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Thread: Excerpts from Barfarkel’s Spring Trip Report

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    Default Excerpts from Barfarkel’s Spring Trip Report


    Blackjack Insider Newsletter, June 2005, #65

    A WORD FROM HENRY: Barfarkel attacked the blackjack tables in Vegas again. His report is loaded with playing strategy advice and fascinating stories including a dice session with dice controller Stanford Wong (yes, the blackjack master himself has been practicing and perfecting his dice control for over a year), plus his friend, The Grifter’s, playing session with multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines.

    LAS VEGAS TRIP REPORT 36 – April-May 2005

    By Barfarkel (a.k.a., LV Pro)

    (Barfarkel is a serious recreational player who started with basic strategy in 1996 and learned the Silver Fox count by the end of 1998. He has been counting since early 1999, starting with a $2K bankroll and slowly trying to build it to $10K. Barfarkel’s new book, You’ve Got Heat, contains the details of his playing trips to Las Vegas over a 4 year period. He also wrote the article “Graduating From Red to Green” that appeared in the Winter2003/2004 edition of Blackjack Forum. For details on You’ve Got Heat, including a great discount for BJI paid subscribers, click here.You can also listen to a taped radio interview of Barfarkel that occurred on the American Radio Network by going to http://www.youvegotheat.com. )

    After a luxurious late afternoon shower and nap, I hooked up with The Grifter. We valet parked at the Frontier with the intention of walking over to the new Wynn hotel, which had opened less than twenty-four hours ago. Grif had been present at the opening – using his press credentials to get in ninety minutes ahead of time, along with the VIP’s and media.

    It took fifteen minutes for the huge crowd we joined to cross Las Vegas Blvd. when the traffic cop finally waved us forward. As you can imagine, the Strip was choked with cars and pedestrians in front of Wynn.

    While we waited, The Grifter told me about last night. He had explored the casino and found only continuous shuffle machines, h17 shoes and 6:5 single deck tables near the front of the vast casino. Cursing Steve Wynn under his breath and thinking that this new casino was nothing but a blackjack wasteland, he wandered towards the rear and stumbled upon blackjack paradise. Here in back he discovered a pit of $15 and $25 double deck games with deep penetration and good rules like s17 and Double-After-Splitting. Every dealer used a cut card notch in the discard rack to standardize the pen at a wondrous 75%. Grif sure changed his tune in a hurry. God Bless Steve Wynn!

    He had bought in at a $25 table and had a heads-up game for the first forty-five minutes. The pit people were overly friendly and accommodating, despite the fact that he was perceived as a lowly green-chipper. Of course The Grifter went right into his act. Flashing his media credentials, he told the pit guys and dealers that his Hollywood producer associate, Mark Burnett, had him scouting the premises for employees who could become regulars on a new reality show entitled Wynn’s World. The dealers and pit critters were wide-eyed and eating up every word with a spoon.

    The moment he finished his rap, he saw someone approaching his table from behind. It turned out to be Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines – a multi-billionaire Wynn shareholder who had wandered over with his wife and wanted nothing more than to win back the $80 he had lost earlier. This from a man who had just spent more money on Airbuses than what it cost to build the Wynn. Sir Richard had been knighted by the Queen of England, and he was the man who single-handedly broke the British airline monopoly.

    Branson asked Grif if he knew “the plays, the hitting and the splitting and such?” Never shy, The Grifter leaned in and whispered that he was an expert card counter and would act as his table advisor. “Lovely,” replied Branson in a friendly and self-effacing manner. At first Sir Richard lost a few hands and pulled out more money. Soon, Grif’s advice resulted in a rapid series of winning hands for the whale when the count shot upwards and Grif kept instructing him to bet it up. He responded by shaking Grif’s hand every time his advice resulted in a win. He also tipped The Grifter three black chips during the session. The last hand was when Branson had his biggest bet of $600 and got a sixteen against a dealer seven. The Grifter told him to hit.

    Branson didn’t want to hit it and asked twice in a shaky tone, “Hit it? Are you sure? Do you really think that we should hit it?”

