How to Count Cards (and Bring Down the House)
At the height of his 12-hour blitz of the Blackjack variation casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, last April, he was playing a hand of blackjack nearly every minute.
Dozens of spectators pressed against the glass of the high-roller pit.
Word spreads when the betting is that big.
Johnson was on an amazing streak.
The towers of chips stacked in front of him formed a colorful miniature skyline.
The basics of blackjack are simple.
Almost everyone knows them.
You play against the house.
Two cards are placed faceup before the player, and two more cards, one down, one up, before the dealer.
The goal is to get to 21, or as close to it as possible without going over.
Scanning the cards on the table before him, the player can either stand or keep taking cards in an effort to approach 21.
His next two cards, surprisingly, were also both eights, so he split each again.
Johnson says he was once dealt six consecutive aces at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.
He was neither nervous nor excited.
He is a veteran player.
Little interferes with his concentration.
Whenever the racily clad cocktail waitress wandered in with a fresh whiskey and Diet Coke, he took it from the tray.
Arrayed on the table before him were the four eights.
When his second hand was dealt a two, he doubled down on that, too.
He drew a 10, so the two cards he was showing totaled 15.
This was a good bet: since all face cards are worth 10, the deck holds more high cards than low.
Johnson won all four hands.
As another skyscraper of chips was pushed into his skyline, he signaled for the next hand.
He was just getting started.
Caesars had cut him off, he says, and blackjack secret code videos effectively banned him from its casinos worldwide.
Fifteen million dollars in winnings from three different casinos?
Nobody gets that lucky.
How did he do it?
The first and most obvious suspicion was card counting.
Card counters seek blackjack secret code videos gain a strong advantage by keeping a mental tally of every card dealt, and then adjusting the wager according to the value of the cards that remain in the deck.
The tactic requires both great blackjack secret code videos and superior math skills.
Made famous in books and movies, card counting blackjack secret code videos considered cheating, at least by casinos.
In most states click not New Jerseyknown practitioners are banned.
The wagering of card counters assumes a clearly recognizable pattern over time, and Johnson was being watched very carefully.
He had beaten the casinos fair and square.
All of these gambling houses were already hurting, what with the spread of legalized gambling in surrounding states.
By April, combined monthly gaming revenue had been declining on a year-over-year basis for 32 months.
For most people, though, the newspaper headline told a happy story.
An ordinary guy in a red cap and black hoodie had struck it rich, had beaten the casinos black-and-blue.
It seemed a fantasy come true, the very dream that draws suckers to the gaming tables.
D espite his pedestrian attire, Don Johnson is no average Joe.
For one thing, he is an extraordinarily skilled blackjack player.
What gives Johnson his edge is his knowledge of the gaming industry.
As good as he is at playing cards, he turns out blackjack secret code videos be even better at playing the casinos.
Hard times do not favor the house.
Pennsylvania is likely to supplant New Jersey this year as the second-largest gaming state in the nation.
The new Parx racetrack and casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, a gigantic gambling complex, is less than 80 miles away from the Atlantic City boardwalk.
When you add gaming tables or slots at a fancy new venue like Revel, or like the Borgata, which opened in 2003, the novelty may initially draw crowds, but adding gaming supply without enlarging the number of customers ultimately hurts everyone.
When revenues slump, casinos must rely more heavily on their most prized customers, the high rollers who wager huge amounts—tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a hand.
High rollers are lured with free meals and drinks, free luxury suites, free rides on private jets, and … more.
The marketers present casinos as glamorous playgrounds where workaday worries and things like morality, sobriety, and prudence are on holiday.
He was the only Atlantic City casino executive who agreed to talk to me about Johnson.
The industry pays close attention to high-level players; once a player earns a reputation for winning, the courtship ends.
The last thing a skilled player wants is a big reputation.
Some wear disguises when they play.
But even though he has been around the gambling industry for all of his 49 years, Johnson snuck up on Atlantic City.
To look at him, over six feet tall and thickly built, you would never guess that he was once a jockey.
In his best years as a professional jockey, he was practically skeletal.
