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Podcast – Captain Jack Andrews and Rufus Peabody

Our guests this week are professional sports bettors, Captain Jack Andrews, and Rufus Peabody.  They are on to discuss their new site unabated.com. This is a site with tools to help sports bettors trying to get an edge.  No touts, no affiliate ads, just good information and tools for players trying to find an edge.

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[00:00] Introduction of Captain Jack Andrews and Rufus Peabody from Unabated.com
[00:54] Unabated.com
[05:07] NFL simulator
[09:42] How is the NFL simulator updated?
[10:53] How much does one bad game affect season totals?
[13:15] Will derivative markets eventually be automated?
[16:18] How much does Unabated cost?
[20:02] Written and video educational content
[23:10] What other roles exist Unabated?
[26:55] Upcoming features
[31:20] South Point Casino September Promotions – City Lights Shine giveaway, Hot Seat promotions, South Point 400 tickets
[32:03] BlackjackApprenticeship.com – card counting training website and community with many betting, tracking, and analytical tools
[32:36] VideoPoker.com/gwae – Gold Membership offers correction on most games, free Pro Membership trial for GWAE listeners
[33:58] Super Bowl prop arbitrage
[40;34] Calculating place and show prices
[42:20] Will Unabated be adding golf tools?
[44:26] Are Captain Jack and Rufus still betting?
[46:18] Betting exchanges in New Jersey
[53:14] Recommended: A Boy and His Dog, Icarus, Risk of Ruin podcast

Sponsored Links:
SouthPointCasino.com
BlackjackApprenticeship.com
VideoPoker.com/gwae

Guest Links:
Unabated.com
Twitter.com/UnabatedSports
Twitter.com/RufusPeabody
Twitter.com/capjack2000

Recommended:
A Boy and His Dog
Icarus.film
Podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/risk-of-ruin/id1527018692

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One Time I Made a Deal

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about not making an agreement with a player I didn’t know. (Did you notice that that blog was the first time I used an interrobang‽) That reminded me of a time I did make a deal. It wasn’t a deal where I had the advantage, but it was a deal to reduce variance.

It was at the Palms when it was still owned by the Maloofs. Perhaps 2007 or 2008, I’m not sure.

The Palms had weekly drawings back then which were very lucrative to professional players. They would give away $10,000 to $20,000 every week, and you earned entries by playing — something like one virtual ticket for every $100 coin-in. Why it was so good for professional players was that they had $5 Five Play (and $25 single line) NSU Deuces Wild. 

This is a 99.73% game, and when you added in slot club, mailers, and comps, it was slightly positive game on the top. It doesn’t take too many hours to play $200,000 or more coin-in, and this much play gave you a pretty good shot at getting one of the prizes in the drawing — probably $500+ in drawing EV for that much play. 

“Regular” players, who played far less, resented the fact the same players seemed to win every week. I was aware of these players being unhappy about these drawings and figured the casino would eventually find a way to spread out the winners of the drawings. But in the meantime, every Friday night I was at the Palms to get my share.

On this particular Friday, it was a bigger than average prize. Nine people were called. I was one of the nine.  Eight of us got $500 in free play, and the ninth received $16,000 cash or free play. This is an EV of $1,111, with some variance.

To determine who got which prize, we were called up one at a time, in the order drawn, to select envelopes on a big board. Inside eight of the envelopes was a piece of paper saying $500, and inside one was a paper saying $16,000. I looked carefully at the envelopes and they all looked the same. So far as I was concerned, this part of the drawing was pure luck.

As it happened, I was the eighth person to draw. I wasn’t even called in the first nine people. But two of the “winners” didn’t show up in the 90 seconds allowed so they redrew. I’ve made it into several drawings through the years on redraws.

The odds were very strong that by the time I got to draw, it would be moot. The $16,000 envelope would be gone, and I’d get the default $500. The seventh person to draw was “Grace,” a young woman you’ll hear more about shortly. The last person to draw was a man I had never seen before. I wasn’t going to make a deal with him. I had no idea if I could trust him.

As it happened, the first six people (I knew three of them) all drew $500. It was now down to Grace, me, and the other guy. I had never spoken to Grace, but I knew who she was. She was probably in her 30s (I was 60 in 2007), and she was the daughter of a video poker pro I had known for more than ten years. I had seen Grace at maybe 20-40 other drawings at the Palms and elsewhere, and she had picked up money in some of them. I had seen her frequently playing the same sort of machines as I played. I considered her “in the profession.”

