I have always treasured the main picture of this blog post. It was back in the day when digital cameras were still working on stealing market share from the film industry. But people were still letting the camera imprint the date on the image when you took it. So I have always known the exact date I moved to Colorado. The picture also shows what my priorities were in life as well. When I was packing my truck the day before I was to depart for Colorado. The very first thing I put into the back was that four wheeler (which the front wheels had to remain on the tailgate because they were too wide for the bed), next up was my road bike on one side and my mountain bike on the other. Under the quad, I pushed my snowboard and turned back to the house to get my computers. As I am doing this, my dad was sitting on the front porch watching me. I don’t know what might have been going through his mind, but there is one interaction that has always stayed with me in life. He told me: “I think you need to get your priorities straight”. I remember looking at him, looking back at the truck and then turning back to him and saying: “I think I have them straight”.
Skipping back about four weeks from that point though and I was working for a general contractor mainly building Dunkin’ Donuts. I worked on everything from the framing, tile floors, taring the roof, sheetrock, to grading out the land in a backhoe. I was running a backhoe, grading a driveway, when I got a call from a 970 area code that I knew was in Colorado. It was from a company I had applied to in Vail, CO. I asked them to hold “while I shut down the machine”, to which they replied: “what machine is that?”. Turns out they were intrigued that someone with a computer science degree would be working construction. I explained how the situation and that I was strictly looking to move to the mountains of Colorado and loved construction too. I flew out two weeks later and was offered the job.
I now had two weeks to get myself out to Colorado to start my new career, but my income from construction was only going to give me enough money to get to Colorado and eat until my first paycheck. I still needed to have my first months rent and a security deposit for my yet to be found rental of unknown cost. I grew up around counting cards for blackjack and to put it in perspective, there are a few casinos I am no longer welcome at. So, over the next two weeks I drove down to Atlantic City 4 times and turned my $750 into $1500.
Obviously I was not a high roller or working with a team like in the movie “21”, so it takes a lot of time at the tables and a lot of hands to make the odds stack up to be in your favor. There are mathematics behind what your bets need to be in comparison to your bankroll (total amount of money you have available) in order to guaranty, within an acceptable risk level, you will not lose it all. Counting cards is not a guarantied win in the short term, you’re playing at a 0.5%-3% advantage. Meaning, if you are dealt, 1000 hands and bet $10/hand (on average), you have put $10k worth of bets on the table. If your playing strategy gives you a 1.5% advantage (computer modeled over hundreds of thousands to millions of hands), you will win (on average) $150 per 1k hands you play. Then there is the standard deviation to consider, which will have your win/loss fluctuate dramatically, you might be up $300, then swing down $200, then up $200, then back down $500, then up $700… it’s a huge roller coaster.
You can imaging going to a table with $500 in your pocket, if you bet $100/hand and happened to lose your first five hands, you would be out of the game. If you have ever played blackjack you know that can happen pretty easily. If you bet $1/hand, you would have to lose 500 hands in a row to deplete your bankroll, which is basically mathematically impossible to lose that many in a row. So, there are formulas based on computer modeling of millions of hands that tell you what you should bet order to know the likelihood of whether you will or will not deplete your bankroll during one of the down cycles that will occur. The more your average bet given the same bankroll, the higher your chances of running out of money. Consider the extreme, where you bet it all on one hand… you have one chance… you would be taking a huge risk. So, you have to know the numbers and balance that risk vs reward.
There are also calculation that tell you what the maximum and minimum amounts to expect your bankroll to be fluctuate to based on the number of hands you play. You can typically get around 80-120 hands of blackjack per hour at a table (it depends on how many players, how many decks and how fast your dealer and other players are). If you assume I might average 100 hands/hour, it would take me 10 hours to play $10k worth of bets in order to gain that $150 I mentioned above. In order for me to get the $750 I made, I would have to play at the table for 50 hours based on those numbers. Obviously, I did not do that. I took advantage of the short term fluctuations that occurs. I was up a bit, down a bit, up some more, down some more… but once that fluctuation turned to the high side and I managed to double my bankroll, I “colored up” and walked over to the cashier for the last time before my trip.
My time, knowledge and Donald Trump helped pay for my move to Colorado. I definitely don’t suggest this as the financially responsible way of financing an out of state move though, we were all young and stupid once… Sometimes we still are.