Colin Jones (S2 E2): A Brain and a Little BR

Gambling News

In his book The 21st-Century Card Counter, Colin Jones talks about bankroll requirements. On page 81, in the chapter “Do I have What It Takes? The DNA of a Card Counter” he says this: “A card counter needs only two tools: a brain and a bankroll.” When I read that sentence, I almost threw an apoplectic fit. I thought, “Here it comes, this guy is going to perpetuate the myth that the main weapon of an AP—maybe even the defining characteristic—is a bankroll.” To my pleasant surprise, he then went on to dismiss that fallacy.

He writes that you need a brain, but he already dispelled the MIT Myth earlier in the chapter (as I did on page -3 of Exhibit CAA). You don’t need a great brain—me and my little brain will do just fine. Same with the bankroll. You don’t need $10k, he says—a little BR of $2k will do.

I would quibble with that precise amount. CJ admits that he got lucky with his original $2k, so I’d say $5k is a more realistic starting point. I’ve always said that a player with skill and $10k in his pocket can do some damage. You could start with the $5k, and grind that until you double it to the Perfect 10 (you should be hearing Also Sprach Zarathustra at this moment), which is the first major milestone for most APs. And once you reach $10k, you’ll probably have smooth sailing to $100k, and then there’s no looking back.

Okay, it might not be smooth sailing if you’re counting cards. If you have only $5k or less to start, grinding to $10k will require you to wong, wong, wong. And there might be some sleeping in the car and piss jugs. Wait, I thought I just heard you say, “I didn’t sign up for that!” Um, yes you did. It’s in the Terms & Conditions when you signed up at BJA, and their strict KYC policies confirm it was you. At least those PJs are made from entirely recyclable material and they have a stylish BJA logo and come in three colors.

And if you start with $5k and lose it, then you just take a break for a bit and save up from the day job, then resume play in a few months. The game goes on, and if you’re playing it right, your graph will go up.

On the easier hand, if you hook up with a team, you wouldn’t even need the $5k. Working with a skilled team, you can save up that $10k in a jiff. So while we might quibble with the actual starting number, I think CJ and I agree: if you do it right, it doesn’t take much. A little BR is enough to start.

Thinking that a big BR is the key to an AP’s success is yet another cart-and-horse, correlation-causality fallacy. Having a big BR is the result, not the cause, of an AP’s success. There are players who constantly use “lack of bankroll” as their excuse for failure. Usually it comes from dealers as their excuse for why they don’t quit dealing to try professional AP play. “You gotta have a bankroll,” they say. One floorman who claimed he could count cards also said, “If I had a bankroll, I’d go over to Drift on Inn [a defunct hole in the wall] and crush their Pairs Plus.” Right.

These dealers believe that the casino’s main advantage over the players is that the casino has a big bankroll. And they protect themselves from facing an individual with a bigger bankroll (like a Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett) by imposing table limits. Many casino bosses think you can beat any game with a big bankroll and money management. The gameplan: play the game, bet more when the table is “hot,” less when it’s “cold,” weather the storm using your big bankroll, then quit when a hot streak puts you ahead. Trivially simple, but you gotta have money to make money. Riiiiggggght.

I’ve been the beneficiary of that idiocy. In multiple venues where I became a local hero, part of my success was attributed to the fact that I apparently had enough bankroll to patiently wait out the cold streaks. APs should jump on that fake news. More than once I’ve heard the story of an AP admitting card counting to a dealer he is attracted to. The rationalization is always: “But she already knows that I don’t have a day job and I’m a professional AP.”

That might be true, but it is also true that the dealer might think that being a professional AP just means you have a big enough bankroll to gamble, and wise money management makes you a winner. A lot of them really believe this garbage. And they also don’t necessarily attach any stigma to gambling, or gambling in a negative game.

They conflate responsible gambling with professional gambling. If, by virtue of your big bankroll, you are able to gamble within your means, then you are not a problem gambler. And, if you’re gambling responsibly, you can consistently come out a winner, and hence be a “professional.” “Bet with your head, not over it.” Those supposed “Responsible Gambling Councils” should be sued for this false advertising. They’re perpetuating the myth that the problem that degenerates have is betting too much, whereas the real problem is betting a negative game.

Even APs succumb to the Bankroll Fallacy. I know some APs who constantly call you up and say, “We’re on a trip and we need a reload. Can you come with a 10-pack?” You don’t even need to listen to the entire sausages-and-laws story about how they got into this predicament, but let’s just say that they think appropriate bet sizing is 3 x $2000 with a trip bankroll of $20k.

If you actually show up and dig them out, it reinforces their belief that the key value added was the money you brought. They never wise up that the key thing you brought to the table was skill. A skilled sniper does need a bullet, but just one.

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