This is part two of my interview with professional blackjack card counter Colin Jones. Colin’s legendary blackjack card counting team successfully won millions of dollars from casinos all over the country. Their story has been detailed in the famous documentary, Holy Rollers. Colin and team co-founder Ben Crawford have established the most comprehensive blackjack card counting site on the web at BlackjackApprenticeship.com. Whether you are a novice blackjack player seeking to increase your level of skill or a current pro, this site has tools that will provide tremendous benefits. I don’t recommend a whole lot of sites or products, but this one has my full endorsement.
Click Here to read Part 1 of the interview
Learning to count cards is not as difficult as most people think, and although it is not illegal, casinos can ask you to leave or in Atlantic City, utilize countermeasures that makes counting impossible. Counters try to avoid detection by using camouflage techniques at the table. One of which is creating a persona such as a drunk, obnoxious, wealthy individual who is betting recklessly, or the dumb, superstitious guy. I asked Colin if he altered his personality at the table and how comfortable he was with that. I found his answer very forthcoming.
That’s a good question that I’ve never been asked. I was pretty terrified in casinos when I first started counting cards. I required so much effort I had to pause for 15 seconds when asked a question just so I wouldn’t forget the count. Over time, I became more comfortable and worked on “acting like I had that kind of money”. I generally had 2 acts: one was just completely being myself, not talking much and not worrying what happened. When I was feeling like putting on more of an act, I’d just talk a bit more, high-five dealers and the other players at the table. If I’m winning, I’m “having the time of my life”, if I’m losing, I’m “chasing my money”. If people asked why I had money I’d just say “my family owns real estate”, which is technically true, even if it’s just a couple of rental homes. To be honest, I think the most valuable thing is to carry yourself with confidence, like you belong there. Look dealers and pit bosses in the eye, ask them questions, and try to be likable. But whatever you do, you’re going to get backed off if you win too much. We treated backoffs like badges of honor, not something to be feared.
We always hear about how the playing conditions are getting worse, and how each year it gets harder and harder to be a profitable card counter. I wanted to get Colin’s perspective on the conditions today vs. 5 or 10 years ago, and if his team could still prosper if they were currently active.
There are way more casinos now than 10 years ago, though some conditions have gotten worse. It’s a trade off. 10 years ago, people said you couldn’t really make money counting cards anymore, but we weren’t afraid to try. People say the same thing today.
I know teams that are successful today, so I know it’s still ripe for the plundering. The biggest thing I would do differently if I were to start today is to learn as much as possible about other forms of advantage play. There are other games that can be beat if you find the right conditions. Going into a casino with a full toolbox rather than just one tool will help someone last longer. Though there are still plenty of people making money from good-old-fashioned card counting.
My final question was a bit personal, but I had to ask. If you watch the documentary, Holy Rollers, you will see that when Colin first told his Mom that he was a professional gambler, she responded by saying that she would rather he deal drugs than to be a pro gambler. Both Colin and I are college graduates, his parents were missionaries, mine were teachers, and we both have brothers that are Doctors, so I could relate to the fact that telling Mom you’re a pro gambler isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s my favorite line in the movie, so I had to ask about it.
Ha ha! It took a while, but they eventually chilled out. They were missionaries in a third world country at the time and they were terrified that I was going to end up in a shallow grave in the desert or shooting up heroin in a casino suite with hookers and mobsters. My mom actually apologized for the “I’d rather you sell cocaine” line when the documentary came out. She was just an overly protective mother who thought her son would end up as a doctor (like my brother). But she eventually realized casinos weren’t slowly leading me towards a life of excess and self-destruction and I was actually able to maintain a healthy family life. My parents even began bragging a bit to people about my card counting prowess. Though they’re more proud of the grandkids I gave them than my card counting winnings.