I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Darryl Purpose

Our guest this week is Darryl Purpose.  I did a print interview with Darryl back in 2003 which you can read here DP Interview.  Now he came on the radio show to talk about Ken Uston, how blackjack has changed, and his career as a singer/songwriter.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - no guest this week

This week on Gambling With an Edge Bob and I discuss some of the differences between video poker players and blackjack players.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Darryl Purpose interview

This interview originally appeared in Blackjack Forum in 2003.

The Performer

            Darryl Purpose is a battle-scarred veteran of the Blackjack Wars.  He moved to Las Vegas at 19, and learned just enough about counting cards to lose all his money.  He says, “I was the kind of counter that made Las Vegas.”  He went from sleeping in his car to a job in a boiler room selling pens.  He fell into a familiar pattern in Las Vegas—working a job, and blowing his paycheck.  At the same time he must have been learning something about blackjack.  A year later he was one of the best players on the Ken Uston team, driving down the Las Vegas Strip in a Rolls Royce with thousands of dollars in his pocket.  “Isn’t that why we came?” he says with a smile.
            The last bet Darryl made as part of a Ken Uston team was in December of 1979, yet he says that reputation haunts him to this day.  In Million Dollar Blackjack, Ken named Darryl as one of the four best blackjack players in the world, but playing with Ken, “was not a badge of honor,” says Darryl.  “Still, the reason you want to interview me is because I was part of the Ken Uston team.”
            It’s true.  That is why I wanted to interview Darryl.  But then I heard the stories of what happened after 1979.  Stories that will take you from Moscow to Sri Lanka.  Blackjack tales of the Sicilian Mafia, the Russian Mob, the Japanese Yakuza, and the Tamil Tigers who invented suicide bombing.  Matter-of-fact stories of running over to Caesars Palace to play a hole card because he needed a down payment on a house, or winning a million dollars with Thor, a shuffle-tracking computer.  For Darryl it was just his job.  “My job was to play until they didn’t allow me, and then take the money home.  I really didn’t consider whether it was dangerous.”
            Now Darryl is retired from blackjack.  He hasn’t played a hand in four years.  You wouldn’t know that from the Griffin fliers that continue to pop up claiming a Darryl sighting in Reno, or St. Louis, or New Orleans.  Darryl now does 150 concerts a year as a touring singer/songwriter.  I’ve seen him in concert, and his audience is mesmerized by his tales of traveling the world playing his guitar, and yes, blackjack.  He’s quite funny in concert, and the songs are excellent.  US Air in-flight magazine, Attache, featured Darryl in the August 2003 issue.   They said, “Take Darryl Purpose for example—he has the voice of James Taylor, the brains of Bob Dylan, and the soul of Willie Nelson.” 
You can purchase his CDs or check out his concert calendar at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays to all

My longtime partner Darryl Purpose has given up the gambling life again to take a much bigger gamble.  He's back out on the road as a singer/songwriter. Here is one of his Christmas songs.


I did an extensive interview with Darryl some time back, and will post that here soon.  He'll be a guest on Gambling With an Edge in January.  To learn more his website is  Here is his Holiday CD which I highly recommend.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest K.C.

Our guest this week is known simply as K.C., and was one of the most fascinating guests we have had.  K.C. started as a professional blackjack player, and when he started getting barred he turned to craps.  He read Wong on Dice and decided that this was the game for him.  He won $1.5 million dollars at craps before the dice started to turn.  After losing almost all of that money back he now thinks that he never had an edge.  Yet many casinos barred him from playing dice!  We also talked about a documentary film he has been working on about his blackjack adventures.  Here is the trailer for Inside The Edge.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Dice Control - Not

A few weeks ago we had Stanford Wong on the show talking about his book Wong on Dice.  The thesis of this book is that players can control the dice when they throw them and have 7 show up less than 1 in 6 times.  If a player could do this it would be worth a fortune.  Wong mentioned a player that had won $1.5 million using what he thought was dice control, and then lost all the money back.  That player is a man named KC, and he will be our guest this week.

When I read Wong's book he had some quotes from Bryce Carlson that lead me to believe that Bryce was a believer in dice control.  Bryce is the author of Blackjack For Blood, and very well respected in the advantage play community.  Since that time I have had an email exchange with Bryce, and found that Bryce is firmly on the other side.  In fact, he sent me the following essay on dice control, and gave me permission to post it here.

Why Casino Craps Can’t Be Beaten

If only Isaac Newton had been right, if only he'd been right, then maybe, just maybe, there might really be such a thing as AP casino craps. But he wasn't, and there isn't. And therein lies a fascinating tale that is worth a little trip down history lane.

You see, at its core, the potential to beat craps comes down to the nature of kinetic energy. But Newton didn't believe in energy, kinetic or otherwise. For him there was no such thing! For Newton, there was mass and there was motion. And that was it. Newton knew that unless acted upon by an outside force bodies in motion stayed in motion, and bodies at rest stayed at rest. So, Newton reasoned that when an outside force acted on a body at rest to create motion it had to
impart an "impetus" to the body which overcame the body's inherent inertia. This force imparted an impetus, P, sufficient to move a mass, m, to a velocity, v. Hence, the impetus (now called "momentum") must be equal to the product of the mass times the velocity, or P = mv. And that was all there was to it. But Newton, perhaps the greatest genius of all time, had a bitter rival of almost equal genius. His name was Gottfried Leibniz. And Leibniz had a different idea. He thought there was more to motion than momentum. He said there was also a "vis viva" or "life force," proportional to the square of the velocity, that a mass acquires when it's accelerated to a given velocity with respect to another inertial frame. Newton countered by mocking the whole idea of a putative so-called "life force" as superstitious nonsense, and sarcastically asked Leibniz if perhaps the laying on of hands were necessary to impart this special force to masses, and, if so, did it come by the power of God or perhaps Beelzebub. Leibniz replied that,
like everything else, it came by the power of God, and if Newton doubted that perhaps he should take it up with the Pope, or maybe the Archbishop of Canterbury. Oops. Touché Leibniz. And so back and forth it went, year after year, such that during their lifetimes this bitter little tête-à-tête remained unabated, undecided and unresolved -- just one more schlong slam in a long list of schlong slams by two of the greatest minds and brittlest egos in the entire history of great minds and brittle egos.

