Another Winning Vegas Blackjack Trip March 2014

Even with the strong February trip I was in the hole for the year and needed to keep the good mojo rolling to get into the black for 2014.  This was a short two night trip for another speaking session at a small conference.  The timing worked well with a Tuesday arrival, event on Weds and late afternoon flight out on Thursday there was plenty of down time for the blackjack tables.

Since I had a solid run on my last trip I decided to stick with the same formula, stay at Elara, move between Ballys, Paris and Planet Hollywood.  The evening I arrived PH was fairly crowded so I headed to Paris where they had several wide open $25 tables.  I started off strong for once with the very first shoes netting a $500 head start.  I decided to call it an early night since I had to speak the next day and +$500/day isn’t bad for a hobby.

Day 2 work was good, but the blackjack wasn’t so hot – never try to impress people by playing cards – I took a few guys down to the tables during lunch and sure enough they did great while I dropped $200 in the blink of an eye.  After that depressing lunch and a few more hours of conference sessions I slipped out after the networking happy hour to hit my new favorite high-roller room at Ballys.  Ballys is a funny place – friendly dealers and a fairly nice lower end Vegas strip atmosphere, but their DJ wanders off from time to time and the high-energy music stops for 30 minutes or so and it feels like you are playing cards in a morgue.  I played for a long stretch at my high-limit table, had a nice solid run with ebbs and flows that generated a couple hundred on the plus side.  I decided to play my way back towards my hotel for an early night in order to wake up early for some extra play time on my final day.  My stop at Paris sucked $200 almost instantly from the bankroll which put me almost back to even for the trip and sent me to bed on a low note.

Day 3 was judgement day, I have a strategy, I had plenty of sleep and I’m playing in the morning which should give me plenty of alone time with the dealers.  8am on a weekday is an interesting time at a casino – at PH they actually keep the limits pretty high and tables were all busy since only the hard core are playing that early which forced me to walk to Paris – at Paris there were 2 $100 tables wide open, only 2 $25 tables which had players and when I aksed them to open another $25 they said no – they said it politely, but still a little frustrating so I headed to Ballys – best rejection of the week.  At Ballys I sat at my choice of wide open $25 tables  – plenty free there of course – and went on a super-heater.  On the first shoe I turned $300 into $1000 – couldn’t lose, turned 16s into 20s, dealer turned K’s into 15s and splits and doubles all hit.  It was a thing of beauty.  I quit while I was ahead – took my win and headed back to Paris where I thanked the pit boss who turned me away – she was very apologetic and thrilled that I won so it was all good in the end.

Since I was on a roll I skipped Paris and headed to the PH high-limit room to try to parlay the win.  I bought in for $700 figuring it was low enough to bail in case things went wrong.  The first shoe was a wash, up a touch down a touch.  Shoe 2 was a winner where I doubled my money and more – unfortunately I didn’t walk away with the more since I played out the entire shoe even after the heat died down and I gave back some of the winnings.  Now I had a problem – I won too fast – everyone knows that time is the biggest enemy of winning gamblers – the longer you play the better the chance of losing.  I had to kill several hours before my flight so I tried to fill some time playing craps – it was a fools errand, but it did at least cut some of the down time before my flight – I gave back a couple hundred of the winnings which may have been better than my results at blackjack over the same stretch, but we’ll never know for sure.

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Big Vegas Blackjack Comeback Feb 2014

I was speaking at another small industry event in Las Vegas which usually creates a good environment for solid blackjack play since it gives me three weeknights in town and limits my time at the tables so I don’t feel the need to play long stretches across an entire day.  Weeknights are always my preference since fewer people are in town and my chances for finding unoccupied tables are very good.  The event was held at Bally’s which made me cringe a little since the times I’d been to Ballys in the past it felt old and run down.

My first night set the tone for a good visit.  Some industry contacts took me out to dinner at Paris – it was the cafe right next to the casino and it was very nice.  After dinner everyone went their separate ways which gave me a few hours to get started on redemption from the last beatdown I took in Vegas.  Since I was staying at Elara and dinner was at Paris which is right next door I decided to play my way home starting at Paris and then moving to Planet Hollywood.

I hadn’t played at Paris in years and honestly my impression was that it is a place for middle aged women and the older men who chased middle aged women.  It turns out that Paris wasn’t that bad.  There were plenty of tables and they had a version of the PH ‘pleasure pit’ featuring barely dressed women and dancing girls.  I stayed away from that section since the tables were mainly full which was nice since it drew people away from the main gaming area.

Paris had a couple of $15 tables, several $25 tables and a handful of $100 tables – thought it was odd to have $100 tables mixed in the middle of main area sitting mostly empty all night, but they know their business.  I found an open $25 table and proceeded to play three shoes solo with each coming out on the winning side and putting me firmly in the plus column at +$600 to start the trip.  At this point I was feeling the heavy dinner and wine which signaled that I should call it a night and skip the schedued stop at PH since my speech was early the next morning.

Day 2 was a pretty typical conference day in Vegas, speak in morning, attend sessions most of the day, good dinner at Burger place between Ballys and Paris with an industry friend and then time to play some cards.  Since we were at Ballys for the conference and dinner I decided to try it out even though it doesn’t have a sexy or even current vibe it was convenient.  The dealers are nice enough, they have been instructed to wave and say hi every time you walk by which is a bit odd, but at least shows they are trying to focus on customer service.  One thing I learned is that at Ballys I’m a high-roller.  I couldn’t find a $25 table on the floor on a Tuesday night and it turns out that there is a ‘high-limit’ area just up two stairs behind the main table area that has a couple of $25 and $50 tables.  It has to be one of the smallest, least private and more comical high limit areas on the strip.

I took my seat as the only person in the high-limit area and picked up where I left off the night before.  This is how the blackjack system is supposed to work, play consistent, minimize losses with surrender, and take advantage of winning streaks using smart bet unit increases.  When it works it seems so easy and after several shoes the night was off to a solid start.  With a seat on a panel the next morning I couldn’t play too late so I left the high-roller room at Ballys and headed back to the hotel up another $300.

Day 3 was my chance to cash in – the conference ended, most people headed to the airport and after a quick round of craps with a few of the remaining attendees I headed back to the Ballys high-roller room in an attempt to bring my 2014 balance sheet into the black.  Ballys didn’t treat me very well and I quickly gave back a good chunk of my winnings from the first two days.  From Ballys I headed to Paris and had a fairly uneventful few rounds before it got too busy to find an unoccupied table.

My time was running out and I had one last stop to make at PH – with my last night going backwards I made the call to hit the PH high-limit room and play the $100 tables since I didn’t come to Vegas to break even.  I bought in $1000 and decided I was leaving up a lot or down a lot, a push was not an option on this trip.  First rounds were uneventful with a slight upside and then came the hot shoe I was hoping for.  The shoe was hitting and I was increasing my bets as the wins stacked up – the key is to keep a consistent bet increment strategy no matter what table limit you play which is hard since the numbers get pretty big on a $100 table compared to a $15 table.  As the shoe neared an end I knew this was my last run of the trip so I set aside $1000 in winnings and played out the shoe thinking I’d be out before it ended – luckily I kept rolling and ended the night and the trip up over $1400 – solid, but still under water for the first two months of the year.