A retro interview

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For a number of years, I was a frequent contributor to the forums on the Wizard of Vegas website under the screen name “aceofspades”.

After posting there for a couple of years, one of the administrators (Mission146) asked if I would agree to be interviewed by him on a range of topics.  I said yes and enjoyed doing so as the Wizard of Vegas forums had always been good to me (including the Wizard himself, who I am glad to call a friend).

Please see the complete interview below (I have also included the follow-up questions.  The entire original interview thread can be found by clicking HERE.

One note before reading – please remember this was back in 2014 so a lot of my W/L and methods I use to play have changed dramatically (some for the better, some for the worse)

Original interview Q&A:

It is my pleasure to post the following Interview that I conducted with AceofSpades, who will be appearing, on Friday, in a documentary called Divorce Corp., so definitely keep an eye out for that. This interview is unique for a couple of reasons, while it is less gambling-centric than the Interviews with either Wizard or xxxxx, (Of course, the interview is still nearly 50% gambling) it is sure to be just as informative and entertaining, and it will give us some perspective on AceofSpades that we may have previously lacked.

AceofSpades is also poised for and expecting follow-up questions, and I know I have some, but I’m going to be considerate and allow everyone else a chance to pose some follow-up questions before I get into mine.

This Interview is also interesting because AceofSpades answered all of my original Interview questions straight-up, no-rephrasing, no retouching, no vetoing, nothing…here are the initial questions and here are the answers:

1.) It seems that, other than running Free Play through Wheel of Fortune slots, your game is Blackjack and only Blackjack. Can you tell us about your first experience playing Blackjack, and perhaps explain why you prefer Blackjack to any other game of chance, skill or combination of the two?

My first experience with blackjack was around the card table at my cousin’s house growing up. We would play cards after dinner when our families would get together. The house rules were that after each game, the deal would shift to the next person at the table and the dealer would choose the game. I am trying to remember the multitude of games played…guts (3 and 4 card), 5 card poker, night baseball, Acey-Deucey, some weird game my aunt made up called “Rouget” (she mispronounced roulette when naming the game) and finally, blackjack. Now, at the tender age of 13, and with nobody else knowing basic strategy, I cannot even imagine how horrific the plays we all made were but…I remember it being fun.

Now, if you want to hear about my first casino blackjack experience, that would have been Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on my 21st birthday. I went there with two friends of mine with a bankroll of $30 (yup, $30) and thought I knew how to play ( I probably knew to stay on 12—16 versus a 12-16) and stay on 17 or higher. Other than that, not much else. I remember playing at a $3 minimum table and last about an hour. We had lunch then drove home to NY.

I think I chose to learn about the game of blackjack because of its seeming simplicity…beat the dealer without busting and you are good to go. No fuss no muss. Craps always seemed complicated with all the bets on the table and I had always saw roulette as a carnival game. Slots never appealed to me as it seemed to have no interaction—no decision-making. Blackjack, to me, seemed the perfect mix of social interaction and simplicity.

2.) If one of the reasons you like Blackjack is because it is mathematically beatable, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons, why do you not play at a lower limit table (but spread more in terms of units) and also, why do you not move to a stronger count than speed count?

