After a three-hour stopover with my Uncle Ray at the Strip’s old Frontier Casino in the early 70’s, I didn’t visit Vegas again for nearly 30 years. Nor in those three decades did I visit the casinos in Los Angeles where I lived nor the Indian gaming halls out in the desert. Gambling just wasn’t in my blood, not yet.
Then starting in the early 90s, my magazine would send me to computing conventions where I would interview software developers and systems designers for articles about the latest gizmos and software wizardry they had developed. The mammoth conventions would be held in even more mammoth hotel casinos, but I had work to do and would confine my gambling, if that’s what you want to call it, to dropping a handful of quarters in the slot machines.
Okay, maybe it was more than a handful of quarters. Maybe I did spend an hour here and an hour there during the three days I’d be in town playing video poker. Maybe I did kid myself that I was pretty good at it by remembering the times that I won a few dollars and forgetting the other times when I lost more than a few dollars. Still, with gambling, I could take it or leave it.
On the long weekends I spent with the family in Vegas three or four times a year, I would inevitably gravitate to the blackjack tables, passing up the slot machines the three old folks liked to play.
But then, Mom retired to Vegas—or rather neighboring Henderson—joined by her husband, my Uncle Ray, and their two toy poodles. The three of them—and the dogs—shared a big, new house out in one of those many hillside developments that were popping up around Vegas in those years.
Like many of their neighbors, Mom had made out like a bandit in selling her Corona del Mar home, the profit giving her enough money to buy that big house in Henderson and have plenty left over for the almost daily sojourns the three of them would make to one of their favorite neighborhood casinos.
Which brings me back around to me and my fascination with blackjack. Mom’s big house in Vegas quickly became the gathering place for the whole family, with extra bedrooms and couches for the whole troop of us and a big swimming pool out back. A part of the deal was to join the three of them on their trips down to Sunset Station or to Sam’s Town—their favorite—for a cheap meal and a few hours in the gambling hall.
On the long weekends I spent with the family in Vegas three or four times a year, I would inevitably gravitate to the blackjack tables, passing up the slot machines the three old folks liked to play. And in time, I found three tips or techniques helped me bring back more money than I took to Vegas, at least over the long hall:
- Know the game: Seems simple enough, but I sat at tables with plenty of folks who clearly had no idea what they were doing. Online, you can find plenty of guides to tell you how to play smart. Better yet, practice what you know. The social scientist Malcolm Gladwell has observed that it takes 10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness, meaning that whether you’re talking about Bill Gates or the Beatles, it wasn't genius but endless hours of practicing their craft that led to their soaring success. I’m not sure I actually played 10,000 hours of blackjack on the oil cloth-covered kitchen table at Uncle Ray’s farm, but I was pointed in that direction. In Vegas, I carried one of those cards that tells you when to double down and when to split pairs, but after all those hours of playing the game, the right move almost became second nature. And, if you're into online betting, there's no better tool than the Tipico Online Review.
- Be patient: Another no-brainer, except I’m just not a very patient guy. I simply can’t wait for things to happen, but have to get moving. That’s stood me in good stead in my magazine work, as my endless curiosity and desire to know has led to some good journalism. But at the blackjack table, that need to make things happen is a good way to leave the table broke. So, when I see myself pushing it—splitting fours against a dealer’s seven or doubling down on nine count against the dealer’s seven—I know it’s time to get up from the table, take a walk outside, or call it a night.
- Know when to quit:Gambling does something to the chemicals in a person’s brain. If you’ve ever been at a blackjack table, you’ve seen players who just keep after it, bringing more bills out of their wallet to replace the ones they’ve lost. I usually set a time limit: one hour of playing, followed by a meal, a walk outside, a chat with a family member—long enough to let the gambling drive leave my body. I also start with an amount of money I’m willing to lose for that hour, for that day, for the weekend I’m in town. And when I find myself fighting the one-hour time limit or reaching for more cash, I know it’s time to quit.
Clearly, some of these techniques require discipline. Successful blackjack players are able to rein in their impulses and keep their heads. Losers think it’s their turn to win no matter what the evidence says.