Aug 30
by Don

It has been some time since we have had an installment of hedge economics, so let’s correct that shall we? 

I think that it bears repeating that the over goal of the approach is to maximize your winning potential while minimizing your exposure; i.e. your bankroll!  So if you don’t play at a 6-8 deck manual shuffle table with about 2-3 other players all playing proper Blackjack, your expected positive return will be diminish. But you know all that, so now what?

When I tell people about the mechanics of hedge economics I get a wide range of looks from puzzled, to intrigued, to crazy enthusiasm.  Whatever the case may be, I almost always get the, “does it actually work?”  Well let’s look at the last four sessions that I had while in Vegas as a case study.

The first place that I sat down was Paris.  There was a nice mix of people and I settled down at first base with 3 other people at the start of a new shoe.  I started with $400 in chips and a $30 min bet.  I do this mainly because I like to be able to hedge up to $50 after a win and not be basically “stacking” my bet without pulling something back.  I talk in detail about this in the first post on hedge economics, so I won’t go over all of the reasons why, but the main increments of hedging after wins is a green $25 chip, or quarter.

The play was crisp and I got a lot of double down opportunities and got on a nice roll towards the later 3rd of the shoe.  At the height of the run I was at around $1150.  Normally this would have been a good place to stop, but I was having a good time and just decided to ride out the rest of the shoe.  There were some more up and downs for the rest of the ride, but as the dust settled I got up from the table with $1047.  Not bad for the first run.

The next day I sat down at $25 table at Caesar’s with $400 and hopes of another little run.  I like playing at the main pit because they offer the best possible players odds and generally most people down there play straight.  So after about an hour and a half of nothing great there was a nasty little run of about 6 or so straight losses and bang I am tapped out.

That’s not unusual mainly because if you do everything right you are happy with about a 50/50 chance of winning.  The key is to really get the most out of the times that you are winning, and either minimize your losses or elongate your play.

Well I am not one to be deterred, so I sidled up to another table later that night and bought in again for $400.  Unfortunately for the home team the results weren’t that great.  I liked my tablemates, but 3rd base left and was replaced by this woman who was playing scared.  She announces after the 2nd time I watch her not take a card with 16 versus a dealer 10 card that she never hits 16.  I look at her and then look at my chips knowing that they will all be in the dealers rack before too long.  I was right and well I have no one to blame but myself.  I should have just gotten up, but I decided to roll with it.  Well “it” cost me my buy in.

So at this point I am down and don’t have much to say for myself other than I just need to find the right table.  And that table came late at Paris.  There was 5 people already seated and the dealer was shuffling so I said what the heck and I sat down with my usual $400.

Since it was late, Lori decided just to watch me as I had told her that I was only going to play a little bit and then we could go to bed.  She normally plays herself, but wanted to show me a little support.  How nice.

Well this shoe was hot from the jump.  I win the first 12 hands and frankly could have won even more if the guy on my left would have hit that soft 17 like he should have.  It was equally tough in that I had about $250 out there and a 20 in the hole so my stomach sank a little when the dealer turned a 6 card 21.  Dems the breaks as they say.

I decide to continue the ride it out and almost immediately got on another roll.  I won another 7-8 hands in a row and really had some nice BJ sprinkled in there and looked at my stack and decided just to cash out.  I didn’t even play an entire shoe and I cashed out with $1205 after tips and what not.

So what’s the bottom line?  I think that these 4 consecutive runs capture the essence of what happens on average in that when you lose you only lose what you are willing to wager (in my case I wagered my entire buy in each time) and when you win you can really max it out.  Now it’s important to note that you have to understand that when you are on a great run and then you have a couple of losses of your min. bet you have an opportunity to reassess and take your winnings off the table.  When you are on a negative run you don’t necessarily have to risk your total buy in, but you won’t lose more than you put out there.  These two points are equally important as you don’t want to sit at a table too long when you have won a bunch because you don’t want to give it all back, and you certainly don’t have to stick around to get your head kicked in if you are running bad either.