In order to describe why I play like I do, I should give you some history…

It was not until many moons after my 21st birthday that I ventured back into a casino based upon a dream. I was living in San Diego at the time and had a dream that I won $1,000 at Caesars Palace. The song playing in the background of this dream was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. So, I woke up the next morning, poured myself a bowl of cereal, and turned on the television. Apparently, the last channel I had on was VH1 the night before. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the video for “In the Air Tonight” illuminated the screen upon turning the tv on. Well, I took this as a sign and decided to drive through the desert to Vegas, no reservations, having never been there before. Five hours later, I was parked at Caesars and ventured into the casino. I had a bankroll of $1k and proceeded to play at a $5 table. After a few hours I was up about $300 and I was ecstatic. I got a written comp from a pit boss for the buffet and went exploring the city on a full belly. After dinner, I sat down at a $25 table, proud of myself for winning $300. Moments later, Lou Diamond Phillips sits down with a beautiful blonde and begins playing, very friendly guy. A strange thing occurred moments later when an elderly Asian woman came by the table and Lou and the blonde both turn to her and say “Hi mom!” To this day I have no idea who the lady was….
It was getting close to 11pm at this point and I had nowhere to stay so I went out to the parking garage and decided I would lock the doors, recline my seat, and take a nap. Well, 6 hours later, I was as refreshed as I could be and went back into the casino to use the facilities and freshen up. Of course, not having planned anything in advance, I had not even a change of clothes. I then hit the tables again and was up another $250 after a few more hours. By now, I had secured another paper comp for sustenance. Being up $500 felt like winning the lottery to me…little did I know I would then increase my fortune. While Evander Holyfield played at the table next to me at $5k per hand, 3 hands at a time, I started playing at a $100 table…where I was quickly up for the trip in the amount of $1200. Having believed that my dream was coming true, I decided to bet more and more…and, within moments, I had lost the $1200 plus the $1000 I had brought with me. I broke down, literally crying in the casino…venturing to find a payphone to call my parents to ask what in the world I should do. They were sympathetic and suggested I ask the pit boss for a room and drive home the next day. I did just that and was granted a comped room. This cheered me up but I felt lower than low. I did not gamble again until about 8 years later when my parents decided to go to Las Vegas. A few trips with the family and friends to Vegas over the years followed, wherein I would bet $5 to $25 minimums.

Lo and behold, about 4 years ago, I received an offer from Caesars AC inviting me to come down for the weekend and enjoy a complimentary room and $200 in free play. I was not sure about going but I decided that this time around, I would attempt to learn a counting system. Enter Speed Count.
That weekend, I began playing $100minimum and never looked back. I liked that playing black chips meant that 10 chips equaled $1k and was easy to keep track of the chips. I liked the simplicity of breaking things down by 10 and never looked back. I began playing about 7pm on Friday night and by 9am the next morning, with barely a break for dinner and Red Bulls a’plenty, I had used Speed Count to bring me to +$10k.
However, it was then that confidence became cockiness and I stopped Speed Counting and instead attempted to act like a high roller, betting from $500 to $1k at a clip. Needless to say, my newfound fortune was gone…I had just enough sense to walk away that weekend +$1k instead of giving it all back.
From there, the offers began pouring in to have me back.

However, what keeps me at the black chip level is something I speak about with friends of mine who gamble as well, the feeling of the ‘sting’. Basically, we all play at a level where we will feel the ‘sting’ of a loss. I have friends who play at a $10 level and those who play at a $100 level. However, the common denominator is that, if the $10 player played at a $1 table, he would not feel the adrenaline rush like he does at the $10 table. However, if the $10 player played at a $100 table, he would not have the ability to last into any negative variance and his level of excitement and/or fun would suffer. As such, the black chip level is my ‘sting’ level where the adrenaline kicks in as well as the excitement/fun.

3.) You often speak about the dining, shows, relaxing in the comped rooms, so it seems as though the experience is as important, if not more, than the actual play. Do you think it is fair to say that, while you seek to play Blackjack at an advantage, the recreational aspects are more important to you?

I would say that they are on equal footing. I realize that without the blackjack, none of the other comps would be possible. I enjoy the social aspects of my trips to the casino, including the social aspect of the game itself. That is not to say that I enjoy a full table. The maximum number of people at the table I like to play with are 3 plus me. However, I can normally be found playing heads up with dealers I enjoy conversing with. Dining, shows and just walking around the casino are a big deal to me. As a single guy, I am normally on these trips by myself so I tend to become the ‘mayor’ of the casino…getting to know anyone and everyone so that, at any time of day or night, I can sit down at a table (not limited to blackjack) and, if I know the dealer or pit boss, just sit there and relax, not even playing.

4.) While there are many attorneys out there, quite a few of those attorneys might have a story about someone significant in their life being wrongfully terminated by a job, so they got into corporate law, or civil rights…either way, many people choose their path in law based on a significant event in life. That said, what led to you becoming a divorce attorney?