“Grace, do you know who I am?” 

She nods.

“Do you want to do a save?”

“Maybe,” she replies. “What do you have in mind?”

“If I win the $16,000, I cover the taxes on it and I pay you $5,000 cash. If you win the $16,000, I get $5,000 and you pay the taxes. If the other guy gets it, no harm no foul.”

“Sounds fair,” she responded. This wasn’t good enough. Just because she says it sounds fair doesn’t mean she agrees to it.

There were several witnesses to the exchange. I turned to a lady we both knew and trusted and said, “Did you hear that? Was it clear and left no room for misinterpretation?”

The woman replied it sounded clear and fair to her. I told Grace that we had a deal, and Grace nodded. 

This was good enough. Grace had accepted the deal in front of witnesses. Some players shake hands to “seal the deal.” That has no legal bearing. I only do that if the other person sticks out a hand. In this case, no hands were shaken.

So, we had a deal. Grace turns around and selects an envelope. She drew $500, turns around to me and shrugs her shoulders somewhat apologetically.

It’s now my turn. Several people in the crowd are advising me to pick the one on the right. Probably as many are advising me to pick the one on the left. Whichever one I pick, there would be a lot of people coming up afterwards with, “I told you so!”

I picked the one on the right. It was for $500. Damn! At this point, I was clinging to the faint chance that the last one was for $500 too. I was hoping the Palms screwed up somehow and they would have to do it all over again. But my hoping was for naught. The last guy stood there in shock as the $16,000 fell to him. Oh well. I told him congratulations, went over to Grace, and said, “Maybe some other time,” and went to the cage to sign for my $500 free play.

So, the deal Grace and I made came to be for a situation that didn’t come to pass. Often that happens. You need to have the deal in place beforehand in case some particular circumstance happens. After you know the results of the drawing is too late to make a deal.

I’ve done versions of this “save” numerous times over the years with gamblers I knew and trusted. The key parts are:

  1. Trust between the parties.
  2. Clear handling of all possibilities.
  3. Clear agreement on who bears the tax liability. 

This last point was in the news not long before this drawing took place. Jamie Gold won $12,000,000 in the 2006 World Series of Poker event, and there was somebody who put up some percentage (perhaps 50%, I don’t remember) of Jamie’s $10,000 entry fee for a share of the profits. Now that the result was in, Jamie insisted the split should be “after taxes” and the other guy wanted his money “before taxes.” Eventually it got settled, but it got played out in public and it hurt Jamie’s reputation.

I especially didn’t want a misunderstanding like this because I was a “rich and famous” gambler who wrote a book about winning a million dollars, and the person I was making the deal with is almost always somebody that most people outside of the video poker gambler community have never heard about. If it became some sort of news, the sentiment would usually be against me. No thanks!

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Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.

Those were Todd Beamer’s last words to the outside world before he, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, and other passengers successfully sacrificed Flight 93, on September 11 twenty years ago. There are a few flashbulb images that will never leave me from that day. The smoking World Trade Center tower is the one we all remember. It was around 6:30 am when I rolled into my room at the now Bridger Inn in downtown Vegas after scouting and playing all night. I still didn’t feel like sleeping, so I turned on the TV and watched events unfold live. The initial reports were that a small plane had hit the tower, and we mostly thought it wasn’t a big deal, other than the fire. And the 1993 bombing hadn’t moved the needle for most of the nation, or the world. When the second plane hit on live TV, and then the towers fell, we all collectively thought, “Whoa, who knew THAT could happen [architecturally speaking]!?!” When flights everywhere got grounded, I got stuck in Vegas. This was real, and had already affected all of us.

Another image became the face of the tragedy: Time magazine ran a photo of a person swan-diving from the tower to escape the flames. There was even a photo of a couple who had done it together. I find that I can’t NOT think about those images when 9/11 comes up.

Other images pop in my head, too, from my hometown. In the days after the towers fell, it was difficult to account for who had actually been killed, and my hometown is a commuter suburb of NYC. People park their cars at our little train station, and then ride the train into The City. While I was in Vegas, friends back home said that on the night of 9/11, there were a few cars in the parking lot at the train station whose owners never came back. I imagine those lonely cars in the emptied lot as vividly as if I had been there to see it.

