Interview with a Legendary Blackjack Hole-Card Player
FROM ET FAN:
Interview with RCBy Richard W. Munchkin
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XXIII #1, Spring 2003)
© 2003 Blackjack Forum
What is a Blackjack Hole-Card Player?
Not all professional blackjack players count cards. There is a very small group of professional gamblers using a technique with a much higher advantage.
These players are known as "hole carders." If a blackjack player knows the dealerís hole card his edge with perfect play is 13.06% according to Beyond Counting, by James Grosjean. Even with cover plays to mask what they do, the edge can be close to 10%. 10%! Card counters will fly off to Third World countries in the midst of a civil war to play a game with a 2% edge. Why isnít everyone playing these games? The answer is: It ainít easy.
For every one hour spent on the table playing, the hole-card player may spend ten hours scouting. He spends hours and hours walking in and out of casinos, often in hundred-degree heat, checking dealers for the slightest leak. Most players, even if shown a dealer who is flashing, would not be able to spot the hole card anyway. Hole carders spend hundreds of hours training their eyes to see something that flashes by in a fraction of a second, often cast in shadow.
With this high advantage comes more risk. In my interview in the Winter 2003 issue of Blackjack Forum, attorney Bob Nersesian pointed out that one of the problems card counters face is that even some police officers think card counting is illegal. If they think that about card counting, you can imagine their response to professional gamblers playing the hole card.
Hole-card players have been beaten, harassed, and jailed on trumped-up charges. In the 1980s, two hole-card players were taken into the back room of the Horseshoe Casino and beaten to within an inch of their lives. Both suffered broken ribs, and one had a ruptured spleen.
In the Spring 2001 issue of Blackjack Forum, James Grosjean recounts his frightening tale of spending four nights in Clark County jail after telling Gaming Agents he was seeing the dealerís hole cards. In this interview you will learn that you had better not disturb other gamblers as you are being assaulted by casino security!
But wait a minute, playing the hole card is not, I repeat, not illegal. In more than one case the courts have ruled that it is the casinoís responsibility to protect its games. If a sloppy dealer flashes the hole card, there is nothing wrong with a player taking advantage of it. It is also not illegal for that player to signal that information to any other player.
But, to quote Bob Loeb, "The real world doesnít always follow the law" (Blackjack and the Law, by I. Nelson Rose and Robert A. Loeb). So, if you have the eyes of an eagle, the patience of a saint, and a pair of asbestos underwear, then hole-carding may be for you.
For a look inside this subset of the world of professional gamblers, I interviewed RC. RC is a long-time, highly successful hole-card player and Las Vegas character. Knowing RC may be bad for your health. Dealers have been fired for knowing him, and one friend, who has never played blackjack, has been labeled a cheat in a Griffin flyer. The friendís crime? Having lunch with RC at a casino buffet. Though RC has been assaulted, arrested, and labeled a cheat, he is quick to laugh, and take it all with a grain of salt.
Beginning of a Blackjack Career
RWM: How did you become a professional gambler?
RC: When I was in my early twenties, I used to come out here with friends. Iím from New Jersey. One of the guys in the group was a lawyer and he knew how to count cards. He was a green chip player. I was about 22. I was fascinated watching him play, and get heat. I thought it was interesting. I have family that has lived here since the Ď60s, and I moved here in í87. Thatís when I got interested, and started reading the books. I read Uston and Wong. I got all the books, and Blackbelt in Blackjack was my favorite. The first count I learned was the Zen. Iíve always had a lot of respect for Arnold. I enjoyed his writing style.
When I started, I was strictly a card counter. I got a regular job, but then on my days off I would go out and play. Of course, every time I played I won. This was strictly counting for red chips. I said, "Boy, this is easy. I can make more than I make at my job doing this."
RWM: What kind of work were you doing?
RC: I was a bartender at Palace Station. So I quit my job and became "a professional gambler." Then I met a guy in the gym, J, and he was a player so I hooked up with him. He was my biggest influence. We were partners for years and years. He is a bit of a character.
RWM: Most professional gamblers are.
RC: Anyway, J showed me the hole card. J and I were low-level players, and we used to mostly count cards. We didnít actively search out hole-card games, but if we came upon one, we would play it. We used to stick to downtown Vegas and we met a lot of the other local players. We were really well known down there.
