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Blackjack Apprenticeship

BlackjackInfo News: Issue 33 - July 6, 2007

This Issue includes:

It's been a long time

I've lost count of how many faithful subscribers have emailed me to let me know that something must be wrong because they haven't been receiving the newsletters. Well, I'm afraid the explanation is simple. I haven't produced a newsletter since last September. Why? Well, it all started about ten months ago...

In the last issue, I mentioned several cool things coming up on my schedule, including Ultimate Blackjack Tour events in Aruba and St Kitts. I managed to make it to a final table at both of those tour stops, so I'll be back on CBS when they air.

Heading to Aruba for a big tournament felt like a real watershed moment. That one event seemed to encapsulate all that was right in the world of tournament blackjack. There's no way I could have realized at the time that Aruba was indeed the pinnacle of these developments, and its passing presaged a precipitous fall.

There I was, hanging out over cocktails at a beach-side bar in beautiful Aruba, celebrating a final table finish and enjoying the good life. And, good it was. I had recently landed a multi-year personal sponsorship deal from one of the biggest online casino companies, visitor counts at my two sites were regularly breaking records, and the future of tournament blackjack was very bright.

It was that very night when the first sounds of trouble arose. Standing around the bar, we began hearing breaking news from two thousand miles away, in Washington DC. It seems that the Senate had been working late on their last day in session, and as their last official act of business for the term, they had passed the Port Security Act, a much-needed improvement in securing our ocean ports against terrorist threats. However, there was more. An unrelated bill had been attached to the Port bill, where its passage was safely assured, despite most members of the Senate not even being fully aware of the contents. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was now on the way to becoming law, just awaiting the President's signature.

Many previous bills restricting or prohibiting online gambling had been proposed over the last few years, but all were eventually defeated. This one wasn't. Instead, when President Bush signed it into law on October 13th, the online gambling world changed completely. For my sites, it meant that I removed all sign of online gambling advertisements, if you visit the sites from inside the US. (That's 75% of the site traffic by the way.) For the gambling companies themselves, it was clear that this would be a devastating blow. In the next few weeks, billions of dollars in market value disappeared into thin air as the publicly traded stocks of reputable online gambling companies were dumped by investors, as if leaving a sinking ship.

The law itself has been discussed a lot online, so I won't go into the details of just what is prohibited. Instead, I'll focus on the effect. The passage of the law finally gave legitimacy to the Justice Department's longstanding stance against online gambling. In the opinion of many industry insiders, the whole process is merely a grab at the money. Once the offshore competition is crippled, the industry will be back again, with well-known US companies at the forefront. Of course, Uncle Sam will get his fair share as well, which is likely the impetus for the whole mess. That's fine, and I look forward to it. But in the meantime (which could be a long time indeed), the online gambling industry for US players is dead. Yes, there are still companies out there ignoring the law by continuing to accept US players. But they are definitely in violation of the law now, and may pay a heavy price if and when the industry returns to legitimacy with sanctioning, regulation and taxation by the US government.

My choice was painful but crystal-clear. I have no desire to violate the law in any form or fashion. In the minutes before President Bush signed the law into affect, I flipped the switch on all my websites, which now do not deliver any online gambling advertisements to US visitors. With that of course came a tremendous reduction in site revenue. In that environment, it was tough to justify spending time on newsletters. Frankly, it has taken the full ten months since then for me to really come to terms with the situation. After all that time, I'm back.

86ed, during a tournament

Among other recent events, in late June I headed to Tunica to play in a $150,000 prize pool blackjack tournament at Grand Casino Tunica. I was comped into the event, so I didn't have to pay the $500 entry fee. However, my experience there was all too short. It seems that the management at the Grand changed their mind about having invited me, and decided to instead kick me out of the entire property. And they did that DURING my first round of the tournament, with the tournament director coming over to my table on the fourth hand and pushing my bet out of the circle.

