, everything was being cleaned between players, between shooters, during free time on dead tables, and just frequently throughout the games.


The most interesting thing about our findings, to me, is the inconsistency. There’s lots of casinos on the Strip and a handful of casino operating companies. They’ve each elected to do things a little (sometimes a lot) different than the others. To me, this is strange, but maybe that’s why I don’t make the big bucks.

Obviously, casinos are fluid. Things can change from day to day, and they probably will. I wanted to share the conditions of opening day with you all. Hopefully, you can take from this what conditions you may or may not want to implore. Or, if you’re a player, which I know I get, and appreciate, you can see the conditions presented and decide what’s best for you to play in. Now that the slide back to normal has begun, I do hope all of you stay safe. See you next time!


A Clean Start – What’s Next in Gaming?

The Current State

Andrew here, coming to you live from Las Vegas, where the world has essentially stopped, if you’re in the casino business that is. It’s a strange sensation, the casinos and hotels being closed. The strip is dark, except for some heartwarming messages some casinos make with the lights of their hotel rooms. Things like, “Vegas Strong” or “We Love Vegas”, or simply a large heart.

Over 90% of casino workers are sitting at home fighting with a completely overwhelmed Nevada Unemployment website. People are spending more time with their families (something that’s normally hard to do for a lot of casino workers, due to the odd hours), some are doing extra projects around the house, some are going stir crazy.

Me? I’m spending a lot of time wondering what’s next. This whole episode has caused some things to come to the front of mind that have been dormant, but ever present. Things we accepted before, me included, have revealed themselves to be worthy of change.

The Problem

For me, it started about a week before the closure. I was walking the casino floor when a friend sent me a link about how long this virus can survive on different surfaces. On many surfaces, it was multiple days. I looked up at how many people were sitting at the tables and slots. It blew my mind to think of how many people touch certain things within a two-day period: chips, slot machine buttons and handles, chairs, tabletops, glasses. It was a profound moment.

On the Saturday before the closure, it started coming out that some casinos had guests and employees that were testing positive. It was mere days before the closure. Some companies may have already announced their intentions to close. I was on the casino floor observing people. I watched cash change hands; watched chips go back and forth from one player to the dealer, then to another player, who would then hand it to his wife to hang onto. I even saw a few people put their player’s card in their mouth, one of whom then handed it to the dealer, who in turn handed it to the supervisor.

I wanted to scream, “Doesn’t anyone pay attention to the world?!”

Maybe I should have. Maybe I would have been right to do so. But then I realized, I’m part of the problem. None of the behaviors I mentioned were new. These behaviors go on every day in every casino across the country, the world even.

I thought back to my first few weeks in the casino business. After my first week or so of work, I got sick, and had a hell of a time fighting it off over the next several weeks. What I’ve since come to realize, is this happens to a lot of dealers. Presumably, it happens to other front-line employees too. It happens because of the immense number of new germs they’re exposed to. I’m not a doctor, or an expert in anyway, but I’m comfortable making this assessment.

What’s Next?

All this has led to the inevitable wonder of what might come next. I’d like to think that this event is a big enough magnitude that it will cause change. Cleanliness is something that obviously needs to be readdressed. What form this will take, or should take, I don’t claim to have the answers.

From what I’ve seen on both sides of the table, I will say that chips should be cleaned and sanitized far more often than they are. To take that further, I will also say that chip-less gaming tables seem like a more attractive idea than ever before. Having a cash-in machine at each spot seems like an attractive idea, also. Listen, I’m not an innovator. These ideas are already out there, being developed, some probably in use already. I’m just a casino guy that’s saying something should probably change.

Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to realize how filthy the business can actually be. We can certainly lessen exposure to germs. I’d like to see some changes made that prioritize protecting the health of the guests and employees. This in turn protects the health of the business overall. It can be done. And, knowing how many strong leaders there are in this business, I’m confident it will be done. Time will tell. For now, we’re all just along for the ride, until this is over. I’ll see you all on the other side.

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Time and Money: The Key Resources In Casino Gaming

The Gaming World

Resources are paramount in this world. Water, oil, and natural gas are only a few of the most precious resources on this planet. They’re valuable because they’re limited, and they make our lives livable. 

Casino gaming is its own small world, with its own resources. Time and money are undisputed as the most valuable resources in casino gaming. Everything in gaming revolves around, or is based on these two things; time and money. 

