The Worst Players Club on Earth

 

I walked up to the Players Club counter. There was no line and I was able to get to a representative of the Club in a hurry. She was talking to the representative next to her and also checking her fingernails.

“Yeah, well, I told him that he could just pack his bags and go home to his momma if he kept cheating on me and you know what he said? He said his mother loved him more than I did. Well I threw the drink right in his face that’s what I did; smack in the face….”

“Ah, excuse me,” I interrupted.

“Just a minute, I’m talking can’t you see that? God some people,” she said, referring to me. “They think they can just jump into your conversation. Now, where was I?”

“I have some questions about the Players Club,” I said.

“Take care of him fast and we can get back when you’re done,” said her co-worker, a disheveled young man with little sprouts of hair on his face.

“What do you want?” my representative asked me as she checked both sides of her fingers.

“Hi, Ma’am, I just signed up for the Deluxe, Glittery Gold, Super-Dooper Casino Players Club, could you tell me how the points and comps are established?” I asked.

“I don’t have all day, you know, and it’s Miss, not Ma’am, got that? I ain’t that old. Oh, jeez, can’t you just follow the simple formula, for crying out loud? I could really use a cigarette. Joey, baby, when is my break?”

“You just went on a break,” yells Joey, her co-worker, from the position right next to her.

“Could you tell me what that comp formula is?” I asked.

“It is so simple even a two-year old should be able to figure it out. Can’t you figure it out?”

“Help me, please, okay?” I asked.

“Listen now because I don’t want to have to repeat myself. You earn one point for every one hundred dollars you put through the machine and when you have 13,567 points we subtract the weight of one-billionth of the earth from that amount then we divide by 16 and subtract 7 to assess your play. Of course on Tuesdays and Wednesday’s we subtract one ten-billionths of the weight of the planet Pluto from the formula to give you something extra as your slot club return. Good luck because you’ll need it if you gamble in this joint!”

“Look, I didn’t quit understand….”

“I have a whole line of people waiting.”

“Uh, there’s no one behind me,” I said.

“They’re coming. They’re coming.”

“Do you need to know the time?” I asked.

“I’m looking at my watch to see how much of my time you’ve taken.”

“What kind of comps do you give out for what types of play?” I asked.

“You’re full of questions, aren’t you? Oh, jeez, what do you play?”

“Some slots and some tables. I play 25-cent slots. And $5 on the tables.”

“You’re a squirt of a player so you won’t get much. You should play more and maybe we’ll give you something but right now you are just wasting our time when you play. The plastic in your Players Club card costs more than you’re worth.”

“Ah, ha, ha, ha,” roared Joey at that joke. Then a patron came up to him.

“I want to know how much in comps I have?” he asked.

“Can’t you use the automated machine? It’s not hard you know,” said Joey. “They are right over there.” He pointed and the customer begrudgingly obeyed him.

“You don’t get much in comps for my level of play?” I asked my representative.

“You’ll get some little ones and some crummy little gifts every so often, like plastic key chains and some cheap cups with our logo on them and the paint probably has lead in it. What do you want from your level of play anyway? You’re lucky we even give you a Players Club card.”

“I thought every player was valuable to the casino?” I asked.

“Yeah, right, where did you get that idea? I could really use a cigarette. Do you smoke?”

“I never smoked. Mark Twain discouraged me,” I said.

“Who’s he, some dumb doctor?”

“Never mind, thanks for your time,” I said and walked away.

“Yeah, well, you got any more questions we have some kind of booklet.”

“Could I have it?” I asked.

“Go over to hotel registration and they might have one.”

“Thanks,” I said into the air.

Okay the above scenario is not real and I have never met Players Club representatives who are so grossly uncivil and demeaning – and I belong to Players Clubs all over the country and in Canada. But there is some truth in exaggeration.

The purpose of a Players Club is to get players to want to play longer and for more money than they planned to. If you didn’t realize that, give some thought to the casino as a business entity. Any good business wants its products to be attractive so that a customer coming in to buy a toaster just might also spring for the unplanned microwave, if the microwave is presented in an appealing way. The representatives of the business need to be pleasant and friendly and encouraging so that business can thrive.

The representatives I wrote about above were the worst of all possible worlds – who would want to deal with people who were like that or even somewhat like that? No one.

Players must feel they are being rewarded with freebies for being such a great customer – and all players should feel that the casino wants their action, even if it’s small-roller action. But the bottom line is, after all, the bottom line. Good players clubs increase the bottom line for their casinos; bad players clubs don’t.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Frank Scoblete web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from smile.amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

She is and She isn’t

 

My wife the beautiful AP was a great card counter at blackjack. We played together as a team from 1989 to June of 2001 when our youngest son, Michael, graduated from college. The moment we finished the graduation ceremony she said to me, “I am now officially retired from playing blackjack.”

I had a strong feeling this was coming. We were spending way over a 100 days a year in the casinos – and that was a lot since we live in New York and the shortest commute we had was 3 ½ hours to Atlantic City. For two people who hate to drive those hours dragged by. Indeed, we went to Vegas far more often than we did to Atlantic City because Vegas had the very best blackjack games in the country, including the best of all time at the Maxim in the early 1990s where all but one card was dealt out of a single-deck game. In addition, the game had great rules too.

While the beautiful AP enjoyed going to the casinos, the intense pressure of counting cards because we needed to make money had taken its toll. She was totally burnt out. She liked the swimming pools, the shows, the gourmet dinners, the great conversations with friends but her card counting career was now over. In those days, the great new card counting method Speed Count which I write about in my new book Beat Blackjack Now! did not exist – maybe she would not have burned out had we been playing Speed Count instead of the traditional methods.

“How about playing craps again?” I asked. “I’ll teach you how to control the dice.”

The beautiful AP gave me that look; that look all husbands understand.

“No, seriously,” I said. “Once you learn to control the dice, you’ll really enjoy the game.”

Now, the reason the beautiful AP shied away from craps didn’t have anything to do with the nature of the game since it is – in my opinion – the most exciting table game in the casino. Her rejection of the game had more to do with her own personal experiences shooting the dice.

You see, while the beautiful AP was a consummate blackjack card counter, she was a deadly craps shooter – meaning anyone at the table, players and dealers, faced death while she was shooting and with each and every one of her throws I held my breath praying no one would get hurt. When the dice left her hands, they were like twin-bullets shot from a twisted tortured gun barrel. She had no idea where the dice were going, I had no idea where the dice were going and certainly the dice had no idea of where they were going.