And I also remember the view from the top of the cemetery wall on the highest hill in my town. Once upon a time I had stood on the top of that stone wall, and verified what I had heard—that on a clear sunny day, you could see the tops of the Twin Towers. And I did.

Sadly, the true heroism in NYC that day has been co-opted by politicians (Giuliani!), police and fire unions, Big Brother, and “Patriot” Actors, in a way that has done more damage to our nation than the terrorist act itself ever did. Maybe because of my heightened cynicism, the most powerful memories of that day are not the visual ones from the grand skyline of NYC, but the audio from Flight 93 that went down in an unremarkable field in Pennsylvania. By making the hard choice—which I’m sure those heroes would describe as a simple thing—they did what the politicians might have been unable to do: shoot down the plane. Even if the political courage to shoot down the plane had been summoned, the likely result would have been bickering, blame, and political reward-seeking.

Nathan Hale became legendary not for his failed spy mission, but his supposed last words on 9/22 (1776) in New York City, variously described as:

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

[If he had ten thousand lives, he would lay them all down, if called to it, in defence of his injured, bleeding Country.]

“I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is, that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.”

[Colour me cynical, but I have a hard time believing that kind of poised eloquence on the gallows, especially when described second- and third-hand years later, with such divergent transcriptions.] Hale’s heroism and oratory have put him in the pantheon of patriots, remembered centuries later.

But Hale’s got nothing on Todd Beamer, whose last words trump them all. Those words—”Are you guys ready? Okay. Let’s roll.”—are eloquent, succinct, powerful, epic, real. Hemingway, the acclaimed master of dialog, could not pen it any better. The hero’s last words exhibit Teamwork. Decisiveness. Commitment. Confidence. Action. And, in the context in which they were spoken: Wisdom. Sacrifice. Love.

The Beamer Bros. were civilians. Their Plan A was to do what must be done—sacrifice the plane! I hope that the heroes of Flight 93 are remembered for centuries, and that “Let’s Roll!” becomes a rallying cry for the ages.

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Podcast – Mail Bag 9/6/2021

No guest this week as we once again dip into the mail bag.

[00:00]  Introduction

[00:36]  Comments on commercials

[02:27]  Probability of royal flushes on 9/6 Jacks

[03:56]  Vetting of GWAE guests

[07:25]  New casino table games

[09:43]  Double Joker video poker

[11:40]  W2G jackpoint threshold

[13:30]  What’s the best way to listen to GWAE?

[14:44]  RFID and TITO at Resorts World table games

[16:15]  Return on card counting

[17:51]  Will the Mirage poker room ever re-open

[18:06]  $1 to $3 Limit Hold/em in Vegas

[19:04]  Why do casinos allow Bob to play?

[19:37]  VideoPoker.com strategy corrections

[21:26]  Card counting advice for a new player without a network

[25:02]  Burning cards on double-deck games

[27;31]  What edge can a recreational player get?

[29:06]  Comp hustling

[30:15]  Split Card Poker

[32:41]  Software used by casinos to catch card counters

[33:19]  $125/hand video poker comps

[36:13]  IRS reporting requirements on table games

[39:01]  Why wasn’t the card maker in Phil Ivey’s edge-sorting case charged?

[41:09]  South Point Casino September Promotions – City Lights Shine giveaway, Hot Seat promotions, South Point 400 tickets

[42:20]  BlackjackApprenticeship.com – card counting training website and community with many betting, tracking, and analytical tools
[43:03]  VideoPoker.com/gwae – Gold Membership offers correction on most games, free Pro Membership trial for GWAE listeners

[44:10]  Using side bets in blackjack to reach table minimum when the count is high

[46:33]  Can banks deny service to professional gamblers?

[48:27]  Transitioning from a recreational gambler to a professional gambler

[51:55]  A match-play dispute on craps

[54:50]  Recommended:  Advantage 32 rubber bands, Here Today

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Southwest Companion fare trial – Gambling With An Edge

Southwest Airlines is running a promotion through this Thursday, 9/9/21. The quick summary is you need to book a round trip ( or 2 one way) flights by 9/9/21 and complete travel by 11/18/21. If you do, you will receive companion fare from 1/6/22 – 2/28/21. Here is the link: https://www.southwest.com/?ref=iflyswa.com.

