Other Frequently Asked Questions!
Is Card Counting Illegal?
No, not in Nevada or any other jurisdiction we are aware of. Card counting is only using your mental capacity to play the game they offer within their rules. Illegal efforts would involve a "device" like a computer, iPad, your smart phone or other type devices. The Nevada law is sufficiently vague as to bring into question issues like keeping count with paper and pencil. I qualify my no with "in Nevada" because each state has a gaming commisison and different laws governing gaming. While it does not seem rational that anyone would pass a law to make card counting illegal, I urge you to stay aware of the laws in the juridictions you are playing. Most especially, international locations should be researched before venturing into the deep end.
Where can I find Nevada Gambling Laws?
Most of the population in the US are served by over 700 casinos in the country. It is likely that everyone has a casino within a few hours driving time from their home. Each of these states have their own gaming commission and unique statutes regarding gaming, all of which is reason for the consumer to be aware of any major differences that could arise to their detriment. I would further qualify by saying that most of these state laws and commission were heavily modeled by Nevada's structures.
Is Card Counting considered Cheating?
Again, not in Nevada or any other known jurisdiction. Refer to my disclaimer statements in "Is card counting illegal?" for issues related to other jurisdictions. Most states define “cheating” as something that fundamentally alters the nature of the game. Card counters beat Blackjack using the rules the casinos set using nothing but their brain. All they are doing is using their brain to predict when the game will be more favorable to the player and placing larger wagers when they have an advantage. Those advantage times are there for everyone to see.
Nevada Statute NRS 465.015 Definitions:
1. “Cheat” means to alter the elements of chance, method of selection or criteria which determine:
(a) The result of a game;
(b) The amount or frequency of payment in a game;
(c) The value of a wagering instrument; or
(d) The value of a wagering credit.
2. The words and terms defined in chapter 463 of NRS have the meanings ascribed to them in that chapter.
(Added to NRS by 1981, 1292; A 1993, 830; 1995, 1502)
Can You Really Make a Living Counting Cards?
The answer to this question is yes. Is it easy, the answer is no. My intuitive guess at the failure rate is 7 of 10.
What do most players not understand about what is required?
First, you must be a consumate professional at all components of the technical skill set required to count cards and play in a casino. There is no place for your emotional need to catch up or win big! It's a business.
Next, you must understand that playing to make a living requires a capital investment larger than they would expect. You must have a large enough bankroll to withstand the range of wins and losses well defined by the games mathmatics. If you are trying to make next months rent with a small bankroll, don't!
Next, you have to have a "constitution" strong enough to withstand the backoff, trespasses and other myriad of rude and unpleasant experiences. Counter to that is the requirement to have an "act", the art, to continue to play over time and this may be the largest determent to your long term success.
Team play dilutes many of the negatives (and adds some new ones) and raises the probability of success. Additionally, it can provide invaluable experiene that would be priceless in any venture alone.
How do you know when you’re good enough to beat the casinos?
Training to become a card counter is hard work. We have developed some techniques that reduces the time to learn basic strategy which was one of the big ones. Card counting is fourth grade math. If you can add 1 and subtract 1 then I can teach you to count in a matter of five minutes. However, I cannot teach you how to do that math in the time frame required. You will have to practice to add speed to your ability to count and that takes some time.
We estimate that it takes about 125 hours of practice before the average person has the skills necessary to effectively play perfect basic strategy and count cards. Then they are ready to add the real world of playing in a casino and dealing with the distractions and the speed of the game.
We offer several methods for learning these skills and encourage you to check out our product and service offering to see if one fits your needs.
In our Mentoring Program, actually in most of our programs, we conduct MIT level certifications for the member to provide feedback on his or her competency. It is a series of test with required results that leave no doubt you can play. We use the same protocol for MIT members and for members of our teams now.
How much bankroll do I need?
Your bankroll needs are determined by many factors that include:
1. Games, rules, penetration
2. Risk tolerance
3. Size of starting bankroll
How often will I win or lose after I am trained and ready to play?
There is no means to predict wether you are going to win or lose in the short term. In a recent team experience involving over 3,500 playing sessions we experienced a session win rate of 60%. These sessions were by more than a dozen players over more than one year. Conversations with previous MIT team members indicate this was consistent with their results. Certainly, we can not assure you this to be your experience.
