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Getting Nervous Raising Bets
Originally posted on Green Chip by Kim Lee
A red/green chip player wrote a book about getting "heat". Initially I found this strange because heat should not be a problem for low-level counters. Then I realized one potential cause of this perception - confusing risk-aversion with heat-aversion. Counters get nervous about losing and they get nervous about back-offs. Those are rational fears. But they are different and you can confuse them. The error cuts both ways.
Low-level bettors may get nervous when stepping up in units. For a red-chipper playing green for the first time it may be intimidating to play $100 followed by splits and doubles. Maybe it is fear of losing money, or maybe it is simply the disappointment of wiping out a profitable lifetime track record in one shoe. But when your heart pounds then you look around furtively and imagine all eyes upon you. Most of this heat is imaginary. But to some extent fear attracts heat. A nervous customer arouses suspicion. In contrast, a black-chipper will casually saunter and bet $200 just to stir the pot and test conditions. He may be relaxed because he is simply laying low for a few decks. The pit staff calmly sees him as a low-maintenance happy-go-lucky loser. A lot of rich guys have high pressure jobs and families and simply like to distract themselves for a few hours. In this respect it is important to ask whether you are getting heat because you are nervous or whether you are nervous because you are getting heat ... or whether you are getting any heat at all.
I have noticed myself getting nervous when raising bets and wondered why. The money won't affect my standard of living. The bet may attract heat. But I think I simply get nervous out of habit after a long break.
But it is also possible to make the opposite mistake. On a couple of my backoffs I was betting well below my normal stakes with a conservative spread for comps. But this was unfortunately above the casino radar and I was spotted from the sky. In retrospect I knew this and played too long. But I was complacent because I didn't feel "nervous.” In this respect my nerves serve a protective function, making me sensitive to heat and making me flinch every time the pit phone rings.
This nervousness can be a problem on teams or other situations that switch betting levels or tolerance. It is easy to imagine a Midwestern red-chipper making mistakes after getting sudden wealth and moving to Nevada. The brazen spread and cover for a red chip shoe game won't last long at a black chip single or double deck game. But the opposite problem can also occur when green/black chippers play with team money. By Darwinian selection, successful counters can be a little meek and sensitive to heat. That's important when a barring can ruin your game selection or family vacation. But it should be a routine event on a team. It's no big deal -- at high levels the team can afford to send you elsewhere.
I guess the moral of the story is that good strategy for dealing with heat depends on the game and level. Risk is different from heat and we may get nervous for the wrong reason. Blackjack money shouldn't be meaningful to you; you have probably lost more in the stock market without notice. Blackjack players usually get too paranoid when they are moving up in units. Yet they may also be too careless when playing low levels. Heat depends on casino perception, not on how you feel. Your feelings are only relevant to the extent they affect the casino reaction.