I am asked this so often and, while I wish I had a Kramer Versus Kramer type story that led me into it, I do not. 9/11 occurred about one month prior to on-campus interviews with law firms for those of us about to graduate that coming Spring. As such, 99% of the firms decided to cancel those interviews and freeze any new hires. When I learned of that, I decided to pursue my LL.M. degree in an area of law that had always piqued my intellectual curiosity, International and Comparative Law. Upon graduation, and not being the offspring of a Senator, I sent my resume out to any firm’s address I could find and began working at a firm in NY that concentrated on divorce and family law. After 5 years of butting heads with the head of the firm, I decided to hang out my own shingle. Not wanting to start from scratch or become a general practitioner, I stuck with what I knew and stayed practicing divorce and family law.

5.) If you were any type of attorney other than a divorce attorney, what sort of law would you practice, and why?

At this point, if I could no longer practice divorce law, I would write to Bob Nersesian and ask if he would take me on as a 1st year gaming associate. Having been involved in blackjack and read stories of how casinos overstep their bounds in ‘apprehending’ casino ‘cheats’, I feel my skills and knowledge could serve the gaming community (on this side of the tables) quite well.

6.) If anyone happens to know your name and has any question as to how competent an attorney you are, I recommend they go to avvo.com, look you up, and check out the meaningful legal answers (some of which were not even covered in consultation with an attorney seeking to become counsel for people) that you have provided for free. It is clear that you have a passion for what you do that is nearly unrivalled, but that leads to this question almost out of necessity: why such a passion for divorce?

I think this answer can ride the coattails of question #7 below…
The world of divorce is susceptible to the unauthorized practice of law by the following, usually well-meaning people: hair stylists, bartenders, auto mechanics, manicurists, grocery store clerks…yada yada yada.

I am constantly questioned by friends, family and people on the street about aspects of divorce they ‘heard about’ from someone else. The information is usually, if not always, incorrect. As a matter of fact, a client recently informed me of certain ‘rights’ he wanted to enforce in his custody matter. He quoted to me from the Family Court pamphlet they hand out to litigants at the courthouse. However, the information was incorrect. I spent twenty minutes explaining to him how the laws stated therein had been overturned while he continually reminded me that he “got it from the Court”.

When a potential new client comes in, I basically have to undue the brainwashing done to them by their well-meaning friends. They come in telling me how their friend receives “$x per month in spousal support” and ask why I do not think they will get that. Normally, their friend received $x because their spouse earned $x*Y and they were married for 25 years whereas the potential client’s spouse earns $x/Y and they were only married 14 months.

So my passion now stems from trying to protect people from the bad information out there and help them through an emotionally taxing process with minimal scarring.

7.) You will be appearing in a movie in the near future (or have already appeared therein depending on when you answered this) Divorce Corp., this sounds like a GUTSY appearance as the movie takes aim at judges, “Playing God,” as well as, “Unlicensed custody evaluators,” who, “Tear children from their homes.” Obviously, without mentioning any names, can you give any examples of cases in which you have witnessed these kind of allegations actually unfold?

YES!!! I have a case currently in its 3 incarnation. It involves a child taken from the mother and given to the father. The mother was able to obtain a position in the military as an officer and needed to move out of state to accept. Rather than just up and leave, and make the father chase her down, she brought a case requesting relocation. The father, continually unemployed, was given a court-appointed attorney. Apparently, without my knowledge, the attorney assigned for the child, and the retired judge (now working for the Family Court system as a Judicial Hearing Officer 2 days per week) assigned to the case, seemed also to have been assigned to represent the father as every single decision ever made on the case went against the mother. My motion for the retired Judge to recuse himself fell on deaf ears as, in NY, the judge you are seeking to remove from the case decides on that very motion. Since pointing out his reverse racism (the father is black and the judge is white (my client is white)) as well as his inability to control the courtroom and blatant kowtowing to the father’s attorney (who laughs and editorializes while I am speaking in court…who the judge fails to admonish), no further decisions have gone in my client’s favor. We have complained to the Appeals court, and fell on deaf ears…we have filed grievances with the Administrative Judge for the State of NY…to nary even a courtesy letter in reply. The system is broken…beyond broken.