Now, that isn’t much notice and the companion fare is only for 2 months but it is still a great deal. If you have a trip planned for January/February, you could take a quick trip to a nearby airport pretty cheaply and then save money on your January/February trip.

Also, if you are looking for companion fare for the full one year plus, the Chase Southwest credit cards are now offering 20,000 RR points for a referral. I would split a referral fee with anyone who is interested. Email me at [email protected]

These are 2 pretty good offers from Southwest Airlines. Even though companion fare is a great deal, Southwest is still strongly encouraging people to take advantage of the offer. Hopefully, that’s a sign that it will be around for years to come.

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Would This Be a Better Strategy?

Assume you’re playing 9/6 Jacks or Better and you’re still at the stage in your playing career where you need to regularly consult a strategy card. You’re dealt 2♠ 3♥ 4♣ 6♦ 9♠.

Experienced players know you throw all five cards away. But this is not an experienced player we’re talking about. This is a beginner — at least to this game. At least to the ranks of players who play using a computer-generated rule. The unsuited 2346, a 4-card inside straight with no high cards, is held in some games. Such a player might well ask: “Is this particular 4-card inside straight held in this game?”

The way the Dancer/Daily cards (as well as most others) indicate that specific combinations are not held is to totally leave them off the strategy. An alternative way would be to include this line in the strategy: “4-card inside straight with no high cards (NEVER HOLD).”

Why might this be better? Well, on some strategies there are 20 or more strategy rules listed. You might have to look through these rules a number of times to make sure you didn’t miss this particular rule somewhere. Especially if the notation on this card is unfamiliar with you. But, if it’s there and says “NEVER HOLD,” you’ll find it quickly and know how to play the hand.

Which strategy rules have the NEVER HOLD designation will vary by game, of course. In 9/6 Double Double Bonus, you’ll properly hold 4-card inside straights with no high cards, but you’ll NEVER HOLD 4-card inside straights with one high card. 

And, depending on the level of the strategy, it would be okay to have a DON’T HOLD AT THIS LEVEL notation of some sort. In Full Pay Deuces Wild, for example, in a strategy geared towards beginners, a suited KQ, KJ, and KT would have this designation. At a higher-level strategy, both more difficult and more powerful, there would be some sort of indication of what times you do hold these combinations and what times you don’t.

A version of this latter notation is in the strategies created by the Video Poker for Winners software. There the phrase used is “NOT RECOMMENDED.” It means that on average you’re better not holding such a combination but it is correct to hold it under the right circumstances. (The VPW strategy is an intermediate strategy, with a list of hands, in a section called “Show Report,” where the strategy will provide incorrect holds. It tells you how often these holds happen and how much the error is worth.)

When we first came out with this notation on VPW, it was upsetting to some players. I was asked more than 100 times some version of, “Why on earth would you write down a strategy rule and say it wasn’t recommended to use it?”

I got my answer down pat — it’s faster to find an instruction that says to not hold a combination than it is to look through a strategy multiple times to be sure that hand isn’t hidden somewhere. Some people accepted that and some said they still thought it was a bad idea.

I’ve learned that you can’t please everybody every time. 

Many of you create your own strategies. You start from some source — perhaps the Dancer/Daily strategies, perhaps VPW, perhaps the strategy from the Wizard of Odds — and then you make modifications to it because the way these other strategies are designed isn’t quite to your liking and if you use a different notation, it works better for you. I have no objection to that at all, and in fact think you should create the strategy that is most useful to you personally.

But if you do this, do you include the NEVER HOLD notation on some hands? And if so, which hands?

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Colin Jones (S1 E10 Finale): The Ultimate Vindication (or, A Cover Play Made in the Forest)

Throughout The 21st-Century Card Counter,
Colin Jones interviews former students who have gone off into the wild to ply
their trade. There’s a bit of publication bias, because we don’t hear about the
train wrecks, but that’s understandable. The success stories are still
entertaining and educational, and include sufficient misery. Whenever I read
those reports of extended losing periods, I send CJ a mental thank-you for reminding
me—as he does throughout his book—why counting cards isn’t for everyone,
certainly not someone as soft as I am.