One time she threw the dice so hard that both went whizzing past the head of the player standing at the end of the table. One went past one side of his head; the other die went past the other side of his head. She once threw the dice down the cleavage of a young woman to the cheers of all the salivating males at the table. She once hit herself in the face as she shook the dice in her hand as one die shot out at her.

Perhaps her greatest and most deadly feat was throwing the dice and having one hit the boxman and one hit the stickman. If you don’t know the game of craps, the boxman is on one side of the table; the stickman is directly across from him. Even Annie Oakley couldn’t have performed such a trick shot. The boxman was hit on the forehead; the stickman was hit in the chest. AP turned bright red and gave up the dice. That was her last roll; her last time playing the game.

I tried to convince her to play again. She said, “I could kill someone with the way I throw.” I told her she didn’t have to throw. She gave me that look again, “What’s the point of playing craps if you don’t throw? That’s the thrill of the game.”

In 2002 I had her enroll in my dice control course. She reluctantly agreed.

Now some of my critics like to think that I exaggerate some of my true-life stories. I mean seriously, how could anyone throw two dice to opposite ends of a table with one throw as I am claiming the beautiful AP did? That has to be impossible right?

Well, in the class I had the instructor we call “Old Eagle Eyes” be AP’s mentor. He is a patient, laid back individual who would handle my wonderful wife wonderfully. He sat down in the boxman’s position and I was in the stickman’s position. AP took the dice for the very first time – and performed her miracle again. She hit “Old Eagle Eyes” right in the head and, to top off her first achievement of this great feat, she hit me on the cheek!

Eagle Eyes sat stunned, “I thought you were exaggerating when you said she once did this. I can’t believe it.” He picked up the die. “These things are really sharp!” he laughed.

Over the course of two days, the beautiful AP did get better but she never accepted the fact that she could become a good enough dice controller to make money at the game. So that class ended her craps career.

My wife was a great card counter at blackjack and she also was the deadliest dice shooter the world has ever seen – and that’s no exaggeration!

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from smile.Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

I Am Calm and Cool with Others

My wife, the beautiful AP, says I have one criterion for judging people. According to her, “If they agree with you, Scobe, they are smart; if they disagree with you they are stupid. You have no in between.”

Okay, to show my beloved wife that she is wrong I took two people who have different opinions than I and we had a three-way conversation. Here it is, exactly as I recorded it:

 

HE: The worst table game in the whole casino is blackjack. I mean how do you know what decision to make? What are you supposed to hit? When do you stand? It is just too confusing.

SHE: Blackjack is a real pain in the neck because the people at the tables are all experts and some of them have big mouths and they tell you when you are doing something they don’t like. But I am betting my own money and how dare they try to intimidate me into playing the way they like?

ME: Blackjack is a good game if you know the right strategy. You can buy a basic strategy card in the casino gift shop and face maybe a half-percent house edge on the traditional game. If you play the correct basic strategy you can ignore what the “experts” at your table say because there is a good chance they are wrong. Just smile at them and then ignore them.

HE: I don’t want to look at a basic strategy card. People will think I am stupid. That would be embarrassing.

SHE: I really like to play those single deck games. I think you have a better chance to win at those games even with the 6 to 5 payout on the blackjacks. I heard single decks are the closest contest for the players.

ME: A lot of people use basic strategy cards. No one will make fun of you. It actually means you are smart. Now those 6 to 5 payouts on the single deck blackjack games, plus the fact that they hit soft 17s, will give the house about a 15 times greater edge on the single deck games than the casinos used to have in the good old days. You need to get that 3 to 2 payout on the blackjack to help make it a close game in terms of the house edge. So I think you must avoid all those games where the casino is taking too big a cut from you.

HE: I like craps because you have the best chance to win a lot of money at that game. You have bets that pay off like 10 to 1 and sometimes even higher. It’s a great game with a lot of excitement. I like to shake the dice up, blow on them, and then fling them down the table. I try to get them to bounce hard off the back wall and make it all the way back down to me!

SHE: Craps is too confusing. There’s too much going on.

ME: You know a lot of people think craps is confusing and it really isn’t. It’s a simple game. There are a lot of bets and almost all of them are bad. I hate to say this but all the bets that pay off large sums like 10 to 1 are bad bets with high house edges. Just use the Pass Line, take odds, place the 6 and 8 and the game is very close between the player and the house. You don’t even have to know the other bets because they aren’t worth making.

HE: I find roulette to be dull.

SHE: I love roulette. Some numbers get hot and if you are watching the scoreboard you have a really good chance to win.

ME: Roulette is fun and relaxing but the game is random so those hot numbers are not necessarily going to repeat themselves often enough for you to get an edge over the house. Because roulette at a crowded table is a slow game, the high house edge doesn’t hurt you as much as it would if you played the number of decisions you play in blackjack for instance.

HE: The other day I got a great comp from the casino. They treated us to dinner at the Steak House and I really enjoyed the meal.

SHE: My host loves to give us comps. She really likes us.

ME: Comps are rewards for play at specific levels. The host has some discretion but not a lot. If you get a gourmet comp that means you are betting enough that your losses will more than pay for that meal two or three times over. Comps are not given to people who are not going to make the casino enough money to warrant the comp.

HE: I always wanted to play baccarat but the losses at that game look like they are gigantic. All the high rollers play that game so they must lose a lot of money.

SHE: I understand it is a complicated game too. I saw the hitting and standing rules and I couldn’t even follow them.

ME: Baccarat is a good game with a relatively low house edge and the game doesn’t have a lot of decisions so your losses per hour are not so bad. In the high roller rooms the minimum bet is usually $100 but sometimes you can find games with $50 or even $25 minimums. The rules for hitting and standing have nothing to do with you. They are automatic and you don’t have to even know what they are. The dealers will tell you when to deal a card or to stand – which is one of the fun things about baccarat, you get to deal the cards at times. There is a mini-baccarat game too but this is very fast and the low house edge with a lot of decisions can still cut deeply into your bankroll.

There I did it. I didn’t tell either of these two that I was right and they were wrong. Of course, I was right and they were wrong. But I am sure you can keep that a secret from my wife.

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.

 

Winner! Winner! We Have a Winner!

Winner! Winner! We Have a Winner!

I am on every systems seller’s mailing list. I get emails, letters, flyers, and even some video promotions for “can’t miss” systems of play at whatever game I choose. Some of these systems are just for craps, some just for blackjack, some just for poker, video poker, slots, horse racing, sports betting and some, the really “incredible” ones, can be used for everything because they are – in the words of their inventors – that “powerful.”

