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Whales, Guppies, and All the Other Fish in the Sea

There has been a lot of discussion lately about “coloring up” and shielding your income from the “all knowing, all evil” casinos.

It’s an important issue, and it is one that I want to explore with you.

“Coloring up” or “coloring out” is the term that is used by the casino when a player is about to leave the craps table.  They will often “color you out” by exchanging all of those various smaller denomination chips into a few large ones.  They will take all those $1, $5, and $25 chips, then convert them for you into easily carry-able $100’s, or $500’s, or $1,000’s, or $5,000 chips.


They want to do it for two reasons. 

1)                  They want to have an accurate record of how much you are leaving the table with, and,

2)                  They want to replenish their own chip-bank with all of your small chips.

The easiest way to accomplish both of those goals is to color you out.

Let me ask you something before we proceed.

Do you like when they come to the table with a chip-fill in the middle of a good roll? 

Oh, you don’t? 

Well, they do it because they are running low on chips, since either:

1)                     The players racks are filled with them instead of being in the tables chip-bank, or, 

2)                     All or most of the many players who were at the table since the last chip fill, walked away with a lot of those lower denomination-value chips.

3)                     Now they are running low, and gosh, golly, gee whiz, it just happens to be in the middle of a hot roll.  Go figure, huh!

4)                     What better to time to disrupt the timing or rhythm of a good shooter than to plunk the big chip-carrier in front of the box-man so that he can take his sweet feeble-fingered time to count down the stacks and then place them in their appropriate spot in his bank.  At most houses they stop the game to do this.  Some of the old-line houses like the Horseshoe in Vegas, just continue to deal past the chip-trays and the speed of the game isn’t affected.   Of course, you may have to shoot OVER the chip-carrier, the new stacks, or the chip-racks, but the game continues on.

 Okay, let’s look at the reasoning and logic behind the pros and cons of coloring-up from the players point of view.

1)                  A lot of players don’t want the casino to know just how much that they are making.

2)                  They want to shield their income from the great-tax boogie-man.

I suppose that’s a fair premise under which to shelter your income.  However, there is a better way to accomplish that and still make everyone including yourself and the casino even happier. 

Here’s how:

Skim Your Profit

I won’t use too many mob-related terms here, but suffice it to say that I understand that you want to conceal your profit.  We can call it “taking a little off of the top”, and we’re not talking about getting a haircut.

As others have suggested, you should nonchalantly slip some of your green $25 chips into your pockets every once in a while.  Depending on your level of earning, you can do this so that the chips that remain in your rack are slightly lower than you initial buy-in.  For example, if your buy-in was $300, and you are generating about $50 in profit every thirty minutes; then you should be slipping 2 or possibly 3 green $25 chips into your pocket in that same time frame.  They are your chips, you can eat them if you want, but you should be subtle in your actions.  Remember, we are trying to shield our income, but you don’t have to turn this into a major C.I.A. covert operation.

Look Like A Loser

No, I’m not saying that you should dress and act like crazy Cousin Eddy who lives in the Nuclear Flats Trailer Park outside of Vegas.  I’m talking about making it appear that you have LOST money, when in fact, you have WON money. 

By shielding or veiling your profit, it makes it appear that you haven’t won as much money.  In fact, I prefer to make it look like I have lost a reasonable amount of my buy-in.  Casinos like losers.  The more that they think that they’ve won from you; the more comps that will be coming your way.


 Play Their Game By Your Rules

Understand that casinos are run entirely based on “numbers”.  Remember that all casino games are based upon “house edge” and “expected value”.   The casinos expect you to lose.  Why disappoint them. 

By using your Players Card, they can track your play.  Statistics are the life-force that keeps casino management happy.   They can provide all of those comps and perks as a way of enticing you to play longer, stay more often, and lose more money.  That is the business that they are in.  Oh sure, I could sugar-coat it and tell you that they are in the gaming-entertainment business, but the simple fact is, they are trying to win your money.   For that privilege they are willing to give you a shot at their bankroll, and they are willing to soften the pain-of-losing by offering free food, drinks, accommodation and shows.

If you are a consistent winner, they don’t have to know that.   By letting them color-up the balance of your apparent remaining buy-in, you are confirming to them that they are in the right business.


The Comps Are Yours

You are entitles to all of those comps.  The casinos figure them into their cost of doing business.   By taking a pass on collecting comps; you are actually increasing the house-edge against you.

If you are like most people, you have to eat once in a while.   If you are taking cash out of your own kick to pay for meals; then you are eating into your cash-reserves or you are diminishing your bankroll.  If you are using your casino winnings to fuel your lifestyle, that’s fine, but understand that comps can offset a lot of those expenses.

If you have read my Go Ahead…Pull the Trigger or my Lifestyles of the Precision-Shooter, then you know exactly what I am talking about. 