And then, in 1738, several years after both Newton and Leibniz had died, along came a rather comely young minx by the name of Mme Gabrielle Émilie du Châtelet. Now, Mme Châtelet, who happened to be the wife of the Marquis du Châtelet, was not only a libertine deluxe of impressive imagination, but she was also the mistress of Voltaire, several of his friends, and a gifted young woman who somehow amid all the frolicking found time to be an accomplished natural philosopher, as well. This was definitely not your everyday wench, royalty or not. Now, Mme du Châtelet was a keen student of both Leibniz and Newton (in fact her French translation of Newton's Principia is still the standard), and she marveled that this dispute regarding the
fundamental nature of masses in motion had gone on for decades without a resolution. So, she decided to set up an experiment to settle the matter once and for all. She reasoned that in an inelastic collision of a rigid undeformable mass with a non-rigid deformable one all of
Newton's momentum or Leibniz's vis viva would be absorbed by the deformable mass, and the degree of deformation would determine who was right. So she set up a simple but elegant experiment in which a small steel cannonball was dropped from a height of several feet into a bucket of potter’s clay and the depth of the depression left by the ball was measured. Then, using Newton's gravity equations, she dropped the ball from a greater height, such that the velocity at impact was calculated to be exactly twice the velocity of the first drop, and, again, measured the depth of the depression left by the ball. She then reasoned that since Newton's "impetus" was linear (mv) and Leibniz's "vis viva" was exponential (mv^2), if the second depression were twice as deep as the first one, then Newton was right. But, if the second
depression were four times as deep as the first one, then Leibniz would be right. So, she performed the experiment and measured the results: And, voilà, the second depression was, indeed, four times as deep as the first one. Leibniz had been right all along. Poor Leibniz,
he had waited a lifetime to beat Newton at something important, and when he finally did he wasn't alive to enjoy it. Sometimes, the Gods really do have a twisted sense of humor. Anyway, today we call Leibniz’s vis viva "kinetic energy," and we describe it by the equation E = (1/2)mv^2. Leibniz would be proud.

Okay, so why is it so important that Newton was wrong and Leibniz was right? It's important because it says that a small change in velocity results in a large change in kinetic energy, which means that when, say, two dice are thrown simultaneously with only a small difference
in initial velocity, the differences in their behavior at impact will be large. Very large. Processes in nature tend to either damp or amp as they propagate through space and time. In those that damp, small differences in initial conditions become even smaller over time. But
in those that amp, small differences in initial conditions grow large over time. And because kinetic energy is an exponential function of the square of velocity, tossing dice at craps is an amping process, whereby small differences in initial conditions result in large differences in the final results.

Now, over the last five years a number of serious, legitimate researchers, including Stanford Wong, myself and others, have sought to determine the truth about so-called AP craps. Some of these researchers have hoped to show that craps could be beaten, and some have just been intellectually curious. But, regardless of motive, all of them have diligently searched for the truth. Now, because simulations of precision shooting at casino craps are not feasible, these researchers have generally utilized carefully monitored casino sessions of statistically significant duration with recognized "professional" p-shooters, as well as slow-motion videos of such experts throwing the dice on regulation craps tables, to obtain valid useful data. The results of such studies have been telling. Virtually without exception, with the monitored "professional" p-shooters the larger the number of trials the more random the results appear (with each die face converging on a random frequency of 1 in 6). And with the slow-motion videos, it is obvious to everyone viewing them that, no matter how good the throw might look at normal speed, in slow motion it is apparent that a huge amount of uncontrollable randomizing
occurs. In fact, in February, 2009, Wong stated in a post on the craps page, in referring to the results of slow-motion video studies of skillful throws, "The truth is, there is much bouncing around, even in dice tosses that look great at real-time speed. Watching slo-mo video of dice tosses can be discouraging, and can be harmful to sales of dice books and to sales of dice-tossing instruction." No one viewing such videos would ever disagree with that. So, while it is true that no one study is ever completely conclusive, over a five-year period the evidence has piled up as study after study by capable researchers has consistently pointed to only one conclusion: Real-world casino craps cannot be legitimately beaten -- by anyone, anywhere, at any time. And the exponential, amping nature of kinetic energy is the fundamental reason why.

To see this more clearly consider this analogy: Suppose a world-class MLB pitcher were told to throw curve balls one after another such that each successive pair of curve balls must be thrown at the same speed to within a small fraction of a mile per hour, and have the same curving trajectory within a small fraction of an inch. No pitcher could ever do this, or would ever even want to, for that matter. It's not humanly possible. But that is exactly the kind of control a
p-shooter would have to have to have any chance of influencing the dice at all. And even if it were possible, which it isn't, it STILL wouldn't be enough! Why? Consider this: The theory of so-called AP craps is built on two plausible-sounding conjectures. The first one, promoted by Frank Scoblete and Golden Touch Craps, says that if the dice are set properly, thrown on axis with synchronicity, and don't hit the pyramid-studded back wall (or at most just "kiss" it lightly with a dead-cat bounce), it is possible to exert a sufficient degree of control of the dice to achieve a positive ev. We'll call this the GTC conjecture. The second one, promoted by Wong, says that if the dice are set properly, and initially thrown on axis with synchronicity, even if they do hit the pyramid-studded back wall hard, a degree of "correlation" between the two dice can survive that is sufficient to achieve a positive ev. We'll call this the Wong

