history channel special

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Pepka » 09/18/04 05:57 AM

There is a special tonight, 9-18 on the History channel called Breaking Vegas. It is based on the great book "Bringing down the house." This is the true story about a bunch of math whizzes from M.I.T. who used a very elaborate card counting scheme and took casinos for millions. I could not put this book down when I first read it and thought you guys might be interested in the special.
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Postby Robert Allen » 09/18/04 07:43 AM

Wasn't it Scarne who wrote that the MIT team was actually using a bought dealer to signal his hole card? Or was that a different team?
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Postby Pepka » 09/18/04 08:05 AM

Robert,
There is no mention of that in the book, so it's gotta be a different team. The MIT blackjack team is just a very sophisticated counting system using several people, but no insiders.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 09/18/04 08:09 AM

Originally posted by pepka:
Robert,
There is no mention of that in the book, so it's gotta be a different team. The MIT blackjack team is just a very sophisticated counting system using several people, but no insiders.
Pepka
First time I read about this was in August 2002 when Wired Magazine ran a story about it. I couldn't put the magazine down. Absolutely facinating.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.0 ... .html?pg=1

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Postby Robert Allen » 09/18/04 08:35 AM

Card counting isn't that hard and need not be that sophisticated to get good effect. I've done it in Reno and Las Vegas, and made decent money (not to mention the free room comps).

However it's tough to find "good games", i.e. games where they deal close to the end of the deck, preferably with 1-2 decks, although it can work just fine with 4+ decks, as long as the dealer will deal down deep. It's very tough for a single person to not get caught due to the bet swings when the count is high enough. Hence the use of a group, or "gang", where one person can bet small until the count goes high, at which time they signal to the guy standing near the table who comes in and makes a few big bets while the deck is hot, wandering away (to other tables being watched) when the count goes down.
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Postby Tabman » 09/18/04 09:28 AM

Robert Thorpe started it all in the 60s with "Beat The Dealer." I made the down payment on this farm playing blackjack for several days at the Trop in Vegas in 1991 to the tune of over $30k starting with $3300. There was a gent playing at the table with me who dropped almost $200k. I felt like they fed me the wins to keep this guy interested. They tracked table stakes with the VIP cards but not individual action. At one point I made some juiced picnic tables for a few guys for dirty craps games and got so interested in cheating at gambling that I met up with a man in Buffalo who manufactured a hold-out shoe for dealing six decks (I dont know if this is like the shoe that stevens magic later offered) who taught me how to make different kinds of dice equipment. I asked him who bought the shoes and he told me that he would NOT play blackjack at any casino in the world. Like Mr. Allen says, "counting cards is easy!" At one time I played with a partner and I did the counting and signalled my partner on how to bet, hit etc with positions from my Zippo lighter and cig pack (I smoked cigs in those days). During those days I could get a free suite at the Trop and airfare too. I treated my pals (David X, Burton the Bizarre and Burt Carpenter) to free rooms and food at a Desert Magic Seminar at the Trop during that period when I fancied myself a blackjack gambler. I have been escorted out of several casinos by guys bigger and meaner than me too when I broke one of the rules of counting - don't stay up all night and get too wired. -=tabman
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Postby Robert Allen » 09/18/04 09:45 AM

Tabman, you are my hero :) You also make a good point that the casinos will let you slide sometimes if you a) don't get greedy, and b) are making it easier for them to fleece some other mark who thinks your table is hot because you're winning.

I was a piker compared to you though, the most I made was about 1500-1800 in one night at a $25 table; I refused to bet the full amount when the count went high. It's fun to do once or twice, but it's hard work, and you really need to be able to drink and (if appropriate) smoke as camoflauge, and physically surviving that in the longer term is tough :) . One of the top counters died a few years ago, and one person said "Basically his lifestyle just caught up with him."

For those who wish to pursue it I would recommend two books:

Knock Out Blackjack - an effecive and not too difficult to learn counting system by Vancura & Fuchs.

Blackjack and the Law - by Rose & Loeb.

An excellent source of gambling stuff is http://www.gamblersbook.com/

The gaffed shoes have a prism concealed in them so the dealer can preview each card, and then 'deal seconds' to keep the high card for himself or an accomplice. They show up on Ebay very occasionally and go for around $1.5k which is more than a bit ridiculous. I can't recall but they may also have some modification which allows easier seconds; I think you can push up the card and pull down the one underneath it. I would not expect that most reputable casinos would use anything like this since it can be blown, and it can be seen if you have the right angle. Why cheat like that when all they have to do is shuffle when they're only 1/3 to 1/2 down the deck? There have been reports of casinos cheating by subtracting a couple 10 cards from the deck, but that again is tough since nowadays they ribbon spread the packs and the spectator, pardon me, the gambler can check for himself. I and friends have had moments when we thought we were being cheated (1 blackjack dealer had 2 hangers in a row to my friend and on both hands the dealer won), but there's enough variation in the odds over time that it's easy to ascribe this to chance.
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Postby Guest » 09/18/04 02:15 PM

This show is also available on DVD for about $19.....I bought mine at Best Buy this past week.
The DVD also has a couple of other shows about Vegas.
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Postby Tabman » 09/18/04 02:32 PM

Robert Allen wisely adds: Why cheat like that when all they have to do is shuffle when they're only 1/3 to 1/2 down the deck? There have been reports of casinos cheating by subtracting a couple 10 cards from the deck, but that again is tough...
That's true and clumping up on the shuffle. Seems like I remember something about removing some of the fives being a benefit to the house too. All in all the casnio gods have been very kind to me. When I last worked Vegas with Kozak and AJ at Bally's I played BJ everynight after work from about 2am when I'd get done resetting the stage and about 6am when I'd go back to the room for some sleep but it wasnt anything as spectacular as the night at the Trop when they gave me 30k. At Bally's I'd sit at a five dollar table and try to grind out an extra $150 a night. I havent been in a casino since then or to Vegas but I promised Kozak I'd come out and hang with him at the Greek Isles and WGM for a week in probably November.
-=tabman
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Postby Pete Biro » 09/18/04 03:23 PM

I'll sell my 1.5K prism shoe, w/video for 1K w/free shipping cont. USA.
Stay tooned.
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Postby Paul Cummins » 09/19/04 03:13 AM

Tabby,

About 8 of us went and saw WGM last week and it is a GREAT show. Kozak rocked as MC; hadn't seen him live for almost 10 or 15 years. You'll dig it.

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Postby Tabman » 09/19/04 10:35 AM

Just back from Vegas Paul Cummins reports:
Tabby, About 8 of us went and saw WGM last week and it is a GREAT show. Kozak rocked as MC.... Paul
I'm looking forward to seeing it from out front and backstage, thanks for the good words from one Paul for another. I'm glad to hear it as Kozak is a great person besides being a super entertainer magic front man. Also, he is the only person for whom I've actually worked as an employee for who is totally respectful of your time, money, energy.......... total respect. He's been a good example for this old dog so I can't say enough good about Kozak The Magician. One night (back in the last century) in the dressing room at Bally's AJ tossed me his shoes and told me to go get them fixed up (like a valet sort of move). I was going to do it but Koz went ballistic and told AJ to go fix his own shoes. It was pretty funny actually looking back but here I was stuck in Vegas, living in a casino, no wheels, family back home depending on me to keep working I see things blowing up before my eyes.

Koz says, "Tabman, you work for me now!!!"

AJ says, "Great, so you pay him now!!" and he did too!

Kozak is a great guy and one I'd go to the line for!!!

-=tabman
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