Now comes “Joe” [not his real name], who turned $10k into $1 million! Do you know how hard that is? Imagine being thrown into prison, and digging a two-mile tunnel using nothing but a plastic spoon. Joe did it without the spoon! That result, and the four-year journey it took, makes Joe an instant authority on card counting in the, um, 21st century. Yeah, what Colin said.

The question I want to ask Joe is: How much betting or
playing cover do you use? Apparently CJ has been divining my thoughts, because
there it is on page 71. Joe’s answer needs no editing: “I rarely use any
betting cover, and I never use playing cover. I’ll never play a hand wrong on
purpose to throw off the casino. … The casino has to be smart enough to be
fooled, and you can never know what their idea of a card counter is. They don’t
have the same training as you, so you shouldn’t assume they know everything you
know, or will even recognize that a wrong play made for cover is wrong.” Amen,
brother Joe.

I wrote about this topic in Exhibit CAA, back in
2009, and with over a decade of additional experience, I wouldn’t change a
word. I’d probably use more italics and bold, and exclamation points. Maybe a few
emojis. Counters and other APs like to think that every winning bet was due to
their skill, and every loss due to “negative variance.” They like to come up
with uber-clever ploys, and then attribute their success and longevity to those
ploys. Correlation does not imply causality. Let’s repeat that, all together
now!

We call it FPS—Fancy-Play Syndrome, and Peter Griffin warned about it in The Theory of Blackjack decades ago. Counters want to make slick moves. They want to not only win money, but feel really clever doing it, and then make sure everyone else sees how clever they are. So they over-deviate from BS. Sometimes, I think these ego-driven counters intentionally stall on an index play, just to give everyone a chance to marvel at their cleverness. I see it all the time.

I used to watch a gang of riffraff counters play DD together. A few small cards would come out and suddenly they’re all betting the Lucky Ladies. In a 50% double-deck game, that bet doesn’t get positive until a true +6.8 assuming both Queens of Hearts are live (page 68 of Exhibit CAA). And betting $100, it would be worth maybe $2/hour, but the buddy counters are all slowing each other down trying to look clever when they hit the sidebet.

Ian Andersen’s Burning the Tables in Las Vegas is rife with this mentality. My counterargument is the simple principle of ITOTKO—It Takes One To Know One. If you’re being watched by another counter, would standing on 16 v T, or A7 v T, fool him? Of course not. Would betting hijinks—like only raising your bet after a win (in a positive count, of course)—fool him? Of course not. There is no way a card-counting play is going to withstand a tape review by a knowledgeable counter catcher, unless the play is so short that the verdict is “inconclusive.”

The cases of greatest longevity that I’ve seen (and I’ve lasted
over a decade at some casinos) are not due to standing when they thought you
should hit, or limiting bet increases to a 2x factor, or whatever. Rather, you
can survive a long time if no one looks at you. How do you remain invisible? (1)
By avoiding the dangerous personnel. Play only in front of apathetic or stupid
personnel. (2) By masking your wins. If they think you’re a loser, they won’t
bother looking at you. On the flip side, if they think you’re a consistent
winner, or if you even have a single noteworthy win, they might look at your
play. And if they do, counting cards will not withstand a tape review by
someone who can actually count. (3) By keeping the sessions short enough (maybe
just a shoe or two) that they just shrug their shoulders if you happen to win,
and you rotate the shifts and bosses you play in front of. (4) By using a
disposable BP. I could go on, but I’m just repeating what I’ve written in Exhibit
CAA
and in online posts ad nauseam.

And if the place is plain stupid and doesn’t ever look at anybody or know what they’re looking at, then pound the place to sand (and thereafter into gold, of course).

New card counters aren’t much removed from civilians, whose first thoughts about counting come from pop culture. They think Rainman knows every card coming out of the shoe. They think card counters hit hard 17 when they know a 4 is coming (the next-card-info scene with Austin Powers). They think the cat-and-mouse game is all about using disguises to thwart facial recognition software. (I often get asked about my disguises, before anything else.)

The dry reality is that the counter generates profits through
lots of hours of betting more when the shoe is richer, and sometimes much more
than the traditional 1-12 or 1-16 computer-simulated spreads. The successful
counters I know will bet whatever they can get away with, heatwise. If they can
get away with a min-to-max spread, then they do it. Cover plays just leave
money on the table. Even betting cover is largely pointless, because many
bosses will just dislike the fact that sometimes you bet small, and sometimes
big, and they don’t even bother to see if the bet variation correlates to the
count (since they probably can’t count).