Just remember to always be getting on that roller coaster on the way up and don’t be afraid to get off before the point that everyone starts screaming!

Aug 22
by Rolka Nation

As you may recall from a previous post, I was lucky enough to recently travel to Italy for a whirlwind 11-day journey.  Traveling all across the country, I certainly saw a lot and it was undoubtedly an amazing experience.  If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italia and haven’t yet…go.  Seriously, just go.  You’ll make more money.  You’re not getting any younger.  The time is now, do it.  Listen to Pittsburgh Gil.  Listen, learn, embrace, and embark. 

The first stop on the trip was in Venezia.  Yes…that’s the same as Venice.  I don’t understand why we have to slightly change foreign city’s names just to make it a little easier to pronounce for us.  That makes no sense to me and just screams ignorance and laziness.  It’s Roma, not Rome.  Firenze, not Florence.  And Venezia.  It’s not hard.  I’m sure these name changes were rooted hundreds of years ago…but why did it happen in the first place?  It’ stupid.  Matthew Broderick’s ancestors probably had something to do with it I’m sure.  So yeah, I will refer to it soley as Venezia. 

Venezia was definitely a highlight of the trip.  It’s a truly unique place in this world which is unfortunately becoming so increasingly rare.  One can’t help but be awe-struck by the tiny streets lined with cafes, the liveliness of a crowded public square as an orchestra plays, the sight of the ceiling of San Marco’s Basilica, peering down a side alley at 5 gondolas in transit, or the fact that the city’s essential bridges are works of art all in themselves.  The city has a charm all its own and should remain that way forever. 

Ok, on to the subject matter of this blog…gambling.  Upon arriving in Venezia, we took an airport bus to the last possible point where automobiles could go.  After getting off the bus and beginning our walk to the hotel, you come across a bustling area where pedestrians can hop on a water taxi or vaporetti, the town’s public bus-like boat system.  It was here that I noticed a boat for Casino di Venezia welcoming guests to whisk them off to the casino’s front doors.  I, naturally, knew that I would patron this casino at some point. 

Turns out, Casino di Venezia sits right on the Grand Canal and was only about a ten minute walk from my hotel.  Once the trip itinerary came into focus, I planned on a visit during my last night in Venezia.  This ended up being an incredibly interesting experience.

An understated entrance to be sure.

A little history of the joint.  It was once a grand palace built for one of the city’s elite, wealthy families.  Venezia was at one time the richest city in all of Europe and was the place to be in the 15-17th centuries.  Colorful, vast palaces lined the Grand Canal and they are all still standing today, although not all are functional.  The casino resides in one of these great structures.  It was built in 1481 and finished in 1509.  Apparently, the original residents of the palace enjoyed their gaming and would have near nightly parties where other Venetian big-wigs would come and blow a lot of money.  Therefore, the casino has been a gambling den in some shape or form for 500 years.  Amazing.

Now on to my actual visit.  I must admit, I was a little intimidated as I was going alone and had no real idea of what to expect.  The building in itself is very impressive and it certainly was not anything close to the style of casino that we know and love here.  There were very few people directly inside, the actual gaming areas were nowhere to be seen, and there were 3 security guards at entry.  But this didn’t stop me.

One’s initial step when going here for the first time is to visit a front desk where you sign up for entry and get your picture taken.  I also had to show my passport and buy my first 10 euros worth of chips or slot money right then and there.  Yep, no loitering in this place.  You gotta play to stay!

