The following is part of a series of interviews of notable blackjack figures by Robert V. Lux, produced for the Swedish gaming website, Kasinocentralen. Each piece is of one-half of the total interview,Robert V. Lux is the author of a number of interviews with well-known poker writers and strategists. He is also a succesful poker player and was in the 2004 Online Poker Nordic Championship. He currently resides in Florence, Italy. with the complete interview reserved for Robert's future book. This interview was done in 2002.
Q For how long have you been playing blackjack?
A I've been playing blackjack since the 1970s; so, that's about 30 years now. I originally became interested in the game when I read Thorp's classic book, Beat The Dealer
Q Why did you start playing the game?
A From the beginning, the idea of being able to gain a legitimate advantage over the casinos just fascinated and intrigued me. The money was great, but, for me, the real kick was in doing what just about everyone said was impossible -- beating the casinos at their own game.
Q What do you consider your strongest area in blackjack and why?
A Camouflage. No doubt about it. When you play casino Twenty-One
you're really playing two games: Blackjack against the dealer, and Poker against the pit. Of course, you have to play a strong game to win in the long run, but that, in itself, is not enough. You also have to possess the necessary camouflage skills to play a strong game and get away with it. You could be the best player in the world, but if the bosses won't let you play you're out of business. That simple.
Q Have you met, or do you know, any blackjack authors in person? If so, which? And, what does it mean to you, to be able to discuss blackjack with experts on a high level?
A Yeah, I've met several of the top players and authors, including Kenny Uston, Lawrence Revere and Stanford Wong
. And, of course, I've had lengthy correspondences with a number of others, such as Arnold Snyder, Don Schlesinger
, and Peter Griffin, as well as a number of anonymous "greats" nobody has ever heard of. What has always struck me about the greats of Blackjack is their unselfish willingness to freely share their knowledge expecting nothing in return. Much of what I know about Blackjack I either learned or developed from my associations with these greats -- each one, unique and brilliant in his own way.
Q Who do you consider the "greatest" blackjack player or author, ever existed? Explain why.
A Well, that's hard to say. I can say that the four that have influenced me the most are Ed Thorp, Lawrence Revere, Kenny Uston and Peter Griffin. From Thorp I developed my first understanding of how and why the game could be beaten. From Revere, I learned the cold-blooded steely-eyed discipline necessary to actually win over the long run. From Uston, I learned about camouflage, team play, and the thrill of big-money action, and from Peter Griffin I learned just how deep and beautiful the mathematics of Blackjack really are. If I had to pick one work that really stands out, it would be Kenny Uston's "Million Dollar Blackjack
". That book was a masterpiece in its time -- for all time, really.
Q What's your greatest and worst blackjack memory?
A You had to ask that, didn't you ;-). Well, my worst memory is a horrendous blood-curdling losing streak that lasted for 47 hours, and ate into my bankroll to the tune of 517 units. It took me 141 hours to win it back (due to Kelly-adjusted betting
), and my greatest memory was the $200 hand at the Excalibur in Las Vegas that finally put me over the top. I learned a lot from that experience. I gained a new-found respect for the game, and I learned at a gut level that if I played within myself, and within my bankroll, sooner or later I would inevitably prevail. It was a painful, but valuable lesson.
Q To my great surprise, few blackjack authors are seen around on various blackjack websites. Even if they are there, many use pseudonyms. I have never seen you around on any forums, etc. Do you prefer to remain as private as possible, or don't you find blackjack websites at any assistance? If you do post under pen names, what is the reason for doing so (as you have already revealed your name on your book)?
A In the late '90s, when the internet was really catching on, I was very active on several of the internet Blackjack sites, including Stanford Wong's BJ21 and several others. Many of the top names in the game were there as well, including Stanford Wong, Ed Thorp, Don Schlesinger, Arnold Snyder, Olaf Vancura, Ken Fuchs, and many lesser known, but no less knowledgeable, players and experts. That was really a golden age of sorts. Every night players from all over the world would gather together to both participate and watch the experts slug it out. We had a blast, and some really classic research and work (especially on betting theory and risk of ruin
) came out of those discussions. Eventually, however, many of us began to get somewhat bored with the net. The novelty began to wear off, and many of the most interesting questions had already been answered. Add to that the tedium of having the same newbie questions asked over and over again, along with the inevitable abuse that plagues almost any website, and it is no surprise that one after another many of the top experts began to drift away. Today, I still surf the more popular Blackjack websites, and I occasionally participate. Sometimes, I post under my own name, but more often I use a pseudonym. Using a pseudonym allows me to participate in a more casual manner than would be possible as Bryce Carlson.