Let's consider the GTC conjecture first. On the face of it, it sounds reasonable. It's definitely a plausible-sounding conjecture. If the dice are set properly, and stay on axis with synchronicity right to the end, there is no question that sufficient control to achieve a
positive ev would result. That's why it's so seductive. It sounds doable, if difficult. It sounds like all it takes is practice. But, as it turns out, it takes a hell of a lot more than that. Slow-motion studies of expert throws have repeatedly shown that even if the dice apparently remain on axis with synchronicity right down to the landing (something extraordinarily difficult to do), if the dice differ by even 0.25" in their rotational synchronicity at landing then, because of the exponential amping nature of kinetic energy, the combination of elastic (rebounding) and inelastic (skidding) collisions with the table will impart a huge amount of different rotations across the x, y, and z axes (pitch, roll, and yaw) between the two dice. Such tosses look great at normal speed, but in slow motion their true random nature can be seen and measured. As with a pitcher trying to throw successive pairs of identical curve balls, the precision necessary to do it with dice is beyond human capability. Period. And that's not even counting the pyramid-studded back wall! When you factor in the
pyramids, the whole concept becomes laughable.

Now, let's take a look at the last best hope for AP casino craps, namely, the Wong conjecture. Wong is a bright fellow, and he recognized from his early dice studies that maintaining on-axis
synchronicity was a pipe dream. So, still hopeful that craps could be beaten, he developed a more sophisticated theory that posits that, although the dice do not remain on axis with synchronicity after contact with the table and back-wall pyramids, there is a surviving
correlation between the two dice's rotations that can potentially reduce double-pitch 7s resulting in a positive ev for the player. Specifically, Wong asserted that although the pyramids scramble pitch, roll and yaw such that the axis that each die finally assumes will be
effectively randomized, a surviving correlation between the two dice may still remain because, (1) due to the law of conservation of energy, (2) the assertion that both dice start off with the same initial kinetic energy, and (3) the assertion that translational kinetic energy is not preferentially converted into rotational kinetic energy, the number of rotations that the two dice undergo across their x, y, z axes will remain closely correlated. In Wong’s own words:
“Ideally, the dice are still on axis and have equal speed and equal rotation when they hit the pyramids. The pyramids then randomize the axis of rotation of each die, and reduce the energy of each die approximately equally. As they leave the wall the dice have random and independent axes of rotation, but will rotate approximately the same number of times before coming to rest. Being approximately identical in position and motion when they hit the pyramids, and then rotating
approximately the same number of times after hitting the pyramids, (the end result should be) a scarcity of double pitches.”

Unfortunately, however, there are two fatal flaws to this conjecture. The first one is the fallacy that both dice start off with the same initial kinetic energy. They don't. Numerous empirical studies have shown that there is always a slight difference in the initial velocities and axial alignments of the two dice and, as previously discussed, because of the exponential amping nature of kinetic energy, these small differences result in big differences in the final
results. And, secondly, and just as important, the assertion that a rotational correlation between to two dice is maintained during the toss because translational kinetic energy is either not converted into rotational kinetic energy, or, if it is, it is converted to the same degree in both dice, is manifestly false. This is easily verified when slow-motion videos of expert tosses on regulation craps tables are examined and analyzed. For example, one die, say, bounces up from the table and squarely hits the base of one of the pyramids and rebounds back with little to no conversion of translational kinetic energy into rotational kinetic energy; the other die, however, bounces up and hits another pyramid, say, a little off center or a little higher up from its base and a significant amount of translational kinetic energy gets converted into (primarily roll and yaw) rotational kinetic energy. Anyone watching slow-motion videos of expert throws knows that this kind of scenario occurs on virtually every toss, and when it does any surviving rotational correlation is lost to randomness because one die ends up with significantly less translational kinetic energy than the other die, which results in less rotation than the other die when it lands and rolls to a final result.

So, with pitch, roll, yaw and rotation randomized by the table and the pyramids, the assumptions underpinning Wong's correlation conjecture, just as with the GTC on-axis conjecture, do not stand up to either theoretical analysis or the empirical evidence, and, consequently, no surviving correlation between the two dice can be assumed to survive a legal toss in real-world casino craps. And, again, extensive empirical studies over a five-year period back this conclusion up.

And finally, in April 2011, in a tacit admission that he had been wrong in believing casino craps could be legitimately beaten, Wong removed craps from the list of “Beatable Casino Games” on his popular website, and also removed the “Craps” discussion page from his site, as well. In addition, a few months later, in October 2011, in an interview on Bob Dancer’s popular KLAV radio program, “Gambling With an Edge,” Wong admitted that for players “who want to get serious about making money in casinos, craps is not the game to play.” That pretty much says it all.

So, blame it on Leibniz, blame it on God, or blame it on the exponential amping nature of kinetic energy, but real-world casino craps cannot be beaten. Period. But, hey, cheer up, maybe in another universe, far, far away Newton was actually right ;-).

Now, compare this modern casino game to the primitive WWII-era "blanket-roll" game, where the consensus is that a highly-skilled virtuoso p-shooter could, indeed, potentially gain a winning edge. What is apparent in such a comparison is that the two things that prevent beating the modern casino game -- namely, the exponential amping nature of kinetic energy, and the randomizing power of the back-wall pyramids -- were absent or neutralized in the blanket-roll
game. In the blanket-roll game there were no back-wall pyramids, and the soft, relatively high-friction army-style blanket was perfect for burning off kinetic energy very rapidly, thus effectively neutralizing kinetic energy’s amping nature. This makes for two very different
games, one potentially beatable, and the other not. They say casinos are born at night, but clearly not last night, as they have very effectively eliminated the exploitable weaknesses in the primitive blanket-roll game.