    “Sir Richard,” The Grifter replied with a smile, “The best play is to hit and you’ll probably bust, but percentage-wise, it’s riskier not to hit.” Branson resolved “Then hit it we shall.” When he drew a four for twenty and won the hand, he leaned over and kissed Grif on the cheek. The Grifter stood up to address the pit, “Now that I’ve been kissed by Sir Richard Branson, do you know what this means? It means that I’m no longer….a Virgin!” Everyone laughed appreciatively, especially Branson. Sir Richard went on to record a $2k win in only fifteen minutes at last night’s session, while The Grifter netted $1,200, plus an additional $300 in tips.

    The Grifter told me that his Mom was a big fan of Branson’s own reality-based series The Rebel Billionaire, so directly after the session he dialed her number and handed Sir Richard the phone to say hello. Branson told Grif’s mom, “I don’t know what your son was doing, but it was absolutely marvelous.”

    Walking through, I was impressed with the décor although The Grifter was a bit disappointed in that he felt the new hotel had borrowed its style from Bellagio and there was little that was new and unique. Personally, I loved the natural lighting through many skylight canopy areas, which I discovered in subsequent daytime visits. Finding our way to the one playable area in back, we circled the pit and saw that the lowest double-deck minimums were $50. There were $100 and $300 minimum tables as well, just like the Mirage double-deck setup. Upon finding an idle table, I asked the floorman if I could get the table started by playing $25 minimum, and he readily agreed. He arranged this with the dealer and said to me, “Good luck.” I started heads-up and soon The Grifter joined me.

    Grif has been doing some informal ace tracking lately so, at the top of every shuffle, he’d whisper to me “ten of clubs, six of hearts, eight of spades,” or some-such. I found it difficult to watch for these key cards that would precede the aces and still keep my count at the same time. But we muddled through regardless. I soon gave up on key-card tracking and just concentrated upon the count and simply increased my bets and number of spots when I saw Grif doing likewise in unusual situations. Since he has practiced this new technique, I’d just depend on him to alert me when aces were due to come out. We had mixed results with ace tracking, but I had a good session anyway. In for $300, I was down to my last few chips when a good count appeared. I pulled out another $200 to cover a double-down, and won the hand.

    I continued see-sawing back and forth until the key round arrived. In a plus three true count, I had two hands of $50 and the dealer turned up a seven. My first hand was a pair of eights, so I split them. Of course I got a third eight, which always seems to happen, so I re-split, doubling down on one of the three hands. My second hand was a six-five, so of course I doubled down. The dealer turned up her hole card – an eight for fifteen, and drew her hit card. It was a beautifully colorful red jack of hearts for a sweet bust! I let out a war-whoop. That hand represented a $600 turnaround for me. I wound up winning $350 after being in for $500. That was sweet, and a wonderful introduction to the newest good double-deck game in town.

    … continued –
    "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."
    .....................The Zengrifter Interview (PDF) |
    The Zengrifter / James Grosjean Reputation Debate
    “Truth, like gold, is obtained not by growth, but by washing away all that is not gold.” — Leo Tolstoy........
    "Is everything a conspiracy? No, just the important stuff." ZG

  2. #2


    … continued –

    … [The following afternoon] I picked up The Grifter and we headed back downtown, playing separate tables at the Nugget. I lost $300 in a session that saw me moving from the main casino tables to the hi-limit room, but nothing I did went right. However, I had only lost the $300, and walked out on the main floor.

    We had arranged to meet Stanford Wong, and Al and Chris from Pi Yee Press at a craps table, where we would all pass the dice back around to Stanford as often as we could. SW would use the dice control methods he’s been honing for the past year, and we would all bet on his dice rolls, hopefully making some money in the process. My old buddy Turtle stopped by to check out the action, but didn’t play. Despite all the time Turtle’s hung around casinos in his life, he’s never learned the game of craps, so he stood next to me and just watched the proceedings. As it turned out, he was the wise one. I was betting $5 or $10 on the pass line, and taking $50 odds. I’d also place bet the six and eight for $30 or $60 each. Come bets take too much time and clutter up the area of the table that Wong needs to be kept clear as his landing zone. The Grifter and Chris anchored the landing zone at the end of the table, keeping that area clear of chips. Stanford started out well, and he held the dice for a decent amount of time on each of his early turns, but his last two rolls turned ugly and he sevened out at critical times, just after we were all set up with lots of chips upon the layout. I wound up losing $260 at this would-be display of skilled dice shooting.

