Starting the Year Off With a Win

Nearly every year I attend CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas and nearly every year I start off with a big gambling loss.  I’ve written about this before, too many drinks, too many days, too many sessions with co-workers at bad tables, and too many dumb losses.

This year I went into the show with a different mindset.  I decided to spend more time working and not fall into the typical gambling traps that come with playing with cheap co-workers after open bar parties.  Unfortunately, my willpower was tested immediately.  My hometown Georgia Bulldogs were playing for the National Championship and after drinking all game then watching a crushing defeat in OT I stumbled down to the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood.  This was exactly what I wanted to avoid, and sure enough, I ‘hate gambled’ away 16 yards in about an hour.

After this poor start, I regrouped and didn’t drink for the next 48 hours.  The lack of alcohol and focused play at my favorite tables in Bally’s high-limit room over day 2 & 3 got me back slightly ahead going into the final day.

I was feeling much better about my week heading into the final day and had only one meeting before making a last run at profitability.  I started my day at The Cromwell where I played at an 8-deck table (never a good choice) while waiting to say hello to my favorite host.  This cost me several yards, but it is always good to see a friendly face and that fun interaction started my day off on the right path.

After leaving The Cromwell I was drawn back to the Bally’s HLR and their $50 table.  I made a nice run, nothing spectacular, but it did put me solidly in the black for the week.  At this point, I had a choice to make so I grabbed a slice of pizza, walked past the $100 tables at Paris and then u-turned back to Ballys.  I decided to make my last stand at my favorite table.  This turned out to be a good choice.  After a few solid shoes I hit a major hot run and started putting black chips in my pocket while growing my working stack.  Once I hit 4X my buy-in I chipped up and headed to the Diamond lounge for a snack before bed.

As a nice little post-script, I put $100 in the Wheel of Fortune slot at the airport and won $50 before catching my flight.

This was by far my most profitable CES and now that I’m off to a winning start to the year I’m going to focus my efforts on making 2018 my most successful gambling year ever.


CES and Blackjack Don’t Mix – When Will I Learn?

I’ve written at least 2 of these posts in the past 3 years.  Somehow I always start the year off with a big loss during CES.  I say somehow, but looking back at this last trip really I shouldn’t be too surprised.

As you probably know CES is the giant electronics trade show that happens the first week of every year.  I attend most years and as part of the week I find my way to the tables on a regular basis.  I don’t think I’ve ever come back from CES up on my gambling scorecard and this year was no different.

The week started off on a bad note when I played the $50 tables at Bally’s on Monday the 2nd, which for the record is the earliest I’ve started gambling in a new year.  This is usually one of my favorite places to play, but this session didn’t go well with a loss and a faux pas.  The loss was minor, but my misstep was embarrassing, guy comes in and I’m only one playing at 4 tables.  He talks to dealers and the pit boss, they all know him and as he is sitting down at other table he looks at me and says ‘should I come play with you?’  I say ‘no thanks I prefer to play alone.’  Everyone stops.  Well shit what did I do?  After a second I realized he was flirting with my dealer and wasn’t talking to me.  Crap.  I apologized, but he thought I was a douche and both of us ended up losing after that pretty quick.  I saw the guy later on the casino floor and apologized again, he was fairly cool about it, but I still feel like a dumbass – I know better – keep your mouth shut unless you have something good to say!

Day 2 and 3 had a lot of work related activities with only a quick $25 table session snuck in here and there which didn’t really move the needle either way.  Day 4 gave me a window to play in the afternoon and so I hit the $100 tables at Planet Hollywood which turned into a nice session with a comeback that got me back to even for the week.  Nothing eventful, but most of the splits and doubles went my way which makes for a winning combination.

Day 5 was depressing since I met a buddy and he wanted to play at $10 or $15 table, which on the strip at night during CES is nearly impossible so we ended up playing $15, 6:5, auto-shuffle machine at Bellagio – this was my personal version of hell.  The dealer and I were talking and he knew it was a joke so he started yelling 6:5!!’ every time someone got blackjack just to rub it in.  After that I went to play high-limit again at PH which was a mistake, I had been drinking all evening and was on tilt after Bellagio hell which contributed to a really bad loss.

On my final night again I started playing $100 tables after many drinks at happy hour and dinner which isn’t an excuse, but the game went poorly again and when I made a nice comeback I pressed my luck – losing 2 separate $500 hands on bad beats (double/split hit to 19 & 20 vs. dealer 5 where dealer hits to make 21) and ended up down again for my last night.

Unfortunately, it was another rough CES gambling trip, so what went wrong…

This trip was long – arrived at Paris Las Vegas on Monday the 2nd and didn’t head home until Sunday the 8th.  That is the first challenge – with so much time there are plenty of chances to hit the tables and so sticking to a game plan isn’t as easy as a 48-72 hour trip.

I was also very busy with work meetings and an event that our company participated in which I was leading.  Challenge #2 – I am usually distracted while at CES with work obligations and this time with a major event which means that blackjack becomes my relaxation activity from the stress of the week so I’m likely to play with less focus on my game and try to extend my table time as a way to wind down from long days.

