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 Twelve years.
Q Why did start playing the game?
A I read Jacques Black's "The Money-Spinners" to while away an afternoon in a public library, whilst visiting a girlfriend in Belfast, a most unlikely place to become interested in casino gambling since there are no casinos there. It had me hooked. The book is virtually unknown outside of Britain but I still consider it a classic-it has a prose style that is sheer poetry in places
Q What do you consider your strongest area in blackjack and why?
A Probably the range of techniques I can employ simultaneously.
Q What’s your greatest and worst blackjack memory?
A The best was hitting a winning streak in a small casino in Bristol, England and working my bankroll up to £50,000 (about $75,000). That represented the moment when my bankroll became large enough that expenses no longer meant much on a day-to-day basis. I have had much larger wins and losses since but that was the first time I felt like I was going to be able to succeed long-term at blackjack. Undoubtedly having $80,000 stolen from the bankroll of a team I was playing with by one of its members was the worst. It was more the sense of betrayal than the actual financial loss.
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 I met Jacques Black and Dominic O'Brien (the world memory champion who also plays bj professionally) in the High Stakes Gambling bookshop in London. I didn't reveal my identity to either. Sadly, I have never met most of the blackjack authors in person for reasons of geography. Even Frank Scoblete
, who edited my blackjack book, I have worked with purely through e-mail.
I am currently in communication with another very high profile blackjack author concerning a gambling project, but I cannot comment on this further...
Q Do you spend much time, playing in the casinos? If not, why so? And, do you play any games besides blackjack? If so, which?
A I still gamble in casinos. Since I moved to Ireland permanently this is mostly for research purposes since the casino limits are not very high. I am first and foremost a professional gambler rather than a blackjack player. I will play any game where I can get an edge. I have played virtually every game the casinos offer at some point but mostly I play blackjack and baccarat.
Q Who do you consider the “greatest” blackjack player or author, ever existed?
A Thorp is undoubtedly the greatest theorist and author, since without him there would be few blackjack authors and little interest in the game. Dominic O'Brien is probably the greatest player, since he has a higher win rate than any other player I know of. This is because his memorization abilities allow him to intuitively understand and use concepts which ordinary mortals must learn by rote-counting, shuffle-tracking and sequencing.
A I wanted to push the horizons of advantage play. Too many people still focus on card counting exclusively as a means of getting an edge at the blackjack tables. So much more than that is out there. I also wanted the book to sell-though not for the obvious reason, because the meager royalties do mean less than nothing to me financially. I was hoping to enthuse new students of the game with the juvenile but seductive notion that if they can discover some new angle they can make a fortune and become a blackjack hero. The game I enjoy playing most at the moment is a game in France with six-decks, abysmal 60% penetration and bog-standard European rules. The reason I enjoy playing this game is to do with the fact that the card backs have two different colors. I will leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to guess why this is important.
Q By how much do you think the techniques, presented in your book, will benefit diverse kinds of players (novice, intermediate and advanced players)? Which group was it initially deliberated for?
A I am firmly of the opinion that we are all novices when it comes to blackjack. I believe the surface has barely been scratched on blackjack advantage play. Even the most sophisticated players spend comparatively little time learning their craft than say, a chess or bridge player. I remember reading that Grandmaster chess player Nigel Short practiced chess nine hours a day since he was a child.
Because of my perspective on this, I believe the book was targeted at everyone despite the fact the book is often described as a text for advanced players. There is nothing in the text a novice player cannot learn. I do not believe novice players deserve the low expectations foisted upon them.
Q : When playing in casinos, at what stakes do you, usually, bet? Do you participate in private games and tournaments as well? Which category do you prefer? Which has provided the best financial results?
A I have participated in tourneys and private games. Both are inferior to straight casino games in general, private games because of cheating, tourneys because of variance. Both can be profitable in the right circumstances.
Q Every year, it becomes harder to find lucrative blackjack games. As the players improve with new strategies, the casinos respond by tightening the rules. Has blackjack had its era of greatness? Will beatable games always exist, or will the casinos, some day, make it completely impossible to beat?
A Card counting
may be dying. The casinos have had forty years to analyze the method and take counter-measures. More disturbingly talented advantage players such as Stanley KO and Olaf Vancura are now working for the other side on the card counting problem. However, while blackjack exists I believe there will always be some method of beating the game. The very structure of the game tends to create opportunities for the creative mind.
Q Are you a professional gambler, or have you got a "real job". How often do you play? Where do you play? Do you travel all around the world to find good games, or do you stick to certain areas, such as Las Vegas
, Europe, etc.?
A I have no "real" job. To be honest I was not very good at keeping them. I was always thinking of creating gambling systems to escape the drudgery of work and not concentrating on the work itself.
I play pretty much all the time. Much of my time is spent gambling online since my home (Dublin, Ireland) has few casinos and none which take big action. Because of this I also travel extensively. I have been more or less everywhere in the world where there are casinos or profitable gambling opportunities, and sometimes, through bad intelligence, have been to some of the places where there are not.
At the moment I am concentrating on Europe-but this changes from year to year. For a long-time Asia was the best place to gamble with its favorable promotional rules such as ES and games played with jokers. Then Britain became a good place to play with its great O/U game. Then Eastern Europe began offering very competitive games. It is exciting to think where the next opportunity will come from.