Mission146
Mission146
Joined: May 15, 2012
  • Threads: 123
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February 13th, 2014 at 8:10:33 PM permalink
PLEASE RESERVE ALL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS UNTIL JOSH AXELRAD HAS POSTED HIS RESPONSES TO THESE QUESTIONS, THANK YOU.

-MISSION146


Greetings!

The first thing I want to do is take the time to thank our guest, Josh Axelrad, for taking the time to do this interview for the WoV Message Boards. As I stated in the Announcement thread, unless Josh decides to become a regular Member of the Forums the, "Statler and Waldorf," Standard allowing for light personal insult does not apply to him as he is to be construed as a guest, and therefore, anything that could be construed as an insult will not be tolerated.

Josh Axelrad is a professional Blackjack player who played briefly with an MIT team and then went on to play for one of the most successful Blackjack teams, possibly ever. Josh later wrote a autobiography about his adventures entitled, Repeat Until Rich Josh nicknames his team, "Mossad," after the Israeli Intelligence Agency to protect the privacy of the team and of his former teammates in his novel. The novel itself is a tale of Josh's adventures with Mossad, how he went from a non-investing spotter to a BP, "Big player," and one of the serious investors on the team and then his downward spiral as he confronted a psychologically gripping addiction to on-line poker and his recovery. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it and have personally read it twice, so far.

This interview is going to be a little bit different as it will also include links to other interviews. My goal for this interview is to essentially ask follow-up questions based on previous interviews conducted by Josh in an effort to gain more detail with respect to the fascinating events that have taken place in his life.

Much like the book, we're going to begin with a little bit of the events that led up to Josh becoming a professional Blackjack player and finish up with some questions related to his addiction to online poker and Internet gambling addiction, in general.

My questions to Josh Axelrad are as follows:

1.) In the novel, an acquaintance compared the ease of card counting to that of being able to mentally calculate a 15% tip on a restaurant tab, and quite humorously, you had mentioned thinking something to the effect that you would be screwed. However, after failing at least one tryout you eventually got on with Mossad and was eventually trusted to act as a BP when a Michigan casino followed you around with, "No Mid-Shoe Entry," signs when you were attempting to spot. Clearly there is some calculation that takes place with respect to converting a running count to a true count and then determining the optimal bet based on your team's criteria, all of this while playing Blackjack optimally according to count-based Index plays, so how would you describe your path from simply being able to play Basic Strategy and keeping a running count to handling all of these finer skills associated with being a big bettor for the team?

2.) In a previous interview with Forbes, you had mentioned that $1,000 bets were the minimum for the team on any occasion in which you were playing with an edge, up to spreading $10,000 per hand over two hands and this activity (surprise!) drawing some serious heat. The Modus Operandi of Mossad, however, was only to do the bare minimum with respect to avoiding heat. That having been said, there are many people who believe that the casinos are actually losing money by taking significant counter measures against card counters, do you believe that card counters, in turn, often lose money by taking excessive counter measures against perceived heat, and what is your perspective on dealing with heat properly if you are an individual player or member of a team?

3.) I hesitate to go into too much detail, but in the novel, there was a period in which you were made in the majority of Las Vegas casinos due to an appearance in Griffin, just for spotting, and countermeasures were being taken against you. The policy of Mossad was that a teammate could not get kicked off for being made in this way, but you were informed that you would not be playing in Vegas for some time, what was your thought process at this time and how close did you get to returning to traditional employment?

4.) I want to talk about the fortuitousness of that one occasion where your team's biggest investor and leader said, "Fuck it," and told you to spread in that Michigan casino where you had been made as a spotter and the crew were following you around with the No Mid-Shoe Entry signs, you went on an amazing run WHILE the count continued to soar. How different do you think your life may have been if, at that table, you had lost your buy-in as opposed to winning tens of thousands of dollars within minutes? Would the team manager have given you the opportunity to act as Big Player again, or do you believe you would have been pretty much relegated back to controlling?