The counters getting churned out by CJ’s Blackjack Apprenticeship are using minimal cover. I will generously say that perhaps Ian Andersen’s book was appropriate for counters of a bygone era, but it surely isn’t the way to go in the 21st century. The biggest change is that there are so many more casinos now. Vegas isn’t the only game in town. Today’s card counter has many places to play, and faces a casino talent pool that is stretched thin. Throughout the nation, there are dual-rate pit personnel who can’t count, and who have no idea what a counter even looks like, or they’re overburdened trying to watch eight tables at once. For a counter, laying cover is simply leaving money on the table. Most backoffs are based on player recognition, not analysis of the play. The modern counter will just play it as hard and long as possible, and then just move on to the next casino.

The heretic Colin Jones has literally rewritten the book on card counting. Even splitting Tens is now on the table. At my sister’s Sweet Sixteen party, mama told her that splitting Tens is taboo, but is it really taboo? You know, mama said a lot of things.

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An Opportunity or a Predicament?

In his recent blog post (which he coincidentally titled the same as mine), Bob Dancer ponders what APs have come to call a scavenging play: The stranger-cum-BFF gambling next to you is about to misplay a hand, and you have the opportunity to correct this injustice, merely by offering a bit of timely advice and bankrolling. For instance, BFF doesn’t have the money to split 88 v 6, and is about to wave off the hand. You charitably offer to help him out by providing the additional chips, and, in a supreme gesture of international cooperation and friendship, suggest teaming up to split all profits or losses. An enduring partnership–through thick and thin, until the very end, of the hand.

Most commonly, the scavenger will jump in to complete a double-down that the BFF was about to double for less, or forgo completely. In games like UTH, the scavenger could complete a 4x preflop wager that the BFF wouldn’t even consider, such as an Ace that the BFF would surely not fold on the river.

People have a reasonable skepticism when a stranger makes a business proposition. “What’s the catch?” they want to know. The scams are so commonplace that they have names (bait-and-switch, phishing, catfishing, etc.), jokes, and memes. There are Nigerian generals lining up to bankroll APs, but we have a skepticism born of the reality that most transactions are a zero-sum game, and that is true for scavenging plays in AP, too. The good news is that this zero-sum game involves three parties–the AP, the BFF, and a third party whose interests are irrelevant to us.

For the AP and the BFF, the deal will be a win-win. The problem is that the total gain from the deal is limited–it is the amount of EV that will be gained by playing the hand properly, instead of the mistake that the BFF was going to make on his own.

Bob Dancer described the basic problems facing the AP scavenger: no guarantee that the BFF will honor the deal with the AP, difficulty negotiating the terms of the deal, possible heat from the casino who would frown on the deal, and messy tax implications for the BFF.

I would elaborate on a couple of those problems. Saying that negotiating or explaining the terms is difficult understates the matter. The AP is thinking: (1) That Royal Flush draw is worth $92 in EV, compared to the BFF’s sure-thing play of keeping a $30 Flush. (2) What terms give me a good chunk of that $62 gain, while protecting both me and the BFF? But that thinking is two chapters ahead–probably you and the BFF aren’t even on the same page, as far as even understanding conceptually what you’re trying to accomplish. The BFF doesn’t really know that there is a $62 gain to be had. The BFF maybe just thinks you want to gamble, chase the Royal, scam her, or something. The BFF might even think that chasing the Royal is the lower EV play, but you want to gamble, and are willing to pay her something to gamble, and she might not want to take your money.

Remember, your BFF is not a casino-game analyst, and may not even understand basic math, so BFF might be shockingly obtuse. Let me tell you a true story. Decades ago, when I used to count cards at my local joint, my buddy Thibodeaux (not his real name) would sometimes join me. He was a graduate student in economics, so he presumably had some understanding of math, EV, variance, risk, finance–all the relevant prerequisites. He also knew that I was counting cards, and would follow my advice on playing his hands, and betting a little more in a rich shoe, though he didn’t have much bankroll (he was a grad student, remember). One time Thibs got a blackjack, and as he was about to take even money on his $25 bet for no good reason other than being a donk, I tried to intercede and scavenge. I said, “Don’t take even money. I’LL give you the even money.” I was offering to buy his hand for $50. I would then get a return of (95/309) x $25 + (214/309) x $62.50 = $50.97. So I was going to make a buck. More importantly, it’s a sickening feeling being an AP and watching your buddy next to you being a donk.

