“All blackjack books should have at least one chapter titled ‘You Won’t Win’” -Arnold Snyder, 2002 Blackjack Hall of Famer

Last fall, I lost a couple hundred bucks playing the slots at a local casino. With $50 or so left in my pocket, I wandered over to an empty blackjack table and with the help of a dealer who dispensed basic strategy advising me on almost every hand, I won most of it back before retiring for the evening.

I’d never played more than a hand or two of blackjack before and have always been intimidated at the thought of sitting down at a table of players who knew what they were supposed to do, knowing that they might bark at a novice player who played poorly and messed things up for everyone else. Having won a little, I became intrigued and spent the next couple weeks feverishly studying basic strategy. There are tons of primers, apps, cards, and trainers out there that make learning basic strategy easy. Playing with perfect basic strategy cuts the house edge down to almost nothing, but they’ll still always win in the long run or they wouldn’t bother offering the game. (The one caveat here is card-counting, but that’s another subject.)

Playing perfect strategy has given me confidence at the blackjack table, increased my chances of winning, and made the game much more enjoyable. I feel like I’m in a club and I can spot people making rookie mistakes. The house still has the advantage, but my odds are better.

In March, I had the pleasure once again of offering a Basic Locating Theory workshop at the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo in Tampa, Florida. At the end of my talk, a couple of guys came up to me and wanted to know if I offered a course in advanced locating. They were looking for higher level tips and tricks. It’s a common request. Training customers approach me all the time saying they already know how to locate and they’re looking for next level training. They want to know “the secrets the pros use.” They want to hack the system. They’re a lot like blackjack players looking for a system to beat the casino. And like a lot of players looking to beat the casino, they still haven’t mastered basic strategy, or come to recognize that the casino always wins in the end no matter how well you play.

It’s the same with locating. There is no secret system. There is no hack. There is no beating the casino. The best you can hope to do is play perfect basic strategy. The laws of physics are immutable, and they are sometimes stacked against you. You’re better off recognizing the inherent limits of electromagnetic induction than looking for a way to cheat it. You should also be wary of the person selling you a tool or a strategy that’s too good to be true.

If you’re looking for a hack – the locating world’s version of cardcounting – you have to break away from the limits of electromagnetic induction and look to a different technology altogether, like GPR and vacuum excavation.

In the meantime, having mastered basic strategy, you’ll be able to avoid rookie mistakes and play with confidence, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to increase your odds of success.

Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @kochauthor.


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