Win rates are based on the math and the ability to play a sufficient number of rounds to achieve the law of large numbers. These have been tried, tested, simulated for decades and are without question.
As shown in the graph as an illustration of the law of large numbers using a particular run of rolls of a single die. As the number of rolls in this run increases, the average of the values of all the results approaches 3.5. While different runs would show a different shape over a small number of throws (at the left), over a large number of rolls (to the right) they would be extremely similar.
Develop and use a quality method to test your skills and then be patient.
How can I make a living counting cards without getting backed off?
The advent and publisizing of card counting, coupled with the effect of counting teams, have incented the casinos to develop a fear and over the top paranoia of card counters that will make your ability to play undetected and undeterred almost non-existent.
The long answer: If you’re making a living counting cards that means you’re spending a significant amount of your time in casinos and you’re playing for an hourly win rate that can support the livelihood of at least one human being. Those two facts combine to create a natural incentive for casino personnel to disallow you from playing blackjack at their establishment. Remember, casinos are offering blackjack for the same reason you’re playing it. If you’re actually beating the casino, it doesn’t matter how much cover you use or how stupid the casino is; you will inevitably get “the tap” and be asked to leave if you’re a winning player. It’s never a matter of IF it happens it’s always a matter of WHEN. It could be many hours or many months, but every pro card counter experiences back offs. Generally, the advantaged players who come to terms with this fact and don’t let it bother them, tend to make the most money.
What’s the best card counting system to use?
The most widely accepted card counting system is Hi-Lo. It's balance of simplicity and effectiveness have made it the system used by most major teams for generations. There are many other counting systems out there and they all do the same thing; tell you when you have the edge so you can raise your bets, change how you play your hands, and ultimately play Blackjack with the player having the advantage.
Some systems are mathematically more powerful than others, but with the greater power comes the issues of difficulty to use and increased error rate. The more powerful the system the more mental energy it takes to implement and the amount of errors you tend to make goes up.
Hi Lo is what all the teams use, it’s what most of the authors write about, it’s been proven, and will work on any beatable game of blackjack.
I’ve learned everything except for ______. Can I still beat the casino?
If you are a novice and are just learning the game then you can improve your ability to win by taking steps in learning. I would counsel that first, and without compromise, is the requirement for basic strategy. Do not proceed until you have it 100% mastered. It is thought that most casino regulars that do not kuse basic stratgey may be playing against about -5% casino edge. Basic Strategy will reduce this to about -.5% and increase the number of times your win. But you do not yet have a winning game.
Next, is card counting using Hi-Lo to develop a running count and the ability to convert to a true count. While some improvement may be available during the learning process, it is important to masater this skill in it's entirety before moving to the next level. Using positive true counts to increase your betting will add to your side of the ledger and, if properly done and used in concert with basic strategy, will provide an advantage over the casino.
Last is the addition of various play departures based on the true count that may add about 20% to your advantage. Havng mastered them you are at nearing the skill set of a professional. Assuming proper game selection, your play should have an advantage over the casino.
Having now reached a professional level technically, you are ready to begin to learn and understand the artistic nuances of live play and how to get away with it.
It is my "rough" estimate that beating blackjack is 25% technical and 75% art. So just because you know how to shoot your new gun it does not mean you can hit anything.
Is it better to play rated or unrated?
The answer is, it depends.
Is it worth giving up your identity to the casino and expose yourself to potentially being added to various surveillance networks and get flyered in exchange for the comp benefits I will get? Generally, the answer is no.
Now, not playing rated is also a moderate red flag of an advantage player and may add heat to your play. You will have to make this judgement call. If you are playing less than black chips then rated is not that bad. When your top bet levels are approaching $500, then you are going to get more scrutiny.
Teams often "create" a big player by playing them rated in high limit which is all part of building a persona. It will generally be short lived but is very effective when exectued properly.
If your objective is comps and free stuff than there are other ways to accomplish this without exposing yourself at a blackjack table.
How do I join/start a team?
Contact one of our Coaches
What’s the best camouflage/cover?
