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This afternoon I headed on down to Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa. I've been practicing a few weeks and have been able to secure 12 chip captures in practice. I sit down at 3rd base at a 3 player $25 table, one gets up while I sit down so the player number stays at 3. This is nearing the end of the shoe but I sit down anyway because I notice the dealer breaking and the cards are adequately clumped.

I test the water and I'm doing good enough to go for a 1-2-3. I get a double down bet and a blackjack on a 2 bet. Dealer is breaking and the other players are happy. I'm up 6 units by the end of the shoe. Finally, it's happening the way it does in practice.

But then, what's this? The dealer drops a few cards on the table while taking the cards out of the discard rack. She calls the pit boss over to alert him as to what happened. The pit boss and dealer get close and she mutters "You want me to do a half shuffle?" He nods. She shuffles the cards without the standard stutter shuffle.

I continue betting the 1-2-3 progression and I lose. I lose a double down and I just can't seem to win. I am down to 10 chips and I'm getting out of there. I should have tested the water with a 1-1-2. I noticed orchestration happening but I didn't alter my play based on it. Won't forget this lesson, it cost $200.

I head on over to a different table and sit at 3rd. I get a 14 with a dealer up card of 4. Lows are running. I hit. Everyone looks at me like I have 3 heads. Out comes a 3 for 17. Dealer turns up a 10 card then, picture perfect bust. Celebrations all around! I keep going with the 1-1-2. I lose a double down on the 2 bet. Now I am down to 6 units, $150. Time for poker! I get up to around $205 and figure that's enough to scout the $15 tables.

$15 dollar tables have continuos shuffle machines, hate those. I get a blackjack as soon I sit at 3rd base. And that's where good fortune ends. I lose a 1-1-2 progression. On the 2 bet I see 10s running for an obvious insurance bet. Dealer doesn't have a 10, but first hit card is a 10. Hole card has to be high though, so I risk a break and hit, I break. Dealer flips up a 9. Sometimes it just seems the "gods have conspired against me."

So, after all expenses, this trip cost me $200.50. So what did I learn for $200.50? Don't risk doubles while testing the water, especially if it's a 3rd bet in a negative progression. That and what I mentioned earlier about the shuffle interference. Also, I'm sure I'm not trying to read the dealer's hole card as often as I should be. In the heat of the game I'm watching the card flow and basing my hit or stand decisions based only on how it will affect me. A shortcut I'm taking in my brain is looking at card flow and up card and deciding whether to use basic strategy or not. I should be basing all my decisions on whether my action will break the dealer. Surrender is not offered so might as well.

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