People only have so much time, so convincing the general public to spend that time visiting a casino is where it starts. Then it moves to trying to get people to stay in the casino, because, the more time they are there, the more money (we’ll come back to money in a minute) there is to be made. That’s why casinos have hotels, and restaurants, and shopping malls, and nightclubs. It all started as ways to keep people in the casino for more time.

Now, money is the only bigger and more valuable resource in casino gaming than time. It’s not up for debate. It’s all about the Benjamins. 

  • Money in the drop box
  • Money in the guest’s pocket 
  • Money in the count room
  • Payroll and bonuses
  • Actual win
  • Theoretical win
  • Hold percentage
  • House edge

This list could go on for ages. Much like in the real world, in the gaming world, how we spend our resources is of utmost importance. This is where things get foggy. There’re lots of different opinions on how we should spend our time, our staff’s time, our money, our company’s money. 

Those Precious Resources

Want to know who else worships at the altar of time and money? Advantage players. 

They’re all about it. How much time can they put in? How much money can they make? These two questions are what drive advantage players. It’s all about that EV (expected value). Advantage players in today’s world don’t care about wins and losses. They focus on the value of the game they’re playing (money), and playing it as long as they possibly can (time).

This is just another way in which casinos and advantage players are mirror images of each other, an unpopular opinion on both sides. While both sides are similar in the resources they value, I believe the AP’s are ahead of the game in how they’re utilizing these resources (another unpopular opinion, I know).

The reason I believe the AP’s to be ahead of the game is simple: efficiency. They learn and use their resources exponentially more efficiently than casino staff. There are exceptions to this rule on both sides, of course, but in general, I’m fine with a blanket statement like this. 

Why do I say this? Advantage players learn the craft, scout which places they want to play, and play the game itself at a higher, more efficient level than ever before. This is due to a higher level of training that is more available than ever before. It’s also due to information sharing being easier and faster than ever before.

What About the Casinos?

All the variables I described above are improving for the player with every passing day. Inversely, the same variables are decreasing for the casinos as time passes. Training, for instance, used to be required for all pit bosses. There was a time when being able to pass a basic strategy test and be able to run down counters was a prerequisite for becoming a floor supervisor. This is not the case anymore (again, in general).

There is training for casino staff, sure. But it’s extremely rudimentary, and quite dated, to the point of complete inaccuracy at times. Being an advantage player is different now than it was twenty years ago, and the training hasn’t kept up with the times. 

The game has changed. Even the simple act of card counting has changed. There’s still a large contingent of casino staff that think six and eight deck games can’t be counted because, “It’s too many cards.” Not to mention, there is a LOT more to being an advantage player now than simply counting cards.

Let’s Talk About Those Resources

Time is maybe the most important asset and resource to any casino operator. How each department spends their time determines its overall efficiency. And sometimes, departments need to work together and feed off of each other to ensure overall operational efficiency. 

That being said, I have a question for table games operators. What is the criteria that causes you to call our friends in surveillance to request that they rundown or fully evaluate a player?

This is a monumental question. I’ve seen a lot of operators and management teams request full evaluations of players who are doing nothing more than winning. Sometimes even large bet sizes warrant an evaluation. This can be costly. In table games, which I myself am a part of, it’s hard for us to imagine the time that goes into evaluating a player. Inputting all the data into the software, going through tape, processing the report, it’s far more time consuming than we think it is. Such an investment of time should not be wasted on players who show no indicators of advantage play whatsoever. 

Surveillance is a department responsible for the integrity of the entire casino (and hotel, restaurant, shopping, everything!). They’re doing a lot more than watching our backs in table games. It’s easy for us to make a call upstairs and say “Check this guy out.” The time and effort that follows for surveillance though, is quite extensive. Having them invest their time collecting data on players who are simply betting large, or winning, is a waste of their time. 

As operators, we are responsible for knowing the indicators, the signs, the red flags of advantage players. 

Here’s An Example

Unfortunately, this is often not the case. One story in particular sticks out to me from my playing days. I was playing green chips while the other player was playing black. I was counting, of course, while my counterpart at the table was using W.A.G. system (Wild Ass Guessing, for those who haven’t read The Blackjack Insiders). The variance monster was getting the best of me on this day, which is how counters say “I was losing.” The other guy on the table though, was killing it, up over five thousand.