Comps are not based on losses.  Rather, they are based on the “expected value” or “expected” losses that your betting level and methods are expected to generate over a given period of time. However, losses DO figure into your Comp values to the casino.


What I Earn Is MY Business

Many people don’t feel that it is the casino’s right to know how much that you make.  I couldn’t agree more! 

Most of the time, the casinos don’t know how much that I have won.  Rather, they usually only get to color-up about 40% to 110% of my original buy-in.  That figure is for sessions when I have actually made a 20% to 100% profit over and above my buy-in.  By way of example, if my buy-in is $500; then I may color-up anywhere from $250 to $550 at the end of my session.  In my pocket, there may be another $100 to $500 that is being “shielded” from that process.   On a busy table with a fair amount of “green” action, that amount is very easy to secrete away. 

If I am playing solo, it’s a little more difficult, but not impossible.  But if there is plenty of big action at the table I tuck away both green $25 and black $100 chips.  Otherwise, they keep an eagle-eye on those larger-denomination chips.

 Full-Tracking Doesn’t Mean Full-Disclosure

Let’s say that you are changing tables, but you plan on continuing play at a different table.  You can color-in, but you don’t have to hand in ALL in of your $25 chips.  That way, they THINK that you have lost a certain amount of money.  At the same time, tell them that you are changing tables, and ask if they would they be kind enough to move your players rating-card over to the other table.  They will almost always oblige.  That way, your play continues to be tracked, and your comps continue to accumulate, all without having exposed the enormity of your winnings.

You continue to receive full-tracking for all your table play, which racks up further and larger comp credits.  At the same time, you aren’t making full-disclosure about the magnitude of your earnings.


There are certain times when I will cash-out almost as much as I have won.  If I have had a very hot hand, and my profit has been derived almost entirely from that one hand; then I will “bring it all in” for coloring-up.  WHY?  Well, when you have won big, they know it, so why try to hide it.  This is especially true if you have been shooting solo, or they have handed over a lot of $100 or $500 or $1,000 chips to you.  The comps will still be forthcoming because they want a chance to win their money back.


In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

As far as the mighty I.R.S. is concerned; well it’s not too much of a worry for players who do not derive their “principal” income from craps.  Table game wins are generally not reportable unless they exceed $10,000 in any given 24-hour period at one casino.  Table games are treated differently than slot machines.  In those cases, anything over $1,149 becomes a WS-2 Form report to the I.R.S.  In Canada, Revenue Canada does not consider gaming income to be taxable unless it is your sole source of income AND you are going to take normal deductions against that income as a business expense.


I assume that most of your casino buy-ins are done with cash.  If you use markers, I would invite you to read my, On Casino Credit article.   I understand that cash is somewhat more difficult to track.  I wouldn’t suggest that you under-report your casino earnings to the I.R.S., but on the other hand, what you do is between you and your conscience. 


Look Like a Gambler, Not a Professional

Okay, so why did I title this article, “Whales, Guppies And All the Other Fish in the Sea”?  To the casinos, we are all just fish.  It’s pretty easy for the casinos to feed off of the abundance of fish in the great, green gambling sea. 

Now, there are the really big fish that gamble huge amounts of money, they are the whales.  Some whales are bigger than others, but suffice it to say, that they are important to a tiny number of gaming-houses, but whales also scare the hell out of most other casinos.  They are capable of turning the lights out on some of the smaller-bankrolled houses.

On the other end of the food-chain is the guppies.  These are the small players who buy-in for $20 to $100.  They are loathed by the big casinos and embraced by the smaller ones. 

In between those two extremes is the ultra-important middle-market player.  They make up about 90% of the entire gaming market, and without them, all but the biggest carpet-houses and the lowly sawdust-joints would pretty much wither-up and blow away.

Notice that this has been all about shielding your profit, and NOT about shielding your Precision-Shooting skills.  That is covered elsewhere in my Who Cooked the Golden Goose?  articles. 

So, unless you stand out like a sore thumb, or you make yourself noticeable because of your lack of interaction with casino personnel; or if you walk in like a professional hired-gunslinger; then your actions should not come under too much scrutiny because of your winnings.

To shield your winnings, while still getting your share from the comps-trough, remember:

(i)                        Skim your profit.

(ii)                      Look like a loser.

(iii)                    Play their game by your rules.

(iv)                     The comps are yours

(v)                       What I earn is my business.

(vi)                     Full-tracking isn’t full-disclosure.

(vii)                   Wow, I finally won!

(viii)                 In God we trust, all others pay cash.

(ix)                     Look like a gambler, not a professional.

If you use coloring-up as part of your overall strategy of getting and KEEPING the most from the casino; then you’ve added another important weapon to your gaming-arsenal.

Color comin’ in!

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

The Mad Professor

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