I started with $5000 to my name. I built my bankroll from $5000 to $17,000. I found a frontloader at the Golden Nugget. I fired away on the game, thinking, "How can I lose?" She wiped me out. I had to start all over again. [A frontloader is a dealer that exposes the hole card from the front. The person sitting in the center of the table can spot it.óRWM]
RWM: Did you get broke a bunch of times?
RC: I went broke twice. The first time was when I lost the $17,000. I went back to New Jersey for a year. My family knew what I was doing, and they hated it. My father owned restaurants. He said, "Come back and run one of the restaurants. You have to think of your future."
It was the typical parental response. I always resisted, and then I went broke. I went back and ran one of his restaurants for a year, and hated it. I thought, "I have to get back to Vegas." I saved up some money and came back. I lost it, and took a $300 cash advance on my credit card. I built that $300 into the bankroll I have today.
RWM: When you went broke that second time did you take a more cautious approach with your bankroll?
RC: If I went bust on that $300, I was going to quit. J always says that my story is the most unbelievable story he knows. Then in 1991 the bosses on graveyard at the Golden Gate didnít believe card counting worked. When we started playing at the Golden Gate, they knew we were hole-card players, because they had seen some Griffin flyers. They didnít care. They said, "Donít do it here."
Our routine was to get up at ten at night and go to the gym. Weíd go right from the gym in our sweats to the Golden Gate at two a.m. when graveyard started. Weíd play every night from two to ten. We did this six or seven days a week. Betting red chips I built my bankroll back into five figures.
Then a player named Tip found out about it, and brought his whole team in there. I met a lot of players during that time. One of Tipís players we used to call Rainman. He kind of drools all the time. Tip would come in and take up a whole table by himself. The limit was $200, and he would bet from two hands of $50 to seven hands of $200. Tip and Rainman won $15,000 each on the same night, and that was the end of it.
I befriended a couple guys on his team. That is when I started playing more on the Strip. They were really impressed because I had these hole-card games. They said, "How can you see that?"
I had a small bankroll so I asked them to ask Tip if he was interested in a deal. I would read the game and take some percentage. Tip wanted to pay me $50 an hour so I said, "No thanks." [Tip was a member of the original Czech team, and is mentioned in two of the interviews in Gambling Wizards. He is still active in advantage play, and would make a great subject for a future interview. Tip, if youíre reading thisÖ --RWM]
RWM: When did you stop counting cards and start to specialize in hole cards?
RC: When the Golden Gate ended the free-for-all. It was nice playing at the Golden Gate because we didnít have to look over our shoulders. We played zero cover. I used to get thrown out of the Horseshoe betting nickels. I went from one hand of $5 to two hands of $10, and the boss told me if I did it again I was out of there. This is the world-famous Horseshoe, which supposedly would take the biggest bets in the world.
At the Golden Gate they knew what we were doing, and they didnít care. Having that part of the cat-and-mouse game gone was nice. It made us lazy. Once that ended we had to get a little more ambitious. Someone mentioned that there were good hole-card games at Circus Circus, and it was true.
RWM: Iím surprised that you hadnít gone down to the Strip before that.
RC: We did once in a while, but we had so many little things going on downtown that we stayed there. I didnít know much, and J is kind of a crazy character. I didnít know the right way to do things. I used to think that since I was just betting nickels they wouldnít throw me out. I found out that wasnít true. I got thrown out of all the clubs downtown for counting cards. I still run into pit bosses today who remember me as a card counter from 15 years ago.
So at the end of 1991 we moved on. At that time there were ten hole-card games on every shift at Circus Circus. In the early Ď90s there were games everywhere.
RWM: Did you travel?
RC: We would make four or five trips a year to Reno. We made a lot of money in Reno.
Hole-Card Play and Heat
RWM: What was the first big barring?
RC: Stardust in maybe í92 or í93. We had a girl who was 100% and I was on third base reading the game. [100% means that the spotter could see the hole card 100% of the time. This is unheard of today.óRWM] J came up and bet $100 money plays. He never bet more than two hands of $300 and won $16,000.