This is hotly-debated topic in the AP community. We generally don’t encourage cover plays or camouflage that will cost you EV. Most cover plays involve making a decision that is less than mathematically optimal in hopes of showing the casino that you are not counting cards. The problem is, we make money by making optimal plays. Blackjack is hard enough to beat without giving money back to the casino. Usually the people who are asking about cover are trying to find a way to last longer in the casino or to avoid back offs in general and we applaud the problem-solving attitude. But, in our experience, it’s never a matter of IF the casino finds out you’re counting, it’s always a matter of when. Our philosophy is that we’re not willing to give up real EV in exchange for the “hope” of longer playing time. Did we come to the casino to spend time in the casino or did we come to the casino to make money? There is no way of knowing how long the casino will let you play. Since you don’t know, you might as well be as aggressive as possible.
To use an example, let’s say a casino is offering a game you can make $100 bucks an hour from. You decide you want to “milk it” instead of burning it down and you use cover strategies that take it down to $25 bucks an hour. You go into the casino and play for 5 hours and the casino backs you off. Did you make the right choice? Technically you got $125 in EV but it also took you 5 hours to do it. What if instead you went into the casino and used the $100 spread and got backed off in an hour and then drove an hour to the next casino and played another hour and then drove another hour to another casino and played an hour. You spent the same 5 hours either way but in the second scenario you made $300 bucks in EV. It doesn’t always work out like this, so it’s not a black and white subject, but those are the factors at play here.
Cover plays sound very appealing at first but for most people it isn’t practical. It requires a very large bankroll in comparison to the stakes you’re betting and requires you to only play casinos with the very best rules and conditions. It’s also not necessarily going to make you more money. It might reduce back-offs but that comes at a cost. We were in it to make the most money we could in the shortest amount of time and expensive cover strategies didn’t fit with that goal.
The best kind of cover for a card counter is the kind that’s free. For instance, back counting a table and wonging in when the count is good is a great way to camouflage your bet spread. Acting like you’re comfortable and belong at the table and being polite can also be forms of camouflage that don’t cost you anything.
Is hole carding legal?
Yes, in Nevada it is the casinos responsibility to protect their cards. I would point out that this was determined by a court case were players were charged with cheating for using hole card information. The initial interpretation of the cheating statute was thought to indicate it was illegal.
Other jurisdictions have cheating statutes that may be interpreted differently, so be cautious. You may be right but have to defend yourself in a long legal battle to prove it.
As a general rule the profit potential of a team of skilled players is equal to the profit potential of each individual if playing solo times the number of players on the team squared. So if a card counter has the potential to earn $25 per hour playing blackjack, this is what he could earn playing on a team.
Solo Earnings Potential Number of Team Players Individual Earnings on Team
$25/hr 2 $50/hr.
$25/hr 3 $75/hr
$25/hr 4 $100/hr.
$25/hr 5 $125/hr.
The more members on the team the more money a card counter stands to earn. And of course the more you money you wager the higher the individual earnings.
Playing on a team also smoothes out the bumps in the road and makes the negative swings more manageable and tolerable. Teams also play more hands per hour compared to a solo player so they will get into the “long run” a lot quicker. This means that the probability is higher that a team of players will be ahead after playing x hours compared to a solo player playing the same x hours.
Why two person teams?
This structure is believed to be optimal for the back counting/BP protocol we are designed to use. It provides an in casino flexibility and efficiency that improves our ability to achieve the desired rounds.
The concept also serves as a structure to move an important management roll to the lowest level possible. We believe the shared accountability creates a sense of obligation to each other and to the greater team. Also, we believe the concept strengthens the integrity of the teams by adding peer review of activities and responsibilities. It simply means that any actions taken by a team member are the responsibility of the team. This would include acts of dishonesty, mis-reporting results, playing outside of approved procedures, dissemination of team information to an outside party and unwillingness to achieve playing time commitments.
2. What is the purpose of multiple teams in multiple cities?
Many previous team have had large numbers of people concentrating on one city. While it resulted in some financial success, it also led to the "burnout" of many players and their loss of longevity. By distributing our efforts to small team in different cites we remove, or at least reduce, the notoriety that comes with large teams. It also provides the ability to create ad hoc teams that travel to cities other than their home city, further protecting our identity.
3. How do you use a trial bank?
To insure the selection of quality people we employ Beta test to further confirm a prospects ability to perform in a real casino environment as well as "get to know" each other.
