A Day in the Life of a Professional Blackjack Player

Have you ever wondered what the life of a professional blackjack player was like? Have you ever thought you could be a professional blackjack player? This is a small glimpse into the life of a professional blackjack player in Las Vegas. Like many blackjack players in Las Vegas, his day starts early and ends late.

A Word about Blackjack

A Word about Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the easiest games in the casino to learn. But it is one of the most difficult games to make a living at. In blackjack, there is a player and a dealer. The object of the game is to get as close to 21 in cards as possible (or hit it exactly) without going over. The player can ask for additional cards from the dealer in order to get to 21. The player can see both of the cards that are originally dealt. The dealer’s cards only show one card being dealt, and one hidden card. In most casinos, you have a 40 percent chance of winning a hand. Alternatively, you have a 10 percent chance of tying the dealer, and a 49 percent chance of losing.

Early in the Morning

Many professional blackjack players who live in Vegas gamble early in the morning. This is especially true during the summer, when temperatures regularly hover close to 120 degrees. Some choose to gamble in the evening when the sun has gone down and so have the temperatures. Professional players look to minimize the chance they will have to deal with other angry players during the course of their day. Angry players tend to show up during hot spells in the summer. Everyone’s temper is shorter in the summer.

Our professional player (we’ll call him Jack) begins his day around six in the morning. He rises from his comped room in one of the casinos, and orders breakfast. There are times when Jack hasn’t been to a particular casino in a while, and he has to pay for a room. He has a simple breakfast of cereal. He has found over the years that a heavy meal makes him sleepy and not as observant. Observant blackjack players win more money than sleepy ones do.

Most days, Jack begins with a couple rounds of blackjack on a casino website, just to warm up his skills. He then gets his bankroll out, dresses, and makes his way down to the casino. He is careful not to arrive too early, because that would attract attention.

The First Rounds

The first thing Jack does is find a blackjack dealer he knows. It is important to him to find a dealer he knows. Most blackjack dealers have some weakness or tell he can exploit. In addition, there are times when other professional players are around, and Jack enjoys playing with regulars. He believes regulars are more even keeled than other players. Jack prefers playing at large casinos as to not attract attention. Other players prefer playing at small casinos.

Jack’s Habits while Playing

Like many blackjack players, Jack keeps track of all of his expenses. The IRS allows him to deduct expenses while he is gambling as a business expense. This includes hotel expenses (if he has any), food, fuel, and any other expenses. He also documents all his wins and losses, for tax purposes. Some of the lifelong professional players Jack plays with do not declare their expenses. Jack figures it is not a good idea to bet against the IRS.

Counting Cards

Some blackjack players count cards. Jack relies on his instincts, and the behavior of other players and dealers. After many years of playing, Jack can tell when someone is bluffing, and when someone is not. He has also seen players counting cards—and getting caught, especially with today’s casinos exacting surveillance equipment.

During the Day and into the Evening

Jack usually plays around 20 rounds during the day, depending on how his luck is running. If he is having a good run, he doesn’t stop until his luck changes. At one point, Jack played 18 hours straight. When he does stop, that is usually when he has the largest meal of the day. If he has been comped a meal at the casino, he will eat there, as much as he can. If he hasn’t been comped a meal (which sometimes happens), he will look for someplace healthy to eat. One of the hazards of blackjack players is that they are sitting for long stretches of time, which isn’t healthy for anyone. Jack tries to exercise, but it is difficult except when he has an off day. Usually, he swims laps in a pool when his days are over.

The Reality vs. the Fantasy

blackjack player

Jack will tell you that what you see in the movies about blackjack players is not the reality. In the movies, blackjack players get to book comped rooms in five star hotels. However in reality, blackjack players are rarely comped a room in the largest hotels in Vegas. Those rooms are often full, with a few rooms reserved for high rollers who can afford to lose six figures a night. Professional blackjack players have made a living out of staying out of the limelight. If they are recognized as someone who wins a ton of money from a casino, they could lose their spot.

Also, journeyman professional blackjack players don’t play in tuxedos, or flash expensive jewelry. The people who play blackjack are trying not to draw attention to themselves, and flashy clothes or jewelry doesn’t fit that profile. There’s something else that professional blackjack players worry about as well: robbery. Players who flash a lot of jewelry or clothing from expensive labels are players that are most likely to get robbed. While security at the casinos is quite good, once a player is outside of the casino, all bets are off.

The life of a professional blackjack player is not about the huge ups and downs that some gamblers experience. Good professional blackjack players rely on an overall win during a period of time—usually a month. If a player can be up 30 percent over the house, he considers that to be a good month. While lucky streaks are not uncommon, most professional blackjack players say they would rather consistently win than win in streaks. Jack can remember a few years ago when he first started playing; he won $100,000 in one night. He celebrated, and knew he was on his way to a multimillion dollar year—until he lost $75,000 later that week. These days, Jack, like many professional blackjack players have a budgeted amount they try to win each night. They also have a limit on what they are willing to lose.

After Play

Many evenings, Jack will unwind with a drink after his play for the day is over. He doesn’t drink alcohol during the time he is playing, because he thinks it dulls his thinking. He will eat a small meal, and head to bed. There are times he will be in bed by 11 p.m. But there are also times he doesn’t go to bed until 3 a.m. It all depends on the luck of the cards.

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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.