5.) In an interview with Smithmag.net and in your novel, you mentioned that one of your best covers was simply pretending to be a homosexual, Smithmag says, "Drugged-out homosexual," but drugged-out was not necessarily a requirement in your book. It's detailed in your book, but for those who have not read it, what made pretending to be a homosexual such a successful cover for you to avoid heat?

6.) There's a segment of your book that deals with the worst heat that you had ever personally experienced, and it wasn't even inside of a casino, I'm not giving your book away, so I say no more. That having been said, can you tell us about the second worst incident that you experienced in your days with Mossad with respect to concern for your property, person or money and how you handled it?

7.) The one thing that I noticed about Repeat Until Rich is that it goes into some pretty significant detail about team wins and even one individual win on your way to Vegas, although, you were playing on tam bankroll and on the team's behalf. That said, your individual results in the book are somewhat general, prior to the writing of the book, what was the best ($$$-wise) individual session you ever had and what were the circumstances?

8.) Your conclusion for living life properly is to, "...improvise, blaze unexpectedly, try to stay weird," according to an interview for thenervousbreakdown.com, would you say it is this Philosophy that caused you to leave the mundane behind and pursue the excitement associated with being a professional Blackjack player?

9.) In an interview with The New York Times, you had made your first triumphant return to Atlantic City to do some card counting, did you ever worry that you could end up addicted to Blackjack in the same way you were on-line poker such that you would no longer be playing to win?

10.) (Idea for this question thanks to Dicenor33) I believe that some aspects of Blackjack team play would be difficult, not least of those aspects is the trust factor when you get people who all know one another to varying degrees working with the same cash pool. Generally speaking, how could the team determine who they could or could not trust, was Mossad ever burned by a teammate, and if so, what was the worst burn Mossad ever suffered?

11.) (Question thanks to Endermike) What resources, whether it be people, books or websites have you found to be the most useful in your Blackjack career, from an educational standpoint?

12.) (Idea for this question thanks to EvenBob) With respect to individual Blackjack play, or team play if you can still speak to that, how does the heat you get compare to the heat with which you had to contend ten-fifteen years ago? In what ways are the measures taken against Blackjack AP's, if any, different between now and then?

13.) You went from being a winning Blackjack player to being a losing poker player and developed an addiction to on-line poker. For many people, poker is a fundamentally beatable game, and some make that claim about Limit Poker (your primary poker of choice) because it is just situational poker play based largely on relative hand strength. The question is, how could you play Blackjack so successfully yet play poker so poorly when they are both fundamentally beatable games?

14.) You played Limit poker in a casino after a big Mossad win while the allocations were being divvied up by the team managers, clearly you did not become addicted to live limit Poker, so what is it about on-line Poker that you found so gripping and compelling?

15.) In your novel, after taking a friend's advice, you switched to No-Limit poker online and managed to play that profitably, after which time you switched back to Limit online poker and continued to lose constantly, what do you believe caused you to switch from a game you were winning to one you were losing?

16.) There have been multiple instances where an on-line poker site has been found to be cheating with some players having super-user access and being able to see other players' hole cards, without specifically pointing an accusatory finger at any existing or discontinued online poker sites, do you believe that you may have been scammed in this regard?

17.) I find your previous addiction to online poker most fascinating because I find playing poker online to be inherently boring, I should imagine that many others on this forum feel the same way, (the online gambling sub-forum sees very little action) so was it the constant access exclusively and game pace that caused you to be enthralled with online poker, or were there other factors?

18.) You have mentioned that meditation has helped you exorcise many of your online poker demons, are there any techniques in particular you would care to share that might help anyone on here with any of their problems? It seems that it would be psychologically useful for basically anything one might experience?

19.) You have described the casino industry as, "Predatory," but at the same time, winning in Blackjack is no different than winning in Poker because you are simply winning the money that other players have lost, just not as directly with the former. In that sense, is the casino not simply still an intermediary between yourself as a skilled player and unskilled players?

20.) I'm certain that you've expanded your range of interests since breaking your addiction to online Poker, what can you be found doing if you're not at the Blackjack tables or writing?