Now there are some gambling “systems” that actually work – first because they aren’t systems by definition. Card counting at blackjack works, dice control works, optimum strategies at video poker work. I rarely get information shoveled to me about these “systems” because they all require certain levels of real work and the one thing a systems seller knows is this – most casino players do not want to work in order to get an edge. They want the edge handed to them. These types of casino gamblers are the welfare recipients of Lady Luck.

Systems buyers want a system that is so easy to use a complete fool could use it. Even the supremely easy card-counting system, which I write about in my book Beat Blackjack Now!, does require some modicum of effort. You have to add 1 plus 1 plus 1 and then occasionally subtract a small number from the total. For the system buyers this is just too much work. They don’t want to add; they don’t want to subtract; they don’t want to do anything but use a magic formula to win copious amounts of money – the kind of money the systems seller claims he has won over the past few years using this miraculous system.

The system seller knows how to get people to buy his or her stuff. He will write copious amounts of copy praising his product – liberally thrown in will be anecdotes and testimonials from people who have played the system and won hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. These people may or may not actually exist but who cares? The idea is to bombard the reader with so many words and so much positive information that his defenses are ultimately shattered and he will open his checkbook or pull out her credit card and buy the product.

Obviously, I am not opposed to people selling or buying products about gambling. After all, I sell my own books, DVDs, and my speaking engagements. There are many magazines with contributions from many established gambling authorities, many of which are also selling books and other products. There is a gambling-writing industry after all and I am a part of it.

So how can you tell the difference between a legitimate seller of gambling information and a systems seller of bogus information? First the legitimate seller doesn’t make any outrageous promises. There might be such a thing as card counting at blackjack but there is no guarantee that you will become any good at it if you try it. Dice control is real but it is not an easy thing to master. No systems seller is going to tout his system by telling you that it is not guaranteed; that you might not learn it or that your talent could be lacking. That would be economic suicide.

The systems seller needs to sell vast quantities of his system in order to make money. He doesn’t care that his system doesn’t work because once you have bought it you are stuck – you have a worthless system and he has your money.

When I first started my foray in the world of casino gambling I did buy a lot of systems – to see what they were like and, to be honest, praying that they would work. Except for books on blackjack, every system I bought left me scratching my head and asking this question, “How can he sell this junk?”

I bought the “Magic Wand,” a device that would allow me to locate hot slot machines the way a dowser supposedly finds hidden water – or gold. I used it in Atlantic City and the only thing it found me were stares from people who thought I was crazy as I walked through the casino with such a strange looking cheap cardboard thingy.

I bought several systems for blackjack. One had me look for clumps of high cards and then bet heavily on the next few hands because “high cards follow high cards.” One had me upping my bet after three losses because “blackjack is an even game and once you have lost a few nature brings everything back into alignment.” Well, as most of you know, high cards don’t follow high cards and nature is darn fickle about righting things in a run short enough to be understood by me.

The craps system that most impressed me in its ad promised that I would win 83 percent of my decisions. “You Can Win All the Time!” the ad proclaimed. The system was the old “Iron Cross,” where you bet the Field and the 5, 6 and 8. You have 30 ways to win and a mere six ways to lose when the 7 showed. The 7 shows about 17 percent of the time – thus your winning percentage was about 83 percent. Wow!

The problem came in right away – that 7 blasted all your bets into losers, while your winning was always curtailed by concomitant losing. You could win on the 6, for example, but you would then lose the Field bet. You could not win enough to make a profit with this “fool-proof” system because that 7 was just too powerful on the “mere” 17 percent of the times it showed its ugly head.

The system seller knew what he was doing, of course. He was not lying in the traditional sense. His system did win 83 percent of the time. But it was not a winning system. This systems seller was the master of equivocation – he just made you think what he meant was that the system would give you long-term wins; he never actually said it. He never told you that the house edge on the “Iron Cross” was about four percent – which is a pretty hefty edge indeed.

Today the Internet is host to hundreds, maybe thousands, of systems sellers. You can read long, drawn out advertisements for their systems. Many of them claim that they are retiring from gambling life and want to share with you their miraculous system before they go to the fancy island they just bought. Personally I think the only island they should be allowed to inhabit is Alcatraz.

Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at smile.amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, as e-books, on Kindle and at bookstores.

The Fat-Fingered Blackjack Technique

 

For several years some Las Vegas casinos offered a two-deck game dealt face up – mostly the Mirage properties. This was unusual since most double-deckers are dealt face down. You will probably find some casinos throughout the country that continue to do the face-up double-deck game and if so the “fat finger” strategy can give you a startlingly large advantage.

The ultimate spot on the table is at first base for the “fat finger” strategy so when you see that a dealer is falling into “fatitude” you must get yourself to first base [first base is the very first seat to the dealer’s left and is the first position to get cards].

So here is how this technique works: The dealer deals the cards to the players face up. When the dealer gets to third base [immediately to the dealer’s right] and he starts to flip the card over for the player, there are times when he double flips – that is, he starts to flip two cards at the same time. In a normal deal the top card is the player’s but in a double flip the second card is shown – that will be the dealer’s hole card. The dealer catches the almost-mistake and knowing he was about to show his hole card, he quickly stops the flip and fixes the cards so the player gets the correct card without the dealer’s hole card being seen or being flipped. Or so he thinks.

That hole card is often visible from first base. That’s right; he isn’t able to hide the card completely from the first base player – meaning you.  Now you know his hole-card and can play your hands with that knowledge. A huge edge has just now been given to you on a golden plate.

What makes this a great way to play has to do with some of the hitting and standing decisions that you can make. If you know the dealer has a 6 under his up-card of 10, you might want to stand on your 15’s and 16’s, or double on your 9’s. He will not know that you know he has a 6 in the hole. Your playing decisions can really help you bring in the money. Of course, you could go completely nuts with your decisions. You would be foolish to stand on a 12 against a dealer’s 10 card even if you knew the dealer had a 6 in the hole. That would be something of a give away. You have to keep yourself somewhat reigned in so the pit wasn’t aware of the fact that you were not actually dumb (as you appeared to be based on your strategies) but actually smart enough to catch a problem in their game. Smart is bad in a casino; dumb is prized.

