Simple Tips for Perfecting the Art of Professional Card Counting from Blackjack Expert Colin Jones
Jul 24, 2014
Mastering the arts of advantage play and card counting require more time, dedication and nerves than most people realize. Colin Jones of Blackjackapprenticeship is here to share some useful insights for aspiring professionals.
Becoming a master card counter takes limitless dedication and countless hours of practice. It starts with putting in the time to learn basic strategy. After hours spent memorizing strategy charts and playing through drills and free online blackjack games, you can move on to card counting itself.
Nailing down a hi-lo counting system isn’t easy but it can be done with enough dedication. After 60 hours or so of practice you can take your game to the nearest casino and start adding to your bankroll. That’s when things get a bit tricky, however.
It’s not good enough to merely count cards effectively. Croupiers and pit bosses are trained to sniff out counters. If you plan on counting effectively and continuously, you must deal with “heat”; unwanted attention from casino staff. And the casino environment itself is stressful. You need to use advantage techniques effectively and consistently, something that is easier said than done!
Luckily, blackjack guru like Colin Jones of Blackjackapprenticeship is willing to share his expertise with aspiring card counters. Jones was kind enough to meet with me and share some thoughts and advice on beating the casino heat.
Don’t fuss with cover
The most interesting moment during my conversation with Jones was when he told me his philosophy with regards to cover (using “cover” refers to techniques designed to disguise your counting, often doing the opposite of what a counter should do in a certain situation).
Many blackjack experts advise counters to use cover strategies in order to evade detection from casino staff. Jones is not one of them:
I see a lot of people worry too much about cover. I love Tommy Hyland’s approach of just fearlessly putting the money down when the count is positive and not worrying about the consequences. I think there are a lot of “card counters” who don’t have an edge because they are playing with too much cover.
Why? Cover has costs. You can’t push as hard as you want to when the count is high because you don’t want it to be obvious that you’re counting. Jones won millions of dollars by waiting for the count to move into his favor then delivering the hammer blow; a huge wager.
Know what you’re getting yourself into
Making it as a pro blackjack player isn’t easy. You have to deal with unfriendly staff. Sometimes a dealer or pit boss will seem wise to your act; often this is just paranoia on your part. Most importantly, you’ll lose money sometimes. Jones and Crawford’s professional blackjack team Advantage Play LLC once lost roughly $460,000 during a stretch.
Blackjack is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a long-term job that yields returns in proportion to how much work is put in. Says Jones:
As far as get-rich-quick schemes, many people show up at BlackjackApprenticeship looking for a shortcut to wealth. It’s not true. Lasting wealth comes from hard work and consistently wise financial decisions.
Pay attention to the last bit as well; “consistently wise financial decisions.” Advantage play means using strategies to tip the house edge into your favor. You need to do this on every hand, over a prolonged period.
Jones told me about one member of his team who quit because he couldn’t handle the stress. So he chose a less stressful career: air traffic controller! The point is, playing professionally means putting your physical and mental capacities to the test. You need to be ready for that.
Know your rights and stay confident
Jones told me a story about him being sniffed out counting at a casino. The pit boss took him aside, attempting to use intimidation to get him to return the money he had won (fair and square, mind you). Refusing that, they asked him to sign papers, which he also refused.
Jones knew that as a law-abiding citizen, the casino had no legal means to get him to do anything. He cashed out his chips and went home. As a player, the casino was obligated to treat him lawfully: “because I have rights as a citizen, I hadn’t done anything unlawful…he couldn’t ‘strong-arm’ me.” The Hollywood myth of counters being taken into back rooms and beaten up simply isn’t reality.
Jones’ advice to someone caught using a card counting system?
Be friendly, but firm. Don’t let casinos coerce you into signing papers or going into a backroom or anything. Just politely say, “no thanks.” I’d just like to cash out and leave. And stay in public view, near other players. Don’t let them escort you do a secluded area out of the view of other patrons.
There are lots of blackjack gurus out there, many of whom tout the benefits of different strategies and training techniques. The best course is to try different approaches and figure out what works for you.
But Jones is someone whose thoughts shouldn’t be taken lightly. He co-ran a team which won roughly $4 million over five years and is now co-owner of one the web’s highest-regarded training sites, Blackjackapprenticeship. He knows a thing or two about smart strategies.
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