21.) (Question from Kickass) Given everything that has happened in your life, if you had the choice to go back to the day that you went to the party and heard about Blackjack being beatable and simply not go to the party that day, would you do that or would you leave things as they are now, and why?
Vultures can't be choosers.
Buzzard
Buzzard
Joined: Oct 28, 2012
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February 13th, 2014 at 8:17:16 PM permalink
Gee, Josie, bring me my reading glasses. I know Mission said he'd ask about Josh giving FREE blackjack counting lessons in the back of Pete's candy store. I must not be reading this right. I mean if you can't trust a philosopher, who can you trust / SIGH
Shed not for her the bitter tear Nor give the heart to vain regret Tis but the casket that lies here, The gem that filled it Sparkles yet
axelrad
axelrad
Joined: Feb 13, 2014
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February 13th, 2014 at 9:05:46 PM permalink
1.) In the novel, an acquaintance compared the ease of card counting to that of being able to mentally calculate a 15% tip on a restaurant tab, and quite humorously, you had mentioned thinking something to the effect that you would be screwed. However, after failing at least one tryout you eventually got on with Mossad and was eventually trusted to act as a BP when a Michigan casino followed you around with, "No Mid-Shoe Entry," signs when you were attempting to spot. Clearly there is some calculation that takes place with respect to converting a running count to a true count and then determining the optimal bet based on your team's criteria, all of this while playing Blackjack optimally according to count-based Index plays, so how would you describe your path from simply being able to play Basic Strategy and keeping a running count to handling all of these finer skills associated with being a big bettor for the team?

First off I'd like to thank Mission146 for the invitation. The WoV forums are a great resource with a considerably-more-interesting-than-average user base. It's fun and an honor to be here.

So: true count. Fairly technical way to start off but that's great. Look, it's calculable, even for me. If you can handle running count you can handle the true count. If you can figure out the captcha you have to decipher in order to register a new account at WoV, you can handle the running count. During my time with the team I was involved in the training of hundreds of brand-spanking-new card counters and aspiring counters. In all that time we only encountered one person who simply could not be taught to count. Very nearly anyone can learn to keep the running count, and the next step beyond that is just a matter of practice.

For me, it was just practice. Plus incorporation of a number of shortcuts. Don't divide by 5; multiply by 0.2. It's easier. Don't divide by 3.5; multiply by 0.3 and round down by about two shakes. Use the multiplicand of 0.4 rather than the too-unwieldy-for-sad-me divisor of 2.5. Etc.

Oh yeah and to multiply by 4, just multiply by 2, twice. Absolute copout but it gets you there.

Blackjack's fundamentals are easy. The same is perhaps true of poker. Let that be a warning to ye. I don't mean to equate the two - they play very differently - but there is a reason why there are so few professional-stakes blackjack players in the world.


2.) In a previous interview with Forbes, you had mentioned that $1,000 bets were the minimum for the team on any occasion in which you were playing with an edge, up to spreading $10,000 per hand over two hands and this activity (surprise!) drawing some serious heat. The Modus Operandi of Mossad, however, was only to do the bare minimum with respect to avoiding heat. That having been said, there are many people who believe that the casinos are actually losing money by taking significant counter measures against card counters, do you believe that card counters, in turn, often lose money by taking excessive counter measures against perceived heat, and what is your perspective on dealing with heat properly if you are an individual player or member of a team?

There a few different excellent questions packed in there. Let me start with this:

do you believe that card counters, in turn, often lose money by taking excessive counter measures against perceived heat

Not only do I believe this, I suspect that the population of nominally proficient card counters is in the red as a group for exactly this reason. So focused are new or skittish counters on not getting heat that they overlook the greater peril, not getting money.

and what is your perspective on dealing with heat properly if you are an individual player or member of a team?

Forget 'properly' - there's no one way to manage heat. A player with existing network heat is going to approach this issue from a perspective entirely different from a heat virgin's. Where he is and what he's trying to do and what stakes he's trying to get down and who he has available to partner with, how recently he was flyered, etc., are all important variables that affect the best approach.