Now, even though all this means that so-called AP casino craps is left without any credible operational theory or supporting evidence, whatsoever, justifying a belief in its validity, I know none of it is going to have the slightest effect on the so-called AP craps gurus.
They'll just keep on beatin' the drums, pounding out that voodoo vibe for their faithful fans who are all too happy for a rationalization, any rationalization, to justify their inveterate gambling habits. And does any of it prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that casino craps
can't be beaten? No, it doesn't. We'll probably never have that kind of proof. But it does prove beyond a reasonable doubt that casino craps is unbeatable, and in an existential world that is enough for reasonable men. Are you reasonable? Well, are you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Loeb

Our guest on the show this week is attorney Bob Loeb.  Bob is based in Chicago, and is the coauthor of Blackjack and the Law.  On this show we talk about the disturbing trend of casinos confiscating player's chips, and about the case of a tribal court in Michigan that convicted two players of cheating for playing a hole card.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Anthony Curtis

Our guest this week is Anthony Curtis, owner of The Las Vegas Advisor and Huntington Press publishing.  We discuss what new books are coming out, as well as what is new in the world of "couponomy."  How to make money from casino coupons.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving treat.

I have made some crazy movies in my time, and most of them involved kickboxing.  But I never could have come up with this.  Here is my pitch - we put a kick boxing ring in a bull fighting arena in Spain.  (The producers will love this because it will help sales to foreign markets.)  And then we get a pair of rivals, one Dutch, and one French, you know, to help sales in those countries.  And to broaden our appeal we get 2 guys that are famous in some other "sport" that will bring in a bigger audience.  How about... PROFESSIONAL POKER PLAYERS!  Too late, it's already been done. The story I hear is that Bertrand ElkY Grospellier has taken up kick boxing recently, maybe after repeated viewings of Ring of Fire.  So he gets drunk one night and  says he thinks he can take Lex RasZi Veldhuis who has been known to have a street fight or two.  A match is made, money is bet.

Judging from this video they had a similar budget to what I used to work with, but I definitely could have given them some help with the camera angles.  And where are the girls?  Everyone knows kick boxing needs sexy girls.  Now for those of you with attention deficit disorder you can fast forward about 9 minutes in.  This really does look a lot like my son and his friends in the back yard.  Now all we need is a title. Maybe
I See Your Foot and Raise My Head
Bet The Flop

I welcome your alternate titles.  Now for any of you interested in one of my kick boxing extravaganzas you might check out Deadly Bet.  Extra credit for spotting the Hall-of-Fame blackjack player in a cameo appearance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My interview with BJ Traveller

I interviewed BJ Traveller back in 2003.  He is still galavanting around the world playing blackjack.

The Traveller

            When I read the blackjack message boards I often see people bemoaning the state of blackjack.  The casinos have gotten smarter, they have software to evaluate your play, and after only 25 years they have snapped to the “Big Player” approach.  The players who write these things have one thing in common—they’re Americans.  It’s a big world out there, and there are about 100 other countries that have casinos.  BJ Traveller would like to visit them all.  You won’t find a copy of The Big Player in the casino gift shop in Romania, or Blackjack Survey Voice in Cambodia.  Blackjack is alive and well, and living outside the United States.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Max Rubin

Our guest this week is Max Rubin, author of  Comp City, and one of the inventors of Bad Beat Blackjack. We talk to Max about the comp system at the MGM/Mirage properties, about a recent armed robbery at Barona Casino in San Diego, and what it entails to invent a new casino game.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest I. Nelson Rose

Our guest this week is Professor I. Nelson Rose, author of Gambling and the Law.  First Bob and I discuss the difference between professional and recreational gambling, and comp hustling.  With Professor Rose we discuss Full Tilt Poker, and we discuss your rights in casinos on Indian reservations.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nifty little baccarat scam

Here is a baccarat scam that was uncovered in the Philippines.  There is nothing new under the sun.  This is a move that Keith Taft called The Super Drop, and he was doing it back in the mid 1980s.  In his version of this scam players were allowed to cut the cards in blackjack by hand.  The cutter would riffle the edge of the deck before cutting, and a hidden camera would record the order of cards.  Mark Billings describes the move in detail in his book,The Ultimate Edge.  Be sure to watch the video to the end.
baccarat scam video

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guests Michael Shackleford and Avery Cardoza

We have two guests on our show this week.  First up is Michael Shackleford aka "The Wizard of Odds."  Mike is on to talk about the lack of any real data supporting dice control.  We also talk briefly about an online casino software that he busted for cheating at craps.  Our second guest is Avery Cardoza.  Avery is the owner of Cardoza publishing which is the largest publisher of gambling material in the world.  He is also the owner of Gamblers Book Club, a Las Vegas institution.  We discuss his new novel Lost in Las Vegas as well as what other new gambling books will be coming out soon.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Stanford Wong

Our guest this week is Stanford Wong. We discuss controlled dice throwing, and his book, Wong on Dice. Bob and I also discuss "scares" which in video poker means near misses of a royal flush, but in blackjack usually involves security guards.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Dice Control

Stanford Wong will be on Gambling With an Edge this week to talk about dice control, and his book, Wong on Dice. The book is not really a "How to" on dice control.  It reads more like a chronicle of how he got interested, what he did then to convince himself it was real, then his experiences in learning to do it, and finally the reactions of other professional gamblers resulting in a large wager. Throughout the book Wong mentions a class called Golden Touch which he took in learning dice control, and a book called, Get the Edge at Craps by Sharpshooter. So what is dice control?  Can you really throw two cellulite cubes six or more feet down a table and have the results not be random?  And more importantly, if you can develop this skill can you win any money at it?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Ed Miller

This week's guest is Ed Miller, author of Small Stakes No Limit Hold Em, and How to Read Hands, as well as 4 other books on poker.  We discuss win rates for Las Vegas ring games, how hard is it to learn to be a winning player, how long can you go on losing as a winning player, and his appearance on the TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Ed and Bob in the house.

