The month of January, 1982 was exceptionally cold in Chicago. I recall this because when my brother called me from Las Vegas, and said that if I learned how to play he could get me onto a blackjack team, it took me all of four seconds to say: “Leave a light on in the window, I’m on my way!”


That first team was probably one of the most sloppily run teams of all time. We had plenty of good players, but also quite a few marginal ones. The good ones moved on, and the bad ones fell out. We started out simply counting cards, and I distinguished myself by quickly losing more than everyone else on the team – put together! Since almost no one was winning this did not bode well. Chuck, head of the infamous Czech Team refinanced us, and we changed direction, learning the ins and outs of hole card play – mostly first basing, with a little front loading, but no spooking. Just about the time we pulled into the black, I learned to shuffle track. Some friends put together a small bankroll to back three of us, and we had a great run. Then we hit the bankroll from hell. It was nice to be the big winner, but unfortunately my winnings couldn’t offset the others’ losses, and by the time they started to win, I began a downhill slide. Depression gave way to despair, gave way to apathy, and nine months in the bankroll broke down 50%. I tucked my tail between my legs, returned to Chicago, and vowed never to play this rotten game again.


There was nothing wrong with the weather in Chicago in April, 1987, but I hit the road anyway. Some old friends called from Vegas with a deal too good to pass on. If I would brush up on my counting and shuffle tracking, learn a set of team signals, and a bunch of new rules and indices, they had work for me. Two weeks later I was en route to Korea. I loved Korea, and while I didn’t exactly love the casinos (anyone who LOVES the casinos should not gamble for a living), I loved the rules. Five-card surrender (actually a half win, not a half loss), Berlin shuffles, early surrender – what a country! I ate a lot of kimchi, took Korean classes at Ewha University, the Vassar of Korea, and lost my heart a couple of times. I didn’t really make any money (with exquisite timing, inspired by my earlier experiences, I chose not to work on percentage – oops!)


A year later another group of friends – Tommy Hyland has forsaken anonymity, so I can drop his name – called from Atlantic City. I spent a couple of years bouncing between A.C. and Seoul, with side trips to Inchon and Pusan. I scouted Malaysia for my friends, and spent considerable time visiting unlikely spots: Thailand, the Philippines, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. (And more mundane spots like Baraga, Michigan and Shakopee, Minnesota.) As is usually the case, the good games changed for the worse. There are still games out there, but I haven’t played in several years, and don’t expect to again. Wait! There’s my phone. Pardon me; I have to take this call…


Blackjack Photos


21 Pro Power Course