8.) Divorce can be a messy process, especially when children are involved, but I imagine some of the battles for possessions can be funny at times, with that said, what is the strangest possession that a would-be former spouse has absolutely DEMANDED you secure in a settlement?

I would not be able to break it down to a single possession, but instead will tell you about how the animosity between parties brought about a ridiculously expensive way of dividing their tangible assets.

The parties’ were in foreclosure and had to remove themselves and their belongings from the house. Both of them produced an inventory of items they wished to remove from the residence. To nobody’s surprise, they both listed practically everything. Neither one would budge. The judge ordered the parties and attorneys to be at the house the following morning at 9am. A coin would be flipped and each spouse would, in turn, go through the house choosing one item at a time until every single item of personal property was itemized and distributed. It took 8 hours! RIDICULOUS!

9.) Divorce can be a very expensive process for people, and the more money a couple has, the more expensive the divorce tends to be…but it can also be a financially stressful process for those without much money. With that said, do you ever take on divorce cases pro bono, is it by choice or is there a rotation as there sometimes is in other types of law?

A few years ago, I signed up for a pro bono divorce panel. I was assigned a case and, when the woman showed up, she showed up with her brother, who was in my high school class. I pulled him aside, as I knew he made some nice coin, and asked why he wouldn’t help his sister…of course, he said that’s what I was for….
The client gave me a photo of the husband and filled out the necessary paperwork for my process server to track him down. A week later my process server informed me that he could not find the guy at the address given. I told the client and she said “You have to go around back, he lives in the basement”. Another valiant attempt by the process server revealed that the guy did not live there anymore, per his discussion with the landlord, who showed him the empty basement apartment. I informed my client and she berated me, stating that the landlord was lying to cover for the husband. When I told her that the apartment was empty, she stated that they must have known the process server was coming and emptied the place out temporarily. I informed her I would send the process server back in a few days. Once again, empty apartment. She refused to believe me and asked the pro bono panel for a new attorney. I was ecstatic and never tried again

10.) Would you rather see a potential client with expensive clothing walk into your office, or a first card Ace with your biggest bet in the circle?

A person wearing expensive clothing is not an indicator of liquidity. It could be they maxed out their credit cards to piss off their other spouse and thusly, there is actually no wealth or ability to afford an attorney retainer. They could also be narcissistic and be more than willing to spend money on themselves but think others should happily work for them for free. That being said, give me the first card Ace with a table max bet—there is more +EV with that.

11.) It has been said that divorces can go much easier if both sides just let the lawyers handle it and are amicable and reasonable in trying to come to mutually acceptable terms, with that said, have you ever had a client who was completely unreasonable and what came from that?

Hahaha! Yes, right now. The other attorney and I could have had this matter settled about a year ago. Neither party is a saint, the house is upside down and underwater yet neither one will settle. When I inform my client the house must be sold, she informs me that she will not sell unless a judge orders her too. When I inform her that there is no other outcome in the case, she states, “well then, at least I will be living in the house for another few months until the judge makes a decision after trial”. So basically, I have a client who refuses to settle because she does not like her horrific position (that she got herself into) in the case. She is like a child who covers her eyes and then exclaims “You can’t see me!”

12.) I’ve not looked up the laws for New York, but, “I’m sick of my unreasonable friggin’ client,” would not be an adequate cause to withdraw as counsel in the States of West Virginia or Ohio…unless they were not paying you or doing something really crazy like filing their own motions without your knowledge…with that said, have you ever had to extricate yourself from an attorney-client relationship, and what were the circumstances?

Yes, on a number of occasions. In NY, if a client refuses to release you from a case, you must file for a permissive withdrawal, which requires filing a motion against your own client and giving reasons in the motion as to why the Court should release you from the Retainer. However, this must be done without revealing any client confidences.
A client’s refusal to pay is NOT a valid reason in NY for being asked off of a case. Yes, indentured servitude is alive and well. I know attorneys who have had to do entire trials, owed tens of thousands of dollars they will never see, all because a judge refused to let them off the case. Judges, being short sighted most of the time, believe all private sector attorneys to have an everlasting rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. In order to be relieved, I have had to play voicemail messages (in Chambers) where a client threatened to call all the local news stations if I did not win the case and tell them how horrible I was as her attorney. Clients have all the power (at least in NY) and it takes extremes for a judge to allow you to stop representing a client. That is why I save all emails and texts from every client…you never know when one will turn on you.