4. Wonging is very difficult with all the No-Midshoe-Entry. How do we overcome that obstacle?
The financial strength of our efforts is based on the mathematics of the advantage gained and the reduction in variance achieved when only playing positive counts. No mid shoe entry leaves no opportunity to avoid negative counts and should be avoided or attacked with a different strategy.
5. Why is wonging that much better than play all with good bet ramps.
Play all with effective bet ramps provide less than half the advantage compared to the concept of wonging and will increase your variance tremendously therefore requiring a much larger bankrolls to bet the same amount at the same risk control levels. From a playing perspective you must have mastered a much larger set of indices to accommodate the negative counts therefore making this type of play more complex and more error prone.
6, What about playing with spotters rather?
Play with spotters in addition to back counting has merits and gives us another technique in our arsenal. Spotters playing with mild bet ramps for a break even game at low unit levels would provide the same function as back counting but with some added variance to our structure.
7. Can our team hire a spotter(s)? If so, what checkout is required?
All team members must complete the required certification and meet all other requirements as specified in the Operating Manual.
8. What is the playing time requirement to be a member?
Playing time requirements are determined by the area Coach and Team Manager considering player availability, available casinos and Team Bank goals.
9. How will betting structures be determined? RoR? Kelly?
All betting structures will be controlled by the following:
First by risk control:
a. RoR of less than 1.8%
b. Kelly bet size of less than .50%
then cover control to protect longevity
c. Specific casino bet level tolerance
d. Cover (Flat bet, coordinated betting, etc)
e. Other factors to accomplish a specific objective (spotter break even with no heat)
10. Can I play on my own in addition to being a team member?
Certainly, we do not control what you do outside of your commitment to the team. Couple of things to consider. Obviously, we do not allow you to play "own your own" using the team bankroll. Next, we require that when scheduled to play with the team and while you are on that trip, that you do not play on your own. We would also not allow you to play on another team that is not part of our effort. These are to insure that you and your team mate are focused on finding and exploiting the team opportunities in preference to any individual opportunity that you may see.
11. What training will be provided?
Yes. BJS offers a full curriculum of advantage blackjack training using video, classroom and other suited delivery systems. All course material offered by BJS is available at no cost to any BJS team member. BJS management will also provide a variety of cover and playing protocols designed for our team efforts.
12. How do you track the results and will they be available for team members to see?
We utilize a comprehensive software system internally developed exclusively to manage this structure of teams. You will have availability of the same information regarding your play and your teams play. Also, you will be briefed on the complete scope of information being reviewed by team management to insure your understanding and attention to the detail reporting we will require.
13. How are winnings distributed?
Please refer the Distribution of Results for specific information. Generally, winnings for the team will be distributed as follows:
Team Winnings 100%
14. How are the casinos and games to play selected?
Management will work with the team captains to select those casinos and games that offer the highest value. Many features such as playing conditions, how busy is the casino, are there specific dealers we like, what are our players net cumulative winners at this property, etc. Refer to Operating Manual for more detail.
15. How are travel expenses handled?
Travel expenses for the team and or individuals must be preapproved by the team captain and team manager prior to incurring the expense. Generally, expenses incurred due to team needs will be reimbursed while general expenses will not. Refer to expense policy in Operating Manual.
16. Will we need to travel to Las Vegas?
We expect to plan and execute specific playing trips to any of the cities worthy of attack. This allows the presentation of "fresh" faces to the casinos and serves to extend our longevity. Certainly, Las Vegas would be
a major player in this rotation with larger groups and more frequency . We would also expect a periodic full team meeting to be held in Las Vegas when appropriate.
17. Do you have a forecast for earnings?
Any forecast of earnings based on the mathematics of EV generated as a result of play would be hard to do unless we have commitments to play time from each memeber,
18. What are management responsibilities?
Management responsibilities are summarized as follows:
a. Recruiting and training
b. Casino and Game selection
c. Cash Management
d. Investor/Player reporting
f. Player/Team analysis and evaluation
19. How do we handle CTR's?
If possible we want to avoid CTR's by a number of legitimate means. Refer to the Operating Manual for details.
20. Do I have to pay taxes on blackjack winnings.
There are no employer/employee relationships developed as part of this effort. You will be paid in cash and each player is responsible for any required regulatory reporting.
