Thanksgiving reading

I spent Thanksgiving week in the San Francisco area with a stack of books. The Trials of Lenny Bruce I’ve already reviewed. The other three were Elisabeth Eaves’ memoir of her life as a stripper in

Eaves’ storytelling is effective, and as you follow her friends throughout their careers, you begin to understand the mentality of the career stripper, as well as the effect it has on the psyche, as she follows several strippers over several years. Two of the most unique things about the book involve Eaves’ own personal journey as she explores her desire to dance nude, and you see up close the effect it has on her life outlook. It turns out that once you cross the line and turn an intangible like desire into a transaction, it affects every other interaction. In fact as the book progresses, Eaves is unable to see every human interaction as anything but a transaction.

The other thing I noticed was that while the descriptions of sexual interactions seemed titillating at first, as the book progressed I found it sleazier and sleazier, until it lost all it’s ability to even interest me.

I find sub-cultures fascinating, and this book held my interest throughout.

I picked up
Even after I’ve finished it, all my alarm bells are triggered. That being said, it’s a great story whether or not it’s true. The MIT Blackjack Club supposedly worked out the math for a card counting technique that would let them know when it was advantageous to start betting big towards the end of a deck when there might be a lot of face cards left.

However casinos long ago figured out the techniques of card counters, where they bet the minimum through the beginning of the shoe, and then when they figure the odds are good, substantially increasing their bets. Pit bosses would watch a table, and when they noticed a ‘minimum bet’ bettor suddenly playing rich near the end of a deck, they escort him to the door. The MIT Blackjack team figured out that if they divided up the responsibilities of card counting and capitalizing on hot decks, they could pull off the strategy without arousing the suspicion of the casinos.

A counter would park themselves at the table and count the deck as it played out. When it was in an advantageous position, they would signal a partner to come over and start betting big. The big betting player would learn the count through a codeword from the counter. The big player would then start betting big until the deck exhausted itself. It seemed to work fairly well.
And according to Mezrich, it worked for a couple of years until one of the security firms that consults to all the casinos made their crew and started circulating their photos to every casino from the Bahamas to Canada. Defeating it isn’t that hard for the casino though, and one would suspect that apart from the fact that they know to look out for card counting teams working casinos now, they also have a few other techniques available to them.

One way to defeat a counter is to cut the deck deeply so that the number of unknown cards in the deck is too great to accurately estimate the number of facecards likely to come up. When you see someone put the brightly colored card into the deck to mark when it’s up, if they put it in closer to the middle than to the end of the shoe, that’s “cutting deep”. Another way to defeat the counters is simply to watch them work multiple tables and throw them out when you see them do it.