As an insider, I knew certain things to listen for from the supervisors, keying in to certain phrases, especially when they pick up the phone, if possible. The supervisor over my section requested an evaluation on my table, which made me nervous at first. As you can probably guess from the context of this article though, the evaluation wasn’t for me, but for the guy next to me. I guess they figured since I was losing, I couldn’t possibly be a threat. 

Lucky me! Unlucky for the surveillance tech, who likely spent the next few hours evaluating a Wild Ass Guesser.

Back To the Resources

Another common way that we mismanage resources is the tactics taken to deter advantage players. Maybe the most common, is the old “Cut the deck in half” trick. Some bosses do it when they think someone is counting (again, by winning or betting large). Some casinos go so far as to do it on every table as a standard operating procedure. 

To me, this is a prime example of shooting oneself in the foot. In my opinion, a good cut is 25% off the bottom of a double deck. With this cut, there’s less shuffling, way more hands per hour, therefore more money in the drop box.

Yes, card counters could very well take advantage of a game like that. But, less than 1% of players in the world are winning players. So cutting the deck (or the shoe, in extreme cases, which I’ve also seen) in half, costing all that time and money, to deter such a small number of players, is axiomatically inefficient. It’s stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. 

In this resource driven, time and money driven casino climate, we can’t afford to make ill informed decisions like this. 

The Solution Is In the Conclusion

Like any good writer and critiquer of the world around me, I’m prepared with my solution. It’s quite simple. So simple in fact, that it requires only one word. Training!

There is training available from modern casino minds like myself and others, that can increase knowledge and efficiency for the whole operation. The hardest part sometimes is asking for help. I get it. I loathe admitting I need help with something. That doesn’t stop me from doing it when it’s necessary though. Sometimes, as I hope I’ve evidenced with all this, it’s simply necessary.


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The Evolution of Gaming

An Evolution is Upon Us

The gaming industry is in the midst of an evolution. So much so, in fact that here in Las Vegas, we don’t even call it the gaming industry anymore. Now, we refer to it as the “Service Industry.” The gaming business has faded away, and from its ashes has risen the hospitality business. This may seem odd, considering resort prices are higher than ever, comp values are at an all-time low, and the majority of cars on the strip now have to pay to park.

Here’s what this evolution of gaming means to table games. Dealers, supervisors, and managers have been directed to focus on customer service. At times, this has caused values like technical skill and game protection to slide back behind the curtain. In days past, when interviewing for a floor supervisor, or dealing job, one question was always asked. “What is the primary purpose of your job, as a supervisor/dealer?” The smart ones knew the correct answer, “To protect the house’s money.” In today’s service industry, the answer to that question is now “To make the guests feel like they’re at home.” Or for dealers, “To entertain.”

Now, it’s up for debate whether this evolution is best for business or not. Maybe this service oriented practice has generated more revenue. It is coming at a price, though. In my travels, I’ve seen many different casinos across the country. As a table games professional myself, I can say with confidence that house money lost due to dealer mistakes, and improper training is through the roof. All this is happening while dealers and supervisors are focusing on customer service.

What’s the Cost of This Evolution?

Dealers are making mistakes they would not make, if the pressure to entertain wasn’t so sky high. Supervisors miss these mistakes because they’re servicing guests elsewhere in the pit. You might say that these mistakes are small and not noticeable to the bottom line. But these mistakes add up fast, and could account for a sizable difference, if technical and protective values were practiced. As service standards rise, technical standards fall. This has produced an entire generation of staff who have never even learned the fundamentals of game protection.

Dealers across the country report that they are being evaluated on how they speak to customers, their wording and conversation flow, rather than how quickly and accurately they deal the games. Rarely have I seen a supervisor who, during a buy-in, watches to ensure the cash actually goes down the chute. They rarely double check a sizable roulette payout. So many values and fundamental aspects of protecting the company’s money have fallen by the wayside.

For my two cents, I’m a believer in what the hospitality movement is trying to accomplish. However, a balance must be found. Game protection and hospitality can co-exist and be mutually beneficial. I just hope the balance is discovered and implemented before casino gaming as we know it, is changed forever.

What Do We Do?

Of course, I’m prepared with my suggestion. In most cases, orientation and customer service standards are hammered prior to working your first hour. This is especially true in the larger corporations such as Wynn Resorts, Caesar’s Ent., and Sands/Venitian. After that, technical and procedural operations are often crammed into a crash course, if even addressed at all. Sometimes they just give out the manual and expect the new dealer to come in having read and adapted to all the game procedures. While I do recommend incoming dealers read their handbooks, this is rarely enough attention to garner procedural competance.

