I gamble against casinos for a living. This means I make paychecks from places that never hired me. Instead, most of them want to fire me permanently and ban me from ever setting foot in their building again. It’s kind of funny to think about it that way, but that’s essentially how it is. I am forcing places to provide me employment unwillingly.
I wrote the following trip report nine months ago while “on the job.”
Sept 9 2016
I left my house at 10am after three nights back home from my last trip (a Labor Day weekend trip with one other player in which we earned $20k in estimated EV. Our actual results were about breakeven after expenses.). I had an 11:40am flight with a team member, who I will call C. We met two other players on site: S and L. After a four-hour flight, I landed, got a rental car, drove a couple hours, and by 7:30pm Pacific I was in a casino 2000 miles from my house. I found a nice opportunity right away but decided that the edge was only about 1-2%. I knew there were better opportunities in the area and wanted to pick my spots wisely, so I decided to pass and instead discuss the game plan for the next couple days with my trip team members at a crappy local bar within walking distance from our accommodations.
I say trip team members since I don’t work with a team on a regular basis. I never have—instead I have a handful of people I work with, some more than others. It really varies depending on what is needed for the particular play, game limits, availability, how heated up anyone is at the casino or region in question, and a couple other factors. So instead of playing this shift, it was a couple beers, some bar top trivia, and a plan to split up the next morning and start scouting around 11am.
There are a handful of casinos in this region so we split up, having three different rental cars between us. C ended up empty handed; L and S were still looking around. I found a great opportunity in which we could do exactly what we came to the region for: high-EV play that requires all four of us to play together. This play is very hard for casinos to pick off.
Last time I played this casino (an unsophisticated low-roller dump) we had a good result (around +20 units of two hands of the table max) and although the casino was definitely not happy they had no idea what was going on and we left unscathed. The group I played with last time had a great act, which helps a good deal at these places.
The current group also had a good act to go with our skills, so I liked our chances of pulling it off. However, I didn’t like our chances of getting four seats during such a busy weekend—this was the lowest minimum game in the casino with relatively few hands dealt per hour, so people take a lot longer to tap out. Plus, the limit wasn’t as high as we remembered.
Luckily, in the meantime, L found a ridiculous procedural error that was too good to pass up, about an hour up the road. Right as I was weighing my options he called me and gave me the scoop. We came up with a course of action and I relayed it to our BP for this trip, S. We were a little skeptical that this would still be going on even by the time S got there as it seemed ridiculous the casino would allow such a thing to go unnoticed, but it did.
By 3pm, L and S were in action earning roughly $4-5k an hour in EV for our four-person team while C and I were off until swing shift. The session was uneventful heat-wise and had swings from +$14k to -$7k, with them ending at -$2.5k for roughly $20k in EV. I was happiest about the fact that they were able to get the action in and the casino seemed to accept our BP as some guy who happened to be passing through BFE with a pocket full of money, along with the fact that no one seemed to notice the error that allowed for the opportunity in the first place.
We decided to leave the BP there and send C over to switch things up on swing shift. In the meantime, I would look for a few things L and I could do together in the other casinos of the region. Unfortunately, I once again came up short aside from some marginal edges that we sampled and passed on.
C and S got to work on swing shift, exploiting the same procedural error that popped up on day shift. They noticed another crew lurking around as well, but luckily they weren’t interested in what we were doing, so C and S had the game to themselves. I heard later that the other crew were wondering what we were doing and questioned if we had an edge, which is good news to me.
C and S were both feeling the heat on swing shift with S getting his own personal pit boss as well as multiple “we know what you’re doing, if you’re doing anything” stares. Nothing serious happened, so they decided to play through the heat. The edge wasn’t as high as earlier in the day due to a couple of factors, but by the time they quit they had picked up another $5k or so in EV and $6.5k in actual money. With the money lost during day shift and an additional $1.5k lost by L and I during our swing shift scouting earlier in the evening, we were ahead $2.5k for the trip. We hadn’t even covered trip costs yet and were about 20 G’s below EV. Time to sleep.
New plan. We had a strong suspicion that the error from yesterday would still be around today, as this casino was not paying close attention and likely wouldn’t fix it. The game we wanted opened at noon, so I woke up and got to the casino around 11am (early for me in this time zone) to grab some coffee, game plan, and make sure the game was still on. C, L, and S would sleep in a little, with C and L scouting the other casinos and S coming to me once I verified that everything was going according to plan.
We were definitely in business, so I took a seat. All was good except for one small yet important detail: a group of four friends were occupying all the seats at the table except mine! Although I was ready for S to come in and start making some money, he couldn’t get a seat. These guys and girls were up for their morning/afternoon beers and really wanted to play this game. Not only did they want to play, but they wanted to play incredibly slow.
Finally, a couple of them tapped out. S came in and we got in about 1.5 hours of super slow play, winning $2k with maybe $5k in EV earned. I lost around $1200 just signaling and betting 1/10 of what S was betting before a pit boss finally noticed the error and put a stop to it. They didn’t do anything to us as they didn’t put us together and weren’t even sure we were taking advantage of the error in the first place.
S got a buffet comp, I lost my remaining chips on the table by going “all in” and losing, so I left to go scout the other casinos for swing shift. Nothing was worth playing on swing, I lost some more money scouting, and we ended the trip that night -$640 for the team after trip costs. After a handful of small scouting losses, the actual table win was $2340, and our EV estimate was around $30k.
I personally earned roughly $17,500 in EV In the last 10 days for a net loss of a few hundred bucks due to trip costs. Tough way to make a living.