|Интервью легенды теории ST ID:54454
||Пт, 9 декабря 2011 19:30 [#] [»)
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Привожу интереснейшее интервью легенды теории шафл треккинга, известного под ником "alienated", он же Ted Forrester :
My Idiosyncratic Approach to Advantage Play
I pretty much stopped posting on advantage play topics some time ago because I found that as a solo player it was not in my interests to do so. My desire in posting was largely to help out solo, creative APs, but there is no way to control who benefits from information once it is out in the open.
Fortunately, there are many topics worthy of discussion that are of more benefit to players than the casinos, as evidenced by the many good contributions on this forum. If my knowledge and experience were broader, I could have contributed more in these areas. There are many Green Chippers, such as MathProf, LVBear, Don S, bigplayer, Math Boy, The Chaperone, and too many more to mention, who do so. Unfortunately, my knowledge is narrow and idiosyncratic, largely tailored to the particular games and situations that were my focus as a player.
It occurred to me that perhaps one thing I could share is a general insight into my particular approach to advantage play, especially now that it is some time since I last played and my playing days are behind me.
The post may seem strange in some ways. Or a little too vague to be much use. For those who can remember me, there’s nothing new there. I wish I could provide more specifics, but I can’t, out of respect to those still playing. Maybe the post can give some small insight into the way one solo, anonymous advantage player approached the task. Or maybe I am just trying to give a belated sense of finality to my playing days, in which case I hope I can be indulged. Impatient readers had better step off before wasting fifteen minutes of their time.
By the way, this is not a last post or anything. I will still be here, perhaps mainly on the Politics Page, but still here nonetheless. So nothing new there either.
My Playing Career
In no way do I intend to suggest that the approach described here is the “best” for all players. Far from it. It is not even a viable approach at all for many. For these readers, I hope the post is at least of some interest, even if not directly useful. The post just offers an example of one player’s general approach, along with some reflections and observations.
Although the approach I used is not suited to everyone, I do know that it is viable for a certain kind of player. I know this because it proved to be successful for me. How successful, in comparison to the approaches used by others, is hard to say. I do have some conception of the kind of money that has been extracted from casinos by various players and teams. I was involved for a while in a team that extracted at least mid-seven figures (maybe more, I’m not sure) from a single opportunity, and which has won many millions over the last fifteen years or so, though I don’t know how much and have no way of knowing. My guess is that my personal results stack up okay compared with those of other solo advantage players and many individual team players, but certainly don’t compare with the winnings of the most successful solo players, let alone the central operators of the big money teams.
The reason I went solo when I did was that I wanted to focus on high-skilled play rather than the low-skill high-volume approach. The latter is a very effective team strategy, especially for investors, because there is less uncertainty over player competence and a more easily estimated player win rate, but it does make players expendable, and threatens player longevity by requiring them to use fairly easy-to-detect methods often at high stakes, at least in the case of table games. Although in the end the team would have allowed me to play my own way, there was little incentive to remain. This is no reflection on the team, which was – and no doubt still is – superbly operated. If the world of advantage play was not so secretive, I believe this team would be justifiably famous. But the presence of the investor share in a team setup meant I would have had to play higher stakes for the same personal EV. For any given level of EV, this would have meant greater exposure for no benefit other than reduced variance. Although variance reduction is a big consideration for counters, where the long run index might amount to hundreds of hours of aggressive play, it was not a major factor in my situation.
As a solo player, my basic philosophy was to find games or situations that could be milked rather than burned out. By that I mean I focused on opportunities where I could make good EV without threatening the longevity of the opportunities themselves.
For this to be viable, it had to be an opportunity that was not easily burned out by others.
Various factors can help to prevent an opportunity from being burned out. To mention just three criteria, the game is less likely to get burned out if:
1. Special knowledge is required.
2. “Advanced” skills are required.
3. The opportunity spreads faster than knowledge of how to exploit it.
The best foundation for an advantage player, in my opinion, is to meet both the first two criteria. I believe there are many advantage players with the ability to acquire special knowledge. On this forum alone, there would be a substantial number of players – many from academic backgrounds – who can analyze a new game and determine basic strategy, basic strategy expectation, betting effects of removal, the value of hole-card or other knowledge, etc. Some of them can reverse engineer machines, detect flaws in code, and all manner of amazing things. I also believe there are many advantage players with the ability, drive and self-discipline to develop advanced skills beyond counting.
The number who do both – acquire special knowledge and develop advanced skills to a high degree – is probably much smaller. Some people like analyzing games but are not so interested in playing, not least because they might have a more interesting day job or don’t need to work. Others are highly skilled, but need the game analysis to be carried out by others before they can take advantage of existing opportunities.