I was kicking him to bet more money. The floor woman was totally clueless. It was really busy, and nobody was paying any attention. We were having a great old time. The graveyard bosses come in and start taking the count. The boss comes up and sees J with all these chips and says, "What the fuck is going on here?" The heat started coming so J and I both got out the door. I went in a week later and they 86ed me.
RWM: Youíve had some nasty things happen.
RC: Iíve had a few bad ones. My first big backrooming wasnít really nasty, but it was unpleasant. I was playing the Golden Nugget in Laughlin. They handcuffed us and had us in the back room for two hours waiting for Gaming to show up.
This turned out to be one of the brightest Gaming Agents I have had contact with. He said all the right things. He said, "The casinos donít like what youíre doing, but it is not illegal." They wanted to take our picture and I said they couldnít take my picture without my consent. The Gaming Agent said, "Heís right." It was quite unusual for a Gaming Agent.
I got arrested at Boomtown. That was pretty bad. And I got beaten up a bit at the Eldorado in Reno. I could have sued for that one, but I didnít.
RWM: What happened?
RC: We were playing, and had beaten them for a bunch of money. We went back in the next day. They started milling around, and I knew the heat was coming. I was betting $5 a hand, and I picked up my chips and headed for the door. There was a security guard at the door and I heard over the walkie-talkie, "grab that guy."
I broke into a bit of a jog to get out the door. The security guard was waiting at the door. I was really into weight lifting back then, and I just bowled this guy over. He went tumbling out the door, and it was snowing out there. Well, there were two more security guards outside and they all jumped on me. I wasnít throwing punches, but I was throwing the guys off me.
Eventually there were 5 or 6 of them and they handcuffed me. After they had me handcuffed they started beating on me. They were pounding me on the back of the head. Then they dragged me into the back room. They said that I was taking advantage of one of their dealers. They said, ""You could have at least worn a different hat." I was wearing the same hat that was in the picture from the night before. The security guard kept saying, "Youíre going to jail." Yeah, sure Iím going to jail. They 86ed me and let me go. I could have sued, but I couldnít be bothered.
RWM: What happened to you at Boomtown? [Now the Silverton.]
RC: J called me to play a game. The game really wasnít that good, but I I was getting very lucky. I was getting 20 every hand. My girlfriend was with me, and we played an hour and won $5000. I went to cash out and they slapped the cuffs on me.
They accused me of cheating and called Gaming. They said that J and I were working in collusion with the dealer. They sent a woman who was the opposite of the Gaming Agent I ran into in Laughlin. She said, "Weíve got you on tape playing this dealer before." This was the first time I had ever played this game. She said," We have you on tape from three weeks ago." I knew it was not me so I said to her, "Are you sure thatís me? I knew who it was so I said, "Did you notice on the tape that the guy in the old tape was right handed, and Iím left handed?" She said, "Uh uh, itís you. Itís you."
So I spent the night in county jail. The court system takes forever. When you are charged with a felony, you go for the arraignment, then you go back for the plea, and then the preliminary hearing. In the middle of it our judge got arrested for something so we had to get a new judge. That delayed it even more.
RWM: Iím amazed they were prosecuting this case. Why wasnít it thrown out?
RC: In retrospect, I made a really bad decision. My bankroll was in five figures at the time and I didnít want to spend $300 an hour on a lawyer. I felt the case was a complete joke. They charged me with conspiracy. What conspiracy? I had never seen this dealer before in my life. How were they going to prove I was in a conspiracy with this guy?
The dealer took a lie detector test and passed. My uncle is an attorney in town. Heís not a criminal attorney but he is an attorney, so I used him. My poor uncle, I dragged him to court six or seven times just to get to the preliminary hearing, and I wasnít paying him anything. We got to the preliminary hearing and the dealer and his lawyer were there. He ended up taking adjudicated prosecution, which basically is if you stay out of trouble it gets dropped. I was wondering why he even took that. We had two felony charges against us, cheating and conspiracy. If I got convicted I would have to do time. I was surprised the dealer took that. I wanted to fight it all the way.
RWM: Wouldnít that inhibit the dealer from ever dealing again?