13.) It could probably be assumed that you would not date a client, or worse, the spouse of a client. However, let’s say that you met either a client or the spouse of a previous client, by chance, at some point in the distant future, how long after final resolution of the case do you think it would be appropriate to engage in a relationship with said person if there were mutual attraction there?

If the relationship predates the representation, it can continue. Otherwise, it cannot happen until the representation has terminated. That being said, I have not been in this position as, when representing someone, you see sides of them they would not normally show a prospective suitor. That being said, to know how vindictive someone can become is an eye-opener and turn-off. As such, I am not sure this would ever happen. Sure, if I just-so-happened to have the opportunity to represent Jennifer Lawrence in a future divorce, and said representation was over, I might take the risk. ☺

14.) We mentioned your upcoming movie appearance previously, so let’s talk about TV shows, what advice could you give a professional who has a hypothetical public appearance in which he admittedly could have portrayed himself in a more positive light, but also could have been portrayed in a more positive light…and, quite possibly, was intentionally portrayed in the most negative light possible…to restore his image?

Positive press. Social networking. Said person would be wise to make live television news appearances wherein editing is not a factor. It also takes place on a grass roots level in having clients spread the word about the level of representation the attorney can provide. When a client voluntarily writes a testimonial for you and tells you the will give your card and website to everyone they know, it lets you know that positivity has been brought back into your life. While it is not overnight and is an ongoing process, said attorney can begin to rebuild their professional life.

15.) Why do you suppose some people think it is bizarre to get down to bathing suits on a first date? Correct me if I am mistaken, but do people who are not even in a dating situation not go to public pools or spas in their swimwear all of the time?

Haha. Well basically, I think certain segments of women have a problem with it. I think certain people felt that putting the body on display was not a part of the dating game. However, I pose to them the question: Should not all marriages be arranged, sight unseen? Why wear clothes in the proper size…? Why not show up in a burlap sack? If the body should be off limits for even viewing on a date, then why not date “in the dark” ( I think that was a failed ABC dating television show actually )? You are correct, we are half naked in the summer at beaches and pools but god forbid on a date, at a very upscale spa…? Of course, I think certain segments of the female populace were jealous…I believe I saw comments from a 300 pound woman wherein she stated I “couldn’t get her into a hot tub in a bikini on a first date”. I was attempted to reply that she wouldn’t fit but I chose not too as that would have only gotten me in further hot water. They say there is a lid for every pot in the dating world, so why do others care how one lid fits with another pot…go find your own lid or pot or both, as the case may be. You date how you want and I date how I want. If you do not want to wear a bikini on a first date, then don’t have one at the ready. ☺

16.) Revel. Why?

Oh boy…well, when I played at Bally’s I swore that I would stick to playing there. Upon Revel opening, a host contacted me and invited me to play there (I knew a lot of former Bally’s employees who transferred over there). I was taken in by the glitz and glamour and, as I continued to play there and at Bally’s, I began to enjoy the smoke-free environment. After a few months, I began just playing at Revel, leaving the smoke-filled Bally’s in the past. I got to know the Revel employees and began to enjoy the atmosphere. I felt welcomed there by almost everyone. Sure, I felt similarly at Bally’s but, Revel had digipit dancers, burlesque dancers, no smoking and beautiful ocean views from the high-limit room. As the year went by, I continued to enjoy Revel and became a loyal player. That being the case, my tier level at Caesars properties became lower and lower. By the time I had some unfortunate experiences at Revel, I was no longer a 7Star in the Caesars community…hell, I was no longer even Diamond. As such, I no longer had a host and could only get mid-week rooms. Sure, I could have rebuilt my status easily but, remembering the so-so room conditions at Bally’s kept me playing at Revel. Revel, despite its customer service shortcomings from time to time, has treated me quite well. I have seen plenty of concerts, attended many holiday parties and met quite a few people I am happy to call my friends. So, for me, for the time being, it is Revel. Unless, of course, I am going to Vegas, where it is Aria (as Revel has no Vegas presence, which I hope is resolved if an entity with a Vegas presence can swoop in and save the day).