Thibodeaux declined my proposal! He wouldn’t let me buy the hand. He wouldn’t let me bank the insurance bet. He wouldn’t let me give him even money. No matter how I describe it, to you or to him, it was a No Deal. I think he understood the terms of the proposal, but he said that he didn’t want to take my money. Okay, it’s true that I was buying EV, and there was a chance that I would pay him the $50 and wind up with a pushed $25 bet. But I was an AP at the casino for the sole purpose of generating +EV via counting cards, and he was thwarting me! It was depressing and infuriating at the same time. I don’t think I ever went to the casino with him again.

The second big problem I’d add to Bob Dancer’s list is the actual execution of the terms of the deal if the BFF hits the Royal. Assuming the deal has the result of the BFF owing the AP over $1000, the BFF probably doesn’t have the cash. So now the AP has to sit there waiting for the hand-pay which could be 10-30 minutes, and then demand that the BFF fork over ten or more of those Benjamins, in view of a loitering toke-hustling slot attendant? Or are we going to go over to a gender-neutral bathroom to complete the transaction? All of that is going to look horrible.

In VP, recreational players misplay hands all the time, but the EV gain on any single hand would probably be just a few dollars, and hence not worth anyone’s effort. Only the Royal draw presents an enviable scavenging opportunity, but $85 out of the $92 in EV is tied up in the Royal, which is a jackpot/W2G event. For the reasons Bob mentioned, it simply isn’t something to chase. Even in table games, where $100+ scavenging opportunities arise quite commonly for a strong AP, many of the same problems arise. Because of the risk of the BFF misunderstanding or reneging, and the heat risk, the AP eschews most (not all!) of these opportunities.

For the BFF’s Royal draw in VP, there is no opportunity, no predicament. It’s a no-brainer to just ignore it. It only comes up in Bob’s head because all of a VP player’s fantasies involve Royals, in increasingly lurid scale:

  1. Imagine hitting a Royal! Imagine!
  2. Imagine hitting a Royal when the progressive has gotten to $9k on a $1 machine!
  3. Imagine getting a second Royal during the second-Royal-pays-double promotion!
  4. Imagine a Sequential Royal! (I’ve never hit one–imagine it!)
  5. Imagine hitting a Royal while playing off my free-play on a $25 machine!
  6. Imagine getting a dealt Royal on a 50-play machine!
  7. When watching porn, the VP player thinks: “Imagine having sex with two strippers, WHILE HITTING A ROYAL!”
  8. Imagine the previous fantasy, but without the strippers getting in the way!

The key to possibly taking advantage of scavenging opportunities is to start by knowing the EVs of various plays. Most specialists at a game know not just the charts, but the EVs of various key plays on those charts. By knowing that the Royal draw is worth around $92, Bob is able to do the mental calculus on whether to make a new BFF today. And the “AP math” says No!

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Podcast – Host Steve Cyr

Our guest this week is “Super Host” Steve Cyr. We talk about how covid has affected things, the new Resorts World, and what happens with your comps if you are restricted from play.

[00:00] Introduction of casino super host, Steve Cyr
[00:28] How has the pandemic affected the hosting business?
[05:16] Does Steve work outside of Las Vegas?
[07:36] Resorts World
[08:29] Hosting advantage players
[15:00] Rating dice
[20;57] What happens to a deal if a player is restricted mid-play?
[25:26] Problem gambling
[20:13] Cash players and source of funds
[32:33] South Point Casino September Promotions – City Lights Shine giveaway, Hot Seat promotions, South Point 400 tickets
[33:26] BlackjackApprenticeship.com – card counting training website and community with many betting, tracking, and analytical tools
[33:55] VideoPoker.com/gwae – Gold Membership offers correction on most games, free Pro Membership trial for GWAE listeners
[34:56] Front money
[36:02] Sending Bitcoin to the cage
[37:22] Requests for escorts
[40:56] Casino Comp Wallet app
[42:55] How to contact Steve Cyr
[44:38] Whales
[46:07] Getting burned by players
[51:03] Stephen Paddock
[55:31] Recommended – Taverna Costera, The Father, Garbage salad at Barry’s Downtown Prime

Sponsored Links:
SouthPointCasino.com
BlackjackApprenticeship.com
VideoPoker.com/gwae

Steve Cyr’s Links:
Instagram.com/stevecyrvegas
Stevecyr.com
Twitter.com/SteveCyrVegas
Whale Hunt in the Desert by Deke Castleman https://amzn.to/3yGahG3

Recommended:
Tavernacostera.com
The Father (On Demand)
Barrysdowntownprime.com

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An Opportunity or a Predicament?