    Chris and I supplied the comps for the five of us as we had dinner in the Carson Street Café. Al told us Stanford usually makes money for them at the dice table and this was SW’s first craps loss in the last month or two. Just my luck, huh? Chris brought us up to date on the doings of the BJ21.com website and told us which books were selling well – mine included. Pi Yee Press sells a lot of books and You’ve Got Heat was their best selling title in November, December and January. It finally got supplanted by Steve Forte’s new book. Al told us of his campaign to get the Nevada legislature to drop a proposed bill that would have allowed casino managers and security goons to have access to DMV records. As it turned out, the bill was eventually voted down to our vast relief. Stanford gave us tips on how to practice at home to hone your controlled dice shooting skills. The Grifter regaled us with tales of the poker and blackjack tournaments held in Federal Prison Camp, and how he got an edge over his fellow inmates. Wong just loves The Grifter’s stories and always regards him as a fascinating character. We also discussed the math behind some of the blackjack side-bets we had been exploiting, with insightful help from SW. I had the filet mignon again while most of us ordered various steak dinners as well. There’s nothing as fine as a relaxed dinner with knowledgeable friends, especially if one of them is Stanford Wong, and you also have The Grifter and Al Rogers telling their entertaining stories.

    Now inspired by my dinner companions, I returned to the hi-limit room and bought in for $300 at the $25 double-deck table. In a very short time, I won back $410 of the $560 I had lost here this day in both craps and blackjack. Then I hooked up with The Grifter again, this time at Fitzgerald’s, where we got surprisingly decent penetration at a double-deck table with DAS. It’s unusual to find Double-After-Splitting at the downtown double-deckers. At my lowest point during this four-hour session, I was in for $600 and down to my last few chips before staging a rally to dig out.

    During this session, The Grifter whispered to me, “two of spades,” when he saw the dealer scoop two aces in front of that key card. About three rounds into the next shuffle, I saw the two of spades come out on the next-to-last card dealt on that round, and nudged Grif, who had seen it too, and nodded. Before the next round, and despite a true count of minus three, The Grifter, strategically positioned at first base, spread to two spots, with max bets on each. I spread to two spots of only $50 each, kind of hedging my bets. The essence of key-card ace prediction is that those two aces should soon follow that two of spades-key card. In this case, Grif was following what is called a “super-key-card,” a key card followed by two aces. We would hope to catch one or both as the first cards of our hands, and then hopefully catch a ten on that.

    Unbelievable! Two max bets on a minus three count, and The Grifter caught both aces with matching tens! Grif flipped over the two blackjacks and announced in mock dismay that, “The odds of getting two blackjacks at once gotta be 500-1 and these bastards are only paying me 3 to 2.”

    At another point in this marathon four-hour session, I drew a seventeen vs. a dealer’s ace in a minus six true count. Grif urged me to hit it, but I declined his advice and stood. The next card was a deuce, which would have given me nineteen. The dealer flipped a seven in the hole for eighteen, and I lost a hand I would have won. I cannot remember the last time I hit a hard seventeen, and was even less likely to do so now, especially in my fatigued condition, but I later checked that extreme index for seventeen vs. an ace in a h17 double-deck game, and it turned out to be minus seven – not quite negative enough to hit, but Grif’s instincts were right as usual – and for such an extreme play his level-2 ZEN count was a wee bit more accurate than my level-1 count.

    As it turned out, The Grifter won a few hundred and I recouped all but $100 of my buy-ins. Now bleary-eyed and exhausted, I called it a night. Counting the ninety-minute craps session, I was up $1080 after seventeen hours of play.

    … continued –
    "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."
    .....................The Zengrifter Interview (PDF) |
    The Zengrifter / James Grosjean Reputation Debate
    “Truth, like gold, is obtained not by growth, but by washing away all that is not gold.” — Leo Tolstoy........
    "Is everything a conspiracy? No, just the important stuff." ZG

  3. #3


    Excerpt continued –

    …Today has to go down as a red-letter day in the annals of my card counting career. I started at Palace Station again, but the penetration was unanimously lousy so I only stayed fifteen minutes. I won $110 to start this historic day off right.