An important point overlooked by newer players: there are different kinds of heat and network heat is the most severe. Network heat under a known legal name is worse than network heat as an anonymous count player. Network heat has national and international repercussions on the way in which you extract money from casinos. It's not a career-ender but it's a career-changer and is best postponed if possible. You are pretty much going to end up there anyway if you're regularly taking out money from the industry; the point is, you should get there for the right reason, due to a significant score. It's an absolute fact that casinos even in Las Vegas (howdy, Jeff) will create network heat for low-stakes counters who probably are not even net winning players. Don't let this happen to you. If it does happen, make damn sure they don't have your name. This often means giving up comps because you'll be playing unrated.

Second point, also important: If you're going to count, heat's inevitable. But you don't have to count. You would likely maximize lifetime extraction from casinos by learning alternative techniques first. If you decide to proceed with counting as a primary game, one good option is to mitigate risk of identification by playing short sessions. They can't bar what they can't see. The bad option is to mitigate risk of identification by giving away money through camouflage. This is true for players at all levels but especially for new players. You simply must win. Otherwise your career and your bankroll are going nowhere. Your only hope is to win. The only way forward is to play a strong game. Winning is more important than avoiding heat. Your clean face is worth nothing - less than nothing - if your game isn't strong. If you're a sucker you actually enhance your lifetime EV by getting blown out.


3.) I hesitate to go into too much detail, but in the novel, there was a period in which you were made in the majority of Las Vegas casinos due to an appearance in Griffin, just for spotting, and countermeasures were being taken against you. The policy of Mossad was that a teammate could not get kicked off for being made in this way, but you were informed that you would not be playing in Vegas for some time, what was your thought process at this time and how close did you get to returning to traditional employment?

I was trying to figure out if I had the bankroll and chops to play solo (I didn't). I did not know my teammates very well when this was happening and it seemed plausible that the whole operation was a bit of a con - that actually they blew out players all the time and then fired them, and kept churning through people this way. I didn't know them well enough yet to realize that this wasn't their approach.

Nor could it have been. Your whole question touches on a key strategic difficulty of team management: you must have a future in place for players whose ability to play becomes impaired due to team-related heat. Otherwise you're incentivizing them to avoid heat, which means avoiding EV.


4.) I want to talk about the fortuitousness of that one occasion where your team's biggest investor and leader said, "Fuck it," and told you to spread in that Michigan casino where you had been made as a spotter and the crew were following you around with the No Mid-Shoe Entry signs, you went on an amazing run WHILE the count continued to soar. How different do you think your life may have been if, at that table, you had lost your buy-in as opposed to winning tens of thousands of dollars within minutes? Would the team manager have given you the opportunity to act as Big Player again, or do you believe you would have been pretty much relegated back to controlling?

My road to betting the money would have been longer had I not had a single lucky shoe on that particular evening, but life wouldn't have been too different. It still eventually would have happened - at the end of the day pretty much all of us had an obligation to go blow out our names; it was a mitzvah. That shoe proved to the team managers that I was ready. You could argue that they ought not to have been swayed by what amounted to statistical noise but I did get the money out the door and it made an impression.

5.) In an interview with Smithmag.net and in your novel, you mentioned that one of your best covers was simply pretending to be a homosexual, Smithmag says, "Drugged-out homosexual," but drugged-out was not necessarily a requirement in your book. It's detailed in your book, but for those who have not read it, what made pretending to be a homosexual such a successful cover for you to avoid heat?

I wasn't really trying to come off as convincingly gay. I've rarely seen anyone, homosexual or otherwise, behave as preposterously in public as I behaved during those sessions. It's more that I was appealing to the prejudices that the class of people whose careers are in casino operations tend to have.

The pit can't think about two unexpected problems at the same time so one way to get down with a technique as venerable (and as obvious) as team-style callins is to impose the second problem. Magicians call it misdirection. For the type of people I'm talking about my apparent sexuality constituted a problem that required thought. Bingo.


6.) There's a segment of your book that deals with the worst heat that you had ever personally experienced, and it wasn't even inside of a casino, I'm not giving your book away, so I say no more. That having been said, can you tell us about the second worst incident that you experienced in your days with Mossad with respect to concern for your property, person or money and how you handled it?