RC: It did. He canít ever deal again. I realized we had to make a deal because he could turn on us. He could decide we had ruined his life, and decide to lie about what happened. Gaming hated us so much they could say, "Weíll let you deal. Weíll drop everything. We donít want you, we want them, so just say this." We plead to trespassing, I got my money back, and six months later it was dismissed. That was the biggest hassle I ever had.
RWM: You mentioned a story where a Gaming Agent had a dealer deal to him to see if he could see the hole card.
RC: That happened to a guy I know. They arrested him and the dealer and said they were colluding. The Gaming Agent had the dealer deal to him and he said he couldnít see the hole card so they must be cheating. Unbelievable. 99.9% of the people wouldnít be able to see the hole card if I showed them where to look. In this case, it was a tough game, and the average Joe would never get it.
Blackjack Hole-Carding Skill
RWM: What percentage of people do you think can see a hole card?
RC: It depends on the game. Some games are ridiculously easy, but those are very rare. When they are too good, that is when the pit is going to pick up on it. A guy will be standing in the pit and look over and see the hole card from another pit. That game wonít last very long. The best game is a game that is tough to get. That way it is a lot harder for the pit to pick it off. They suspect that is what is happening, and they come out and look but they canít see anything. They conclude that isnít what we are doing but meanwhile weíre getting it.
Suing to Protect Player's Rights
RWM: Recently you had a problem at the El Cortez.
RC: I had been in there playing with a BP, and we beat them pretty good. We made a bunch of plays, and finally one night the boss came up to the table and pushed the chips back at my BP. The boss said to him, "You, hit the road."
Then he pointed at me and said, "Him, I want him taken in the back room, photographed, and 86ed." Now, Iíve been around a little while and I know how to handle myself better. I got up and said, "Iím not going in the back room. You have no legal right to detain me. Iím walking out the door." The security guard said, "This is a private institution and we can detain you if we want for trespassing." I said, "No, you canít." He said, "Yes, we can." I said, "Well, Iím leaving."
I went to the door and they blocked my way. I tried to get through, and once again, it started. Iím not going to start throwing punches, because I know they will turn around and say I assaulted them. They tackled me, got me on the floor, handcuffed me, and dragged me to the back room. I started screaming, "Someone call the police. Iím being kidnapped."
My BP called the police, and Bob Nersesian. [Bob Nersesian is an attorney in Las Vegas who handles cases for players. He was interviewed in the last issue of Blackjack Forum.óRWM] They took me in the back room and emptied my pockets. I was telling them I wanted them to call the police and call Gaming. They said, "You were cheating. Weíve got you on tape trying to look at the dealerís hole card." I said, "That sounds like a personal problem to me. If Iím cheating, please call Gaming, or please call Metro. Why am I back here? You have no right to take me back here."
Eventually they said, "Gaming said you donít have a device, so youíre not cheating. Weíre not going to call Metro. If you want to call Metro, you call them on your own time." To the shift boss, I said, "Wade, you have a big problem" He said, "Weíre going to do you a favor, and let you go." I said, "Youíre going to do me a favor? I donít think so. I want the police here. You just assaulted me. Itís too late. You should have thought of that when I wanted to walk out the door." Hopefully this is all on the audio from the tapes of the back room. Bob [Nersesian] called right away and said, "I want all those tapes held." Weíll see what happens with that. They finally trespassed me, and let me go.
I went outside. Metro still hadnít come so I called again. Eventually two bicycle cops pedaled up. Apparently they had already talked to security. You know they have some kind of relationship. They are there 86ing vagrants practically every day.
Of course, I donít expect the cops to arrest the security guards. All I wanted was a report filed because I knew I was going to sue them. I said, "I want to file a report." The cop said, "Iím not filing a report. Were you counting cards? Counting cards is illegal." I said, "Could you please show me that statute?" One of the cops pulls out a little cardboard card and he pointed to NRS 465 and said, "Right here. Cheating at gambling." I said, "Where does it say that card counting is cheating?" He said, "Well, hmm. I donít know, but I know itís cheating."
One of the cops was being very belligerent. He said, "Youíre lucky I donít arrest you for blocking traffic on the sidewalk." I asked for his badge number and he said, "No, Iím not giving you my name or my badge number." I had scrapes on my knees and handcuff marks on my wrists. I said, "I was just assaulted and I just would like to file a report." The cop said, "Well, Iím not doing it."