It’s been a long time since I addressed this subject. The opportunity to actually do it hasn’t happened recently, so you should know that the situation I’m about to describe is fictitious, not factual. Still, the situation does happen periodically and knowing how to handle it when it does happen is worthwhile.

I’m playing $2 NSU at the South Point and a lady next to me is playing $1 9/6 Double Double Bonus. She’s dealt A♦ J♦ 3♦ Q♦ K♦. She doesn’t know me, but since I’m playing my game rapidly (by her standards) she assumes I’m knowledgeable and she asks me whether she should hold four or five cards?

The answer is easy. The flush is worth $30, and I know that four-to-the royal is worth a bit more than $92. The only reason I have that number memorized is because I teach classes and we discuss this situation in every class. 

I tell her, “Drop the 3, say a prayer, and go for it! I can’t guarantee it will work this time, but it’s the best play.”

She mutters something like she’s been losing. Throwing away a guaranteed $30 really hurts because she never connects on these four-to-the-royal chances anyway.

I consider whether I should offer her $75 and I will assume her risk. If she gets the royal, I get $4,000, and if she gets a high pair, a straight, or another flush that money is offset from the $75. She’s worried about losing a guaranteed $30. Surely a guaranteed $75 in her hand must be better than that! I don’t tell her I’m making $17+ in expected value on the deal.

Here are the things I should consider before I actually say this out loud to her:

  1. I don’t know this woman at all. How trustworthy is she? I’m sure she’ll take my $75 (minus the value of what she actually hit) on the 46-out-of-47 times she misses the royal. But on that 47th time? When she looks at the royal and says, “What are you talking about‽ I made no such deal!”

    Complaining to the casino would be awkward, at best. While I’m known at the South Point and am considered believable, on a he-says-she-says matter I doubt if they’d pay me. I’d be putting the South Point in an awkward situation that probably won’t work, and may hurt me in the long run. I can just see a manager thinking, “Remember that time Dancer tried to take that lady’s jackpot?”  I want no part of that.

    Taking her to small claims court is both tedious and, without anything in writing, what’s the judge going to do? My guess is that the judge would keep the status quo, meaning she keeps the money. Even if the judge splits it down the middle and gives me $2000, that means the $75 I offered up front was too much. 

  1. There are tax implications here. If I receive $4,000 and get the W2g in my name, there’s no problem at all. I file as a professional gambler and know well how to deal with it. But if she gets the $4,000 in her name, assuming she doesn’t file as a professional gambler and still pays me all of the money, she has a tax liability. Depending on her circumstances, she could owe more than $1,000 — on something for which she received $75.  

    It takes no genius to imagine that she’ll feel she got ripped off by me. Even though I gave her a reasonable price given my tax situation, it was not a reasonable price given hers. Voices could be raised. Potentially a crowd could gather with me being considered the bad guy. A “rich” man taking advantage of a “poor” woman. 

  1. We could talk about the tax details beforehand, I suppose, saying something like I’ll give her $50 now and if the royal hits, she gives me $3,000 and keeps $1,000 to cover taxes. But the more detail we go into, the more complicated it gets. She probably gambles for fun. A lengthy negotiation likely isn’t her idea of fun. And even with the negotiation, it still wouldn’t be in writing unless we found the paper, wrote it to our mutual satisfaction, and then signed it. Maybe in front of witnesses.

With all that considered, I’m going to keep my mouth shut and pass. I either lose money or potentially open up a hornet’s nest. I can’t win.

If the situation were changed so that I was negotiating with somebody I knew and trusted, and there was an independent witness both of us also knew and trusted, then maybe. But still, probably not. If it’s remembered by the other person as me costing them $4,000, it’s easy to see hard feelings erupt that could kill whatever friendship we had.

So again, even with the situation modified, I still probably wouldn’t do it.

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