    … I picked up The Grifter at his downtown apartment and we drove to a locals casino which had the Lucky Ladies side bet on several tables. We played side by side for two hours. Of course, Grif and I partner up on those side bets, betting the same amounts every time the count gets high enough to justify making the bet. We do this to reduce the variance and give ourselves more chances to hit a winner, as each of us spreads to two hands and bets the $25 maximum on the Lucky Ladies whenever the count gets rich. When the count gets sufficiently positive, this otherwise sucker bet, which generally gives the house a huge 25% edge, actually turns positive for a savvy counter.

    After about an hour, a monster count appeared. Ordinarily we had been playing one hand each. Using all my remaining chips, I now laid out two hands of $75 and bet the $25 maximum on each LL spot, while The Grifter did the same. Grif’s first hand was a matched twenty – two jacks of clubs, for a 25-1 winner. This was the key moment of the session and served to bring me ahead after getting my half of the $625 payout. I had been in the hole almost the entire time. We made one more cover bet, playing two hands of $50 for the pit’s benefit, even though our high count had mostly evaporated. I won $255 and we went in for a comped late lunch of scampi over linguini and Caesar salads.

    As we walked back to my car, The Grifter has a mischievous look in his eye. He was set on convincing me to drive to Summerlin. He wanted me to re-visit the Suncoast – a casino from which I had been barred, trespassed and escorted to the door by three security guards the summer before last. “You owe it to your readers to defiantly return there and spread with the count,” Grif insisted. For once, I finally agreed and we got in the car and headed out on the highway. On the way up, he advised me to wear a baseball cap to make it difficult for the Eye upstairs to identify me again. Although I own many caps, I hadn’t packed one from home, so my first stop was the Suncoast gift shop where I bought one that looked fairly generic. Most of the ones they sold had the Suncoast logo, and I thought those would be too obvious and new-looking. Next I stopped at the player’s club booth and got a card in my real name. When I got 86ed from this joint, I had been using fake player’s card names, so this new card would have no history in their computer files.

    I found a $5 double-deck table with only two others and bought in and handed my new player’s card to the pit. Wow, the pen here was even deeper than the Wynn cut, a true 80%! I was salivating and almost sprung a woody when the dealer first inserted the cut card. I played for about forty-five minutes, spreading politely from one hand of $10 to two spots of $50.

    My cell phone rang. It was The Grifter, telling me that the pit guys were stirring and it looked to him like the heat was coming down, and that I should leave. Hanging up the phone and returning to the table, I checked my watch, cursed softly for their benefit and colored out with a $170 net win. I kept my head down as I walked swiftly towards the cage. Pocketing my winnings and keeping my chin on my chest, I took a circuitous path through the rows of slots, walking quickly. I was expecting to be accosted by security at any moment.

    I was halfway to the door when a humorous thought occurred to me. Doubling back, I entered the gift shop again and told the sales clerk that “My wife hates this cap. Could I get a refund?” I produced the receipt, handed back the cap I had “borrowed,” and got my $20 back. Now I felt naked and exposed to the Eye, and once again circled my way towards the door. When I got outside, and realized all that paranoid drama had been for nothing, The Grifter asked how I did. “I won $170, but the cool thing is that I returned the baseball cap and got my money back.” Grif laughed long and loud at that bit of advantage play chicanery. I was kind of proud of myself for thinking up that one, and joined in the laughter.

    … [Then on to another locals’ casino.] I didn’t realize it before, but when we got there, we saw that they also had the Lucky Ladies on all their double-deck tables. Settling in at third base, Grif bought in for only $100, while I sat shortstop and threw down $200, giving the pit my player’s card. The pen was a little better here, close to 65%. We had one early high count opportunity to bet the Lucky Ladies, but didn’t hit any winners.

    I was ahead about $50 when, towards the end of the hour, a monster plus count appeared. “It’s party time,” whispered The Grifter, giving me our pre-arranged vocal signal to spread to two max bets apiece. I knew it anyway. We each had two hands of $100 out with green chips on each of the four Lucky Ladies spots. My first hand was a blackjack against a dealer ten upcard. I was turning it up when on my left I heard my partner yell, “Ho!” as he threw down two red queens upon the felt. I looked closer. There they were – the two most beautiful Queens of Hearts I’ve ever seen! We had hit the 200-1 payoff!