From my experience, those who fall almost exclusively into only one or other of the two groups can potentially be problematic for solo advantage players. Pure analysts can be lured into doing work for teams or casinos. Providing analysis for the former increases the population of players that can exploit particular opportunities. Providing analysis for the latter can help or harm, depending on what is involved. Purely skilled players lacking analytical capacity, in contrast, tend to seek out others for information. They rely on trading secrets and quid pro quo. When these players learn of something, they may look to trade it for other information, and this also increases the population of players who can take advantage of particular opportunities.
This is not intended as criticism. If a player can analyze but doesn’t want to play, it may be rational to do analysis for others. If a player has skills but can’t (or isn’t inclined to) analyze, it may be rational to trade.
Those who have both bases covered are especially well placed for anonymous solo advantage play in which they do not rely on others for opportunities.
In reality, of course, most players will be stronger in one area or the other. As an advantage player, I was by no means exceptional in either area. I would give myself perhaps a five out of ten for analysis of opportunities and a seven or eight out of ten for skill if narrowly confined to my areas of focus. I am okay at analyzing games and I would think above average at analyzing nonrandom shuffles, but completely clueless at analyzing pokie machines, cracking code, or many other things. In terms of playing skill, I had a degree of prowess but only in narrow areas. I was quite strong at anything involving mental arithmetic or memory work. My strongest skills were the memorization of long sequences of cards at the table and making use of this information, accurate cutting, and various shuffle-tracking methods. Learning custom-made count systems came easily to me, although I am sure it comes even easier to many others.
In view of my strengths and weaknesses, which reflected my interests, I gravitated toward exploiting nonrandom shuffles or steering opportunities as applied to a variety of card games. Accordingly, my basic approach was to analyze games that might be amenable to these methods.
When considering a prospective opportunity, I would try to determine the rate at which average unskilled players appeared to lose. In general, the more widely spread the game and the lower the proportion of skilled players, the smaller the house edge could be without making the game unviable for milking.
By way of example, in a particular game I might have estimated that average players were losing at a rate of about 4% on turnover. Perhaps basic strategy expectation was –3% but players didn't know basic strategy because there were no books or little published information on the game.
In many cases, the game would be no good for counting because of a high house edge and insufficient volatility in the effects of removal, but sometimes counting was relevant. In other instances, shuffle tracking might have made the game playable. Or, in still others, sequencing. Obviously other methods come to mind, some stronger, but these were the methods I primarily used.
To continue with the example, let’s say the game in question was no good for counting, but an advanced technique could be used to detect some rounds with a strong advantage. Perhaps there were enough money rounds per hour to make the game attractive in spite of the high house edge. I might estimate that I could get an overall edge on turnover of 5% while still blending in with other players.
If so, I considered this an ideal opportunity to milk, not burn, at least until other players (too many others) learned of the opportunity. This was especially true if the sequencing method was demanding, the shuffle difficult to profile and/or the game difficult to analyze, limiting the number of players likely to hit the game. I have seen opportunities last years when milked, even after multiple APs began hitting the game, as long as they operated in a cooperative fashion, sometimes tacitly.
To milk such an opportunity, I would simply estimate the amount I thought regular players were likely to lose on average. In the current example, this would have been 4% of their estimated action. Let’s say their action was $200K/day. (Obviously the true figure would depend on the number of tables, table limits, player population size, bet levels, etc.) This would have translated into an expected loss for other players of $8000/day. I would compare this to the $4000/day loss basic strategists would be expected to incur and reason that I could hit the game for EV of perhaps $1200/day (on $24K turnover), cutting the casino’s advantage over all players from 4% to a still healthy 3% (roughly: $6800/$224K per day), and still nicely above the 2% from perfect basic strategists. By giving the casino no real cause for concern (the game was profitable), I would hopefully be able to milk the situation while keeping the casino happy and being allowed to play unhindered.
Here, additional legislative or cultural factors could be beneficial. The game might be in a jurisdiction that didn’t allow barring of players and only permitted countermeasures to be applied once a regulator was satisfied that the player had an advantage worth worrying about. Provided the game was profitable above and beyond its basic strategy expectation, there was probably little inclination to prevent isolated players operating at an advantage, especially if they were polite and easygoing in nature.
Many other weird and wonderful considerations could come into play too numerous to mention. Sometimes the game might have been introduced to replace a more liberal game, a decision which players viewed as unfair, so that having anyone play it helped gain acceptance and attracted players to the casino’s new game. Staff sometimes sympathized with players over casino management decisions, or were tired of seeing players lose. They might not always mind even if they did suspect a player was winning, though in my case they probably feared the opposite, that I was a degenerate, addicted gambler.
