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 Since 1964, when I turned 21.
Q For what reason did you start playing the game?
A It was a challenge. I'm a competitive person; I've always been attracted to challenges.
Q How did you come up with the idea to write books on the subject?
A Initially I did not intend to write a book. I had written up a short explanation of how to count cards that I gave to people who asked me how to do it, and as people came back with questions I wrote up answers to their questions, so my paper on card counting got longer and longer. At the same time I was working out strategy numbers for various rules variations, and accumulating that information in the form of tables. One day I realized that if I put those two projects together, it looked like enough volume to be a book. So I decided to do just that; that's how Professional Blackjack was created.
Q You are considered one of the greatest names in the world of blackjack. How does it feel (positive and negative sides)?
A It's nice to be famous, as long as you are famous to only a small number of people. I can go to a gathering of blackjack players and be treated like a celebrity, and then immediately go back to being an ordinary person. I'd hate to be so famous that people would recognize me in public - I'd have no privacy.
A One possibility is the sports-betting book I wrote last year: Sharp Sports Betting. I am thinking of expanding it and splitting it into two books, one on betting NFL football and one on general sports betting.
Q Many people consider all aspects of the game have been covered several times, in different words by different authors, and claims there are basically no more facts to add and write about, except for details. Do you agree?
A As long as the world keeps changing, there will always be new things to write about. Recently, for example, we have seen the emergence of Internet gambling, facial-recognition software, continuous shufflers, 6:5 blackjack, Spanish blackjack, SuperFun blackjack, and probably a few more I have left out. None of those topics are covered in my blackjack books because they did not exist the last time I revised any of my books.
Q You are considered one of the greatest blackjack players on earth. I presume you have read most of the valuable books on blackjack, available on today's market. You probably have reached a top level of your play. Do you believe you've attained a level, a climax, or do you suppose you, yet, may improve your game and bring it to an even higher level?
A I probably was a top-level player at one time, but I have not kept my playing skills up to date. I do not, for example, know how to shuffle track or locate aces. I could bring my game to a higher level if I wanted to, but I'd rather devote my time to managing my business and my websites, and to creating new material.
Q You own the very successful blackjack homepage, www.bj21.com. Probably the most famous homepage accessible. For what reason did you found this meeting place for blackjack players?
A In 1995 I was participating on the only Internet blackjack discussion available at the time, rec.gambling.blackjack, a newsgroup. Newsgroups exist on many computers simultaneously; there is no one central computer in charge. The main problem with newsgroups is that creating messages is easy but removing them is difficult; thus a determined troublemaker can cause havoc. In early 1996 I learned about the creation of software to set up something similar to a newsgroup, but on a web site. When a message board exists on only one website, problem messages can be removed easily. As soon as I heard that a message board could be set up on a web site, I wanted to participate on one devoted to blackjack. Since message-board software had just been invented, there was no blackjack message board. I did not have a website at the time. I tried to talk a few people who already had gambling-information websites into adding blackjack message boards to their sites, but they all declined. So I started my own, BJ21.com.
Q You are rarely seen around on the public forums. Do you prefer to maintain private, or do you prefer discussing blackjack with other blackjack authors, such as Snyder, Schlesinger
A I post between a half dozen and a dozen messages a day, mostly on SharpSportsBetting.com and the green-chip pages of BJ21.com.
Q As far as I am concerned, you are a black bettor. Lately, there have been some interesting discussions on the bad casino treatments against black betting card counters. How do you react on casino harassment, insults, personal invective, when the casinos ask for ID, personal information, backroom them, etc. Have you been a victim of any of this? If so, what did they do? What was your reaction?
A I have never been treated harshly in a casino. I always act friendly toward everyone -- other customers, dealers, and pit supervisors. Casino personnel have always treated me politely, even when asking me to stop playing blackjack or leave the premises.
Q Do you have any general piece of advice to people who consider becoming professionals?
A I presume you mean becoming blackjack professionals
. My advice is to play blackjack as a sideline only. Do something else with the bulk of your time. Do not play blackjack as your major source of income. You will enjoy blackjack much more if you play only on weekends and vacations.
Q Which card counting system
do you use? Which have you been using during your career? Which did you like the most, and why? And, which did you dislike the most? For what reasons?
A I used Thorp's 10-count from Beat the Dealer
when I first started, because that was the only system available. I tried Thorp's Ultimate, also from Beat the Dealer, for a few days, but found it exhausting; after using it for an hour, I was too tired to keep playing. I switched from the 10-count to the high-low when Thorp published the second edition of Beat the Dealer. The high-low is easier than the 10-count, and is better at finding situations of advantage when less than all the cards are used. I worked out the halves system for my own use, and that is the only system I have been using since I created it. It is presented in Professional Blackjack.
Q Which blackjack conditions do you prefer (available ones in today's casinos)?
A I like to be able to buy in without the dealer calling attention to me, and I like to be able to raise my bets without attracting any attention. And of course I like good penetration and good rules.