The reason I call this the “fat finger strategy” has to do with which dealers tended to make this misstep. These were usually large guys with big, thick fingers. For some reason when they flipped the cards, they had a tendency to double-card flip. That double card-flip was no big deal when it occurred to the players before the last player since you were going to see those cards anyway, but when it was the last player being double-card-flipped – voila there was a nice fat edge for you.

Yes, at times all types of dealers made this mistake but the large, thick fingered ones made it the most. Be thankful so many Americans are out-of-shape and over-weight or nicely plump due to so much protein, sugar and fat in our diets – they’ve made it perfect for some blackjack players such as me.

The best dealer I ever had was at Bellagio; he did it almost ten percent of the time. Still, I didn’t go all out to take hits. If I had an 18 or 19 I stayed on my hand even though I knew the dealer had, say, a 20. Again, hitting an 18 or 19 would have been too radical a hit unless you looked like Alfred E. Newman with drool dripping down your chin.

I did, however, double-down on hands such as a nine against a dealer’s 10 up-card when I knew he had a small card in the hole. This merely looked as if I were stupid whereas hitting on an 18 or 19 would have made me look crazy or smart. Again: Stupid is loved in the casinos. Also: Crazy gives the casino pit people pause. Again: Smart makes the casinos hate you.

A.P. and I played these face-up two-deck games for over a year and it was a very, very satisfying year indeed.

The above was excerpted from Frank’s book I Am a Card Counter!

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Truth About Blackjack Players

 

There are three types of blackjack players and sub-categories of these three. If you are a self-styled blackjack player using your own unique and probably wrong strategy and you are easily offended, you might not want to read this article. That’s my warning to you.

Blackjack players who are card counters, meaning they can get a small edge over the casino when they play, have certain things they look for. They want deep penetration into the deck, decks or shoe. This allows their count to become stronger as the cards have been played.

These players are not as interested in the rules as they are in the penetration (however, they will probably forgo the 6:5 blackjack games). Penetration is the key to the casino treasury. They would also prefer to play alone or with only a couple of players at the table. Advantage players want to play as many hands as possible. They love fast dealers!

Regular basic strategy players (basic strategy being the computer derived play of every player hand against every dealer up-card) want just the opposite. They want good rules, shallow penetration, a full table and slow dealers. The fewer hands such players play the better for them. Old, arthritic dealers or those dealers who love to talk are the best bets for a basic strategy player.

Card counters and basic strategy players are opposite sides of the blackjack coin; the two never to meet in their long-term expectations.

The third type of player, the category of which goes from stupid to stupider to “oh, my god, he did what?” Such players use their own well-thought-out-seemingly-logical strategy which is totally wrong and based merely on their own limited experiences in the casinos. (“I know what I am doing; I have been playing blackjack for years.” “Sorry, no, you don’t. You split 10s, double on 12, and annoy everyone by giving the wrong advice! And there’s a funky odor coming from you.”)

Players who try to use their psychic powers are long-term losers. Players who assume the dealer always has a 10-card in the hole, even though only about 31 percent of the cards are of 10-value, are long term losers. Players who always insure their hands, even their blackjacks, are long-term losers. Players who split fives…players who won’t hit their 16 against a dealer up-card of seven…players who don’t always split aces and eights – the list goes on forever – they are all losers.

Yes, basic strategy players are losers but they are basically losing a mere one-half percent of their action while our third category folks are losing their shirts.

Blackjack is a great game, for card counters and for basic strategy players, but each must play the particular game their strategies are suited for. And that third category? Sadly, there’s no talking to them.

[Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle and Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com

The Question of Credit

 

They have the highest house edge of any machines in the casino. In fact, no one has ever come out ahead playing them – ever. They loom in the hallways and lobbies – brightly lit machines with no conscience, who neither ask for nor give quarter – or quarters for that matter. Many a player will rush to them and start pressing buttons, hoping to make a quick withdrawal. And the players pay a hefty, hefty price on these machines because no one has ever won on them. No one has even broken even on them. Ever!

I’m not talking about your garden-variety slot or video-poker machines. I’m talking about those ATM Credit Card Advance machines, sprinkled all over casino creation, that charge unconscionable interest rates of upwards of three percent on a single withdrawal, often adding fees of up to and over ten percent of the total money withdrawn. (Fees? Fees? Isn’t the interest the fee?) Casino players who use these machines are making the dumbest possible move they can make – dumber than splitting tens at blackjack, dumber than betting Big Red at craps and dumber than playing Sic Bo.

What’s worse, using those currency-sucking monsters is so unnecessary! In fact, no smart casino player should ever give them a look much less a mention when right in the casino sits a flesh and blood human being who will give you money; who wants to give you money; whose job is to give you money, money for free – with no interest and no fees – and he or she will also give you anywhere from seven to forty-five days to pay it all back, depending on how much you borrowed. Now, casino players can’t ask for anything better than that other than a win the very next time they play. Yes, I am talking about casino credit.

Every casino has a special credit department whose sole reason for existing is to give away money. (Okay, let’s not be naive. They give it away in the hopes that you’ll lose it in the casino. But that’s so obvious I don’t have to say that, do I?) The upsides to getting casino credit are numerous and obvious. The downsides are small and even more obvious.

The first benefit to a casino credit line is that you don’t have to carry wads of cash when you travel by car, bus, train or plane to your favorite casino venue. The second benefit to credit is that the money you have in your gambling bank account can sit there for up to six weeks gaining interest before you have to pay back the casino what you owe it. (You do have a gambling bank account don’t you? Money tucked aside that is used strictly for playing purposes? If not, start one, now, even before you get credit.) If you win, you pay back your marker immediately. If you lose, the casino takes it out of your account. Contrast this with those awful credit card advance machines that immediately dock your account and rip their pound of interest flesh from your economic carcass as well.

A third, generally unspoken, unpublicized benefit to getting casino credit has to do with how you’re perceived once you have, use and pay back a credit line. Although I could get no casino executives to state for the record that “credit players” are viewed in a more favorable light than “money players,” the fact is that they are. The casino assumes that credit players are willing to lose the amount of their credit line (which may or may not be true). A simple mind experiment can prove this.

Two players enter a game and both cash in for $1,000. Joe gives cash and Joan takes out a $1,000 marker against her credit line of $10,000. Both Joe and Joan now lose their $1,000 in short order. Who would you bet on to go for a second $1,000 – Joe, the cash player, or Joan with the $10,000 line? I pick Joan because I know (or think I know) that she has $10,000 in play money she’s willing to gamble. I have no idea how much Joe has. For all I know, that $1,000 was for his kid’s braces and he’s in a powerful lot of trouble when his wife, Big Gert, finds out that little Lulu is still going to resemble Bugs Bunny when she hits junior high next year.