The Rez was always a gray area -- not actually in terms of the law but in terms of application of the law. I was backroomed twice by tribal authorities who were clearly improvising as they went along. These were unrelated incidents with different tribes. The fact that they didn't know what they hoped to achieve was what was so disturbing at the time. When the guy who has the weapon isn't really sure what he's trying to accomplish, you worry. I basically did what they said until they ran out of ideas and then, both times, was let go.

7.) The one thing that I noticed about Repeat Until Rich is that it goes into some pretty significant detail about team wins and even one individual win on your way to Vegas, although, you were playing on tam bankroll and on the team's behalf. That said, your individual results in the book are somewhat general, prior to the writing of the book, what was the best ($$$-wise) individual session you ever had and what were the circumstances?

I had my biggest win in a team session at the old -- er, the pre-Planet Hollywood Aladdin. I guess that's the new Aladdin. Anyway it's a dead casino. But that was team play, plus $79K or so. In terms of solo sessions on the team bankroll I'm not actually sure what my biggest win would have been. Definitely a much smaller figure. I won $20K in one shoe on New Year's Eve at the Venetian in what was supposed to have been a team session except I got backed off after that one shoe, so I couldn't take any callins. My biggest single-session completely solo result on a non-team bankroll was +$27K although I think the casino thinks it was a few G's higher than that because they're thin-skinned sobbing exaggerators.

But really numbers like this confuse more than they clarify. Whether positive or negative, a single-session result tells you very little about the value generated during a particular play. It's mainly an indication of the betting unit, the available max, and the duration.


8.) Your conclusion for living life properly is to, "...improvise, blaze unexpectedly, try to stay weird," according to an interview for thenervousbreakdown.com, would you say it is this Philosophy that caused you to leave the mundane behind and pursue the excitement associated with being a professional Blackjack player?

I don't know that that's still my conclusion for the proper way to live. I'm leaning more towards basic sentience these days, which sounds like a low bar. But yes, blackjack was weird stuff in exactly the right vein for a person like me. You got to live like a criminal without being one. You had enemies. Enemies are useful when you're trying to stay awake.

9.) In an interview with The New York Times, you had made your first triumphant return to Atlantic City to do some card counting, did you ever worry that you could end up addicted to Blackjack in the same way you were on-line poker such that you would no longer be playing to win?

Once you've crossed that line you'd be a fool not to worry. But blackjack for me had little in common with what poker was for me. The thing is is that I knew this. I knew it both times. With poker, from an early point it was undeniable that I'd created a destructive pattern. I knew why I was doing it and the reasons were poor. If you had asked, I would have told you that I knew this. Doesn't mean I was willing to stop. But I knew what I was doing. And the same goes for blackjack. I knew why I was there. After the poker fiasco the difference between the two types of gambling was supremely clear to me. If anything, subequent blackjack play was stronger than before as a result of this enhanced clarity.

10.) (Idea for this question thanks to Dicenor33) I believe that some aspects of Blackjack team play would be difficult, not least of those aspects is the trust factor when you get people who all know one another to varying degrees working with the same cash pool. Generally speaking, how could the team determine who they could or could not trust, was Mossad ever burned by a teammate, and if so, what was the worst burn Mossad ever suffered?

Our referral system was friend- and family-based. Being strongly vouched for would get you in. Even so, new players tended to have minimal leeway with bankroll and if doubts emerged about their character, they wouldn't have much of a future.

And yes, we were robbed. I'm not at liberty to go into detail but the numbers of which we're aware would have constituted rounding errors for any given quarter of team business. It was non-detrimental but very saddening.


11.) (Question thanks to Endermike) What resources, whether it be people, books or websites have you found to be the most useful in your Blackjack career, from an educational standpoint?

Great question. To become a strong player you either need mentors like I had or you need to be a passionate autodidact. Two of the essentials are Norm Wattenberger's CVCX and membership to the Green Chip pages at Stanford Wong's BJ21. These will both help you teach yourself. In the absence of mentors you must teach yourself because no single book will spell out all the answers for you.

