Colin Jones (S1 E1): You Had Me at “Zippered Pockets”

People online think that I have great disdain for card counters. That isn’t true, per se. I have disdain for posers, and it just so happens that almost everyone who brags on YouTube about counting cards, or who claims online to be a “blackjack expert,” is a poser. My respect for the late “MathProf” (Dr. Michael Canjar) went up greatly when I saw him wearing his cargo pants, anonymously blasting 2x$800 on the double-deck at the Atlantis in Reno. One of my teammates had an interesting encounter in the wild with the late Peter Griffin. When someone is out there, putting cold, hard cash on the felt, and consequently growing the chip inventory on the kitchen table, that’s instant credibility in my eyes.

As Tommy Hyland wrote in the Foreword to Colin Jones’s The
21st-Century Card Counter
, “the guy walks the walk.” I haven’t
encountered Colin in the wild (yet), but I know Tommy is right on this one.
It’s easy to talk the talk online, on Green Chip, or the Discord, and sound
uber-smart, and knowledgeable about counting and all kinds of advanced plays,
but the talk rings hollow if you try to get it past an actual practitioner. I
can’t read 10 posts on any online forum without getting the urge to rant, but I
resist that urge and refocus my chi.

When I picked up Colin’s book, I half-expected to dog-ear every
other page and start a dozen different online threads debating and debunking
all sorts of topics. For most blackjack books that hit the scene, I typically
find material that is either uninformed (author is not an actual practitioner
of the AP technique described), obsolete (written for a Vegas-centric world
before extensive surveillance, player cards, beyond-counting opportunities, and
proliferation of casinos), irrelevant (dozens of pages charting a random walk …
really?), exaggerated (we won $10 million in three days counting the
positive-off-the-top game in Panama with a $30 table max), or boring (telling
me that you won $36.50 in a 10-minute session in Wendover one night is the kind
of thing that should be kept in a private diary, emphasis on “private”).

Expecting fingernails on a chalkboard, I can’t even bring
myself to read most AP books, or watch most AP movies, without having a
teammate taste-test them first. I always ask my teammates, “Am I going to vomit?”
They usually answer, “Maybe.” So I still haven’t seen Holy Rollers, but
I did pick up Colin’s book, with some trepidation, primarily fearing some
exaggeration or misleading view of the AP landscape that might promote bad
habits that are “counter”-productive, but which are counterproductive to aspiring
career APs.

When Rounders came out, my BP and I literally
high-fived each other during the opening scene, when Mikey grabs up wads of
cash and sneaks out to go hit a game while his girlfriend is sleeping. The
scene so poignantly captured our own AP experience that we felt immediately
engaged, and knew that this movie would speak to us, and entertain.

So it was after the first few pages of Colin’s book. I think
it was page 10 when I announced, “Gentlemen, hats off!” I had to put the book
down to clap (which is basically giving high fives to myself). You see, when
you go online, you get expert advice like, “Flooring is the best way to
generate indexes for a count system. The software offers truncating and
rounding as well, but flooring is recommended.” But on page 10 of Colin’s book,
you get: “zippered pockets.” I have been ranting to teammates for decades about
this. At times I even pondering refusing to play with BPs until they got the
proper work attire with zippered pockets.

Zippered pockets don’t just protect your casino valuables—cash,
chips, phone. Zippered pockets give you peace of mind. Later, when you’re $500
short of what you expected, you and your teammates will know that it isn’t
because a purple chip fell out of your pocket. I go on tilt when I see a
teammate slouching, with an unzipped pocket gaping towards the floor.

Right now, online posers are wondering if I’m being sarcastic,
and thinking perhaps I’m belittling Colin’s book with some backhanded irony by exaggerating
a trifle. Real pros know that I’m dead serious. Details like “zippered pockets”
cut deep. The fact that Colin as a player appreciated the benefit of ZPs, and
as an author felt it important enough to mention, tells me that he knows more
about what moves the needle for a real pro than all the fifth-decimal-point
online guys ever will.

Colin hammers the topic further (on p. 190): “I’ve been on
teams with several people who have physically lost a portion of their bankroll.
Every time it happened, it involved something that could have been avoided.”
Amen, brother.

In a related example of the physical handling of the money,
he gives great advice on traveling with cash, reaching the inevitable,
one-sentence conclusion: “I never again used banks to transport money for a
trip.” [Part of the allure of cryptos is that banks are super-annoying, even
when you want your own money.]

While many books, like Knock-out Blackjack (solid
system!), focus on the technical aspects of counting and take pragmatic
execution for granted, Colin’s book is the opposite. He doesn’t delve into the
technical aspects of what the tags and indices are for a count system. Instead
he covers that stuff using online videos, software tools, and optional
in-person meet-ups (you can mingle at christiancounters.com). Computer-adaptive
testing is by far the best-way to learn the basics cheaply, and no book can
have all the charts you’d want, so Colin’s book doesn’t even go there.

Newbies online obsess over the EV they lost by misplaying a
hand. They repeatedly ask whether they are supposed to split 88 or surrender,
and whether ENHC changes things. While a pro is expected to master such
technical aspects, these details are rarely the focus of working pros. If
you’re trying to grind out the rent money, not having cash available for a
playing trip because you naively tried to use a bank hurts your EV more than a
few hundred misplayed hands.

For The Theory of Blackjack, by the great Peter Griffin,
my 2-second review is, “I think I might be learning something here, but the
title is apt, … yawn.” On Million Dollar Blackjack, by the flamboyant
Ken Uston: “Informative, useful, entertaining, but this stuff about signaling
big-stiff/little-stiff … naw.” On Steve Forte’s collection: “Wow, does this
affect me???” On Exhibit CAA: “Does this guy really expect me to use
these charts?”

But with Colin’s book, I quite unexpectedly found myself
just nodding, circling passages and putting exclamation points in the margin,
and just thinking, “Yup, yup, uh-huh, yeah, true, true, true that, been there, oooh,
yeah, that’s the spot, nailed it right there!”

I didn’t agree with 100% of what’s in there, but I’ll chalk
up the few disagreements to my own different playing style and longer-term
goals. I think any veteran would be entertained by the book, while any newbie thinking
of taking things to the next level would get critical insight into how this gig
actually works.

[Next: Will Colin be playing the title character in Season 6 of Lucifer?]

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