Instead, they hone the sharpest legal edge they can.
On Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, James Grosjean sat at a steel table outside a Starbucks.
In the near distance stood a sign for a local casino, the Palms, where he has been shown the door more than once.
Being run out of casinos blackjack professional michael an occupational hazard for Grosjean, a professional gambler who majored in applied math at Harvard and briefly considered careers on Wall Street and in academia.
He sipped from a venti-size container of coffee and typed rapidly on his laptop computer.
The opportunity was in Shawnee, Okla.
He uses his programming skills to divine the odds in various situations and then develops strategies for exploiting them.
Only two questions seemed to temper his confidence in taking on this particular game.
How long would they be allowed to play before being asked to leave?
How much money would they be able to win?
When Grosjean first reconnoitered the game, he saw that the 12 playing cards used to simulate a pair of craps dice were blackjack professional michael shuffled by a machine designed to speed up play and randomize the order of the cards.
But Grosjean knew that shuffling machines are computer driven and therefore only as good as they are programmed and used: Sometimes, in fact, the devices are surprisingly predictable.
That was true in Shawnee.
After each round, the dealer there swept up the cards and put them in the shuffler without mixing them by hand.
Grosjean discovered that he could see the identity and order of at least three cards entering the machine, the bottom one held by the dealer and the two that were exposed during game play.
Because he has examined these shuffling machines and knows how they work, he could reliably judge the likelihood that certain cards would be excluded from play.
Armed with that knowledge, he spent several months simulating the game in software; his computer mimicked the shuffling algorithm and played the game millions of times.
His findings would give him a significant edge playing the card-based craps game in Shawnee.
It would be equivalent to gambling at standard craps with dice and knowing which three dice faces — out of 12 possible — would have a reduced probability of coming up on any roll.
Many casino executives despise gamblers like Grosjean.
They accuse him of cheating.
Yet what he does is entirely legal.
Whiting acknowledges that they do not deserve to be arrested.
That is usually illegal, the sort of thing that can result in jail time.
I view it all as preventable loss.
Cumulatively, they rake in large profits from games that were designed to be unbeatable: While some bettors might get lucky and win in the short run, over time they are supposed to lose and the casinos are expected to win, statistically speaking.
In recent years, however, Whiting says the ranks of advantage players have swelled.
Several factors are responsible.
One is the ease with which gamblers can find each other online and share tactics.
Grosjean has a blog called Beyond Numbers, for example.
And because regulated casino gambling now takes place in at least 40 states, casinos compete for customers in part by introducing new games, some of which turn out to be vulnerable.
Munchkin, whose real first name is Richard, chose his professional surname because of the fact that he stands slightly taller than five feet.
I know people who clock roulette wheels and others who can control a single die at craps.
Elbows were thrown and there was a lot of jostling around the table.
An older civilian accidentally got in the middle of it.
His son thought I had hit him, and the son jumped on my back.
Following all the tumult, the table was being watched and somebody figured out what was going on.
As I walked beside him, I tried to appear casual, with the tail of my untucked shirt covering the notepad in the blackjack life pocket of my slacks.
Grosjean passed an escalator and headed down a back staircase.
To experienced surveillance people, he is a known advantage player; at any time he could be spotted, matched to his picture in a database of such players and asked to leave a casino.
If that happens, the security guard could also read him the trespass act, meaning Grosjean would risk arrest if he tried to return.
Getting away, on the other hand, would give him an opportunity to come back on some future day and perhaps go unnoticed.
So if security was waiting for him at the bottom, Grosjean needed to be able to run back up in the opposite direction with the hope of avoiding a confrontation.
Down below on the gaming floor, ringed by wall-mounted TV monitors silently showing a sporting event, slot machines chirped and crowded blackjack tables buzzed with action.
Grosjean had explained earlier the reason for this quirk: The Grand happens to be located in a jurisdiction where it is illegal for dice to determine financial outcomes in games of chance.
Two sets of six playing cards, numbered one through six, one set with red blackjack professional michael, the other with blue backs, serve as de facto dice.
A player rolls a giant numbered cube, apparently made from plastic foam.
The cube determines which cards are turned over.
It is a way to make the game feel like craps without dice directly producing a monetary outcome.
After that, standard rules apply.
A gambler might bet, for example, that the sum of the first two cards in play will total 7 or 11.
If the sum equals 2, 3 or 12, he loses.
If a total of 7 comes first, he loses.
Over the course of the game, players can wager on other combinations, like two 5s turned over which pays out 7 to 1.
Such proposition, or prop, bets favor the casino.
After every two-card set is turned over, the cards were machine-shuffled before the next roll.
Play had been temporarily halted to accommodate another recent arrival at the felt-covered table — Richard Munchkin.
Two regular gamblers, whom Grosjean had noticed on numerous occasions in Shawnee, watched in slack-jawed surprise: Patrons rarely played for such large sums there.
Dealers on the table clearly knew him — he had been establishing his presence here for the past week, getting used to the game and figuring out its subtleties — and they good-naturedly commiserated with him over his propensity for losing.
The motions were signals to Munchkin: With a split-second glance, he gained the statistically significant advantage of knowing numbers likely to be excluded.