Casinos also think that credit players are more motivated players. In fact, this is probably true. My experience tells me that credit players tend to come to casinos more frequently than other players. Casinos like that. Interestingly enough, between four and ten percent of table-game players have established credit lines and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the table game drop in Atlantic City, at least, comes from these players. Casinos that attract big action tend to have more credit players than casinos that attract small to moderate action.

Even more interesting, only about one to two percent of slot players have established credit. Why so few? Because many slot players don’t know that credit exists for them as well. But it does. In the future you are going to see a big push to get credit for slot players from the casinos.

How do you get that credit line? Easy! Just call your favorite casino and ask them to send you a credit application. Most casinos in a given venue use similar forms. In Vegas, the forms tend to be modest. They’ll ask for your name, address, phone, social security number and the bank account you’ll use for your credit line.

On the other hand, Atlantic City desires more information. Most casinos there will want to know your full name, address, phone number, where you work or if you’re self-employed, your yearly income, your outstanding indebtedness, the name of your bank, and the account you want to write your markers against. Some Atlantic City casinos will go one step further and ask to know your net worth.

You’ll then sign a release form which will allow the casino’s credit checkers to make sure you have enough money in the specified account to pay back the amount of the credit you’re requesting. This is an important item. When you apply make sure you have more than enough in one account to fully cover the entire line of credit you want.

The casinos will then do a credit check to make sure you’re a good risk. The whole process takes about a week.

What are your chances of being turned down?

Stated one casino credit manager who wished to remain nameless: “I’d say that approximately three-fourths of the people who ask for credit get it. The only area where there might be some difference of opinion between us and the patron is on how much credit we should give. First time credit applications are often for sums that we feel might be a little too high. If someone asks for $10,000, we might say ‘Let us give you $5,000 and we can readjust that figure in the future.’ The people we turn down are usually people who just have a history of not paying their bills. Remember we’re giving a loan for up to six weeks with no interest and we want to make sure we’re going to get that money back.”

What percentage of the money borrowed by players is not returned? The figure varies from casino to casino and state to state, and is a closely guarded secret, but I estimate that less than three percent of the total money borrowed by credit players is not paid back in a timely fashion.

Once your credit is approved, your next trip to the casino will probably see you take out your first marker. A marker is a promissory note that can be drawn directly against your bank account. In fact, it looks like an oversized generic check, which is exactly what it is.

Once you’re at the table of your choice, you’ll say to the dealer: “I’d like to take out a marker, please.” The floor person will be called over and he or she will ask you, “For how much?” Once you tell the floor person how much you want, you’ll probably be asked for your player’s card. In such a case, the casino floor person will fill out most of the information on a marker form and ask you to sign it. If you don’t hand in a player’s card, or if the casino is very busy, the floor person will give you a small sheet of paper where you’ll write your name, address, phone number, the name of your bank, and how much you want to take out. Then you’ll sign your name.

It usually takes two to five minutes for the marker to arrive. When it does, you’ll sign it and the floor person will put it on the table and the dealer will count out the appropriate number of chips (credit players in Las Vegas and some other venues will get the chips even before the marker arrives). Slot players will usually do their transactions at the cashier’s cage.

That’s it, you’re in the game. It’s a lot faster than the ATMs and a lot more economical.

How and when you pay back your marker is a product of how you did at the tables. It is customary to pay back all the money you borrowed at the end of your trip if you won. If you don’t pay after a winning stay, it is considered a very bad thing called walking with the chips. Casinos frown upon players who “walk” because they feel (rightly) that not only have you won money from them at the tables (fair and square) but you’ve taken a loan that now will get you interest for however long it sits in your account before the marker is redeemed (unfair and not square).

Some high-rolling, self-employed business people have attempted to use their casino credit lines as short-term business loans at no interest. If casinos discover you doing this, they will not only cut off your credit, they’ll say bad things about you behind your back and you won’t get credit at other casinos when the word gets out that you’re a “chip walker.” So never walk with the chips.

How much time do casinos give you to pay the piper? If you borrowed up to $1,000, you usually have seven days to pay up. If you borrowed between $1,001 and $5,000, you usually have 14 days; and if you borrowed $5,001 or more, you have between 30 and 45 days. Each state will have slightly different timetables but the above is representative.

But what if you borrowed $1,001 and only (only?) lost $500 of it? Here you have a choice. You can pay back the $500 that is left and wait the two weeks for the casino to collect the rest, or you can simply write a check for the other $500 on the spot. (Some casinos want first-time credit players to do this until it is firmly established that they are not risks.)

I know why players would want to get credit, but why would casinos want to give it? Some players believe that casinos give out credit as a part of a plot to get them to play for bigger money than they can afford and for longer periods of time than they should. Although this is not the reason casinos give out credit, it is a pitfall that players should be aware of and is the one big downside to casino credit. Your credit line should be in keeping with your budget. Don’t take out a $10,000 credit line if you are a five-dollar player with a gambling bankroll of $500. The temptation to plunge into your credit line for more money might just prove too great to resist on a bad day or night.

Casinos give out credit as a customer service, a loyalty inducer, and a convenience. Players should be aware that markers are money in the bank – your bank – and while they are interest free, they aren’t obligation free. Should you lose in the casino, you will be expected to pay back what you borrowed. Make sure you can afford to do so.

But given the other alternatives of carrying wads of cash and/or borrowing from those bent-nosed ATM loan sharks in the lobby, establishing casino credit is the intelligent way to go.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, e-books, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores.

***Above article based on Frank’s book Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!

 

 

I Am a Broken Record

 

My wife the Beautiful AP just said that no one talks about broken or even unbroken records anymore. She is not sure many of my readers have much experience with records of any type so let me update that opening and say that I am a tape recording coming unraveled.

No, wait; tape recordings are pretty old too, aren’t they? So let me go modern and say I am an eight-track tape. Oh, for crying out loud, my neighbor’s annoying kid was outside lounging by his pool and I asked him about eight-track tapes. He laughed at me.

The nerve! The kid just got rid of his braces and his teeth are still multi-colored. He didn’t care that he is one weird-looking kid. He still snorted and snickered and disdainfully told me no one discusses eight-track tapes. “Get with it, Scobe,” he said to me. “Get with the real world dude.”

