Kevin Blackwood is a noted blackjack player, card counter, and author. He has written blackjack books The Counter and Play Blackjack Like the Pros, and gambling books like Casino Gambling for Dummies.
Kevin Blackwood was born and raised in Maine. After attending several colleges, he received his Masters degree in 1981. He also started playing blackjack around this time. He had been blessed with an aptitude for math and had always excelled at games. After reading a Sports Illustrated article on the late blackjack legend Ken Uston, Blackwood decided to give it a try. He proceeded to read the writings of Uston and learned to card count based on these teachings.
His first attempts came at Caesar's Palace, which offered a tempting single deck blackjack game. He started small, working with a maximum bet of $10. His success rate was impressive, and he had built up a six-figure bankroll after a few years. In a short period of time, he had gone from a $10 max bet to a $1,000 maximum bet.
Kevin Blackwood has been quoted as saying that a good card counter will win between a quarter to one-third of his max bet per hour, so with a max bet of $1,000, he was probably earning around $300 per hour.
When he was concentrating solely on gambling, his day would usually start with a morning run (he ran track in high school and played basketball). He would then eat breakfast and head off to the casinos. While he would often play up to 8 hours at a time, Blackwood might spend as many as 14 hours total getting a feel for the casinos and the tables and looking for the most advantageous situations.
He would often take as much as $40,000 with him on his trips, with the rest being left at home or invested in the stock market. He would then cram up to $20,000 in a fanny pack and leave the rest in a safety deposit box. He normally expected to win around $2,000 per day, but these numbers could sometimes fluctuate to a win (or loss) of up to $20,000.
Kevin's first order of business upon entering a casino was to circle around the pit and then stand behind a table, back counting until there was a favorable situation. He would then jump into the game and place a large bet. This was usually allowed, as pit bosses didn't want to chase away high rollers. He would then jump his bets up or down according to the count.
He would usually keep his sessions short in order to cut down on the chances of being discovered. He would run from casino to casino, often dressed in jogging attire (with his winnings still kept in his fanny pack).
In the beginning of his career, Blackwood learned to card count by using the Ken Uston APC. Later, he moved to the Hi Opt II, which he has used throughout most of his career. Recently, however, he has switched to the Zen count for shoe games, as he grew tired of side counting 24 aces on his feet.
As Kevin's skills grew, he became more and more confident in his abilities. As long as the game offered good rules and penetration, he would take on any blackjack table with up to six decks. Of course, he realized that playing against one deck was the easiest way to beat the house. He has claimed that counting six decks is no more difficult than counting one, but the player's edge rarely rises any higher and the win rate is usually lower.
He would search for hand-held games whenever possible. Some days, he would spend most of his time moving from casino to casino in search of only the best games with ideal conditions. While most players stay in Las Vegas, Kevin Blackwood would travel to small towns off the beaten path to find games that gave him a further advantage.
Over the last decade, he has been drawn to games in riverboat casinos and on Indian reservations. He once spent a week in Minnesota playing a double-deck game with special rules. He even hopped in his car and drove the 800 miles from Chicago to Vicksburg to take advantage of a 2 to 1 promotion on blackjacks.
He also found himself traveling around the world, playing in dangerous places like the Dominican Republic. In the Orient, he was duped by one casino and paid with counterfeit money. But all the experiences weren't bad, as he beat several casinos in Belgium who were offering a player-friendly early surrender rule.
And all the hard work has paid off. In handheld games alone, Kevin Blackwood has won over $1,000,000.
In addition to his success at the blackjack tables, Kevin Blackwood has authored two popular books on blackjack.
His first book, entitled The Counter is a fictional work which draws from elements of Blackwood's own life. The story focuses on Raven Townsend, a young man who has severed all ties with his father and finds religion on a tiny New England island.
At college, he studies to become a Biblical archaeologist and tries to stay faithful to the girl he loves. Money becomes tight, and he is introduced to the game of blackjack. Raven quickly realizes that he can count cards and makes more money in one evening than he ever did in a whole summer of hard labor.
So he puts his career on hold and becomes immersed in the often-seedy world of professional gamblers. He travels from town to town challenging the casinos and winning. Then, the casinos start recognizing him and banning him.
The book became a hit, inspiring praise from gamblers and non-gamblers alike. Blackjack legend Stanford Wong had this to say about The Counter:
"The Counter is an engrossing look at the life of a professional blackjack player. Read how his chosen profession conflicts with his upbringing and his morals. Read about the conflicts in his personal life, and see how he responds to them. You will be flashing back to the turning points in your own life, and thinking about what you would be doing now had you taken a different path at some point."
After the success of The Counter, Kevin Blackwood started work on his second book, Play Blackjack Like the Pros. The book is an in-depth look at how to win at the game of blackjack, focusing on elements such as basic strategy and card counting. Topics such as money management, camouflage, team play, tournaments, shuffle tracking, and international play are also covered. Kevin even talks about his experiences playing blackjack with a concealed computer. The book is chock full of stories of success and failure at the blackjack table, and it weighs in at a hardy 267 pages.
Like The Counter, this book also elicited praise from readers. Henry Tamburin, a legend in the field of blackjack and respected author, had this to say:
"Blackwood knows his stuff, and he won a million bucks to prove it. Take my advice and don't play another hand of blackjack until you read this book."
In addition to all his other accomplishments, Kevin recently accepted an invitation to write articles for the respected blackjack site, blackjackinfo.com.
He has also competed in the World Series of Blackjack. In the first week of Season Two, he took on "Hollywood" Dave Stann, Joe Pane, Rene Angelil, and Katya Underhill. Blackwood proved victorious in this match and earned himself a berth in the semi-finals. There, he took on Stanford Wong, Kami Lis, and Leann Moell in another exciting blackjack showdown.
He now resides in Oregon with his wife, two sons, and the family cat. When he's not involved in blackjack, he enjoys backgammon and scrabble.
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