Ed Miller podcast
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Small Stake No-Limit Hold Em by Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta, and Matt Flynn

We are having Ed Miller on the show this week, so I checked out some of his books. I am happy to say that Small Stakes No-Limit Hold Em is excellent. If you are a beginning or intermediate player this is a great book to start with if you are interested in cash games. Obviously many of the concepts will transfer to tournaments, but the focus is on 6 handed 1-2 or 2-5 games.

The book starts out explaining that much of your win rate comes from stealing blinds, and then explains different approaches to this. It explains value betting with good hands, the 3-bet 4-bet 5-bet game, isolating players, and more. One of the things I found most helpful was explaining stack to pot ratios. That is, choosing the size of your bets not just on the size of the pots, but on the size of your stacks. This is nothing new, but I thought it was very well explained in this book.

There are two things that might give the reader pause, but don't let this dissuade you. The first is that all of their examples are based on online 6-handed games. My experience in 9-handed ring games is that there is much more limping, and rarely can you steal the blinds outright. But the majority of the info will apply to larger ring games. The second thing is the chapter on "profiling opponents using stats." This was an eye-opener to me. I have not played a lot of online poker, and that is no longer possible in the US. I was aware that you could look up stats on all the online players at the major poker sites, but had never done it. What a mistake! In the book they show you what stats are available, and how to use them. It's like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. As regular readers of this site know I believe online poker will be back, and soon. If that happens this book moves from just an excellent book to a "must have."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

California jumps into the free online poker market

Saturday California opened their own free online poker site. I'm not the only one who believes that legal online poker is coming soon, and everyone is trying to position themselves to capitalize. The CA site is called and is operated by a group called COPA, the California Online Poker Association. This is a coalition of CA card rooms like the Commerce, and Bicycle, along with various Indian tribes like Morongo and San Manuel. You can see all the members here This group is spending millions of dollars lobbying in CA in an effort to control online poker when the law gets passed.
I checked out the site.

The Good
They are using Playtech software so the site is miles ahead of the South Point site. The graphics are much better, you can make notes about the players, you can change backgrounds, although I really would like an option of no background, and you can use 4-color decks which I like. Two other very good features, you can play in a browser version if you don't want to download, and you can log in as a guest if you don't want to give them any information. (Obviously that will have to change if and when they are allowed to play for real money.)

The Bad
I couldn't resize the window. The cards and betting amounts are a bit hard to read so I would like to be able to make the whole screen bigger. I was using the browser version so maybe this is better in the download version.

The Ugly
On each player's turn a large clock face appears at their spot and counts down 15 seconds. It is too large, and annoying. You do have a time bank of an additional 30 seconds that you can use if you have a tough decision.

The Stupid
You can buy virtual gifts and drinks for other players. They call this "social gaming" and are planning a facebook app. So what? You're going to buy virtual drinks for some dude pretending to be a girl, and then go to Farmville and hook up in a cucumber patch? Just show me the money.

I hear that Barona will be launching their own free site soon, so this will compete for CA players. I'll let you know when it comes out, and give it a review.

Friday, October 14, 2011

South Point free online poker site. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

On our show last night we discussed the fact the South Point has opened a free online poker site. I believe you will start to see these springing up like weeds starting with Caesar's and MGM, but who knows, maybe even the Cal Neva will try to get into the act with a site that features 30-year-old beer-soaked carpeting. These businesses all believe that legalized online poker will be coming very soon, and they all want to be ready. They want to start building their data bases, and trying to induce customer loyalty. As your intrepid reporter I dutifully downloaded the software and signed up.

The Good
1. It's free. (Notice this list is very short.)

The Bad
1. The software looks and feels like online poker from 10 years ago. It is slow and clunky.
2. You can't resize the table windows.
3. The graphics are poor, and because you can't resize the window it is hard to read.
4. The buttons for call, fold etc are too small and react slowly.
5. The speed makes you feel like you are on a dial-up connection.
6. You can't change the background or make notes on the other players.

The Very Ugly
1. Every window is rimmed with annoying flashing advertising. Just what you want when you are looking at the screen trying to make a decision, 5 different ads in 10 different colors flashing away at different rates.

As you can see my opinion is that this software is not ready for prime time. But I guess that is exactly why they are rolling it out now, to learn from mistakes, iron out the kinks, and be ready when the real money hits the felt. Let's hope other casinos do better.

If anyone else checks it out I'm interested in your thoughts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Michael Kaplan

Our guest this week is Michael Kaplan. Michael is the author of Aces and Kings: Inside Stories and Million-Dollar Strategies From Poker's Greatest Players which is a great book with New Yorker type profiles of all the top poker players.  He is also the gambling writer for Cigar Aficionado magazine which has lead him into becoming an advantage player at both poker and blackjack.  In this episode we talk about his travelling to Hong Kong for an article on horse racing, and his learning to play poker as a winning player.

Click to listen - Alt click to download

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Darren Hay

Our guest this week was Darren Hay.  Darren is a video poker expert from the east coast.  Bob and I also discuss the case of 2 players from Poker Stars that were arrested at the Wynn for dice scooting, and the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) which was in town this week.
Click to listen. Alt click to download.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Notes from G2E

The G2E (Global Gaming Expo) was in Las Vegas this week so I headed in to check things out. In the past it was always held at the Hilton Convention Center, but this year the dates were moved up, and the convention was moved to the Sands Convention Center.

Used slots?  Looks like the economy is hitting everyone hard.
While glancing through one of the show magazines I came across some interesting tidbits.  On Monday they had a seminar in: How to eject patrons without visibility or liability. Man am I sorry I missed that one.