Just for your information this kid is a PITA which stands for Pain in the (ahum). I got that directly from the person who gave birth to him. His mother knows best.

Okay, so what is it that’s broken? Am I a cracked CD or wacked-out digital download into something that takes digital downloads? What is going on?

Oh, screw it, I am a broken record. Look, I prefer records, just as I prefer real coins making coin sounds in a slot machine. The new-fangled-slot-world that has evolved around simulated sounds and dancing animation these past 15 or so years is not going to get to the eight-track-tape-deck of my heart.

True, I have to deal with the world as it is (I’m trying, I’m trying) and you my dear slot players do too. So here is what’s broken about my record:

Speed Kills!

Let me put it another way: The faster you run head-first into a brick wall the more your head is going to hurt as a result. You might even die.

Whether you are playing an old machine or a brand new machine one thing has always been true – the greater the number of decisions you experience, the better chance you have of losing because you are bucking big house edges on almost all slot machines.

Fast equals not good. Slow equals good. Relax, there is no rush.

Use this as your new mantra: The more you play, the merrier for the casino; the less you play the merrier for you.

A leisurely pace is the best method to contain your bankroll and avoid getting hammered too soon and too often. Is it really so joyous to play as fast as a whirlwind when such a wind could easily blow your bankroll away?

I think I have been giving this slow-down advice for decades now but still so many slot players – who obviously have not read my broken-record of slow down you move too fast, got to make your money last – just seem anxious to play faster than the speed of light.

Albert Einstein would have changed his theory concerning light’s speed had he witnessed the swiftness of today’s slot players. “Hmm, I zink it eez e=slot-player-speed squared.”

I will admit that there is a tendency to speed up the number of decisions a slot player faces as time passes. This is similar to how fast a drinker drinks. A person takes the first drink, sips it, and savors it. “Ah, that was delicious, my good man, simply delicious.” He gently wipes his lip with his silk handkerchief.

By the 10th drink, our sophisticated sipper has become a wet-mouthed raging lunatic: “Ah, whool haf mo ma man! Jus po it dowen ma troat!” as he power snots into the bar.

There are relatively easy ways to slow down the pace. Do a spin every 10 seconds. If you must sit at the machine and actually count from one to ten, then do so. After a while it will become second nature.

I think one of the most important realizations that slot players – and all gamblers for that matter – come to is the fact that anticipation is the driving force behind our play. We are looking forward to the next decision. We want a win!

That anticipation of what’s coming next is the fuel that can fool us into playing way too fast. Containing the speed of play will not diminish your anticipation; in fact, I believe it will do the opposite.

I think the anticipatory fun is even more fun the longer you allow it to play itself out. Do six decisions per minute and allow yourself the delightful feeling as you prepare for the next decision. Let the anticipation grow; savor it the way you would savor that first sip of a great drink.

Come on now; your drink almost always tastes better on the first couple of sips than on the swilling of gallons on the 200th swallow.

Okay, so here is the denouement: I am a broken record but what I am saying is the right advice for the smart slots player. I don’t care if my neighbor’s kid thinks I am a “dude” who has to get with it. Listen kid, I’m a gramophone on a mission!

Frank Scoblete’s new books are I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps! and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter! All available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores.

The Greatest Blackjack Player of All Time

 

“I want to meet the greatest blackjack player in the world,” I said to Howard Schwartz, manager of the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.    If anyone knew the greatest blackjack player it would be Howard.

This was June of 1991, several months before my first gambling book would be published.

“Let me go to my office and see what I can do,” he said.

A couple of moments later, a shabbily-dressed worker came from the back.

“I’m Paul Keen,” he said.

“I’m just waiting for Howard. He’s getting something for me.”

Paul smiled. “I’m what he’s getting for you. Howard said you wanted to meet the best blackjack player in the world. I really don’t know if I am the best in the world but for many years I made my full living playing blackjack.”

Paul Keen?

I had heard of Ed Thorp whose book Beat the Dealer revolutionized the game for advantage players. I had heard of “the big player” Ken Uston, who was the most famous and flamboyant blackjack player of all time.

I’d heard of Lawrence Revere, Stanford Wong, Henry Tamburin, Lance Humble and Arnold Snyder. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily know Paul Keen since he hadn’t written a book, but I wondered how this guy could be considered the best in the world at blackjack? Shouldn’t the best in the world be rich? This Paul Keen was a stock boy. How could he be the best in the world?

“You expected someone a little more imposing didn’t you?”

Howard came from the back. “This man is the greatest blackjack player that I know of.” He nodded at Keen. “When any of the great names have a question they come to Paul. Uston used to frequently come here to talk to him.”

The Ken Uston?” Ken Uston was the blazing star in the blackjack firmament.

The Ken Uston,” said Howard.

“Okay, dinner tonight at 7 o’clock,” I said. “I’ll give a call and let you know where I’ve made reservations.”

“Where are you staying?” he asked.

“The Maxim,” I said.

“The Maxim has the best blackjack game in the history of Vegas.”

And that is how I met Paul Keen.

The Maxim casino is no longer around; it closed in 2001. The building now houses the Westin.

My wife and I had selected the Maxim because it was inexpensive and two blocks from the strip. The place had a coffee shop and a good steakhouse. So the steakhouse it was for dinner.

I called and told Paul Keen that we’d meet him at 7pm at the Maxim steakhouse.

Paul arrived right at 7 o’clock. “This is Susan,” he said. “I live in her luxury trailer.”

I introduced them to the Beautiful AP and we went inside to have dinner.

We ordered drinks. “You count cards?” asked Paul.

“Yes,” I said.

“Are you any good?” he asked.

“We’re good,” said the Beautiful AP

“You’ll like the Maxim’s game,” he said. “It is the best single-deck game ever in Las Vegas. I don’t ever remember a game this good.”

The waiter brought us our drinks. We toasted to a great trip.

“The game uses all but one of the cards, which is discarded after the shuffle. If the dealer runs out of cards midway through the hands, he just takes the discards, shuffles them and continues dealing.”

“God,” I said.

“The rules are great too. Dealer stands on soft 17 [ace-6], you can surrender your hands, and you can double on any two cards and split three times.”

“God,” I said.

“And every time you get a blackjack with five dollars or more you get a one dollar coupon you can use anywhere in the hotel.”

“They are giving away money.”

“There are only four tables. The other players have to satisfy their urge to play so they play the six-deck games which aren’t so hot. The casino manager is pretty clever. He brings the players in for the best game in town but most of them play inferior games.”