Q To what level of players is the AOII focused to? What was your intention when originating the system and writing Blackjack For Blood?
A The Advanced Omega II System is aimed at serious players, both amateur and pro. For casual recreational players a good unbalanced system like, say, K-O, or Red Seven may well be good enough. But when you play seriously -- when you play Blackjack for blood -- you want the best. And AOII really is the best there is. As I mentioned, I began writing Blackjack For Blood
in 1989. I had been a big-money pro for a long time by then, and I felt I had a better understanding of the practical and theoretical aspects of the game than anything I found in the Blackjack books
of the time. It was a challenge, but I wanted to see if I could take the literature of the game to the next level. And, as with AOII, the success of Blackjack For Blood has been extremely gratifying.
Q Does Blackjack For Blood represent your own playing style, or does it merely aim at the "masses"? Do you use the techniques provided in your book, or do you diverge from any of the guidelines when playing?
A Basically, Blackjack For Blood presents my own approach to professional play. I use the Advanced Omega II System in actual play, and there is not a single tactic, technique, or strategy in BJFB that I have not used myself over and over again. In fact, as I mentioned before, the main reason I wrote Blackjack For Blood was because so much of what I knew and used in my own play was nowhere to be found in the published literature.
Q You have a money-back guarantee on Blackjack For Blood if someone doesn't agree that "it is worth every cent". Has it ever come about that anybody has implored for this assurance? If so, have they ever had any reasons why?
A Yeah, there was one reader in 1996 who bought BJFB in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then wrote me demanding his money back because he found out that the Qur'an forbids gambling ;-). I thought about trying to explain to him that with BJFB it was more like investing than gambling, but in the end I just smiled and made sure he got his money back. But, as far as I know, that's the only one.
Q Blackjack For Blood is a comprehensive book that via consistent wording instructs the reader of the fundamental components of winning blackjack. How complete do you regard Blackjack For Blood? If you could turn back the time, would you change or add anything? Also, will there be a revised edition?
A When I wrote Blackjack For Blood, I wanted to create a comprehensive guide that would assume the reader knew nothing about Blackjack and would lead him step by step from rank beginner to as far as he wanted to go, including all the way to world-class pro. Based on its continued success, and the feedback I get from readers, I think BJFB has fulfilled this goal even beyond what I hoped for. However, no one book can ever really be all things to all people, and even though BJFB has been updated with each new printing, some subjects, such as shuffle tracking, are still treated in a rather abridged manner. So, someday I may very well expand on certain topics to make them more complete and relevant to today's game.
Q You have developed a blackjack computer software of your own called The Omega II Blackjack Machine. Before I read Blackjack For Blood I had never heard of this product. Nor have I ever seen it mentioned on the Internet. What makes The Omega II Blackjack Machine exceptional? For what reasons would you advise someone to purchase it? Why hasn't it attained the same success as comparable blackjack software?
A I originally developed the Omega II Blackjack Machine to help me analyze the game for my own play. Then, when I wrote Blackjack For Blood, I included the Blackjack Machine because I saw how valuable it was for me. However, the Blackjack Machine only ran on some of the lower-end Apple computers, such as the Apple II's and Macintosh LC's. So, I developed another similar, but much stronger and more comprehensive, program called the Omega II Blackjack Casino, which runs on all MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows-based computers. The Blackjack Casino is very powerful, very fast and extremely easy to use. And it has actually been quite successful. It is available from Pi Yee Press (at BJ21.com) at only $49.95, plus shipping. Today, in addition to the Blackjack Casino, there are several other excellent Blackjack programs
available, and all of them allow us to investigate Blackjack in ways that were only a wishful dream just a few years ago.