Ryan Board is a professional blackjack player and owner of the championshipblackjack.com website. Ryan Board has been featured in various radio shows such as Kerrang Radio and on news shows like My Fox St. Louis. Throughout his career Ryan Board has amounted a ton of cash and has managed to get banned from major casinos in Vegas and around the world. He now holds blackjack training seminars in Saint Lous, Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale. He is also available for private blackjack instructions if you got a few grand to spare.
This interview focuses on Ryan Board's experience as a blackjack card counter, some of the challeges he faced and his own card counter tips.
How long have you been a card counter? How did you get started as a card counter?
I've been a true, proficient card counter for about 6 yrs. A friend got me started, and we started playing together from then on.
When you started card counting, what limits did you start at? What limits do you play these days?
I started for a month or so on the $5 tables to get used to it all, but soon moved up to $25 tables mostly, spreading $25 to $800. My friend Mike and I played a few $500 minimum tables in Vegas. I've been thrown out of mostly everywhere by now, which is why I started teaching seminars and wrote a book, "Whack 'EM Blackjack". I wrote the book so others can learn in an easy to read, easy to understand format.
Have you ever been busted by a casino while you were counting cards?
I got the boot from Caesar's, MGM, Mirage, NYNY, and Bellagio in 1 weekend. That was followed by being thrown out at casinos nationwide, as well as Europe, and Australia.
Do people who try to count cards really get banned from casinos very often?
Only the very skilled will get banned. If players try to count and aren't proficient in their count, or miss key play deviations, they will lose their advantage. If a player is counting, but isn't good, the casinos will let them play on because they will lose.
What's the most likely result of being caught card counting by a Las Vegas casino?
Most often, the casino security will come over, tell you to take your chips and cash out, and never come back. They also read you a little paragraph that essentially "no trespasses" you from the casino's property.
Have you ever been in a black book for card counting? How easy is it to get placed in a book of known card counters?
I believe I am in a book, as I been banned from so many casinos around the world. It's not easy to get put in there, as I said earlier, the casino only bans the players that are highly proficient.
How realistic was the movie "21" and how much was Hollywood?
It was realistic in the fact that it was a team, with hand signals to communicate, etc. I thought they could have done a better job….it seemed slow to me.
Have you ever used team tactics when counting cards? If so, would you say the advantages offset the fact that you have to split your winnings?
I've definitely used team tactics. I've played in a group of 2, up to a team of 6. I've also trained a few teams. The advantages far outweigh the split factor. You can spread much higher. Where individual players usually spread 1 to 8 or 10, a team can get spreads of 30 maybe more. You are also able to cover more tables in search of favorable shoes.
How many decks of cards (6, 8, etc.) does it take in a multi-deck to counteract card counters? Is there such a number?
I personally don't think there is a quantity. They all are countable. What matters more is the penetration in the shoe. The problem with 8 deck games is that the house usually cuts out 2-3 decks….leaving to much variability.
When card counting, what kind of blackjack table do you look for? Full of players or empty? Away from the craps tables or slot machines, or does it really make a difference?
First I look for tables with deep penetration, and dealer stands on soft 17 rule. Then I look for a table with no one or few people. I like to play alone as you can control the cards more. As to location, it doesn't really matter to me. If you can find an empty in the action it's probably better as there is more going on around you for the pit to be watching.
What's your craziest story involving card counting?
There's been some really god ones. One night my friend and I sat down to play a table. We were up maybe $180,000 over a period and had $25,000 with us on the floor. Once we sat down, we realized it was a $500 minimum. We decided to still give it a go even though we only had 50 hands worth of money on us at the moment. It started off with the little cards coming out first, but we were losing all these bad hands and soon found ourselves down $22,000. We thought we were going to have a bad session and took the last $3000 we had and played two hands of $1500. We had taken a beating, but now we had a god count and knew the cards would be coming. We won. Then we stacked it up and had two hands of $3000 each. We won…Before we knew if we were on fire, and had a hand of $5000 and a hand of $7500 going, and scored a blackjack and a double down. WE won. Next thing we know, the shoe ends, and we have $76,000 in front of us!! We threw some $25 chips in the air and on to the floor as people scramble to get them. It was nuts!! We had our $22,000 back and profited another $51,000 on the last half of the shoe. Needless to say 5 minutes later we were asked to leave….actually the security walked us to our rooms, and packed our bags for us. We were thrown out at 4 in the morning, with our bags and our total bank roll of almost $250,000…..of which half was in cash. We got to the airport and sat with our pockets bulging with cash until we could get a flight home.
How long can you card count before fatigue (mental or physical) starts to set in? While I imagine it is different for each blackjack player, what would you recommend as the upward limit for a card counting session?
When I started I would lose concentration after 20 or 30 minutes. However, soon it was a few hours, and eventually got to the point where I put in some 8-12 hour days with no breaks. When you are proficient it becomes second nature, almost ike breathing. I wouldn't recommend more than an 8 hour shift though.
What is the most you ever won at one sitting of blackjack? What's the most you've won during an extended winning streak?
My friend and I won $ 76,000 in the last half of a shoe one night, of which $51,000 was profit. The best streak was taking $2000 into $245,000 in a 3 month period!!
Which three blackjack books are indispensable reading? Is there a book on card counting that's better than the rest?
"Professional Blackjack" by Stanford Wong, "Beat the Dealer" by Edward Thorp, and of course, my book "Whack 'Em Blackjack" available at www.championshipblackjack.com For someone wanting to learn to count properly without learning heavy mathematics and statistics, I think my book is to the point, easy to read and easy to understand….that's why I wrote it.
What are the three best online resources for aspiring card counters?
www.championshipblackjack.com for those looking to learn card counting www.blackjackhero.com the ultimate blackjack portal www.cardcounter.com
What kind of seminars do you give for card counting? How can people interested in attending a seminar contact you?
I give personalized, in depth seminars for small groups(better for learning) on professional blackjack play/card counting. The seminars cover all aspects of card counting and run about 6 hours. The great thing about seminars as compared to buying a book or DVD, is that the seminars are tailored to your play level and experience and provide instant feedback to any questions that may arise. I also can critique your style. You can find more information on my site www.championshipblackjack.com
I notice you also give private lessons. How far will you travel for these and how long do these lessons last?
Yes, I also do private one on one instruction. This is the ultimate in learning blackjack and is a two day intensive course. This course covers all aspects of professional play with a lot of play as well as theory. The fee covers the course, material for learning, a copy of my book, and of course my travel expenses. I will fly anywhere in the world to conduct these. My fee currently is $2395 within the US, and $4750 for most of the rest of the world.
Do you participate in any other type of advantage gambling strategies?
I have a master's in finance so I play in the stock market. It is a calculated risk, as is blackjack. I've done pretty damn well over the last few years. I started picking euros up when they were $1.15, and my big wins this year were in the commodities. I bought RTP at $197 a share about a year and a half ago and it hit $500 the other day. I also got in on DO at $90 and it is about $145 now as well. I'll take bigger risks with penny stocks…mainly because they are so cheap. My penny stock risk right now is GOVX.OB
What's your favorite casino game outside of blackjack?
I don't play any other games because none of the other ones are beatable. There's always someone better than you in poker, in craps the house has about a 1.8% advantage over you, and the others get much worse.
What do you see for the future of card counting? Are there any new technologies which are going to make life more difficult for card counters?
Card counting has been around for 30-40 years already so I don't see it going anywhere. Machines make counting impossible, however, casinos will always keep some shoe play. Players don't trust the machines, and casinos know they make money off people trying to count who don't pull it off. The mystique adds to the popularity of the game. And anyway, the best players just get banned!