Ken Smith BlackjackInfo Interview
The third interview in our Best Blackjack Sites series is with Ken Smith from BlackjackInfo.
Ken Smith’s Blackjack Info website is one of the premiere resources for advantage blackjack players. Blackjack Info has one of the most active blackjack forums containing a wealth of information for players of all skill levels, including for active card counters.
Ken Smith is an advantage player himself and is very active on the site and forum. He has written an ebook How to Win More Blackjack Tournaments and is generally regarded as one of the leaders in advantage play at casinos.
Kendall: After reviewing some of your history, I can tell you’ve been playing for quite a while and been dominating the Blackjack Tournament scene. Is playing and writing about blackjack your full time job?
Ken: I have diversified quite a bit over the last few years. I do play and compete full-time, but blackjack and tournaments no longer account for the majority of my casino activities.
More time these days is spent at other games and chasing various promotions.
Kendall: Are there any other casino games you are interested in as much as you are with Blackjack?
Ken: I’m willing to look at anything on the casino floor that can potentially yield a profit. These days that can encompass almost anything. Video poker is often my game of choice these days for both promotions and generating valuable mail offers. Very occasionally there are even promotions where it makes sense to play slot machines! Last week I did a promotion that excluded video poker, but still had value on the slots. I estimated my expected profit at $3000, and I came in just under that.
Kendall: You have one of the most popular blackjack (www.blackjackinfo.com) and blackjack tournament (www.blackjacktournaments.com) sites out there – how much are you involved in the daily activities and updates with both of them?
Ken: I still manage a fair amount of time working on updates for the sites, and I have a very long list of projects planned. (Of course!) Even so, a busy casino schedule can make it tough to update the sites as often as I would like. Fortunately, on the message boards I get great help from my excellent volunteer moderators.
Kendall: I can tell there is a lot of useful information for blackjack enthusiasts on your sites, however, what additional resources do you recommend for players looking to become advantage blackjack players? Such as strategy, books to read, or anything else that has helped you.
Ken: Blackjack is probably the most heavily researched casino game ever and there are a lot of excellent books on the topic. The two I recommend most frequently are Blackjack Bluebook II by Fred Renzey and Play Blackjack Like the Pros by Kevin Blackwood. These and others are available in the store at my site.
Kendall: Seeing that you are an avid player – pro in other words – have you ever relied on card counting while playing at casinos? Any close calls with casino employees while card counting?
Ken: Like any player who gets good at blackjack, I’ve had my share of run-ins with pit personnel. My notoriety certainly doesn’t help. Last year I was playing blackjack during a valuable promotion when I was approached by someone who recognized me from my TV appearances and asked for my autograph at the table. The other players at my table and the dealer were obviously very curious at that point, but I dodged their questions with vague answers that didn’t really satisfy them. I actually finished my session without a problem, but was backed-off immediately when I arrived the following day. Being recognized can be expensive!
Kendall: I know you got started playing blackjack around 1990 – however, why did you choose blackjack, and how long did it take you to master the game?
Ken: Blackjack remains the easiest way for a starting player to get an edge in the casino. Beatable games are still widely available although you have to be more careful than when I started. Card counting is easier than it sounds, and anyone willing to practice a little can learn to get an edge. I spent a few weeks of my spare time studying and practicing the game before I felt like I was ready for the casino. At that point it was a pretty easy transition.
Kendall: Are there any sections on one of your blackjack sites that you are especially fond of? Any new sections to look forward to?
Ken: The original highlight of the BlackjackInfo site was the popular Basic Strategy Engine, where you get a customized strategy for any particular set of blackjack rules. It remains a staple to this day, and has delivered millions of free strategy charts over the years. But my vote for best feature these days goes to the message board, without a doubt. We have a tremendous community of savvy players that do a great job of answering just about any question that gets posted.
Looking ahead, a nice feature coming soon is a free introductory book on blackjack by Eliot Jacobson. His book “The Blackjack Zone” will be an excellent addition to the existing blackjack school on the site.
Kendall: Any thoughts for the players in regards to gambling and online gambling?
Ken: Casinos are designed to separate players from their money as quickly as possible these days so you owe it to yourself to prepare for the games. Learn which games to play, and know the best strategies to use. I realize that for the vast majority of players, casino gambling remains an entertainment rather than a way to make an income. Even so, winning is far more entertaining than losing. Put some time into studying the games, and the effort will pay dividends on every casino visit in your future, whether you play at land-based casinos or online.
Oh, and if you see me in the casino, I’ll be happy to give you an autograph. Just ask me away from the table please!
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