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The Annual Barge

The primary gaming family on the Internet is the rec.gambling newsgroup. Every August, members of rec.gambling descend on Las Vegas for the annual Big August Rec.Gambling Excursion, or BARGE.

BARGE members are clearly computer literate and generally knowledgeable in the field of Online Blackjack Games. Many of them discuss the topic electronically on a daily basis. A sizable percentage of them are card counters.

It has become an unwritten ritual for a group of BARGErs to converge at a casino of choice for a traditional mass-barring. The mass-barring is typically a nonprofit event in which the intent is to get kicked out as quickly as possible, hoping to make a big scene for the gang in the process.

During BARGE '95, a group of us headed over to one of the smaller casinos on the Strip. Several BARGErs scattered to different tables, while some chose to enjoy the action from a vantage point at the bar. Our group found a $5 table with a lone player at 2nd base. Paul took 1 st base, and Ubalanced Kid sat down next to him. Monte found an opening on the other side of the table at 3rd base. With two drinks in hand, Monte immediately clamored for a double vodka-something-or other. We all cashed in for chips and started to play, betting $5 each.

The pit boss asked Monte if he would like to he rated, and Monte inaugurated the affair with the witty, if predictable, reply, "No, I really don't want a Big Mac for dinner." (At the time, the casino had a McDonald's on property.)

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Tells are Physical Clues
They seem glamorous and like real inside secrets, so players spend a lot of time looking for them. Every once in a while, that study pays off. Although world class players rarely display the more common tells, almost any action, sound, or motion (or the lack thereof) can be a tell if you use it in only certain situations.

World-class players tend to learn how to avoid them, but they still happen and when they do, players guard the secrets like gold. You don't even tell your friends. I have a tell on a very famous player and he has a very hard time with me, even though he's a better player in the abstract. I usually know when he has a strong hand, and so would rather see him at my table than someone with a tenth of his talent. If you have consistent trouble with someone, especially if he's someone you can't ever bluff successfully and/or can't get to "pay you off' when you have a big hand, there's a good chance he has a tell on you.

There is another class of clues that are easier to find and more reliable than tells: betting patterns. They're more reliable because they are based on logic and to avoid logic a player must make mistakes earlier in a hand.
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