In an interview with Penn Gillette he mentions that Gary Loveman (CEO of Caesars) told him that prior to running Harrah's not only had he never worked in a casino, he had never been in a casino.  Say what?!  Now I understand why all the Harrah's properties are the way they are.

Of course I had to run by the Shuffle Master booth.  They always employ the hottest models.  They must get a first round pick every year.
New Blackjack table

The shoe reads every card that is dealt out and reports the totals here on a screen in the rack.  Surveillance can log into any table and also follow what is going on. This is not a continuous shuffler.  There is a shuffle machine mounted behind it so they still have to open the shoe and switch in a new deck when time to shuffle. I asked the man there from Shuffle Master if he can see the composition of the remaining cards in the shoe.  His eyes got big as if I had just caught him with his hands in the cookie jar.  "Oh no.  No one can log in and see that."  Right, I'm sure.

Lots of people trying to sell these electronic tables for every game.
Typical gamblers, more interested in the games than a girl on a stripper pole.
A lot of companies were clearly trying to class up the joint.
Surveillance companies were there showing off the latest gear.

And an oldie but goodie.

There didn't seem to be anyone manning the booth.  I guess even the sellers know it doesn't work.

This company told me they train casinos to spot fake IDs.  You  know,
because underage kids go in and try to drink alcohol.
The other area of interest for me is the new games section.  Everyone wants to develop the next big hit like 3 Card Poker.  Here is 3 Card Craps.
This is for states like CA where they aren't allowed to use dice. I hope I end up liking this game as much as I like 3 Card Poker.

Here is a nice man named Max trying to sell his game Bad Beat Blackjack.
Would you buy a casino game from this man?
Looks like a shifty eyed degenerate to me.

That's it for this year's G2E.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Nersesian 2

Bob Nersesian returned this week, and was as passionate and interesting as his first visit.  This week we discuss your rights in Indian casinos, (you have none) silver mining (whether it is legal for you to take credits you find in a slot machine), earning comps under a fake name, and much more. Click the podcast link on the right to hear his first visit, and the interview link to see my print interview with Bob.

Click to listen or Alt-click to download

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Steve Cyr

Our guest this week was Steve Cyr, Super host. He is the subject of the book, Whale Hunt in the Desert which contains many of his crazier exploits.  On the show we talk about loss rebates for big players, his controversial quote, "Stars are stiffs," and what a host can do for you.
Click to Listen Alt-click to download

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Michael Konik

Our guest tonight was Michael Konik.  Michael is an actor, singer, and painter, but mostly Michael is a writer.  For over 5 years he was the gambling writer for Cigar Aficionado magazine, and has written 7 books.  Tonight was focus on his book, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts.  The title character won a $100,000 bet by putting in breast implants and keeping them for one year.  It is now 15 years later and he still has the implants!  What is up with that?
Click to listen.  Alt-click to download

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Steve Fezzik

Our guest on the show this week is sports handicapping legend, Steve Fezzik.  Steve has won the Hilton Football Super Contest not once, but twice.  In this episode we talk about the difference between betting for a contest, and betting to get the money.  We discuss sports bettors being barred from casinos, and what happened when he won 4 ten-team parlays.
Click to listen. Alt-click to download

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Raiser's Edge

I was in college in Chicago in the 70s.  When not in class I would spend my time at a bridge, and backgammon club called The North Club.  The club was filled with bridge bums, backgammon sharks, gin rummy kibitzers, and in the afternoons we would get an influx of options traders.  At that time the Black–Scholes formula was new, and the smart guys, the guys who understood the math, were vacuuming up the money. Huge edges were to be had because these guys were playing the game at an entirely different level.

That was what I kept thinking about as I read, The Raiser's Edge: Tournament-Poker Strategies for Today's Aggressive Game.  Because of the internet where players can play 10 or 20 tables at a time at double the speed of a live table, and tracking software that has databases of millions of hands, and quants applying game theory to poker, the game has taken a giant leap forward.  This book is not for beginners.  It is dense, has many charts, and will need to be read many times to be fully understood.  But this is the future of poker.  10 years ago you never would have seen a chapter like, "Equilibrium solutions for 3 and 4-betting."  I believe you will start to see more and more chapters like that.  Just as computers are now the best chess players, and backgammon players, within 10 years I believe computers will be the best poker players.

The authors in this book talk about how fast the game is evolving.  Things that were working and profitable a year ago no longer are.  If you want to try to ride this wave, to get on the curve since no one can be ahead of it anymore, then you need to read this book, and the avalanche of books like it that are sure to come.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - Guest Andy Bloch

Gambling With an Edge for September 1, 2011.  Our guest is Andy Bloch, professional poker player with over $5 million in tournament winnings.  He is also a former member of the MIT blackjack team.  This is the team portrayed in the movie 21.  In this episode we talk about the movie, about Andy being arrested in Monte Carlo for being a card counter, and about his famous heads up match against Chip Reese in the WSOP HORSE event a few years ago.
Click to listen - Alt-click to download

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our guest this week - Andy Bloch

This week on Gambling With an Edge our guest will be Andy Bloch.  Andy is a professional poker player with over 5 million dollars in tournament poker winnings.  Before moving into poker he was part of the MIT blackjack team which was the basis for the movie 21.  We'll ask him if all the girls at MIT look like Kate Bosworth.  If you are not familiar with the MIT team I have posted my interview with John & Laurie C.  John was one of the inspirations for the Kevin Spacey character in the movie.  You can see the interview below or just click the link on the right.  Be sure to check back Friday for the podcast of our show, or subscribe in itunes and get your episodes delivered to you every week.