21. What is the investment required for a team member?
Team members are required to invest and maintain at least $7,000 in the team bank. While management feels that is strategically important for all players to have an amount of their own money at risk. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by team management.
22. How much is invested by outside investors?
It is our objective to avoid outside investors so as to keep our focus on evaluating and improving our model for future expansion. Our preferred objective would to never involve outside investors but that all bank funds are the result of current and past players contribution and retention. In the event such need does arise, management reserves the right to limit such investment as they determine to be in the best interest of the team.
23. What is the size of the bankroll?
The total bankroll is a function of how many teams we engage to play and their individual investment amounts. Bankroll requirements are determined by certain risk policies and the logistics of cash management over dispersed geographical areas. It is our believe that a bankroll of less than $80,000 would have a negative
impact on our ability to perform.
24. When will the bank be broken?
The bank operates much like a mutual fund and is never "broken" withdrawal and contribution rules apply as outlined in the Operating manual.
25. How will we get trip bankrolls?
Protocol for the distribution and management of cash and chips may be unique to each team and each region and will be covered in the Operating Manual
26. What are the biggest risks in this structure?
Their are several risk areas that could cause us to be unsuccessful that are worthy of note:
The largest risk is that we do not execute the plan. That is, the we do not play in accordance to the technology (bet wrong amounts, lose counts, play bad games, etc). The math is the math, if we execute the budget hands
in the games planned and with the procedures we have tested and certified than we can expect our results to be within the appropriate standard deviation.
We are also exposed to the frailty of humans but strongly believe our selection process and vetting procedures identifies quality people of integrity.
27. How do you insure integrity of bankroll?
We have committed to and believe in the concept of peer teams that provide both strength in execution by also create a bond of trust and friendship that makes dishonest acts difficult. When coupled with our selection criteria and process, family's and community interest their motivation to perform honorably is inherent. Trust but verify.
28. What casino counter measures can be taken?
Generally, go quietly providing as little information as possible. See Operating Manual for more specifics.
29. Why do teams fail?
It has been documented that the following issues lead the list of well known reasons teams can go wrong:
- Poor Team Design and Management
- Poor Quality Play
- Choosing to play in poor conditions/bad games
- Distrust of team members
- Poor record keeping and accounting
- Poor cash management
Our protocols strive to address these in a proactive manner by implementing checks and balances at critical points to minimize team exposure in all areas. The influence of our team structure is felt throughout our model and provides some inherent benefits that should be highlighted.
Connecting individuals in small teams where they are all (jointly and severally) responsible for each other and for all team actions related to team operations and responsibilities and dependent on each other will have the effect of minimizing the issues of dishonesty, incorrect reporting, and bad play. When in place, these characteristics improve execution and act in a self policing way to advert many of the common pitfalls.
30. How do we communicate with the team and other team members?
We will provide current status on all play via an ability to download results from a Goggle Drive. It is our intent that these files be updated daily with play results.
Through a proprietary arrangement with BJS, we will utilize and moderate a secure Forum on their website for the exclusive and confidential ability of all NAT members to communicate, ask questions and generally "stay in touch" with the team membership and management.
31. What is the team policy on alcohol or drugs.
This undertaking is one of extreme intellectual and mental strain that demands all team members are in full control of their faculties. Adding either alcohol or drugs is inconsistent with the requirements. While this is not a policy about controlling your life, we do require that you refrain from any substance that may impair your ability for at least a reasonable amount of time before and all times during your work as a team member. We have no problem with a celebratory (we certainly hope) adult beverage after the day's work.
32. How will the funds in the bankroll be managed?
Will players in their respective regions each have equal cash reserves? What will happen to excess funds? Will a "playing" bankroll and a "reserve" bankroll be maintained in case of negative variance? Will funds be held in an escrow account? Some other sort of liquid investment account? Or held in safe deposit boxes? How will transfers of funds between players/regions be handled?
The bankroll will be distributed in the multiple locations depending on liquidity requirements of the area. It is the objective to minimize the movement of funds (city to city) and to develop procedures specific to each team. Bank components will be kept by the team captains and a reserve kept by the Team Manager. Team manager/Coach will audit bank at all locations at random intervals and each team bank will be audited prior to and after each "trip". During a trip daily reconciliation will occur.