CVCX is a simulator and sort of a data warehouse that lets you rapidly toy around with all sorts of different playing configurations (bet spreads, levels of penetration, rule sets, etc.) so you can easily see what your play's worth. It's brilliant. And Green Chip you just have to have. Have to. The way to use the site is not to hang out reading new posts all the time but to delve into the archives. Use the search function. Identify the posters who really know their stuff and read everything they ever wrote. MathProf and Big Player come to mind but there are loads more. It is a tremendous gift to the blackjack community. Or would be if it were free. It's not. So pay for it. It's a gift you have to buy yourself.

More: Blackjack Attack by Don Schlesinger. Everything by Arnold Snyder. (His Blackjack Forum library is a great, and free, resource.) Also free, also great -- genuinely a gift to the community -- is Modern Blackjack by Norm Watternberger. These are just the starting points. As you go through these resources you'll find references to other resources and if you're the sort of player who's destined to do real damage, you'll get your hands on everything you can.


12.) (Idea for this question thanks to EvenBob) With respect to individual Blackjack play, or team play if you can still speak to that, how does the heat you get compare to the heat with which you had to contend ten-fifteen years ago? In what ways are the measures taken against Blackjack AP's, if any, different between now and then?

The basic pattern since the early 90's has been increased game-protection technology whose negative effects have been offset by expanded opportunities in the form of new casinos. So far as I can tell, that continues. Game quality is deteriorating everywhere. You have games called blackjack that don't have any of the hallmarks associated with that name (the 6:5 scam being the standard example). But a card counter has never had more venues in which to show her face for the first time. It's a trade-off and I'm not sure it's a bad one for us.

One development I'm aware of is an unprecedented level of information sharing by casinos. Lots of new operations means lots of inexperienced operators. These guys try to get around their ignorance by swapping .jpegs of known threats. Sounds shrewd on the face of it but what it basically means is that you have hundreds of smaller casino operations all around the country that have effectively outsourced game protection to their competitors. I believe such a system has flaws.


13.) You went from being a winning Blackjack player to being a losing poker player and developed an addiction to on-line poker. For many people, poker is a fundamentally beatable game, and some make that claim about Limit Poker (your primary poker of choice) because it is just situational poker play based largely on relative hand strength. The question is, how could you play Blackjack so successfully yet play poker so poorly when they are both fundamentally beatable games?

Wait, they are?

I jest. Sort of. I would argue that poker is less "fundamentally" beatable than blackjack but that's semantics. I started playing poker recreationally which is the worst possible reason to gamble. Pathological gambling is better in my opinion: it has purpose and soul. The pathological gambler knows where he's trying to go (to the high point of a high bridge and then down, fast) where the recreational guy is a blob, amorphous, purposeless, truly pathetic I would say. Read a fucking book, asshole. Anyhow, that was me -- Mr. Recreational. What's so dangerous about the guy playing for fun is that his pretext is tight. Fun makes sense. Fun is non-threatening. Fun can't be a big deal by definition. I'm telling you, the guy who invented gambling was smart; the guy who invented chips was a genius; but the guy who invented fun was omniscient. Fun is the entire hustle.

I was playing recreationally to kill time during a dark period. And as the wiseguys say, I got stuck. So I started to dig. It's the oldest story in the world. I didn't win because (a) I have a learning disability as far as poker goes and (b) because I didn't want to win. Mostly (b). You were never going to convince me that I had some greater claim to another poker player's money than he had. I'd done too much business with casinos by then to believe in that shit. If you read the papers you might have noticed that no casino mogul smiles like he's a human being. You have Sheldon on one extreme, Steve on the other. Grimacing or beaming pure bullshit, there's a reason they look like they do.

I was also probably helped along by my familiarity with blackjack variance. Part of what makes you a competent blackjack player is that you're comfortable losing. At times you even have to be comfortable never winning. This doesn't necessarily translate as a virtue when you're on other games.


14.) You played Limit poker in a casino after a big Mossad win while the allocations were being divvied up by the team managers, clearly you did not become addicted to live limit Poker, so what is it about on-line Poker that you found so gripping and compelling?