I called Bob and told him what was happening. Bob said to get their names any way I could, or any other information I could get. I happen to see their names on their bikes. Then another van pulled up, and I thought maybe it was someone of higher rank. I went over to him and I said, "Could you explain the law to these guys?" He said, "Itís his case. I have nothing to do with it."
The cop that told me card counting was illegal called Gaming. He talked to a Gaming Agent and after he hung up he said, "I have to apologize. Youíre right, counting cards isnít illegal." Then he said, "Iím going to go in and look at the tape. If I see that they illegally detained you, then Iíll cite them." Hallelujah! I waited outside for about twenty minutes. They came out and said, "Youíre under arrest."
RWM: For what!?
RC: Disturbing the peace. When security was detaining me I was yelling, and that was interfering with people trying to gamble. They couldnít concentrate on their gambling because of my screaming. I know a Gaming Agent; who works out in my gym. I told him the story and he was hysterical. He said, "99.9% of the time they just summons you." I got sent to city jail for the night, which is unheard of."
RWM: Are you suing Metro as well as the El Cortez?
RC: Oh yeah. Initially it was just Jackie Gaughn and the Metro officers. But I think that when Bob read the written statements, he added the security guards. I think the shift boss is named also.
The Blackjack Hole-Card Plays
RWM: I heard a story about you having an altercation with Andy Anderson. [Andy Anderson used to work as a Griffin Agent. He has since split from Griffin Investigations and started his own company, C.V.I., which is the database sold with Biometrica.]
RC: Yeah. I was playing at the California Club, and they called Griffin. Andy comes in and heís watching me and smirking. When I was young I was a lot more aggressive. I said, "What the fuck are you looking at? You want a date? What are you staring at?" I got up and walked right into the pit and got in his face. I said, "You want to come outside, motherfucker? Iíll rip your head off."
The shift boss said, "Just calm down. Just go, just go." I left and I didnít think much of it. I happened to be friends with a floorman at the Nugget. He said, "What happened at the California? You really scared the shit out of Andy." I went and talked to one of the other guys there. He said, "You shouldnít have done that. You really scared him. Heís really worried youíre going to do something to him. If theyíre going to bar you, just leave. Theyíll forget you in six months. Youíre a good player, and youíll make a lot of money in this business, but donít do stuff like that."
RWM: Did you take that advice?
RC: Well, one time a buddy and I were playing at the Sahara. They sort of got hip to the play. One of the bosses was a real smart-ass. We had left separately, and the boss decided to follow my BP out to the garage. I came out behind him and saw him following my friend. The boss turned around and saw me. He came up and got right in my face and said, "Oh, what a coincidence that youíre both parked in the same area of the parking lot." He had a big smirk on his face. I looked around ad noticed he didnít have any security with him. I grabbed him by the collar and said, "You have got to be out of your fucking mind." He turned white as a ghost and said, "Calm down. We didnít bar you." Iíve calmed down a lot since those days.
RWM: What about players? Did you ever get into altercations with players at the table?
RC: Not where it ever got physical, but many arguments were an eyelash away from a fight. A lot of times your BP is making all kinds of weird plays. You get a superstitious ploppy that blames his losing on the weird plays of the BP. The ploppy then starts badgering the BP.
One funny story happened in Reno. My BP had fifteen against the dealerís ten up, five in the hole. My BP stayed and the dealer hit fifteen with a six. The guy on first base started chewing out my BP. He wouldnít stop. I was sitting quietly on third base acting like I donít know my BP. He kept going on and on, and finally I just exploded. I said, "If you donít shut your mouth, Iíll rip your head off." The guy just said, "Okay."
My BP was a lot more mild-mannered than I was. My BP was losing and I was supposed to be acting like the money doesnít have anything to do with me. But I just couldnít take listening to this idiot go on and on.
RWM: You often need a particular seat to see the hole card. What do you do if a tourist is in the seat you need? Have you ever bought a seat from a player?