There's a lot more to this story, and you can read all about it in a post at the BlackjackInfo blog. Here's the link: Grand Casino Tournament not so grand

World Series of Blackjack IV, now airing on GSN

The fourth season of World Series of Blackjack is currently airing on GSN, the former Game Show Network. The event was played and filmed in January 2007 at the Las Vegas Hilton. In the days prior to the event, a few super-satellite events were held at the Hilton, allowing anyone interested to come play and possibly win a seat on the TV shoe.

I did just that, buying into one of each of the two size events. I paid a $2500 entry fee to play a single table satellite, where one player advanced to the WSOB. I failed to win that table, so I then paid $1000 to enter an 18-player three-table event. I won first place in that satellite, and got a seat in the big one. First place in the World Series is the same as in the third season, half a million in cash. Forty players compete during the 13-show series, which airs on Monday nights on GSN. The time is 11 PM Eastern, but if you are located out West, you should check your local schedule for the time as it may be different.

Check your local cable listings for GSN. On DirectTV it's channel 309. On DishNetwork, it's channel 116.

My appearance will be this week, Monday July 9th 2007. Also at my table is Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame. It was a fun table. Tune in Monday.

As usual, each episode is discussed after it airs over at the message boards at BlackjackTournaments.com.

New regulations cause more ID checks in Nevada casinos

Starting July 1st, you may find that you're asked for ID in a lot more situations at Las Vegas casinos. A previous Nevada state regulation governing cash transactions has been abolished, and the Nevada casinos now join those in New Jersey, Mississippi, and many other states in having to adhere to Federal Title 31 instead. This law classifies casinos as Money Service Businesses, and that brings more restrictive regulations concerning large cash transactions.

As a result, you are now likely to be asked to show ID at the cashiers cage if you are cashing chips of $3000 or more. The reason is to enable enforcement of the requirement that a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) be filed in some circumstances. The IRS requires this form to be filed whenever a patron has executed cash transactions totalling $10,000 or more in a single day. Since you might make multiple transactions during the day, the casino is required to begin tracking your buy-ins and cash-outs of $3000 or more. In the past, under the now-abolished Nevada Regulation 6A, casino employees were allowed to merely note a description of the person. Now, under Title 31's stricter guidance, those same casino employees are required to ask for ID, and retain a record of the transaction for five years.

This means less anonymity available to big players, and likely means the lines at the cashier will be just a bit longer. If you're concerned, try to keep your cash-ins under the $3000 trigger. However, be aware that intentionally structuring your transactions to avoid the $10,000 reporting requirement is viewed as a serious crime.

A new blackjack print magazine!

The news isn't all bad this issue. One very promising development is the return of blackjack to your newsstand. After the demise of the previous blackjack magazines Blackjack Forum and Blackjack Confidential, there's been a void of magazines serving the blackjack market.

In recent months that has changed, when All-In magazine went to a new dual-issue format. Each issue has two covers, one for poker, and one for blackjack. Half the magazine covers poker while the other is all blackjack. The slate of blackjack writers is very impressive, with James Grosjean, me (Kenneth Smith), Max Rubin, Anthony Curtis, David Matthews, Joe Pane, and many others involved. You'll find articles covering a lot of different blackjack angles. My column focuses on tournaments, and I've addressed some pretty unique advanced ideas in strategy over the first six issues.

Editor's Note: Unfortunately, All-In Blackjack went the way of so many blackjack print publications before it. After a 12-month run, the magazine returned to it's poker-only format.

My personal blog gets a new look

My own personal non-blackjack blog has gotten a new name and a new look lately. If you'd like to drop in over there, visit http://www.sweet-tea-no-lemon.com.

At Sweet Tea No Lemon, I ramble on about various non-gambling topics. Lately, I've been offering tips for anyone interested in learning Spanish, a process that is currently taking up much of my time. You'll also see a few items about the night sky.

That's it for now. I'll be back before ten months goes by again. Really. :-) -Ken-