In the spirit of past jobs, gaming and otherwise, I propose a training day. This can be done one of two ways. First, on the dealer’s first day, they’re confined to a dead table with a closed lid, in the company of a floor supervisor with the designated responsibility of training. Practice chips and cards would provide the supervisor the opportunity to teach house shuffles and other procedural training, in an environment that produces competent skills once they reach the floor. Dealers are usually hired and started in groups, so this can be done economically once or twice a month.

Another Option?

The second way this can be done, if an extra supervisor for a day is a cost that cannot be taken on, is a shadow day. The new dealer would be attached to an experienced dealer for a day, who can show them all the house procedures in the process of a night of work. Of course, this only works if your base staff is adequately trained. You might ask “Does the new dealer get tokes for this training time?” Frankly, that’s up to the toke committee. But it’s my opinion that this day should be treated as a replacement for the second day of a two day orientation, which would not give them tokes. To me, it is departmental orientation. But if the toke committee decides to give new dealers tokes for that day, it’s of no concern to the company anyhow.

The logistics of such a program in either case will require a small increase in payroll spending. However, the result will pay off ten fold. You’ll have a staff that is consistent in their procedures, with no excuse to be otherwise. Solid and consistent dealing procedures will naturally produce a stronger and more reliable hold. The benefit of this type of consistency far outweighs the cost. Evolution and change are good, but let’s make sure it’s for the better.


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Could Card Counters Actually Be Good For Business?

I know, it sounds crazy. Maybe even unfathomable. But think outside the box with me. It’ll be a quick one, I promise.

For decades now, the main concern of table games management has been advantage play, specifically card counters. Now, there have been select few, who we’ve all read about, who have done serious damage to departmental bottom lines across the country. Across the world even. But the fact is, the overwhelming majority of card counters are not a threat at all. I’ll tell you why.

The problem that most advantage players have, is they go out and start playing before they have a full understanding of what they’re doing. They read a book, study how to play the game and eagerly go out into the field, unprepared. Without an understanding of how to structure their bets, what rules to play, or how much money they need, these players are likely not playing with an actual mathematical edge. They may know how to play the game, but they’re still at a disadvantage. Most players are vastly under-bankrolled, and don’t know how to manage their money according to the count, which is great for the casino. Anytime someone plays and thinks they have an advantage, that’s an ideal situation for the house.

Also, as I mentioned, many players do not fully understand the game, so they’ll play a game that they can’t beat. Such as a 6:5 table, or a spinoff like Super Fun 21. Not to say these games can’t be overcome, but it takes more than simple Hi-Lo counting, which is what most people try to play with. I’ve seen players attempt to beat these games but the fact is, the advantage is too much to overcome by simply counting cards. With that in mind, when you see someone on your games moving their bet with the count, there’s a high probability that they’re still playing at a disadvantage.

Another problem a lot of players have is their unwillingness to put in a complete effort into learning to count. Many players are out there moving their bets with nothing on their mind other than the running count. When asked about true count conversions, index plays, ace tracking, or any other aspect of a serious advantage player’s game, they can muster nothing more than a blank stare and a raised eyebrow. The fact is, without the true count, without index numbers, they’re probably playing against a house edge. This could be even better for the casino than a standard player. They’ll stay longer and dig deeper, because they think they’re supposed to come out ahead.

The fact is, very few people truly understand card counting, both players and casino staff. Obviously, the players who do, can cause a threat to the bottom line and need to be prevented from playing. However, so much effort is exerted trying to prevent and detect these players, when really, most of them don’t even have an advantage. Sure they may win, but even the worst gamblers win sometimes. And if they do win, the other players around will see that, and maybe stay a little longer, maybe bet a little more. And who doesn’t want that?

So, considering all these variables, maybe we need to redistribute our efforts elsewhere? Is it possible that how we’ve thought about advantage players all these years is wrong? Could be…

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Managing on Superstition

Very Superstitious

Something I’ve been passionate about during my time in this business is making informed decisions. One of my major goals in my journey in this business is to eradicate the practice of managing a casino floor based on superstition. It’s 2019. It’s time for us all as an industry to accept the fact that throwing pennies under a table is not an acceptable tactic. The pennies are the tip of the iceberg of a managing style I like to call Voodoo Gaming.