“The crowd gets the adrenaline flowing,” I said.

“Some card counters are even getting hit at the single-deck games too,” he said. “They aren’t winning as much as they should.”

Paul Keen had started off as a relatively big player, betting green and black chips, but Vegas is not a friendly town to skilled card counters. The casinos have finely honed radar to catch them – with skilled players hired to catch other skilled players and now computer systems. Even though card counting is perfectly legal, the casinos have the right to tell you to stop playing and to never to come back to their properties.

Over the years Paul was banned from almost every casino. Then he managed to get some of the pit bosses to allow him to play five dollar games with his high bet no more than $15. As he said, “They gave me that at least.”

In card counting when the cards remaining in the deck favor the casino, the player bets small and in Paul’s case that would be five dollars. When the cards remaining to be played favored the player, then the player bets big and in Paul’s case that would be $15. The cards favored the casino when more small cards – 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 remained – and the cards favored the player when more 10’s, jacks, queens, kings and aces remained. Paul’s bet spread from low ($5) to high ($15), while quite small, was sufficient to get him the advantage against those great single decks of the early 1990’s.

Still Paul couldn’t really win a lot of money at those great games unless luck became his lady not just for one night but for the rest of his life.

So Paul Keen lived in his girlfriend’s “luxury trailer” and worked at the Gamblers Book Shop. Vegas would not allow Paul Keen to win substantial sums of money even if some casinos let him play. That’s not how Vegas works. Vegas delights in snatching money, not bestowing it. If Vegas were a science fiction movie it would be “The Invasion of the Money Snatchers.”

Paul certainly had his ups and downs over the years. At times he lived out of his car because he didn’t want to use his bankroll to pay for room and board. Thankfully, Howard Schwartz hired Paul and then Susan housed him so at this point in his life he had a job and shelter.

When we went to the casino after dinner, there were two open spots. Paul took one spot; I took the other. I had never played this type of single-deck game. As I played it just didn’t feel right.

“Let’s quit,” said Paul. He was up about $60. I was down about $20. My spread was $5 to $20. “Let’s go to your room.” In the room Paul took out a deck of cards and shuffled. “There’s a type of play, known as end-play, which almost no one knows nowadays. When all the cards are dealt out but not all the players have received their full hands, those discards now change the nature of the game – they flip your count. Understand?”

“Let me get this,” I said. “If the discards contain small cards, the count is high and normally you’d bet big but if the cards run out and you haven’t gotten your two-card hand what’s about to come out will be small cards.”

“Right,” he nodded. “So you have to know that if you are betting into a positive count [favoring the players] your big bets won’t be ruined because that second card you are getting will most likely be small. So you have to be careful and make sure you know approximately how many cards are left in the dealer’s hand so you don’t get caught by the reshuffle. Also, if a dealer is showing a small card and has to hit that small card, those discards coming into the game could help him make his hand. Or they can bust him if the discards contain a lot of high cards.”

AP jumped in. “So many card counters are actually hurting themselves not knowing this end-play?”

“Yes, the card counter might not be able to handle that reshuffling in the middle of a round of play.”

Paul continued: “Almost no one knows about end-play because games like this are never played. But card counters – most of them anyway – just play by rote. They rarely think to look at a truly unusual game and see if it has some unique pitfalls.”

Paul concluded: “You get the hang of [end play] and your edge on this game will be the highest you can imagine. Off the top the player has a small edge on this game [using] basic strategy. You will have the best blackjack game you ever played with end-play.”

At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that Paul knew his stuff. End play? Amazing.

The next night, Paul took out a deck and taught us end-play.

As we played Paul would ask us how many cards were left in the dealer’s hand and if he would run out thereby reshuffling the discards and how that reshuffling would affect our hands, the dealer’s hand and our betting and strategy decisions. At first A.P. and I were awful. After about an hour, we started to get close. Soon after that, we started hitting it just about right.         At the end of several hours, Paul put the cards down and said, “Let’s go down and give this a try.”

That night turned our blackjack playing careers around. I became a great end-player and the Maxim’s heaven-sent game took us from spreading $5 to $20 up to $25 to $200.

We extended our trip to eight weeks. What made the Maxim so great was the fact that the floor people and pit bosses knew we were counting; they knew others were counting and didn’t care. No sweat, no heat, nothing to do but keep the count and bet appropriately. It was like going to heaven.

The Beautiful AP and I then played for those eight weeks, logging in eight hours per day with each of us playing two hands. When the count was high, we’d jump bets – $25 to $100 to $200. High counts could have $800 on the layout – four hands of $200 – as opposed to $80.

By playing four hands for eight hours per day, we accumulated a fortune in $1 coupons because the average is about one blackjack every 20 hands so (on average) every five rounds one of us would get a blackjack. Those $1 coupons added up – except for the first couple of nights, we never had to pay for a meal while we stayed there. The Maxim did not comp us – one of the things that showed they knew we were playing with an edge.

With the best rules, with relaxed executives, and with personable dealers, the Maxim game was the best blackjack game I ever played.

Paul Keen played every night after work. I got to see him in action and he was truly in his own class.

Paul Keen seemed to have an uncanny ability to predict when he was going to get a blackjack. He was allowed to bet more than $15 at max in this game, so he’d jump to $50 in a player-favorable moment and it was stunning how often those blackjacks came to him. (That $50 was his maximum bet.)

During the eight weeks I gained a great appreciation for his blackjack skills. But there was still more in the offing.

Keen took me a step further – or at least tried to take me a step further. After touring the car collection at Imperial Palace (now the Quad), Paul said, “I want to show you a great way to add to your edge, card tracking.”

The concept of card tracking (also known as shuffle tracking) is quite simple. You follow the 10-valued cards and/or the aces as they come out. When a given round is played, if there is an abundance of 10s and aces, you watch them put into the discard rack and when the dealer finishes with all the cards you follow the shuffle to see where those cards wind up. Then as you play you keep your eye on those areas where the 10’s and aces sit and as they are about to be dealt you bet big. It is a step way beyond simple card counting; an extremely difficult step. Almost no card counters I ever met achieved mastery of this technique.

Paul Keen did.

We stood behind the players at a six-deck game and watched the rounds. Then it came, one round where 10’s and aces poured out of the shoe. Paul watched them being played then put into the discard rack. When the dealer finished this shoe, he shuffled the cards and put the decks back into the shoe. I had no idea where those 10’s and aces wound up. I tried to follow them in the shuffle but I just couldn’t do it. The shuffle became a blur to me. I couldn’t believe Paul would know either. How could you follow this kind of thing?