RC: Oh yeah. One time I was in the El Cortez and a guy was in the seat I needed. He was betting $2 a hand. I offered him $50 for the seat and he wouldnít take it. How much was he expecting to win betting $2? There are different things you can do. They donít work on everyone. Weird plays drive some people off. I had one teammate who was well known for his gaseousness. Wheelchair [another well-known blackjack hole-card player] is famous for spilling orange juice on guys.
RWM: How did you meet Wheelchair?
RC: J and I were in Circus Circus one day, and we saw one guy pushing another guy in a wheelchair. What do you know, they pulled up to one of our games. At that time there were a bunch of guys named Mike who were playing hole cards. So there was Big Mike, Eyeglass Mike, and he became Wheelchair Mike. Then one day J and I were in the Barbary Coast and this guy comes up and sits right in between us. We start talking and thatís how we met.
RWM: Do you find that being successful in Vegas you become the target for a lot of scams? Have guys tried to take shots at you?
RC: That happened more when I first started. Iím pretty good at judging people. I have a friend who had a lot of shots taken at him. He almost fell for a gold mining scam in Central America. Iíve never been the type to look for the get-rich-quick scheme. Iím willing to grind my way to prosperity.
RWM: How did being in this business affect your personal life? When you started dating your wife, did she know what you did for a living?
RC: My wife, yes. When I started, my girlfriends didnít care for it at all.
RWM: You would tell them what you did for a living?
RC: Yes. When I moved here I was engaged to a girl in New Jersey. When she camehere, I would go out to play graveyard and be out all night. They donít believe you. "I was out counting cards." "Yeah, sure you were." She got upset and moved back to New Jersey. I started dating a dealer after that.
RWM: Would you tell her, a dealer, what you were doing?
RC: Yeah. She was Korean, and she hated it. But I really have never had any trouble with that in my relationships. My girlfriends after her were fine with it. I know thatís a big problem for other people. But three dealers have been fired because I dated them.
RWM: You werenít playing at their tables, were you?
RC: No, just the fact that they were seen with me got them fired.
RWM: I would think that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
RC: They can fire you for any reason when youíre a dealer. There is no union or anything to protect them. They donít tell them that is why they are being fired. I dated a dealer at the Fremont. We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant, and one of her bosses was there with his wife. The next day she was fired. About five years ago I was dating a girl at the Las Vegas Club. We beat them for about $20,000, and they fired half the shift.
RWM: What do your parents think now?
RC: Theyíre fine with it now. Drive back from Vegas in a Lexus andÖ Wow.
RWM: What about your wifeís family?
RC: My wife just told her mother a few months ago. Her familyís attitude is that as long as Iím good to her then everything is fine. I tell a lot of people that Iím a professional poker player. Everyone seems to know that there are people who make a living at that. I donít tell a lot of people I play blackjack, because then you get hit with a zillion questions.
RWM: Will you teach you kids to play when they get old enough?
RC: I plan to. I donít think Iíd like them to do it professionally, but sure. Why not?
RWM: Do you play poker?
RC: No. If someone really started quizzing me I wouldnít even be able to bluff my way through it.
RWM: Why didnít you ever take it up? There isnít any heat.
RC: Itís too much of a grind for me. It seems boring, not my style.
RWM: How many people do you think are out there playing hole cards?
RC: There were a lot of people 15 years ago, but then the games really dried up. A lot of those guys dropped out of sight. Itís not easy.
RWM: Have you branched out into other things?
RC: A little bit. I did a little in sports, and slots. Slots drive me crazy.
RWM: Have you traveled much?
RC: Iíve been almost everywhere in the country. I donít like to travel much anymore. I donít have to play every day. Iím kind of comfortable now, and we had a baby recently. Iím tired of it. Winning is still enjoyable, but the rest of it has really gotten old.
RWM: How is it that you can still get a good game after 17 years in Vegas?
RC: Itís the casinosí incompetence. Some guys are sharp; fortunately for us the majority arenít. It always amazed meóthe stupidity on the other side. And that is the only thing that has kept players in business for as long as Iíve been doing this. I love the misinformation that comes out on the Griffin flyers. Itís hysterical.
I was eating at the Rio one day with two of my buddies from the gym. We came out of the buffet and were surrounded by security. They told us not to play and then a flyer comes out that these guys are part of a 21 cheating team. These guys had never played blackjack in their lives.
