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BlackjackInfo News: Issue 21E - February 13, 2004

This Issue includes:

Frontier Frustration

Well, maybe Frontier Frustration overstates my feelings a little, but I just couldn't resist the alliteration. I am frustrated, but not about the Frontier tournament really. I'm frustrated by a pair of decisions I made today.

Today could have been a marathon for me, as it was for Mohammad Radmanesh who took home the top prize of $27,100 after winning 4 rounds today. My own play however, was brief. I played only 16 hands today in the tournament.

I've long advocated conservative play in tournaments, but over the last 12 to 18 months I've tempered my views a lot. I've seen a lot of very successful tournament players who weren't nickle-betting their way to the end. I revised my game plan somewhat, and I started playing a little more aggressively earlier in the rounds. I think my reasoning was sound. I began to believe that playing however the other players aren't has value. If everyone at the table is a minimum-betting rock, why not take advantage by hoping to win a few big hands?

But the fact remains that an early lead really isn't worth very much. Lots can happen before the end of the round. Today, I made a decision to be a little more aggressive, but there were two problems with the decision. One, several other players at the table were making medium sized bets. And two, I really went on tilt once I lost my initial bet.

On hand 12, I decided to take a little shot to win $30, which would put me back in the middle of the pack. My initial $300 had dwindled to $280 after losing some minimum bets. Now, a $30 bet wouldn't amount to much in most events, but at the Frontier the max bet is only $100, so $30 can be a big deal. Still, I figured a $30 win at that time was worth the risk, and I was probably right. However, after I lost the $30, I still wanted to accomplish the goal, so I followed it up with a $65 bet. I lost that as well.

At that point, the dealer shuffled the cards (six decks), and the other players all bet $5, $10 or $15 on the first hand of the next shoe. I reasoned that I'd need to make up the ground sometime, so I may as well do it now. One of my oft-repeated maxims is to make bold decisions. Once you decide to make a bet, make it a decisive one. That's valuable advice, and it applied here. I don't think a medium sized bet has much value in this spot. Pulling back to minimum bets however does. By my comments, you should be able to guess what I bet, and the result.

With a max bet of $100, and my bankroll at $185, I split my money. I bet $92.50 and lost the hand. On the following hand, I went all-in with my last $92.50 and lost that as well. I had turned $280 into zero in four hands.

I don't regret the first $30 bet, and I don't regret the last $92.50 bet. But those middle two big losses were the wrong play. My reason for betting the $30 was no longer a good enough reason to risk $65. And, even after losing two hands and $95, there was no legitimate reason to put the entire round at risk immediately by betting half my bank. Lots of things can happen before the end of the round. As the totals ended up at the table, my $185 would have put me in third place going into the last hand, behind totals of $290 and $225. And that assumes that I never was able to make a decent catch-up bet before then.

Of course, everything would have been different with me still in the game, but still, I don't like my decision on those two hands. It's always easy to assume after a losing decision that the other alternative was far superior, but here I think it really is. Five years ago, I would never have made that play. I paid for a lesson today that I had learned already long ago. My strength in this game, and my advantage, lie mostly in end play. If I take myself out of the game before I get to the end play, I've nullified much of my advantage.

So, I lost an additional $300 bank today, bringing my cost for the Frontier event to $990. That's $600 in entry fees, and $390 in playing losses. The good news is that I had a great time here, playing, talking to other players, commiserating with the unfortunate, and congratulating the winners. The next event is April 8th and 9th. I don't know if my schedule will allow it, but I'd sure to love to be here.

The End of a Week-Long Odyssey

Writing these has actually been pretty interesting, though it took a lot more time than I expected. I got a huge number of well wishes via email, and I know some of you have enjoyed living through these events vicariously. I've also had a tremendous amount of fun at the tournament tables this week. I had some interesting decisions, and made some plays that I'm proud of. I think my play at the Stardust, though unsuccessful, was the best I've ever played. I felt completely in control of the situation, understanding all the nuances of the decisions I made. That's a powerful feeling, and it's one I can only hope to replicate in future circumstances.

I haven't had as much time to enjoy being in Vegas this week, but that's OK. I'm out here pretty often these day, several times a year. In fact, I'll be returning in just a couple of weeks with my wife Jan, and we'll both be trying to qualify for the Hilton Million II.

If you've followed this odyssey this far, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to you as a reader. I hope I've succeeded in bringing some of the excitement of these events home to you. I honestly believe that tournament blackjack is at the threshold of a new era. The upcoming TV coverage (see the next item!) should generate a lot of new interest in the game. I hope I'll see some of you at future events.

Tournament Blackjack on TV

Some of you probably saw the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament Finals on the Travel Channel recently. I was excited to see the event broadcast, although the production was not up to the standards that I had hoped. However, tournament blackjack is getting a second shot, and I think this time we'll all be pleased with the coverage.

The weekend before the Superbowl, January 24th and 25th, I was invited to participate in a blackjack tournament staged exclusively for TV. The Game Show Network invited 25 players to play for a quarter million in prize money over the weekend. The resulting shows will air starting March 15th, weekly for seven weeks. Game Show Network is becoming "GSN", and they're beginning to produce some of their own shows. "World Series of Blackjack" is slated to be the very first show broadcast by the new network. There are a lot of great people involved in this production, and they have the tools to make this an exceptional broadcast.

I had a fantastic time at the event, which was held at Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. I can't disclose any results of the game, so you'll all have to tune it to see how it goes. I really believe this will be the beginning of a great new era in tournament blackjack. Just look at what has happened in the world of Texas Hold'em Poker after the extensive TV coverage there. Tournaments are bigger than ever, and poker rooms are overflowing with new players. We could see the same reaction for blackjack events. I hope so.

Unlucky in Cards, Lucky in Love

I may have been unlucky in cards this week, but I'm very blessed in the love department. I've been married to my wonderful wife for nearly 12 years, and I couldn't ask for a better life partner and soul mate.

Jan, you are my heart, and I can't wait to see you when I arrive home late on Valentine's Day. I love you dearly. Happy Valentines!


Finally we reach the end. See ya on the tournament trail, -Ken-


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