Interview with Andy Bloch
By Steve Marzolf
What were your early days with poker like?
"I didn't really start taking it seriously until after I graduated college and was working in New York and Massachusetts, not far from Foxwoods. They had just opened up, and it was something new and different to do - something exciting that was open 24 hours. I was always interested in card games and intrigued by professional gambling and that kind of lifestyle. I'd only go once every couple of weeks, but we'd pull a couple of all-nighters then drive back to Massachusetts and go straight to work. This was more than 10 years ago, and there wasn't online poker or card games all over the place. Nowadays, I would just stay home and play online. It's a much different experience for people starting up now than it was 10 or 12 years ago."
Do you think you had more fun than players getting started today?
"Probably not. I used to go play a weekly poker tournament at Foxwoods - the one weekly poker tournament - and the buy-in was $25 plus $10 to the house. I don't think it ever sold out. Plus, it was all limit holdem or seven-card stud; there weren't many no-limit holdem games. What got me really interested was the first time I saw poker at Foxwoods. It was right after first World Poker Finals, and they had a board up that listed all the tournament winners. I remember looking down the list of names and seeing all the people who listed Las Vegas as their home towns. I barely knew what a poker tournament was at the time, but it sounded interesting. I decided I wanted to play, and the next year I actually won a tournament at the World Poker Tournament. It was a small one - a $100 buy-in - but at the time it was the biggest tournament I'd played."
Was there a moment that you felt you became a pro?
"There are always several moments where I realized, 'I really know how to beat this game.' A few concepts really start to sink in, like the value of position. But, for the first couple years I played, it was just as a hobby. I'd go to Foxwoods on the weekends and play a weekly poker game near Boston. Then I got involved with the MIT Blackjack Team, and that's what allowed me to take this whole thing on professionally. We call it the MIT Blackjack Team, but it's not an officially school-sponsored club or anything. It's more of a business venture that some MIT alumni put together."
Was it as wild as Ben Mezrich made it out to be in "Bringing Down the House" and "Busting Vegas?"
"Yes and no. In the book, there were a lot of stories borrowed from other teams or made up or sensationalized. But, there were a lot of stories he didn't put in there. Some of the juicy ones, he put into his second book, which is more about my half of the MIT Blackjack Team."
What was a good story about your section of the team?
"The second book talks about us going to Monte Carlo and getting arrested, which actually happened. But, we didn't win $1 million like it said in the book, and our lives weren't threatened. We were a little worried at the time, though. I was worried that when they searched the trunk of our rental car, they were going to plant some drugs or something. They arrested us, took us to the police station and held us in this little holding cell. Individually, they took us out to interrogate us. The scary part of all this is that you don't know what they're going to do with you - you don't know if they want to make an example out of you or just scare you. It was about 5 a.m. before we actually got to leave. We were staying in France, so we got a police escort out of the country. Throughout this whole thing, we won some money, got to drive on the course of the Grand Prix in the back of a police car and got a police escort to the border. They were very friendly, I guess."
How much cash did you make playing with the MIT team?
"It's into six figures. The MIT teams made millions over the years. The team that I was on, we played through the beginning of 2000 and decided to split up. In 1999 we tried to decide how much longer we wanted to play, so we all figured, 'Hey, let's play through the New Year's and Super Bowl weekends,' which are the two biggest weekends for blackjack players in Vegas."
How similar is your new DVD, "Beating Blackjack," to the tactics you used on the MIT team?
"It's the main tactic that we used for the MIT team, which is team play. You have two or more players, usually five or six, and one is a Big Player. The others are Spotters or Counters. They signal in the Big Player when they find a hot shoe, when the count is really high. Anybody can pick it up, but it takes a lot of practice. You're not going to be able to just watch the DVD, then go out and beat blackjack. But, it'll give you a really good understanding of what to do - the information is there. The DVD shows you in action what it looks like."
Continued on Page 2
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