You’ve got to admire Don Johnson — the man knows how to enjoy himself. Whether he’s spraying the world’s largest champagne bottle over a crowd (why, Don? Why? French winemakers expect you to drink it not get girls’ dresses wet) or running up $270k bar tabs, he’s clearly not one of the players who believes that a low profile is the way to go!
And after all, he did win $15million from Atlantic City in 2011, single-handedly putting the Tropicana in the red for the month of April. The official who approved his play was later fired — which seems pretty unfair given that it was the casino’s rules that gave him the edge!
So… how did he do it? Is he a math genius, a serious counter, a — gasp — cheat?
In fact, Johnson says of card-counting, ‘Why waste your time?’
Here’s how Johnson did it:
1) A promotion.
The casino dug its own grave. A marketing department somewhere decided that to attract high-rollers, they’d offer a 20% payback on any losses over $500,000. This meant that while Johnson’s upside was unlimited, his losses were minimised. He could apply the ‘loss payback’ every couple of hours after some losing games. Johnson called it betting on the casino’s money.
2) Good rules
Size is everything. To attract a player like Johnson, the casino was willing to be accommodating even on the rules. They agreed that dealer would stand on soft 17, that the deck would be hand-shuffled (no evidence that Johnson shuffle tracked though), he could double on any two cards and he could re-split up to 4 hands
3) Large bet size.
Don Johnson was playing up to $25,000 a hand — with doubling, splitting and up to 3 hands he was easily wagering $100k every game. Remember this helps him because of the unlimited upside and minimised downside.
4) Dealer errors
Every dealer error meant Johnson got a free bet. So he was happy to put pressure on the dealer. First of all the huge bet size — $100k a round, did it’s work. On top of that, Johnson was placing generous bets for the dealer. Finally, as we began by saying — Johnson likes to party — so there was a carnival atmosphere with porn stars, celebrities and an entourage… no wonder the dealer felt under pressure.
All of this was entirely legal: no counting or other advantage play, and yet with the promotion and rules Johnson had negotiated, he had an edge that most pro counters could only dream of — and with no need to hide his face or ‘take heat’.
But before you get too excited and sell the house to raise the $1million minimum bankroll required, we are sorry to tell you that the casinos have worked out how badly they miscalculated. They no longer offer such generous promotion terms … nor do Caesar’s or many other casinos allow Don Johnson to play.