My interview with John & Laurie C. - MIT Blackjack team

This interview was conducted in 2002

The history of blackjack has many roots at MIT.   Ed Thorp, author of Beat the Dealer, did his original computer analysis at MIT on their computer.  When Resorts International opened in 1978 a group of MIT students combined forces to attack the casino, and the “MIT Team” was born.  Though there were players from other schools, who refer to it as the “Boston Team,” the casinos labeled it the MIT team, and the name stuck.   Alumni from the team have gone on to great things.  Joel Friedman was the pioneer of risk-averse betting strategies, which he wrote about in his landmark 1980 paper. He also published in the Gambling Conference papers, on Kelly Criterion and optimal simultaneous wagers.  Other players went on to create Windows 3, and Windows NT.  Players have come and gone, the team has morphed and split into factions, but for over twenty years there has been a constant. His name is Johnny C.  I sat down with John and his wife Laurie, who is another member of the team.

Friday, August 26, 2011

We're now in itunes!

I'm happy to say that you can now download Gambling With an Edge to your iphone, ipod, ipad, or whatever.  Just go to the itunes store and search Gambling With an Edge.

Gambling With an Edge - guest Al Francesco

Gambling With an Edge for 8/25/11.  Our guest was Al Francesco who invented the "Big Player" style of play for beating blackjack and fooling casinos.  Listen to our interview here, and you can also read my print interview with him by clicking the interviews link on the right.

Click to listen or alt-click to download mp3.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Al Francesco Interview

Al Francesco is one of the original 7 people voted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. He hasn’t written any books, but Al is one of the first people to apply the theory to the tables, and take the cash out of the casinos. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gambling With an Edge guest Vinny DeCarlo

Our guest on Gambling With an Edge this week was Vinny Decarlo, surveillance expert.  Vinny dispels once and for all the myth of facial recognition software,and tells you why you should be aware of the straw in your drink.  We also talked about driving with cash, controversy in the Epic Poker League, and a little about lines of credit.
Vinny DeCarlo interview
Alt Click to download the mp3.  Left click to listen now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This week's guest - Vinny DeCarlo

This week on Gambling With an Edge our guest will be Vinny DeCarlo.  For the last 30 years Vinny has worked both sides of the table.  He has been an advantage player, and worked for the casinos, starting out as a valet parking cars, to dealer, pit boss, casino management, but most of his time he has spent in surveillance rooms. He currently travels the U.S. and abroad as a private consultant to casinos.  He is the author of, How To Beat Casino Surveillance, and writes a monthly column for the Blackjack Insider.

If you have questions for Vinny you can post them here or at my facebook page

The show airs live at KLAV 1230am in Las Vegas at 7pm PST, or you can catch the podcast here which I put up on Friday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Nersesian #2

Bob Nereseian is a practicing attorney in Las Vegas.  Since 1995 he has been one of the few lawyers willing to handle cases for players. He has sued numerous casinos, metro police, Gaming Control, and many would say he is responsible for bankrupting the Griffin Agency.  During the interview he showed his enthusiasm, and passion for standing up for the rights of players.  Some of the topics we covered in this show, carrying cash in airports, lines of credit, whether you have to carry ID, and whether you have to show it if asked.  We also talked a lot about what to do and not do if back-roomed in a casino.  This show is a must-listen for any serious casino player.  Enjoy!

Bob Nersesian interview
Alt Click to download the mp3.  Left click to listen now.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bob Nersesian - an advocate for players

I started playing blackjack in the 1970s, and for as long as I have been playing the casinos have abused players. Players have been forced into the backroom, had their pictures taken against their will, bounced off walls, beaten severely, had things stolen from them, and I had one team mate who a security guard threatened with a pair of pliers telling him he would rip his eye out while he was handcuffed to a chair.  Players would report it to the police who would shrug it off.  They would try to find a lawyer to sue the casinos, and hear, "not interested". Finally there is an advocate for players.  Bob was no afraid to sue casinos, has sued Gaming Control, and tried suing agents individually as well.  He has successfully sued The Griffin Agency and I think it is safe to say he was instrumental in them going bankrupt.  Clearly a hero for players. In 2006 he wrote a book called Beat the Players: Casinos, Cops And the Game Inside the Game
 which is must reading for any serious player.

Gambling With an Edge - guest Annie Duke

Last night was my first night co-hosting Gambling With an Edge with Bob Dancer.  Our guest was Annie Duke, and I think the show went well, although I definitely said, "Uhh" way too many times.  I'm sure that will get better as I get more used to this.  Annie was great.  She is extremely busy right now as commissioner of the Epic Poker League which has its first event today.  You will be hearing a lot about the Epic League very shortly and next month it will start showing up on TV.  Check out the show and I look forward to your comments.
Gambling With an Edge - guest Annie Duke
Alt Click to download the mp3.  Left click to listen now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New radio show starts Thursday 8/4/2011

The big announcement is here.  Beginning Thursday 8/4 I will be a co host of Gambling With an Edge with Bob Dancer.  Our first guest will be Annie Duke, professional poker player and author. Her new book is Decide to Play Great Poker, and is the commissioner of the Epic Poker League which starts at the Palms 8/5.  I'm sure we will be talking about both, but if you have questions you want me to ask let me know.

You can listen to the show live Thursdays at 7pm PST at and I will try to post a downloadable version of the show here every week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pocket Aces

I wanted to clear up something about pocket aces that so many people get wrong.  First 2 situations.

A. You are in a no limit hold em cash game, and someone shoves all in.  You wake up with pocket aces, and of course you call.  Everyone else folds so you are now heads up.

B. You sit down with a bunch of drunken crazies, and some guy says, "Let's everyone go all in on the first hand."   You look down at pocket aces before committing, and lo and behold everyone shoves in their stack so there are now 10 of you all in.

In which situation are you happier?  We hear it all the time right, "Aces want to play heads up."  Even books by pros say things like, Why would you want to be 30% to win when heads up you can be over 80%?  Here are some numbers for pocket aces.