Look, I played plenty bad in live games. But live poker was too slow and too public for me to really to lose my shit. I mean, there were witnesses. The Internet is just between you, your god, and your government. Even those of us who don't gamble pathologically online behave like little berserkers with these fucking machines. Click click clickclickclickclciclcicclicick refresh. Endlessly. Repeat until dead. What I did was as much a variety of deranged Internet use as it was of deranged gambling, and there's a degree of comfort in seeing nearly everyone I love increasingly afflicted with a similar condition.

15.) In your novel, after taking a friend's advice, you switched to No-Limit poker online and managed to play that profitably, after which time you switched back to Limit online poker and continued to lose constantly, what do you believe caused you to switch from a game you were winning to one you were losing?

The cause was that I clicked a button. I don't know if there was a cause beyond that. I was very, very careful for an extended period and built up 30G's on a site called Pacific Poker, then clicked the wrong button. It was so hard to care. What was that money to me? It was unreal and it was plunderage. Plunderage has to be forfeited.

16.) There have been multiple instances where an on-line poker site has been found to be cheating with some players having super-user access and being able to see other players' hole cards, without specifically pointing an accusatory finger at any existing or discontinued online poker sites, do you believe that you may have been scammed in this regard?

Yeah, I was robbed. Jesting again. Use of such technology against me would have been superfluous but, in retrospect, funny. I don't really care if that happened or not. To me. That it happened to others is beyond outrageous.

17.) I find your previous addiction to online poker most fascinating because I find playing poker online to be inherently boring, I should imagine that many others on this forum feel the same way, (the online gambling sub-forum sees very little action) so was it the constant access exclusively and game pace that caused you to be enthralled with online poker, or were there other factors?

A bridge is boring too unless you're jumping off.

For gamblers with a predisposition to self-harm or to compulsive behavior, yes, the constant access of the Internet is a danger. The privacy's a danger. The ability to hide your behavior from everyone you love. But the access above all. It's like an alcoholic working at a bar. And living in the bar's back room. He is fucked.


18.) You have mentioned that meditation has helped you exorcise many of your online poker demons, are there any techniques in particular you would care to share that might help anyone on here with any of their problems? It seems that it would be psychologically useful for basically anything one might experience?

Meditation is not useful if you are currently crazy. You simply won't do it. I don't believe you can do it. Get un-crazy first. See shrinks who have MD's and take the drugs they advise you to take.

For everyone else it's fucking excellent. Excuse my French. I actually just came from the zendo (but have had a few beers since). Especially for gamblers -- especially for card counters or those immersed in daily variance, it's a blessing, a boon. And I don't think it matters a whole lot which method you choose. They're all pointing in the same direction. Try whatever's easiest for you to try. You can even do it in Las Vegas. Zen, Insight, Tibetan, vipassana, whatever. I'm skeptical of yoga since it happens in gyms but who knows, it can't hurt.


19.) You have described the casino industry as, "Predatory," but at the same time, winning in Blackjack is no different than winning in Poker because you are simply winning the money that other players have lost, just not as directly with the former. In that sense, is the casino not simply still an intermediary between yourself as a skilled player and unskilled players?

This question is abject bullshit and I'm sick of it. (Continuing to drink.) I did not win money from unskilled gamblers but from the most skilled, orderly and institutional gamblers conceivable, and in accordance with their own rules. They made the games, they made the rules, they set the limits. I played and they lost. Fuck them.

What I want most is for -EV gamblers to stop playing and casinos to all go broke. I do nothing to encourage gambling. I am a living, blazing emblem of the moronicness of gambling. When in a casino I endeavor to make the gambling as uncomfortable as possible for the civilians, so they will leave. When my publisher insisted on including a little how-to section in the back of my book, I titled it "How to Count Cards If You Must" and included every caveat that I could think if. I do not condone gambling. I deplore gambling, I deplore losing gamblers, deplore those who pander to gamblers. And I really reject responsibility for the source of the casinos' funds. Omar Little is not only not a bad person but a hero. Robbing thieves is ethical and does not make one a thief also (except for the robbery part).