Of course there is also plenty of alcohol flowing at every happy hour and business dinner which leads to challenge number 3, drinking and gambling.  I like to drink and gamble, but usually I don’t start until I’m at the tables and then I can pace myself, when I arrive at the table a few drinks in it typically leads to loose and aggressive play which works fine when cards are in my favor, but this time they went the other way.

The last of my personal blackjack challenges during CES (the struggle is real) is playing with co-workers and friends.  I can’t really say no when friends and co-workers want to play and I can’t say hey let’s go play at the $100 tables so we end up with the masses at $15 6:5 auto-shuffle hell holes pissing away a few hundred bucks with almost no chance of winning which chips away at the week’s bankroll.

These are all excuses,  I realize that, but I need something to keep me motivated to stick with my blackjack game plans early in the year.  It honestly sucks to start the year in a hole that I’ll be digging out of all year-long.

The good news is I have 4 planned Vegas trips through June to make my comeback so stay tuned to see where we go from here!



Another CES Blackjack Beatdown

I look forward to kicking off the first week of each year with a pilgrimage to CES in Vegas.  It’s a great combination of technology, networking and blackjack.  I wish that my blackjack results would be as positive as my business results at the annual event.

I have only been officially tracking my CES results for the past two years and this year added to my losing ways.  I’ve mentioned the CES losses before and once again I dropped several thousands of dollars during my trip.

Interestingly this time I didn’t fall into some of the usual traps.  I kept the drinking light, played at quality tables and stuck with the system for the majority of the trip.

I did make the mistake of pressing for wins once it was clear I wasn’t having a good trip.  I played $100 tables trying to make up for losses which of course isn’t wise since it compounded the situation when that table went sideways.

Overall I felt my play was fairly solid, but I do think I may change the system slightly giving more range when it comes to the low-end cards – 12s/13s vs. dealer showing 2s & 3s.  I was a little inconsistent and hesitant in playing these too conservatively at times.

According to one of my favorite sites The Wizard of Odds the dealer has less than a 40% of busting when showing a 2 or 3.  At the same time I have less than a 50% chance of getting a bust card when hitting on a 12 or 13.  Putting those two factors together I realize that I need to be more aggressive and start taking a card on a more consistent and frequent basis when facing that situation.

The beauty of this game is that there is always a new way to refine the strategy and improve my play.  Now I just need to get back out to Vegas and get another swing at the plate.

Tips for Blackjack Success at CES

CES is the annual collision of my real job and my fantasy of having a career in blackjack.  Historically I’ve had great meetings and very productive trips for business while my blackjack results have been less than stellar.

Last year’s results were particularly poor with my largest loss for a single trip.  In my constant quest to improve my game I took at look at last year’s post to see what went wrong.  It was a combination of errors that compounded to create a large loss.

To improve this year I’m focusing on 3 areas of improvement:

  1. Time management
  2. Alcohol intake
  3. Group play

Time management is probably the hardest of the three.  The CES schedule is tight and with so many people in town things always take much longer than you expect so I often end up rushing to fit in blackjack wherever I can.  This year I will try to resist jumping on a table simply because I have a free 15 minutes.

Alcohol is flowing even more freely than usual at CES and with happy hours and dinners it is easy to quickly go beyond your limit.  It’s never a good idea to drink and gamble and I know that last year I didn’t manage this well.  This year I’ll focus on drinking less at business events and staying away from the tables if I have that extra drink at happy hour.

Networking and catching up with industry friends is the best part of CES.  Playing blackjack with friends is a fun way to build strong friendships so I like to do it, however it usually isn’t a formula for winning.  This year my strategy is to play small ball low-limit blackjack when playing with friends so that if I do lose it hopefully won’t make a major dent in the overall results.

Hopefully by employing these three strategies in addition to playing my system when I can find optimal conditions will create a winning CES trip for business and blackjack.

Big Blackjack Loss at CES Vegas January 2014

I was coming into 2014 after a pretty strong 2013 where overall I was up several hundred dollars, developed a nice routine in Vegas and made progress on my blackjack system.  With that in mind I was excited to head to CES where I would be able to get in some solid table time in addition to my business meetings and responsibilities.

As you can tell by the title of this post my 2014 gaming season didn’t get off to a good start.  The combination of fairly large crowds, lack of spare time to execute the strategy, lots of drinking at industry events, and playing with other people led to a very bad three day stretch.

The first night I was able to get out on the strip by myself for a couple of hours, however Planet Hollywood was a zoo so I tried Aria and the only table I could find where I had the chance to play alone was $50 and I never got any traction.  Night one was a bust and I had a feeling this was going to be a tough trip.  The second afternoon and night was more of the same.  Between happy hours and meetings I got in some blackjack, but it was always rushed and involved playing with industry friends so it was fun, but never profitable.

I went into night three with a flat tire and leaking oil.  Night three was the end of CES so I thought it would be a chance to make a comeback, but I was on a cold streak and never found my footing.  I played the system and found empty $25 tables, but the cards were not in my favor and then I pressed my luck at the $100 tables and compounded my losses to end the three day trip down over $2k – big ouch.