AA vs:
1 opp: 88%
2 opp: 76%
3 opp: 68%
6 opp: 44%
9 opp: 34%

Let's say that all players have $1,000.  So in example A you win 88% of the time, and the pot is $2,000 which means your ev. is $1,760.  In example B. you win 34% of a pot that is $10,000 or an ev. of $3,400.  You win almost twice as much.  Yes, you lose 2/3 of the time but when you win you win a lot more.

This is the same mistake that people make when they say you should always insure a blackjack.  "You always get paid."  Yes, you always get paid, just not enough.  For these people who insist that you should always insure a blackjack I would like to offer a slot machine where you "always get paid."  Every spin you put in $1 and I'll return 92 cents.  You get paid every time!  Such a deal.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Decide To Play Great Poker

Decide to Play Great Poker: A Strategy Guide to No-limit Texas Hold Em
is a new book by Annie Duke, and John Vorhaus.  Annie and John have a light conversational style that makes this a fun read.  It is geared to the beginning and intermediate player.  This is not a "set of problems" book, like the books by Dan Harrington.  This is much more like Theory of Poker, by David Sklansky.  (Theory of Poker is a must-read for any serious player.)  The idea is to teach you how to think about your poker decisions, and the book does this quite effectively.

The thesis of the book is that every move you make at the poker table is a decision.  Every decision should have a sound reason behind it, and your goal is to make your own decisions easier.  They take you through this starting with pre-game decisions and then moving to pre-flop.  A lot of the book is devoted to analyzing flopping top pair.  Top pair is a tricky hand to play, especially for newer players.  A,Q is used to illustrate your thinking when an ace hits the flop.  They talk about being in position, out of position, heads up versus multi-way.  You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about the hand Ace, Queen.  But it isn't really about Ace, Queen.  It is about deciding, do I bet, raise, call, or fold.  And how much do I bet or raise, and why that amount?

There are a few very important concepts in this book that pros take for granted, but often amateurs never learn. Here is one example: Many amateur players get to the river, and think, "I have the best hand.  I should bet." But often, if they really thought about it, they would know that their opponent is never going to call unless he hit that miracle card and has you beat.  Your bet can only lose money.  Most times he folds and your bet gained nothing, and sometimes he raises and you either fold or call and get beat.  There is no reason to bet.  If you have never considered this, then this book will pay for itself hundreds of times over.

The book is a bit long at almost 450 pages, but I give it 3 1/2 aces.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Acting auditions


Actors hate to audition, but they are a necessary part of the business, and remember, for all but the top stars the acting business is 90% business and 10% talent.  Following are the mistakes I saw over and over again at auditions.

1.  Bring your picture and resume.  I constantly had actors say, "Didn't my agent send it over?"  Well yes, but there are 2 producers, a director, and 2 casting directors here and if more than 1 of them wants your resume you should be able to hand it over.  In fact, you should always have a stack in the trunk of your car.  You never know who your going to run into at the mall.

2. Attitude.  When I first started directing I was amazed at the attitude many actors walk in with.  Sort of a "Who are you and why should I be auditioning for you?" type thing.  Maybe this is due to their insecurity or nervousness, but who needs it.  Hire a shrink and act like your happy to be there.

3.  Over dress.  Whether consciously or unconsciously we are going to see you as more professional if you are in a suit or a dress.  Dress to fit the character but when in doubt, lean to excess.  If you come in to read for a teacher, wear a suit.  Many producers lack imagination.  I did a film where the lead was supposed to be a wealthy, sophisticated, fashion model.  MOST of the women showered up in jeans or schmata dresses with no makeup.  One girl in particular (who is a model) showed up with stringy hair, no makeup, and jeans, but gave a good reading.  The producer couldn't see her as sophisticated even though there were a lot of shots in her book that showed her this way.  We had her in for a callback, and the casting director told her to come with a sophisticated look.  Well, she wore a dress, but still had stringy hair and no makeup. Thank you, NEXT.

4. Do your homework.  By this I mean study the sides and read the script if you have access.  (If you're coming in to read for an under 5 don't ask for the script.)  But equally important is to find out who you're auditioning for.  Go to the store and look up the director.  Watch some of his movies.  Also look up the casting directors and producers.  All your looking for is a way to start conversation.  It always helps when an actor comes in and says, "I'm from Chicago too."  Or "I saw your movie on cable last week".

Now lets talk about the actual acting part of all this.

5. Make a bold choice.  95% of the actors (maybe more) who come in are going to read in one of two ways. They either make no choice and every line sounds the same, or they make the obvious choice and all get angry on the same line, and quiet on the same line.  If you want to get noticed make the boldest choice you can imagine with as many variations as possible.  One possibility would be to look at the sides and say, here is where most actors will get angry, here they'll get sad, here they will laugh,  and you do the opposite.  If you do this we will be blown away.  We have seen that scene 147 times in the last few hours and suddenly it's different.  Now you must be prepared to say...

6.  "Would you like me to do it again?"  I have another take on the character if you want.  What a great thing.  Now you get to audition twice, and I guarantee you will be remembered.  But, when you do it again it must be different.

7.  If asked to read for another role make it as different as possible.  I had an actor audition for a role, and we asked him to read for another part.  When he came in for the second reading he used a southern accent and changed the way he walked.  He was completely different than his first reading and he got the part.  In the movie I didn't have him use the accent but it did show me his range.

8. Take no for an answer.  If you finish your reading, and we say, Thank you, next” feel free to ask if we would like to see something different.  But if we say no, that we’ve seen enough then let it go.  You are not going to change our minds at that point, and if you get too argumentative or desparate it could ruin chances for future auditions.  Good manners help.

That's it for now.  Next time I'll talk about what to do & not do once you have the job.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just getting started.

Hello world!  I'm just getting started on this blog so still a lot of work to do.