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.
Q When did you start playing blackjack and why?
A I played for the first time in Las Vegas, in the spring of 1975. I had always been interested in the mathematics of gaming, and in the theories of probability that applied to the various games. So, it was natural that, one day, I would come around to actually playing blackjack in a casino.
In 1976, I bought Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as a Business, and taught myself how to count. And I've been at it, as a hobby, for over 25 years.
How I got into the game is also outlined in the first Preface to my book, Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros' Way, on pp. xvii-xviii.
Q How come you got interested in the game? What do you like about the game?
A See the Preface and my answer, above. The attraction is that blackjack is a game in which the player can gain an advantage over the house, so I like the idea of being able to turn the tables on the casinos and beat them, so to speak, at their own game!
Q Do you play much in casinos?
A Not too much any more. I used to play quite regularly, but I now limit my play to occasional trips to Las Vegas
or the Caribbean.
Q For what reason did you start answering people's questions on blackjack and debate on forums? And, for how long have you been doing it?
A I've been answering people's questions for well over 20 years, purely as a hobby, because it gives me pleasure to help others. I was a teacher for over 16 years, and I'm told that I have a knack for making difficult concepts easier to understand. At first, I would receive letters (the Internet and e-mail didn't exist!), and I would answer every one by hand, sometimes at great length. I must have corresponded with hundreds upon hundreds of people this way, over the years. Then, I began to write a regular column ("The Gospel According to Don") for Arnold Snyder's quarterly journal, "Blackjack Forum." These columns formed the nucleus of material for what became, eventually, my book. Finally, when the Internet began to offer Web sites with forums on blackjack (around 1995), I became a regular at all of the most well known and respected venues. Today, I host my own page, "Don's Domain," on Arnold Snyder's rge21.com site.
Q Do you read many books on blackjack, or just stick to "the famous" ones?
A I read every book that I consider worthwhile, but you have to understand that there is a great deal of junk out there. So, you have to be somewhat discriminating, and not waste your time on the garbage. Nonetheless, there are some very fine works on the subject, and, of course, I've read them all. I also consider it a hobby to proofread the manuscripts of the newer authors, who often send me their work for comments and criticism before they are published. I very much enjoy helping in this manner.
Q What characterizes you as a skilled blackjack player? What makes you special compared to other blackjack celebrities, such as Snyder, Stanford Wong
, Uston, etc.?
A I don't know that I'm any more special than the other gentlemen you've mentioned, all of whom are considered giants in the field. I like to think that I've done several things well, over the years, in addition to playing successfully all over the world. I've enjoyed helping others through my writings, and I've enjoyed teaching others how to play the game. So, I like to think that I'm fairly well rounded on the subject, having played, written, and taught for over a quarter of a century.
Q Are math skills on a high level required in order to become a sufficient player, according to your opinion?
A It helps to have a certain facility with numbers, but card counting
is not calculus, and a little practice goes a long way. We taught many "laymen" how to play the game, who had very little background in what you would call formal mathematics. Card counting is, after all, just arithmetic. But, it does pay to be quick with numbers
Q When playing, do you use all techniques printed in your book, or do you simply focus on counting, basic strategy variations
and correct bet sizing?
A Well, those ARE most of the techniques featured in my book. One can be as sophisticated as possible and incorporate many subtleties of the game, while playing, but, in essence, proper play, bet-sizing, and the use of an effective count system are what get the money in the long run.
Q Is it practically possible, according to your opinion, to use all different kinds of techniques required (according to blackjack literature) under pressure (i.e. to quickly calculate true counts in multiple deck games, to use multiparameter counts, multi level counts, different charts on each possible playing situation, depending on the dealer's upcard, etc.)
A Yes it is. Again, counting is not brain surgery, and if you are motivated to do well, you can succeed. In all endeavors of life, we become more skillful by reading, learning, and practicing our craft. And so, it is no different with card counting.
Q Why should one buy BJ Attack? How is it different and better compared to other blackjack material?
A It's definitely different! BJA contains a wealth of material that simply can't be found anywhere else. As for being better, I'm very proud and pleased with the wonderful reviews the book has received from my peers. All of the quotes in the front of the book and on the back cover are genuine and come from players and other respected authorities, who were generous in their praise of the book. I'm very proud of that. BJA has become the one book that is almost automatically mentioned when people ask for an authoritative, definitive work on the subject.
Q Who would you consider the greatest blackjack player in history, and why? (You may say yourself, if that's the case).
A It's probably someone who has avoided the spotlight and who has played in virtual anonymity for his or her entire career. But, among the most celebrated of all successful players has to be Ken Uston
, who sought the limelight and became quite a celebrity, and, more recently, Tommy Hyland
, who has managed the most successful blackjack teams
over the past decade or more.