These factors can also be relevant in burning situations. In one instance early in my full-time career, I was able to play several months longer on a game than I believe would have been possible otherwise because staff members (I believe unintentionally) helped muddy the waters over cumulative win. This was straight counting, albeit with heavy cover betting. This was a burning, not milking scenario, with other players also hitting the game, and low level staff had become aware of the situation, partly because of jostling for positions in the game. Even after the game was gone, I remained a clean skin in that venue. Management had cottoned on that the game was taking a beating, but didn’t identify all winning players.
I know of more outlandish cases, where players who had been hitting a game overtly for months were tipped off that a barring policy was about to be introduced the next day. They were able to leave with their playing careers relatively unscathed, while many other counters also hitting the game were effectively shut out of high stakes counting in this jurisdiction from that point onwards.
That kind of attitude from staff may be rare in burning situations, but I found it not to be unusual when milking. In these cases, it was not an army of APs all hitting a game day and night. It was just an isolated player operating in a low key manner on a game that was overall highly profitable for the casino. In my experience, such a player was quite likely to be tolerated, even if they were detected, which in itself seemed unlikely and usually did not seem to occur.
To continue with the example of the game with an estimated 5% edge on turnover, I might have found that I was the only skilled player involved with the game for a while, at least to the best of my knowledge. Sooner or later another advantage player or two would realize there was an edge (though not necessarily the same edge as mine, or identified in the same way). If I had introduced myself to a lot of other APs in person, the periods before other APs joined games might have been much shorter. But I only ever introduced myself to a handful of APs in person, and only two of them know who I really am (alienated), back from my team days. They are both much bigger lifetime winners than me, and probably would not have knowingly encroached on a game I was playing (using one of their players) except by agreement (which would be forthcoming if they asked).
When more APs arrived, what happened next largely depended on their intentions. If they took a burning approach, I would either continue playing my own way or move to the next opportunity. As a rule, I would only continue under these circumstances if my playing method seemed dissimilar to theirs or the game was sufficiently widespread. If I thought they were taking a similar approach to my own, I did not want them to identify me as an AP and would move on or avoid the game when they were playing. Sometimes, though, especially if ‘locals’, they wouldn’t want to burn either, and the two or three of us in the current example could conceivably take $1200/day between us from this particular game without disturbing the casino's 3%. Invariably the casino’s overall edge would begin to get squeezed as more players arrived, unless the game spread further in the meantime.
In some of the best situations, this is exactly what happened. The opportunity itself spread faster than the number of APs, or before many APs arrived. A notable example of this was the well known spanish 21 variant that became popular in my country. Before somebody decided to publish a book on the topic, a relatively small number of APs had been hitting the game for years (I was not among the earliest players). It was considered a sucker game by most APs, yet was better than the blackjack games on offer, both in terms of basic strategy expectation, profitability for counters and other APs, and profitability for the casinos, since so few players knew how to play the game properly.
This was sometimes another benefit of milking. If APs had burned out this game the moment it was introduced, it would not have spread. The house edge was too small for the game to withstand a high number of APs in its infancy. Once the game became established as a nice casino earner, it spread to more tables and more casinos. Even today, it remains widely available because the number of players who understand the game is small compared to the number of unknowledgeable players. However, the game is increasingly unviable for counters in most casinos, which is presumably why the book came out when it did. Conditions for advantage players have converged to those for blackjack, but the game is still more profitable for casinos than blackjack in terms of percentage return on turnover.
To sum up my philosophy as a player, I figured that if I was using an advanced method that was difficult to detect in a game that the casino was making a good return on, there was little reason for the game to disappear. Usually it turned out to be the case.
There are some people I wish to thank, because their contributions were invaluable to me in my development as an AP, even though I have never met any of them in person. Obviously there are some very notable posters and authors on Green Chip, but here I specifically have in mind people who helped me out, knowingly or otherwise, in my particular area of interest, which was exploiting nonrandom shuffles:
ET Fan. One of the sharpest guys I’ve come across anywhere.
Jake Smallwood. Awesome shuffle tracking knowledge and from what I can tell a great guy.
Arnold Snyder. That BJF series will always be a classic and the interview with Taft a treasure.
Don Goren. Thought provoking series in Blackjack Review and insightful debate with Arnold.
GBV. Got me thinking in so many areas during my formative years as an AP and provided a positive forum for discussion of ‘advanced’ techniques. (Remember, GBV, when it was T-Hopper, Rob M, the mighty sisyphus, leptokurtotic, Clarke C, homerfan and the rest of the gang?)
MARILLION. Mastered one of the best techniques ever! (And shared it with me.)
I know some of you guys don’t even like each other that much, or me for that matter, but you’re all legends.