17.) If you could only play Blackjack at one casino for the rest of your life, but you would enjoy full comps and would be absolutely guaranteed never to be backed off, though they could Max bet you while allowing for a little bit of a spread, which casino would you choose, and why?

Very tough question. It would have to be the 2deck game in the high limit room at Aria. I have become friendly with the dealers, pit bosses and cocktail waitresses therein. They are a great crew and the 2deck rules are right up my alley. An intangible is the scent that is piped through the ventilation system, some sort of vanilla citrus, it is intoxicating.

18.) If you had to play one other table game, regularly, which would you choose?

If forced, I would play roulette…playing black or red. I am sure chaunceyb3 or sodawater would advise me to play Pai Gow tiles, with their assistance, but I just cannot seem to get into it. At least with roulette, I can play black or red and have a shot.

19.) Three part question: Are you qualified and sufficiently experienced to draft a pre-nuptial agreement, do divorce attorneys regularly draft pre-nuptial agreements, and, if not, what sort of attorney usually does that?

a.) Yes, I have drafted and/or negotiated antenuptual agreeements;
b.) Yes they do indeed;
c.) N/A.

20.) If you’ve had the opportunity to research it in any States or countries where it is legal, do gay marriages tend to result in divorce more often, less often, or about the same within the first three years of marriage? Have you ever represented an individual from a gay couple who wished to divorce or have a dissolution of a Civil Union?

I have not had the occasion to research it as same sex marriages in NY are very new. I give it another three years before same sex couples realize they fought for an outdated right and wish to be out of their marriages. We can revisit this question when I represent my first same sex divorce client.

21.) In terms of enjoyment value, would you rather see an Ace painted or have a ten-card get an Ace, and why?

Enjoyment value is the backdoor Ace…when I get a ten-card I have a little ritual wherein I motion my right pinky as if I am seeking a card and yell out “BACKDOOR!!!”. This usually elicits a “That’s what she said” from someone at the table. Although, looking back at question #20 herein, it could also be “That’s what he said.”

 

Follow-up Q&A:

1. Explain if you would the benefits/detriments which you feel Speed Count may afford you in terms of play vs. your casino relationship… they must know you are ‘counting’ in the pit, right? But they don’t fear your methodology? Are you at an overall +EV with Speed Count, and if so can you assign a win % at all?

I believe that the Speed Count affords me the opportunity to play at a slightly better than basic strategy level without my having to pay too close attention to each and every card and do a +1 -1 running count followed by a true count. I find it suits my needs for the right mix of fun and advantage. I know the limitations of the speed count and accept the risk. I am not sure they know I am counting using any method as variance seems to rule the day at Revel. For my lifetime using speed count, and not including all the comps I have been given, I am plus five figures.

2. About the lawyer part … curious how you break down your current marketing approach …. what % come from internet/website, what % from lawyer referrals, what % from former clients/etc?

As of this year, I ceased all advertising…I no longer perform SEO on my website so basically, my clients come from referrals and social media networking. Television appearances also improve my exposure but now I am basically relying upon reputation.

3. I am not a counter, but there seems to be two components to gain an advantage in BJ play. Counting AND Bet Spread. Many here seem to attack Speed Count as a ‘weaker’ count system. You have explained why you use it, and why you are happy with it. I have seen some people say that for any count to be effective, you have to spread at least 10X during the good counts, to gain an edge. In your case, that would be a $1k bet.  Do you exploit the good counts with a high bet spread, or do you just count to get a better idea of what your expected outcome is likely to be, while maybe betting a much lower spread?

I use it to get a better idea of what the expected outcome is and I spread only a couple of units…I am not in it to win big or lose big – I am in it for the journey, not the destination.

I hope you enjoyed and please, if you have not already, go join in on forums at the Wizard of Vegas.

 

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