Gambling Related Essays and Reports by Andrew W Scott

The Long Run

August 1st 2008

Reprinted courtesy Bluff Australasia and Andrew W Scott

It's with great pleasure that I put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) to write this first ever edition of my regular column, The Long Run. My evolution from a seventeen year-old sneaking into the casino on a Saturday night to a globe-trotting high-stakes tournament player and poker journalist and has been a strange one to say the least, and the Bluff editors have suggested I tell you a little about it, as a way of introducing myself. So here goes.

It all starts back in November 1986 when a very fresh-faced young lad first walked into Wrest Point casino in Hobart. They had one table of five-card stud back then, but since all the players were more than twice my age and really seemed to know what they were doing I was quite intimidated by it. I played it once or twice and lost $1,926, for me at the time a devastating loss (all these years later, I still remember the amount).

After doing my balls for a few months on silly games like two-up, I finally twigged that BlackJack was a game that could be beaten. If only I knew how involved with that game I would eventually become. I decided to take a rest from playing and spent many months analysing BlackJack on my computer, and finally worked out how to beat the game. I didn't realise I had simply re-invented basic strategy and card counting, systems that had been developed in the 1960s. Naively, I imagined I was the only person in the world privy to this special knowledge. Even more naively, since I wasn't cheating or breaking any rules, I figured there wasn't anything the casino could do about it. I was very wrong on both counts. I re-entered Wrest Point, armed with the youthful exuberance and cockiness that only, well, youth, can bring. Lo and behold, "the system" (as I came to dub it) worked, and I steadily collected Wrest Point's cash, in ever-increasing amounts as I built my bankroll. I remember one particular night in the really early days. After my then-biggest win, I rolled around in my bed throwing twenty of those old "Grey Nurse" hundred-dollar notes up in the air. Little was I to know that eventually that amount of money would become less than a single bet.

Then it happened, Wrest Point barred me on a number of trumped-up charges, and frustrated my play by changing the rules for me, while leaving the rules the same for the other punters. I decided my best bet was to take my business elsewhere, and eventually went through all the casinos in Australia - but they all got to know me through staff moving around the casinos and information sharing by management. Eventually, in 1993, I decided to go public. I went on a string of TV shows: A Current Affair, Today Tonight, The Midday Show, Good Morning Australia to name a few. There were newspaper and magazine articles. I launched BlackJack Masters, a school teaching other people how to win at BlackJack. All this publicity destroyed any chance I had of playing anonymously in Australia's casinos, but by then it was pretty much destroyed anyway.

BlackJack Masters was a huge success. Suddenly I went from being a lone BlackJack-playing maverick, to the mentor of numerous successful high-stakes players roaming the country. The school grew to the point that I taught classes and seminars in cities all over the country. At its peak, there were six people working at the school. I even did some teaching in Asia and New Zealand. Newspapers and TV shows began contacting me for comment on gambling and casino related matters, and they still do. I was invited to appear at the public hearings of the landmark 1999 Government Inquiry into Australia's Gambling Industries.

In 2006, after thirteen years of teaching BlackJack to literally thousands of students, I decided it was time for a new challenge in life. Back then I still played BlackJack occasionally in more obscure places around the world, but after twenty years of it the necessarily clandestine nature of BlackJack was very tiring to me. I needed something new. So I left BlackJack Masters in the very capable hands of my friend Chris Martin, and found a new challenge. Enter poker. I had dabbled in poker in 2001 and 2002 at Crown, and after proving to myself I could beat $4/$8 limit hold'em (woohoo!), and playing a little pot-limit around tournament times, I had decided the stakes weren't big enough for me. But now, in 2006, the stakes were certainly more than big enough on the tournament circuit. Poker is a game that courts socialising, rather than BlackJack which encourages you to operate in the shadows. So I began playing the poker tournament circuit.

So far I've played every APPT main event, three Aussie Millions main events, the 2007 WSOP main event and twenty events at this year's WSOP. High stakes poker tournaments involve another great passion of mine, travelling. I travel so much these days that I don't really know where I live. As I write this article I am sitting in a hotel room in Hong Kong, having just arrived here after two months in the US for the WSOP and a little holidaying. In four days I will be in Sydney. A few days after that, I will be in Melbourne for the Victorian Poker Championships at Crown. A couple of weeks after that, it will be on to Macau for the Asia Poker Tour and Asia Pacific Poker Tour events there. And then Seoul, Auckland, Manila and back to Sydney, and God knows where else - all before Christmas. In these columns I'll be writing about my travels and adventures on the high stakes poker tournament trail - the places I go, the people I meet, and hopefully - the tournaments I win! Well, maybe not win, but hopefully at least cash in… Until next time, always do what's best in the long run… Andrew

© 2008 Andrew W Scott




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