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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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Insider Chronicles – Is It Playing Both Sides?

In the course of talking about and promoting my book, something that comes up a lot, and understandably so, is the “insiders” aspect of the book. It goes beyond the book even, to my life in general. It comes at me in a lot of different ways and with different words. The basic question though, is, “Andrew, you’re a card counter and you’re in the casino business. Aren’t you playing both sides?”

It’s a fair question. I think it’s a great first blog topic, since it’s such a big part of what’s going on right now for me.

The answer to the question is layered. The outside layer is simple and visible, but the inner layers start to get harder and harder to peel back. Frankly, they’re even hard for me to peel back.

Put simply, the outer layer so to speak, no. I do not play both sides. I’m a casino professional who has a unique understanding of the other side of the table. Advantage play is a hot topic in casino gaming. It always has been, and always will be. It’s quite hard though, to gain a good understanding of how these players can threaten a casino. I happen to have some experience in the area, on a level that not many other casino professionals have. That’s the simple answer.

On the slightly more complicated layer under that, is another answer. I have played on both sides. I’ve already stated my positon as a casino professional. If you’ve read Blackjack Insiders, you know that I spent some time as a fairly high level card counter. Due to that, yes, I have been on both sides.

Now we’re in murky waters, because there was a time when I did indeed play both sides simultaneously. The dichotomy of that point in my life was fascinating to me. Luckily for me, it was fascinating to other people too. You can read all about the struggles of being a pit boss by day and advantage player by night by picking up a copy of Blackjack Insiders here. Well, you can read almost all about it. I couldn’t possibly put every juicy story in the book now, could I?

Today, I don’t play blackjack anymore (or do I?), but I have friends that do. I also have colleagues who are spending their days trying to catch these players. If you have some sort of cognitive dissonance over that, well, I can’t help you with that.

What I can do is tell you that when I’m in a casino these days, I’m wearing a suit and tie. In the book, I use my Insider knowledge to make me a better player. These days, I’m using that experience to make myself a more valuable (in theory) casino gaming professional. I think I’ve found a good balance, the perfect separation of church and state, if you will. Both sides know who I am, what I’ve done, and what I do. I never use one side against the other.

When I’m at work, I’m all business. When I’m talking to my advantage player buddies, it’s all business too, but from the other side of course. I don’t consider that playing both sides. Do you?

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