I’ve walked through many a casino in this country, some as an employee, and countless as a patron, and seen the evidence of such tactics. To this day, I’ll see pennies, or even salt on the floor. I even had one boss who would rig a matchbook to stand up on its own and bend two of the matches so they’re pointing at the player he wants to lose. Another boss told me “I’ll watch this game kid. You can’t watch shit. I’ll watch him and we’ll get that money back.”

I could possibly understand such things taking place in the 70’s, when gaming was still on the rise. That was nearly fifty years ago now. The jury isn’t out anymore. Gaming is a purely mathematical beast.

Modern Casino

In the modern casino, there’s no need for managers or supervisors to be pacing the pit, agonizing over a player’s every winning hand, reciting incantations laced with curse words, waiting on every decision to get that money back in the tray. That’s silly enough in itself. Then you throw in the tactics of telling the dealer to change the shuffle, or do it twice, shuffle early, or cut the deck in half, or any number of other things meant to mess with the mojo of a winning player.

It never really made sense to me why these things would stop someone from winning. But there was no room for rationale with some people. “Trust me, kid. I’ve been doing this for twenty years.” I heard lines like that all the time when I was coming up in the business. I wish I had the guts back then to point out that didn’t necessarily mean they were right, or that twenty years was a long time to do something wrong.

I learned later on that these tactics not only were not effective, but they’re counterproductive, harmful even. All the things I mentioned about extra shuffles or early shuffles, or cutting in half, all of them cut into profits. The more time the dealer spends shuffling, the less hands they’re dealing, and the real world, the math tells us that more hands equals more money.

It goes beyond procedures, to actual personnel. The same boss who told me I couldn’t watch shit had a favorite dealer, his “ace in the hole”, he called him. This dealer was in his seventies and maybe dealt forty hands an hour. I watched him for five minutes, saw him deal three hands. Multiply that by twelve and add a couple bonus hands, because that’s what kind of guy I am, and that gives us a stone cold 40 rounds per hour.

What was said boss’s explanation for his man crush on this dealer? “Nobody ever wins with him.” Of course they don’t. He doesn’t deal. Nobody loses either. They simply hover around even and get lulled into stories of golf and the good old days. I suppose that’s preferable to some bosses, but let me be clear, it shouldn’t be. Give me that fast and flawless dealer any day. Dealer’s like that don’t thrive under Voodoo Gaming management, because, “They always dump.” No, they don’t. You just remember the times they dumped. When someone gets on a win streak with a fast dealer, the money piles up quick. The key is that they get through the win streak faster too, and get back to losing like they’re supposed to. It’s math. It’s reality.

The Truth

There’s no such thing as dealers that always lose, or dealers that always win. They all always win, that’s what the games are designed to do. Our job is to let the games do exactly that. As long as there are sound procedures in place, the games work. Sound procedures are important, because they protect you from the real threats to the games. I promise you, the simple act of someone winning is not, in itself, a threat.

We’ve got to be able to stomach the natural ups and downs, the built in variance to these games. Jackpots hit. Win streaks come. Pacing around cursing the dealer, the player, and the blackjack gods isn’t helping anyone. Knee jerk reactions are a no-no too. Changing procedures or shuffles because a game lost money that day is something that has happened, and continues to happen far too often.

If your game normally holds 19% but it only held 9% that day, that week, that month even, fear not. That’s the variance monster. People win sometimes. They have to. Sometimes it happens in a concentrated time period that makes your numbers look bad. But we’ve got to be able to stomach that, let the game do its job, and watch it correct itself. Next month, you could very well be in for a 25% month, and 29% the month after.

Our job isn’t to worry about individual wins and losses. Our job is to ensure to game integrity is maintained. We do this through proper training, procedure enforcement, and productive coaching of our team. Proficiently trained dealers and supervisors are the key to the games doing what they’re supposed to do.

Now, obviously, if you’re holding that 9% over, say, a six month period, something could be up. There could be a dealing procedure that is being done incorrectly, a misunderstood rule, or even theft. When you start getting into the quarterly and yearly hold percentages, it’s worth taking a look into low numbers. I’ve seen too many people worry about monthly, weekly, daily, even single session numbers with far much invested in the outcome. Chances are if you work in gaming, you’ve come across these types too.

As the kids say, “Don’t be that guy.” My goal is to see that mentality take a permanent L.O.A.

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