    I put my arm around Grif, raise my other fist into the sky and loudly cheered. The pit was dumbfounded. Apparently, no one here had ever hit the big payoff on this “sucker bet,” and especially not with a $25 max bet on it. They removed the Lucky Ladies placard from the table and studied it, reading the fine print and probably looking for a loophole. While this was going on, The Grifter turned to me and innocently asked, “We weren’t still going partners on the side bets, were we?” When he saw my expression morph into a look of withering disdain, he laughed delightedly. Of course we were, and we stood to split a minimum of $5,000. That is, unless the dealer had an ace under his ten, which would result in a 1000-1 payoff. We would split $25,000! We stared with bated breath at his hand until he flipped his hole card – a lousy eight. Damn!

    As I learned later, the maximum aggregate payout for the Lucky Ladies bet at this casino was only $5,000, so we couldn’t have won any more money than we already had. The dealer’s down card wouldn’t have mattered anyway. But I didn’t know that at this moment, so it still held much drama when he flipped over his hole card.

    At first the pit instructed the dealer to pay Grif $1,000. We laughed and asked them what they think they’re doing. After all, they owe us $5,000, and we gleefully reminded them of that fact. Even the ploppy at first base remarked that it was totally cheap and tacky of them to create all this delay and confusion over a very simple payout. The floorman then showed the placard to the shift supervisor, who read it, frowned, looked back at the red queens on the table several times and finally said, “Pay ‘em.”

    The unsmiling floorman came back to the table, replaced the placard and asked The Grifter if he had ID. “Sure, I do,” replied Grif.

    “May I see it?”

    “What for?”

    “We like to know the names of our winners,” the pit critter replied.

    “Oh, okay. You just want my name. I’ll tell it to you,” said Grif.

    “Don’t you have ID?”

    “I already told you I did, but you said you really just wanted my name.”

    “Okay. What’s your name,” asked the irritated floorman.

    “My name’s Bass, and I’ll pass,” smiled The Grifter.

    I started cracking up. The exasperated pit stiff finally walked away.

    Since black chips were the highest denomination they carried in their chip racks, we got all $4,000 of their black chips and two stacks of greens as well, to make up the last thousand. Plus I got paid for my blackjack and Grif won his two hands as well. Right there at the table, The Grifter split the stacks in half, and slid over my $2,500 in columns of blacks and greens. What a moment! After each tipping the dealer a greenie, we were exultant as we struggled to carry all those chips to the cashier’s cage. Somehow, it turned out that I had netted only $50 on my $200 buy-in, so my total win was $2,550. This pushed my trip winnings to $3,800 and my total bankroll was at a new All-Time-High of $15,800.

    We felt like celebrating. I wanted to go to the Wynn, but Grif had a better idea. “Let’s valet park the car and get a drink at Treasure Island’s high-limit room and walk across to Wynn afterwards,” he said, and it sounded good to me. When we got to the bar in the high-limit room, the place was filled with about thirty Hawaiian Tropics girls and a camera crew that was filming a video at one of the blackjack tables. Many of these lovelies were just hanging out and drinking, so we chatted with a few of them. Grif ordered us vanilla martinis, which were delicious, and just sweet enough to be festive. We had a toast to celebrate our good fortune. I can’t quite describe how I felt – relaxed, giddy and totally contented all at the same time.

    The scenery in the high-limit room was outstanding as well. The Hawaiian Tropics gals all wore white “Miss America” style banners, each inscribed with their country of origin, and very little underneath. You should have seen the Australian beauty – a gorgeous stacked blonde who sat at third base as they filmed the video with the gals whooping it up over a fictitious winning round.

    We decided it was too crowded to walk over to Wynn so we played one last session at New York New York’s $25 double-deck tables. I broke even while Grif won another $500 and we decided to turn in early in order to wake at dawn and hit the Wynn double-deck pit while it was uncrowded. Any further play tonight would seem anti-climactic anyway.

    "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."
    .....................The Zengrifter Interview (PDF) |
    The Zengrifter / James Grosjean Reputation Debate
    “Truth, like gold, is obtained not by growth, but by washing away all that is not gold.” — Leo Tolstoy........
    "Is everything a conspiracy? No, just the important stuff." ZG

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2016


    You and Barfarkel both have the knack for trip reporting. Great stuff.

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