Somewhere in that shoe was supposedly a group of high cards and aces. Paul watched the discard pile. Then he nodded, “The next two rounds will have those 10’s and aces. If we were playing we’d pump up the bets. There should be some blackjacks and some hands of twenty.”

It was a miracle; a cascade of 10’s and aces came out in the next two rounds. Of course, there were some small cards mixed in with those 10’s and aces but there were three blackjacks and six hands of 20 in the next two rounds.

Paul did this several times and he always got the groups of high cards correct. Was this a perfect strategy? No. Other cards did mix in with the high cards, but overall it was a high percentage play favoring the player. So, I guessed, maybe this was how Paul got that extra edge at the Maxim game because he could follow a couple or several cards even in a single-deck game.

Yes, Paul Keen was an elite player; truly the best I ever saw and I have seen some other great ones. You could understand why he was a threat to the casinos – that is, if he had enough of a bankroll to play. Even Paul Keen, the best blackjack player in the world, was closer to broke than break even.

Keen’s lack of money didn’t allow him to play up to his potential. With the casinos banning high bets, his spectacular early career ended with a whimper. So here was blackjack’s greatest player on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Such is the sad irony of life.

No books would be written about him. No young players would think, “I want to be the next Paul Keen.” No great gambling writers would flock to Vegas to pick his brain. He was Ozymandias, a broken, wind-whipped statue in the desert but, yes, he had been the true king.

Frank Scoblete’s newest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage Play Blackjack! and I Am a Dice Controller!  Join Frank on his web site at www.frankscoblete.com.

 

 

The Wheat Germ Man

 

(The following is excerpted from the book I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack by Frank Scoblete.)

The “Wheat Germ Man” was totally whacked out. First, he was a great card counter; not as good as Paul Keen (the greatest I ever saw) but in that elite category nevertheless. He had some three-level count and he could also track cards in the decks but not with the precision of Keen. He was fearless in getting his big bets out when the count favored him. He was an all-around pro. He would be what any blackjack player wishes to be – talented, perceptive to dealer mistakes, fearless.

And thoroughly insane.

I called him the “Wheat Germ Man” because he was a health food fanatic – his favorite drink was some concoction of wheat grass and Gatorade. He was completely convinced that such a drink prevented cancers, all kinds of cancers too, along with heart attacks, strokes, and body sores, and such a concoction would prolong his life into his early 100’s. “I will be the healthiest one-hundred-year-old in the world. That is my intention.”

His breakfast was wheat germ with banana and a whole grove of other fruit. Or oatmeal with the same grove of fruit. He took far more vitamins than I did – and I am almost a vitamin junkie. I would say he took a handful every couple of hours. He also loved seaweed, even that stinking raw seaweed just out of the ocean. He gave himself enemas just about every day.

“Enemas are great for cleansing you,” he’d say. “I use decaffeinated coffee as I find that cleans me out without the jangling from the caffeine.”

He ate almost no meat and he loved fish.

I met him in 1995 – during the Christmas vacation. During Christmas many of the big billboards at Caesars, Las Vegas Hilton and other major properties were written in Chinese. Vegas was crowded during Christmas with Asians. Wheat Germ Man was not a fan of Asian players.

“These Orientals and I call them Orientals and doesn’t that sound exotic instead of Asian? I think so. What’s with this Asian crap? They don’t know how to play. They are morons but they come to the table and throw their money around and yell in that stupid language. Why don’t they just shut up and play the slots? They don’t know how to play so why waste everyone’s time? I can’t stand them coming to the table and jabbering like monkeys. If they don’t know how to play they should go away.”

Wheat Germ Man was rarely in a good mood – everyone was a moron or, if they were of another race, a monkey to him. He always had something to complain about. He always had something to lecture you about. He believed he knew everything.

He thought he knew more about health and medicine than doctors. He thought he knew more about government than any political-science professor in America. His opinion of college political science professors: “They are all lackeys of the power structure. When the revolution comes they will all be broken eggs in the university system. In the revolution to make an omelet you have to break some eggs. I’ll have my baseball bat.”

He was also convinced that there were giant world-wide conspiracies. Some of these were among countries, some among politicians, rich people, Catholics, Jews, illuminati, masons and maybe even bricklayers.

He was a high school dropout. “School is stupid. Look at how many stupid people have gone to school and graduated. More stupid people have graduated than smart people.”

And he almost always had a cold or, as he said, “allergies” to the poisons around us. He was sniffling, coughing, incessantly blowing gobs of greenish mucus into tissues that tended to rip apart when such heavy loads were propelled in them. It was kind of like watching a movie called “The Blob from the Outer Nostrils.”

The daily enemas gave him a raging case of ulcerative colitis – a disease that is horribly painful and debilitating. The ulcerative colitis came about – according to the emergency room doctor who treated this anally bleeding, dehydrated, hallucinating wizened shell of a health-food expert – from those enemas over so many years.

The doctor explained that Wheat Germ Man probably had a genetic factor in the disease but his enemas and stress probably brought that factor out and that is what landed Wheat Germ Man into the emergency room.

When a strong regimen of prednisone, a steroid, halted the symptoms thereby easing his pain, Wheat Germ Man returned to the blackjack wars, and he told us, “What the hell do those doctors know? They wouldn’t give me the [wheat grass] juice and Gatorade. They pumped me full of drugs. They are all morons in a conspiracy with the FDA. My body being healthy cured itself.” Then he blew his green globule into his tissue. The fact that modern medicine might have saved his life was irrelevant. Wheat Germ Man’s famous saying was “Who you gonna believe? Me or the FDA?”

I sometimes wonder why so many of the great blackjack players I’ve met seem to have personality disorders – at least what seem to me to be personality disorders. Certainly, Wheat Germ Man fit right into that diagnosis. He was a health nut who was unhealthy; a high school dropout who knew everything, and an anti-“Oriental.” Still he was a marvelous blackjack player.

His saying was a simple, “Get the money out there.” That saying I have appropriated. I use it all the time. And he did get the money out there; he certainly did. If you want to be a successful card counter Wheat Germ Man – for all his madness – hit the nail on the head. “Get the money out there.”

He died in 2001 at the age of 38. From what I understand no one attended his funeral.

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores. Read his web site at www.frankscoblete.com.