You know, there’s a movie out, now on DVD called 21. It’s a story about some students from MIT who figured out a way to count cards in blackjack and took casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City for around $5,000,000. 

At about the same time this “crew” was working casinos, I learned to count cards. There was a man named Uston who developed this theory in the 70′s. Not just any count but an even more sophisticated count than what the crew used at MIT. To give you an idea, the count went like this. Any 2′s and 8′s were given a value of +1. 3′s, 4′s, 6′s and 7′s were given a value of +2. 5′s were given a value of +3. 9′s were a minus 1 and 10′s and face cards were a minus 3. At the end of each hand, you would then divide your total by the number of half decks remaining. What about the aces? Well, you would keep a separate count of aces by placing your feet in different directions on the bar at the table! HUH??
OK, , Mark and I loved to play blackjack. I found that counting cards was one of the most relaxing things I could do. I estimated that I counted in excess of 3,000 cards in a 5 hour session. Who’s got time to think about problems when you’re doing that. 
I told Mark about this idea of the BP (card counter) and the Gorilla Player (Mark). The card counter(s) would work on tables playing 10-25 dollars per hand. When the count would be in the players favor, I would use a hand or a hat signal Mark to come over to the table to play. Mark could play on the table as long as the count was in our favor. He wouldn’t have to count cards. We had worked out a signal so he knew when the count went minus again. He’d get up and leave until the cards got good again.
Our best odds were maybe 2-3% per hand and Mark would play 100-500 per hand. With 6 players at the table that’s 65 hands per hour.
So Mark would be playing around $20,000 per hour, and at 2% that’s $400 per hour, or $2,000 for a 5 hour session, which is really a minimum amount of time to work that small advantage. 
If you’re still reading this, here’s the hook to the story. 
Mark had his own case of ADD. I don’t know what it really was, but I knew I was in trouble when he got that little sparkle in the eye. 
See, while I was counting cards, Mark’s only job was to keep the dealer and the pit boss busy so they wouldn’t catch onto me counting. He could drink, make jokes with the other players, make fun of the dealer and just play basic strategy, I would take care of the rest. 
Well, you can’t keep Mark on task for 5 hours, so about 3 hours in, he’d get bored! Oh no. He’d start making jokes about me. He’d start making me lose my place. We always had this running joke about Mpls and St. Paul. You can guess which side Mark was on, so he’d somehow get it out that I was from St. Paul and he was from Mpls. When he reversed our favorites, it allowed him to start slamming St. Paul in all kinds of disgusting ways, then I’d have to defend it. 
He didn’t care anymore about making some money, he had to play around like the kid that he was. I know it’s a long story, but I smiled most of the time I wrote this. 
I went back to Vegas for a lot of Rapport functions, but I really haven’t played blackjack at all since Mark stopped going with me, it just never seemed the same. 
I’ll be thinking of Mark A LOT this fall while out in the deer stands. So will a lot of other people.
Steve Hoogenakker
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