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Just For The Record…




I have a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution - record keeping. Each New Year I pick up a pocket calendar or journal book. In it, I keep a record of each session that I play. I have one book for craps and one book for blackjack. I record each session that I play.


I record the casino, the game played, (blackjack/craps) the time of day, the length of time played, unit bet, buy-in bankroll, units won/lost, table conditions, and a short account of each session.


This is a required discipline for the player serious about improving their game. It is easy to keep a running count of profit and loss from each game, thus providing you with an accurate account of where you stand for the year. It keeps you honest with yourself.


Keeping a record is essential for tax purposes. Gambling losses are tax deductible against gambling profits. If you are going to itemize gambling income, you must be able to defend losses with a record. The casino is not going to write you a receipt for your losses when you cash out. It is up to you to be able to document your gambling history.


The most important reason to document your playing time is for reference. A journal can be a powerful resource in helping to identify strength and weakness in your game. If I get a call for help from a former student that is in a slump, the first thing I ask them is if they have been keeping their gaming journal up to date.


A player can review their journal, look at the losing sessions, and usually find essential elements that lead to the slump. When a player is experiencing an unsuccessful streak, some typical tell-tale signs would be playing too long, chasing a loss, engaging poor conditions, making mistakes, playing too tight, or playing too aggressive. Probably playing too long and playing carelessly are the leading telltale signs that will come from good journal notes.


Playing too long means to remain in a game that is going nowhere and ignoring the signs that the game has stalled. A game that goes back and forth - wins one, lose one, push - is a dead game. After an hour and half to two hours, the game turns cold and, in less than fifteen minutes, the entire betting stake is lost. (See Irishsetter’s archive, January 2002, “The Wall”) Playing too long tends to lull a player into a trance-like state of mind, believing that the game is bound to turn around and become favorable.


Playing careless is usually a lack of discipline. The player gets in a game that they have no business playing. It often is a matter of ego or emotion that causes a player to think they are invincible and that they can walk up to any table and make it pay. Being too eager to play and getting into bad games is an unsuccessful habit for both experienced and novice players.


Getting into a game that you have not assessed for positive playing conditions, will usually rack up a win in the casino’s column. The idea of playing anytime, on any table, is what built the City of Dreams. The games are always on, you, as the player, must have charge of your game by being patient. You are a winner when you play at optimum times with optimum conditions. Realize that you are a hunter, if you are going to “eat”, you must hunt smart.


Here are sample journal entries.


1/27/00, Mirage, Craps, 7:00am, $5 unit, played 1.5 hr. +28 units, 6-7 players, Steady game, back and forth, no one really doing much, short hands, 1 or 2 points or quick outs, treading water, I broke the ice with a three point hand, next shooter rolled a six point hand, then back to the earlier short game with the other players, colored 28 units up. Never down more than 10 units, good crew, game moved along, no one playing the prop bets.


1/28/00, Mirage, BJ double deck, 11:00 am, 10$ unit, woman dealer, two other players, 1 hr. 20 min., up 15 units profit. Good start, winning 1-2-3 units per shuffle. Count never broke away more than an exact plus 4, never got a big bet out, did well on doubles, defended splits, Only 3 BJs, made a fair amount of stiff hands without busting, hit the wall after about 1 hr of play (game stalled), table filled with players, I colored up.


3/18/00, Big Rock, 9:30 p.m., BJ double deck, 45 min., $5 unit, smart ass male dealer, down 23 units, played head to head first 15 min., always just out by one or pushed on my 20’s, losing after each shuffle, 1 BJ & 1 BJ push, lots of 12’s and 13’s, could not pull a hand, few doubles and lost them all, smoker sits in at 3rd base, count went plus, lost on a 4-unit double, followed by a 4 unit loss, lost 12 units in two hands on a plus count.


My journal has shorter notes and cues, but they are enough to remind me of the session. The idea is to record the information for your benefit, and learn from it when you need a review. When beginning the journal, more information is better.


Let’s look at the second example. It details a winning blackjack session. Notice that although the count never really got good, I was consistently grinding out small profits after each shuffle. This was a good sign. It was an okay game to hang with until the energy shifted as the table filled with other players. I won my doubles and pulled stiff hands. Although I was light with the blackjacks, the game was encouraging enough to play.


The third entry documents a loss. It is a red flag when you are not receiving a fair share of blackjacks, (usually 5% of your hands or 5 BJs an hour). Pushing a blackjack is like an insult. Too many stiff hands that bust, and not winning the moneymaking doubles, are other red flags. The final blow was losing two hands with increased bets when conditions were favorable. It was not my day and the signs were present all along the way.


Here is what I could learn from the third journal entry. I ignored the early warnings. Losing doubles and blackjacks, the hands I should win, were warnings of trouble. I ignored the fact that the dealer was a jerk, which is also a no-no. Be it cards or dice, you can chose your playmates. It is one thing to get stiff hands and bust, but to keep seeing the same repeating combinations was obvious that the energy was trying to tell me something. When an undesirable player enters the game, I know that I’d better be on my toes.


Actually, it is better to be on my feet, walking away from the table. There were enough signals, before the 12 unit hit, telling me to leave this game. Ignoring or missing the early warnings was a mistake. The mistake cost me at least 12 units, plus whatever I lost after the smoker sat down. I should have played defense with these conditions and quit the game maybe 8-10 units down. I ignored blatant warnings and played too long.


Profit games are usually the result of hitting the plus count or catching a long craps hand. Play like the patient hunter, waiting for your time to come. Sometimes you have to play tight defense while waiting for your opportunity to come along.


Learn to recognize the difference between a game with promise and one that is going nowhere. Record your sessions and you will document the signals. It will become clearer when it is time to bail out, and you will recognize the signs of a game worthy of your attention.


Keeping a journal and reviewing wins and losses can accurately paint the picture of your playing habits. You can honestly evaluate your play, recognizing those things that you are doing well, and the weakness that needs improvement. The rewards will be evident as you educate yourself with the discipline of keeping a journal.


Michael "The Professor" Vernon

Playing 4 Keeps.com


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