He stood 6 foot 1 and weighed only 108 pounds.
He worked with a physician to keep weight off, fighting his natural growth rate with thyroid medication that amped up his metabolism and subsisting on vitamin supplements.
The regimen was so demanding that he eventually had to give it up.
His body quickly assumed more normal proportions, and he went to work helping manage racetracks, a blackjack secret code videos that brought him to Philadelphia when he was about 30.
He was hired to manage Philadelphia Park, the track that evolved into the Parx casino, in Bensalem, where he lives today.
Johnson was in charge of day-to-day operations, including the betting operation.
He started to learn a lot about gambling.
It was a growth industry.
He has served as a state regulator in Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and Wyoming.
About a decade ago, he founded a business that does computer-assisted wagering on horses.
The software his company employs analyzes more data than an ordinary handicapper will see in a thousand lifetimes, and defines risk to a degree that was impossible just five years ago.
Compared with horse racing, the odds in blackjack are fairly straightforward to calculate.
Many casinos sell laminated charts in their guest shops that reveal the optimal strategy for any situation the game presents.
The way averages work, the larger the sample, the narrower the range of variation.
A session of, say, 600 hands will display wider swings, with steeper winning and losing streaks, than the standard casino charts.
He does not just walk into a casino and start playing, which is what roughly 99 percent of customers do.
But the vast majority of players lose, and the longer they play, the more they lose.
Because the casino values high rollers more than the average customer, it is willing to lessen its edge for them.
Beyond the usual high-roller perks, the casino might also sweeten the deal by staking the player a significant amount up front, offering thousands of dollars counting game card in blackjack free chips, just to get the ball rolling.
The player still loses.
But two years ago, Johnson says, the casinos started getting desperate.
With their table-game revenues tanking and the number of whales diminishing, casino marketers began to compete more aggressively for the big spenders.
By late 2010, the discounts at some of the strapped Atlantic City casinos began creeping upward, as high as 20 percent.
He had the money to wager big, he had the skill to win, and he did not have enough of a reputation just click for source the casinos to be wary of him.
For Johnson, the game began before he ever set foot in the casino.
A tlantic City did know who Johnson was.
But he was not considered good enough to discourage or avoid.
In fact, in late 2010, he says, they called him.
Johnson had not played a game at the Borgata in more than a year.
He had been trying to figure out its blackjack game for years but had never been able to win big.
The way any discount works, you have to lose a certain amount to capitalize on it.
When this happened to Johnson, he knew the ground rules had skewed against him.
So it was no longer worth his while to play there.
He explained this when the Borgata tried to entice him back.
The casinos use computer models that calculate the odds down to the last penny so they can craft terms to entice high rollers without forfeiting the house advantage.
Johnson did not miss the math.
Johnson could calculate exactly how much of an advantage he would gain with each small adjustment in the rules of play.
When Johnson and the Trop finally agreed, blackjack secret code videos had whittled the house edge down to one-fourth of 1 percent, by his figuring.
In effect, he was playing a 50-50 game against the house, and with the discount, he was risking only 80 cents of every dollar he played.
So when Johnson got far enough ahead in his winning sprees, he blackjack secret code videos that he might as well keep playing.
When Johnson insisted that he wanted to keep playing, he says, the pit boss pointed out of the high-roller pit to the general betting floor, where the game was governed by normal house rules.
Johnson went upstairs and fell asleep.
These winning streaks have made Johnson one of the best-known gamblers in the world.
He was shocked when his story made the front page of The Press of Atlantic City.
Donald Wittkowski, a reporter at the newspaper, landed the story when the casinos filed their monthly revenue reports.
But because he is so far in front of us, we have modified his discounts.
He is enjoying his fame in gambling circles, and has gotten used to flying around the world on comped jets.
Everybody wants to play against the most famous blackjack player in the world.
But from now on, the casinos will make sure the odds remain comfortably stacked against him.
We want to hear what you think about this article.
Blackjack Secret Code Broken By David Kuvelas
Don Johnson won nearly $6 million playing blackjack in one night, single-handedly decimating the monthly revenue of Atlantic City's Tropicana ...
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