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In , Bernard H. Grobet started The Griffin's line of cigars, which was named after his nightclub in Switzerland. The brand became quite popular, and as.


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He worked out a long list of deviations from basic strategy that could be applied against most every imaginable circumstance. That down card was a Queen. Grosjean jettisoned from an in-debt grad student to a player with an exponentially expanding bankroll. Grosjean is slender, unshaven, dressed in jeans and a hoodie. And there may be an additional side count that will add value to the undertaking. While Grosjean's financial results are unquestionably impressive, he can be a polarizing figure. With the money he extracts from casinos, Grosjean can buy his own porterhouse and fries. Unbeknownst to her, of course, the preponderances of reds makes bets on black cards all the more valuable. Common wisdom among casino executives holds that the game is safe from advantage players. Not surprisingly, casino executives are completely unimpressed by the advantage player's tireless work ethic. Some of the burn cards prove to be identifiable, and a new dealer cuts much deeper than she is supposed to. She had a 6 showing and he saw a corner of her hole card as she tucked it below the top one. Trying to be helpful, the dealer advises Pepper to change tack. One alternative, of course, is to slowly milk a game, taking smaller amounts per session, but keeping the game alive longer. But Grosjean would have it no other way. So he knew where his favorite dealer would be each evening. After hearing the dealer's suggestion, Grosjean stews and thinks to himself, Lady, you have no idea. Running the math, and using his custom-made computer programs, he finds cracks that can be profitable often in spite of low betting limits and difficult to pick off. A quick-change session in the men's room can instantly make him difficult to identify. It's something that he has a knack for doing. When I ask him to compare himself to the typical card counter, he sharply replies, "There are some people who think that the average card counter is the equivalent of a chimpanzee and I am a fully evolved human. The result: a six-figure jury reward against Imperial Palace currently being appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court , an undisclosed settlement with Caesars and Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Griffin, which remains in business and still specializes in catching cheaters and advantage players for the casinos. But that's not quite accurate. He was in the midst of earning a graduate degree in economics from the University of Chicago. The deeper the dealer cuts the shoe's eight decks, the more of an advantage Grosjean and Pepper can develop. In reality, card counters are more like salamanders just crawling onto land—even though they think they're swinging through the trees.{/INSERTKEYS}{/PARAGRAPH} But we will. Grosjean distinctly remembers discovering a world beyond card counting. It's a modus operandi that has helped Grosjean and his crew to reap millions of dollars by playing stone-cold sucker games that include baccarat, three-card poker, pai gow poker and single-deck blackjack, which is generally viewed as unprofitable for card counters due to low payouts and limits. With that knowledge, he had players locking up the all-important last seat—from which Grosjean could spot cards and run plays while making minimum bets and keeping himself protected from casino wrath. The new data gave him a 6 to 9 percent advantage and provided a real-world strategy. I figured that there had to be a chart that could be made for partial information. If they guess correctly, the money that can be won increases. Not wanting to rely solely on one game, he quickly expanded his repertoire. The game's table is situated in a barely trafficked spot on the lower casino floor. But, as is his wont, Grosjean has carved out a few other edges: if he can maneuver himself in a way that permits a peak at burn cards, the game's expected value increases. He looked sicker by the minute. Grosjean coded software and came up with a proprietary strategy for hole carding with partial information. With no other players there at the moment, Grosjean and Pepper mosey over, sit down as if they don't know each other, and buy in. He's outlined some of his strategies in a dense treatise called Beyond Counting , which was published in and sold out of its first printing by The title refers to what Beyond Counting was called when used as an exhibit in a court trial that arose from imbroglios between Grosjean, Caesars Palace, Imperial Palace and Griffin Detective Agency. Thanks to a Chinese woman who had a habit of dealing cards high, Grosjean was able to get a very good read on what she held. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Harvard University, with a degree in applied mathematics, 40ish James Grosjean has made it his life's work to win money from casinos. Right now he sits on the edge of a twin bed, in the small room that he shares with his partner on this trip, a part-time folk singer who's nicknamed Pepper and is known as the world's fastest card counter. His eyes lock on the screen of a laptop computer running numbers that will help him to strategize against a new game, currently in an introductory phase at a riverboat casino near the Holiday Inn. As Grosjean explains with a shrug, "It's a carnival game, so the casino doesn't take it seriously. It provided tips and stats and claimed that perfect hole carding, under optimal conditions, generated a 9. A dip in the market caused the position to be back-burnered, but Grosjean had already seen bigger possibilities in casinos. Then he adds, "I almost felt sorry for him. At that point he had been interviewing with Wall Street firms and nearly landed a position at Goldman Sachs, where he would have been working with an elite crew of statisticians. But James Grosjean doesn't hustle high-roller suites and comped meals at the steak house. Nearly overnight, Grosjean reconfigured his playing strategy and changed his plans for the future. But, like a lot of carnival games, this one can be exploited. She tells him, "It's a red shoe"—which is based on the fact that one red card after another has been coming out. Through it all, there was no heat from casino security. This strategy alone allows them to play at an advantage. So many bad things can happen with that small of an advantage. When Baccalette was introduced at Sam's Town, a Vegas casino favored by locals, Grosjean and a couple of partners took the former approach. Grosjean's skills are so effective that casino personnel were convinced he was cheating. Grosjean split his 8s, ran into a bit of good fortune and wound up with six bets on the single hand. Then the inevitable happened: Grosjean got banned from the boat. More importantly, says Grosjean, "The way they were playing, the casino would quickly recognize what was going on, and that could bring heat on our Big Player. However, as Grosjean emphasizes, seeing part of a card is not very profitable unless you can capitalize on the information. I remember seeing a guy, standing around the table, watching us destroying the game. {PARAGRAPH}{INSERTKEYS}A small-town Holiday Inn is not where you expect to find one of the world's most astute and notorious casino gamblers. Even better, Grosjean cultivated a source inside the casino. We didn't do that. Grosjean recognized this as huge—these days, however, he regularly plays games where he attains upsides of 30 to 60 percent—but he decided to do his own calculations and discovered that Uston had underestimated the edge. Despite the legitimacy of his techniques—the Supreme Court of Nevada has declared hole carding legal—there are some in the blackjack world who look down on Grosjean's endless quest to find sloppy dealers. The game was a gold mine. Many games fit that description. But there was a problem: the information one can get is rarely perfect. I'm pretty sure it was the inventor. Grosjean has devised a counting system for the game, which will let him and his partner raise their bets as the shoe of cards becomes weighted toward a particular suit. He figured that he'd rather play games for a living. In recalling one of his great exploits, Grosjean looks back to a seemingly innocuous single-deck blackjack game being dealt at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Optimal blackjack hole carding could create a mind-blowing 13 percent advantage as opposed to the maximum of 2 percent generated by straight-ahead card counting. Hitting the local riverboats between classes, he found blackjack games to be countable and profitable. But there are nice surprises as well. In reality, he makes it a point to avoid cheating at all costs; Grosjean was merely winning by capitalizing on casino shortcomings. In these situations, his biggest concern usually centers around whether he wants to win so much, so quickly, that the casino gets suspicious and ultimately corrects exploitable mistakes. So we shut the game down ourselves, rather than waiting for MGM to do it. He looks vaguely Asian, but could also pass for Spanish or Native American. Their feelings are pretty well summed up by the way Palms boss George Maloof responds to me when I mention hole carding: "Oh, you mean cheating? The two people at your table know more about this game than anyone else on the planet. He found that the best source for information on what is known as hole carding was a book by blackjack pioneer Ken Uston called Million Dollar Blackjack. He played his cards exactly as he would have without knowing what the dealer had. Jurors agreed that the casinos' security guards roughed up Grosjean without justification. Grosjean and Pepper employ several dozen physical signals and verbal cues, confirming counts and sharing information, that go undetected by security. But other teams got wind of this profit center, played without subtlety say, hitting a 19 when the dealer had a 20 , and it became clear that this great game would soon burn out. The dealer slid him a pair of 8s. The game's rules are simple: Prior to a card being exposed, players bet on the suit it will be. You might see a corner of a card without knowing exactly what the card is. It goes that way for four additional steps, until you reach the top tier and can win 25 times your original bet or lose it. As recently as a year ago, I played her table, and she is still just as good. He felt awful but soon found greener pastures, first in Las Vegas and later in the hundreds of small, independent casinos that have sprouted up across the United States. Still, though, it was a revelatory moment. I nicknamed her Front Loader, and I can say that, to this day, she remains one of the best dealers I've ever had. Suddenly the notion of working on Wall Street seemed unappealing.