In this Blackjack Forum article, a Blackjack Hall of Fame-nominated professional gambler loses a good chunk of his bankroll betting on a false key card at blackjack ace location.
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Professional Gamblers at Work:
An Ace Location Story

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St. Louis Blues: An Ace Tracker's Lament

By Darryl Purpose
(From Blackjack Forum Volume XVII #3, Fall 1997)
© Blackjack Forum 1997

[Note from Arnold Snyder: Since the writing of this article, Darryl Purpose has been elected to the Blackjack Hall of Fame. He is also a successful folk singer and songwriter. To check out his latest musical release, see]

I’m playing some blackjack around St. Louis. Scouting and playing small stakes, trying to dig out this 50k bank that is now 10k. They have some special gambling law in Missouri designed to protect the players – you can only buy in $500 on any one “cruise.” Before I learned to be careful about that I had to walk away from a +20 shoe for lack of chips. Arghh.

At one point the dealer was a tad sloppy and exposed the card on top of the pack just before the cut. Clear as day, it was a big ol’ ACE. Also clear as day was a big ol’ Queen of Diamonds on the bottom of the pack.

There was one other player on the table and she cut the cards about 1 ¾ decks from the top. I’m thinking – if that Queen of Diamonds comes out as the last card of a round, this could be real interesting…

Tracking the Ace: Strategy

It’s a quarter game, and my strategy to this point, on a quarter game, has been to leave the table at any negative, but when this one goes negative, I stay. The woman sitting in the #2 spot is large, taking up a little of the #1 & #3 spots as well. This doesn’t leave much room for me to squeeze into first base, so I wait to grab the spot, because, after all, it’s a long shot that I’ll need it.

I’m hoping this woman leaves the table because that would increase the chances of the Queen of Diamonds falling as the last card of the round. Sure enough, my prayers are answered. She taps out, gets up… then with a grunt and a mumble reaches between her sizeable breasts and pulls out two sweaty hundred dollar bills, and the game continues. As we get to the middle of the deck, she says, “Mind if I play two hands?” That would certainly reduce the chances of the Queen falling on the last card!

I conjure up a sincere confidence and say emphatically, as if I know that this would bring us all kinds of bad luck, “Play one.”

The deck is down to about the two-deck level. I bet $50. I figure, that Queen might come out in the hit cards leaving me with the option of doing something really interesting and really profitable, like… doubling on a hard 20?! Maybe not, but certainly an A,9.

The possibilities are swimming through my head. I don’t bet too big because I only have $250 in chips and the chance to buy only $500 more, and if that Queen of Diamonds comes out as the last card of the round, I’d like to have some money to bet the ACE!

The dealer has a 6 up, 5 in the hole, hits it with a little card and Boom, the QUEEN OF DIAMONDS! Exactly what I was looking for! Exactly the place in the deck expected!

But…I didn’t really plan this whole thing out… I’ve got to get over to first base!!! I’ve got to buy some more chips!!! I’ve got to figure out how much to bet!!!

I say to the dealer, “Hold it up!” Then, turning to the other player, I say, “Mind if I play first base on this one?!” I speak confidently, just a little like a crazy person, a superstitious person, like a person who doesn’t care what the world thinks, but has a notion that this or that will bring him luck and is hell-bent on carrying that out. (Like your average casino-goer, maybe?)

I give the dealer $200 and announce, “I’m going to play first base!”

As I move over I’m quite relieved to see that the large woman isn’t miffed. She thinks it’s kind of amusing. I think she even feels a little sorry for me. The whole thing must seem a tad pathetic at this point.

How much to bet?! I’m thinking—save enough to double down. Bet half of what I have available (about $350). But as the dealer is changing my $200, I realize that the advantage from doubling (8%??) is nothing compared to the 50+% that I have for getting the ace, besides, since I’m getting the ace, it’s only soft doubles that we’re missing anyway.


1/3 Kelly would call for a $3,000+ bet.


I bet everything.

It’s a big stack ’cause it’s got lots of $1 and 50 cent chips in it.

The floorman comes over and asks, “Is this a bet?!”

I haven’t bet over $100 in this place to this point… I figure the whole scene is already over the top, so I say with conviction, “Yes! I’m going to get a blackjack!! Give me my blackjack!”

I’m thinking hard about the appropriate reaction on my part when I do get my blackjack. I hadn’t really figured it out when the first card was dealt… the ace… but what’s this?!… it’s not the ace… It’s the FIVE of CLUBS!

A Bad Time for a Sad Lesson in Ace Location Technique

In that crack in time between worlds when everything is in slow motion, you have all the time in the world to understand.

I fully understand that I’ve got 7% of the bankroll out there, I can’t double down, and I’ve got the FIVE of CLUBS! The next card falls…

QUEEN of DIAMONDS to the player next to me!… and even before the next card comes out I understand even more… I’ve got 7% of the bankroll on the table and I’ve got the Five of Clubs and the dealer has the big ol’ ACE…

Of course, y’all being professional and all, you know that it doesn’t really matter how the hand turned out… ♠

To Read More About Ace Location and Other Professional Gambling Techniques

For more information on ace location and shuffle tracking, see The Blackjack Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook, by Arnold Snyder. An introduction to shuffle tracking and ace location is provided in Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack

For more stories about professional gamblers, see Arnold Snyder's novel Risk of Ruin , about a team of professional blackjack hole-card players, based on Arnold's own playing experiences.

For more information at this web site on professional gambling techniques like ace locations and shuffle tracking, see Arnold Snyder's Professional Gambling Library.

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