Once that was taken care of, I went up the first flight of stairs and found a pretty small slot room.  Slots were typical of ones we have here, but all video reel.  I quickly blasted through about 20 euro with very little to show for it.  Without a drink in my hand, the slots got old pretty fast so I decided to hit up the tables.  The table game area was up another 2 flights of stairs, so I meandered my way up and was met by a suited old man at the door.  I showed my sign-up card and tried to enter but he wasn’t having any of this.  He spoke in Italian to which I had no idea what he was saying.  Once he realized I couldn’t understand him, he called over another guy who then informed me that I must have a jacket on to enter.  WOW!  This was certainly a first for me.  Of course, I did not have one on me but I was directed to the coat check room where I borrowed one for a 50 euro deposit.  This was getting even more intimidating. 

Yeah I needed a jacket as you can see here.

So now, looking dashing in a coat about a size too big with jeans and a polo on, I entered the tables area.  What a room!  High ceilings, well-lit, players in tuxes, women in evening gowns, incredibly works of art on the wall, grand chandeliers, this was definitely not Vegas.  I couldn’t help but feel like Daniel Craig taking on Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. 

The room had several different side areas each containing a different game.  In the main hall, 3 busy roulette tables were in full swing along with a card game that I didn’t even recognize over in the corner that was also in high demand.  Most people were standing at the roulette tables and the layouts were bigger than in the US.  There were also a couple of other betting options that I did not recognize either.  And of course, as is the norm outside of the US, only single zero thus reducing the house edge in half. 

I wanted to play but it didn’t take long for me to realize I was out of my league!  All 3 tables were very busy and a few people were actually playing on two of them simultaneously.  I watched as one older gentleman and one middle-aged woman dropped probably 12-15 FIFY EURO chips on the board with each spin.  If you add that up, we’re talking about $800 a spin!  And they were throwin’ em around like Tic-Tacs.  Simply jaw-dropping.

So yeah, that coupled with the fact that I couldn’t read the board outside of the numbers, and I went looking for some blackjack.  The BJ tables were tucked away in the back and there were about 5 of them.  None of them were busy, maybe 2-3 guys at each and it was a pretty quiet room.  Again…intimidating.  I almost bailed but decided that I would regret it if I didn’t play a table game of some sort in Venezia. 

So I sat down at a table, cashed in 100 euro  (10 euro limit), and started playing with two others.  The chips here were even unique.  They were oval-shaped, not perfectly round, and were translucent and very light weight and soft.  I played about 6 or 7 hands, won about half of them and then the other two gentlemen left.  I was then told by the dealer that there was a 2-square minimum.  So…if I wanted to keep playing I had to play two hands.  Yikes.  Needless to say, I was chipless about 15 minutes later although I did hit a couple of blackjacks in that timeframe.  It did pay 3-2. 

Once I was cashed out, I nodded to the dealer, threw a chip his way, and headed out.  My total visit was about 90 minutes and I blew through 120 euro very quickly.  I was a little bummed because the night was so young.  It was about 11pm and the atmosphere along the streets was in full swing.  Near the hotel, I found my way to a little cafe on the Grand Canal and sat down for a drink.  This place was surprisingly not very crowded, but not anywhere near empty either.  I found a table right on the Canal and ordered up a vodka and tonic.  Every mixed drink I had in Italy was awesome by the way, as is the local beer. 

As I sat there overlooking the water on that sultry, moonlit Venetian night, I suddenly was struck with the fact of what I had just done.  I went into a casino housed in a 500 year old palace, lost a decent amount of money, left, and was now relaxing and enjoying a beverage under the stars. 

It hit me that this was the exact way that many a wealthy Venetian had spent their evenings over the past half-millennium.  That same building, those same games, those same cobble-stone alleyways, those same cafes…since 1509.  I became blissfully lost in this realization and felt a sense of honor wash over me.  At that moment, I was no longer a tourist, but a living part of a vibrant Venetian night.  A local for an evening.  Drenched in history, plunged within timelessness, and adrift on the small waves of the winding canals.

In no other spot on this planet could I have had that same experience except for right there in Venezia.  Many have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was.  While it’s nearly impossible to name just one “part”…I have just told you about my favorite single moment.