Munchkin was less than friendly, tipped modestly, demanded a lot of service.
Call me Little Joe.
His signaling had not been perfected yet — some gestures were being missed.
That, combined with a bit of bad luck, had put Munchkin into a difficult situation.
Their scheme, their play against the casino, was perhaps too complicated to pull off, Grosjean would later concede.
Still, he kept feeding Munchkin information about the cards.
Slowly, as the night grinded on, some of the high-returning prop bets started to pay off.
When they came up, Munchkin shot a fist in the air and shouted.
The thrill was feigned.
An observant dealer, a man who appeared to be in his early 30s, discerned something fishy.
Maybe he had noticed the discreet glances at Grosjean.
After all, Little Joe was blackjack professional michael money.
He learned as much when he spent the next two days gambling on his own.
Her name was Cheung Yin Sun.
Elite Western gamblers and rattled casino bosses know her as Kelly, a fast-talking, sunglasses-wearing advantage player in her 40s.
Her father, now deceased, was a wealthy factory owner based in Hong Kong.
She claims to be unbothered by having blown a fortune in gambling dens around the world.
In fact, she all but brags about her losses.
We were sitting in a back booth in the coffee shop of SLS Las Vegas, a stylish casino on the north end of the Strip.
Sun wore a neon green approximation of a tennis dress.
I decided that one day I would get back the money by playing at MGM properties.
They look identical to those used at the gaming tables but have holes punched through their centers to prevent cheaters from slipping a souvenir ace of spades, say, into a poker game.
Sun had no such intention.
She scrutinized the backs of the cards.
Some had crisscrossing patterns that went right to all four edges.
She spent around a thousand hours, over four years, training herself to recognize the minute variations on particular cards.
Sun figured out how she could leverage these differences that were almost imperceptible and acceptable by industry standards.
Mini-baccarat is played with eight decks of cards.
To begin, four cards are dealt face down onto the table.
Patrons never touch the cards.
Before the cards are dealt, gamblers bet on banker or player or a tie.
Whichever side gets closer to 9 is the winner.
Tens and picture-cards count as zero; aces count as 1.
If the sum exceeds 9, then only the second digit is recognized for example, a 9 and 6 add up to 15 but count as 5.
From her years as a losing high-stakes gambler, she knew that casino executives will accommodate even outlandish requests from customers who wager huge sums of money.
She also believed that Asian gamblers were viewed as superstitious.
In October 2011, having trained herself to edge-sort, Sun decided to exploit both the servility and the stereotype.
At a reserved table, they played mini-baccarat straightforwardly, as typical high-stakes gamblers might.
But they had a request: to be allowed to make their bets after the four cards used in each mini-baccarat hand were dealt.
Casino representatives approved the requests.
On see more second day, Sun pulled a rolling Louis Vuitton suitcase behind her.
Once play began, they instructed the dealer to turn certain cards half a rotation.
Luck, of course, had nothing to do with their request.
Edgy casino personnel crowded the table.
Sun recalls six men in suits watching her intensely.
When a partner failed to bet blackjack professional michael enough, she grabbed his chips and made the wager herself.
Sun wanted to get through the eight-deck stack of 416 cards before Aria personnel could recognize what was going on.
To ease her nerves, she says she rubbed a finger along the outline of a freshly inked jaguar tattoo on her right thigh.
Few gamblers take such substantial sums in cash, usually preferring a check instead.
Sun and her team disappeared into the Las Vegas dusk with their winnings in the suitcase.
According to a surveillance officer who witnessed the play, Aria employees spent two days piecing together what had happened.
They made a trip to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
Eventually Sun recruited the celebrity poker pro Phil Ivey, who is also known as a high-stakes gambler at craps and baccarat.
During the next year, he wired seven-figure sums to various casinos and did the betting.
Sun did the edge-sorting of the cards and tipped off Ivey whether to wager on banker or player.
Their combined winnings in Atlantic City, London and other places were in the eight figures.
A couple weeks ago, I spoke to Sun on the phone.
She told me she was in Macau, presumably beating baccarat games there.
But her success has exacted a price.
She is currently linked to three lawsuits with casinos that insist she used deceptive practices.
Ivey is appealing a case in London against a casino that withheld their winnings.
A similar dispute not involving Ivey with Foxwoods is also under appeal.
Ted Whiting, who works for MGM, one of the owners of Aria, will not comment on her.
When I last saw Grosjean in action, he had returned to Shawnee blackjack beat was passing himself off as A.
The cover story explained why a newcomer would suddenly show up and spend multiple nights in an out-of-the-way casino, gambling more money than anyone else in the place.
Sanchez bet aggressively, tipped generously and never missed a signal.
Time to move East.
Meanwhile, the card-craps table in Shawnee continues to simmer.
The casino has taken several procedural measures, like extra click the following article by hand, that makes its craps iteration more difficult to beat.
If you have a well producing a billion barrels and another one producing only 50 million, you still pump the smaller well because eventually the big one will run out of oil.
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A:B1 (Michael Hall) The acronyms that are often used in blackjack articles in... in Blackjack" by Arnold Snyder PB: "Professional Blackjack" by Stanford Wong ...
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