Look, I sold my book about winning at blackjack to a publisher, then lost my mind. I'm as narcissistic as the next guy, okay. I wanted to have a book in the world showing myself as a badass genius who eats krakens' scalps as an appetizer and shits nuclear radiation. But I wasn't able to publish that book because the story changed, I lost my mind, I gambled away a fortune playing poker badly online and I could not conscionably omit that part of the Josh Axelrad gambling yarn from the book I sent out to the world. There is just no accusing me of being unethical when it comes to gambling or being insensitive to degenerates. I am one. I know exactly what they feel. I do not encourage casinos to take money from these people. I wish they would not. I wish they voluntarily would shut their doors. But until that happens there are going to be card counters and others out there in the world, showing up now and then to let the bosses know exactly how it feels to be outmaneuvered and humiliated and undone and in some cases, destroyed. And fuck them. I repeat myself. But disseminating this lesson to those people is virtuous.


20.) I'm certain that you've expanded your range of interests since breaking your addiction to online Poker, what can you be found doing if you're not at the Blackjack tables or writing?

There's this little daughter, so I have to look out for her. I do that and hang out with her mom. We have fun.

21.) (Question from Kickass) Given everything that has happened in your life, if you had the choice to go back to the day that you went to the party and heard about Blackjack being beatable and simply not go to the party that day, would you do that or would you leave things as they are now, and why?

I'm glad to be here now so it's hard to want to tinker with the past. I take Back to the Future as a serious warning. No tinkering. In any case I don't know what else I could have done. You can't just become a middle-class shitbag, can you? The world's extraordinary. You need a life adventure that embodies that extraordinariness. This doesn't mean you have to run around raising hell in casinos but it does mean you have to find some way of touching whatever's most vibrant and vital.

Rereading that paragraph, I regret the term middle-class shitbag. Middle-class shitbags can access reality too. The thing is to try.
Buzzard
Buzzard
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February 13th, 2014 at 9:22:07 PM permalink
Tell the truth about Pete's candy store. Josie is starting to doubt me. Silly woman.
Shed not for her the bitter tear Nor give the heart to vain regret Tis but the casket that lies here, The gem that filled it Sparkles yet
kewlj
kewlj
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February 13th, 2014 at 10:03:15 PM permalink
Typical Josh.....always fascinating, informative and entertaining. Thank you Josh.
EvenBob
EvenBob
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February 14th, 2014 at 12:56:34 AM permalink
"Robbing thieves is ethical and does not make one a thief also"

Exactly. Well said.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
onenickelmiracle
onenickelmiracle
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February 14th, 2014 at 1:30:11 AM permalink
Interesting read, and again showing off the advanced vocabulary seen in the book.

I'd like to know if the part of you wanting to write a winning player book knew it wouldn't fly without drama.

I'm sure the voice playing poker must have been saying win it back to enable you to write the story you wanted. When you wrote the book as printed, was the hard part doing so because you didn't want to admit you failed winning through poker. Perhaps you realized the only good story was talking of poker. In other words, the cause for the writer's block being denial and fear, trying to escape them until you realized it was the best and only choice. I've seen the same struggle in the movie Stranger Than Fiction. Do you relate to the movie if you've seen it?
In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is the care taker. Hold my beer.
EvenBob
EvenBob
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February 14th, 2014 at 11:55:20 AM permalink
"I deplore gambling, I deplore losing gamblers, deplore those who pander to gamblers."

James Grosjean has said the same thing, he hates
casinos and all they stand for. Why do so many
successful AP's come to this conclusion.
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
beachbumbabs
Administrator
beachbumbabs
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February 14th, 2014 at 12:20:02 PM permalink
Hey, Josh. Welcome to the forum, man. You have many friends and kindred spirits here. Fascinating stuff.
If the House lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game.
Dicenor33
Dicenor33
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February 14th, 2014 at 1:22:07 PM permalink
The question of good and evil is complicated. Without evil there will be be no reason to create good. I guess the proper way to ask is how much evil is bad? Gambling is evil, but it's mild evil, it's the evil you can recover from. Josh admitted of how wrong he was playing on line, it means he recovered. And thanks to on line poker he learned of how to overcome his weaknesses. Life goes on. Gambling is a single page, there are other things to discover for a thinking person.

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