RWM: I donít understand how that canít be slander or libel. Theyíre calling these guys criminals.
RC: I talked to a lawyer about it. They always ask, "What are the damages?" We used to see flyers all the time linking people we didnít know to us. The other thing that was funny was, we used to play at the Barbary Coast a lot. I canít tell you how many times we would be playing there, and they would bar some guy on our game for counting. They wouldnít say a word to us. They would bar some guy who was moving his bet around a little, but who didnít know a thing about counting.
RWM: Do you think the game is getting a lot tougher?
RC: A little bit. They have gotten a lot better at identifying known players.
RWM: Have you tried disguises?
RC: I never have. Iíve thought about it but never did. I can still get a decent game.
RWM: What have you done to contribute to your longevity? Is it because you have a thick skin about being barred?
RC: That, and I try to pick my spots. I have a good memory for faces and people who might be a problem. Iíll stay away from them. If I find a game where I have a problem, I donít go in myself to play. Iíll find other people to play it for me. Iíll wait for turnover. Iíll wait for spots where I know Iíve never seen those bosses before. Those are the places where Iíll personally go in and play. I try to minimize my risk by staying away from people I know are going to be problems. Even if I think they might not remember me, I still stay away just so the game will last longer.
RWM: When you find one of these games, is your approach to milk it, or to hit it as hard as possible and burn it out?
RC: It depends on the spot. Iíve had some games in local joints where I decided to milk it. I have had games I milked for a couple of years. If itís a big Strip casino, we usually blast away in those situations. You can make a big score in those places.
RWM: Whatís the biggest bet youíve made?
RC: Two hands of $5000.
RWM: Whatís your biggest win in a session?
RWM: Biggest loss?
RC: $50,000, and it was a very small casino. [laughing] And they fixed the dealer. ["Fixing" a dealer means that the boss corrected the dealerís sloppy card handling, so that the dealer stopped exposing the hole card.óRWM] We had won almost $40,000 a couple days earlier. Then we lost fifty and they figured it out and fixed the dealer.
RWM: Do you have any advice for the green chippers out there?
RC: Donít quit your day job.
RWM: Do you run into guys out there who are trying to make it counting cards? Do you think it is still possible?
RC: I think it is extremely difficult. When I started as a counter, I only played single deck. There were single-deck games everywhere. I canít believe the way they treat some counters. What are they doing backrooming a counter? Itís ridiculous. All they have to do is say, "Take your action down the street." If I were starting out today, and all I knew was counting, I might do it recreationally but to try to make a livingÖ No way.
One thing thatís going on now is really bad. There are a couple of players out there who used to play together. They had a bunch of big scores together, but then they had a falling out. There have always been arguments in the past, but these guys are doing things like ratting each other out to the casinos.
That kind of thing used to be unheard of. Theyíll see each other playing and call surveillance and tell them about the guy. I got an email from one of these guys telling me not to play with so-and-so because they were going to rat him out all over town. They said Iíd go down with him. I said to these guys, "What are you doing?" That kind of stuff is just bad for business. It makes things bad for everybody.
RWM: What do you see yourself doing in ten years? Do you think youíll still be playing?
RC: Probably a little bit. Iíll pick my spots. I donít think I could ever totally quit. If I go too long without playing, I start to get withdrawals.
But I have started a business. My brothers are all professionals. One is a doctor, one is a lawyer, and one works for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. I had a part-time job a few years ago as a personal trainer. I was always into bodybuilding, and I enjoy helping people improve their fitness.
Thatís how I met my wife. Itís great that she isnít in the business. She hates going to casinos. I love that about her. I was never a gambler of any sort. I wouldnít bet you $5 on a football game. It was only after I found out that blackjack was beatable mathematically that I decided to look into it. Iíve known since I was a kid thatI wouldnít end up in some 9-to-5 life.
RWM: I just have one more question.
RWM: Where are the secret hole-card games?
RC: [laughs] Those games go with me to my grave. ♠
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||Blackjack Hole-Carding as a Professional Gambling Strategy
Professional gamblers who use hole-card strategies on blackjack and other casino games tend to play with much higher edges than blackjack card counters ever get. Learn more about hole-carding in this interview with a hole-card pro.