Play Blackjack like the Pros
Kevin Blackwood

Kevin Blackwood made his living playing Blackjack in the States throughout the eighties and nineties. He travelled extensively in pursuit of exploitable games, raked in over a million dollars in winnings during his playing years and was shown the door by various casino managements over two hundred times - he kept meticulous records as every good "advantage player" should. When his gig was over, and he couldn't get a game anywhere, he did what many other professional gamblers have done and took up writing; Play Blackjack like the Pros is the second of three titles to his name, the first being a fictional work (The Counter, published in 2003) and the most recent being an introduction to casino gaming which is part of the bright yellow "Dummies" series, and was published in 2006.

The book itself I think falls into the category of being an "early stage" read for those looking to start playing blackjack, and as an introduction for those who've never played before it's fine. However if you've already learned basic strategy, and are looking to take things up a notch or two, then frankly I think there are better publications in current circulation on which to spend your pennies. Play Blackjack like the Pros first hit the bookshop shelves ten years ago, and consequently some of the conditions written about are now dated and more of a memory than relevent for today's budding blackjack players looking to repeat Mr B's success; the deeply dealt single and double deck games that returned the majority of his winnings during his career are now precious few (and to the best of my knowledge have never been offered in the UK), and if the title was to be re-released, the chapter dedicated to internet blackjack would probably be replaced with a single page entitled "Don't bother", as the good ol' days of profitable bonus-whoring are also largely in the past - "profitable" meaning there's a reasonable prospect of cashing them out !

Although Mr B hasn't gone into great detail with any of the subject matter he's written about, to be fair he does make references to other, highly regarded and more comprehensive publications and sites on the web, and does suggest readers refer to these to complement his own material. This is essential to gain an in-depth understanding of the game and it's finer points, ie things such as if you were to alter your bet spread by how much will it affect your long term EV?

In addition to the core coaching chapters, which provide an adequate degree of explanation and direction, Within the covers there are also chapters discussing Team Play, Tournament Blackjack and Money Management, together with one entitled International Blackjack Opportunities (ie playing outside of the States). This chapter, whilst offering sound advice with regard to personal safety, the lack of gaming regulation in large parts of the world and therefore the ever present risk of cheating and corruption, I'm sure could equally be found in the leisure section of any rough travel guide. Largely a matter of common sense really - visit a poor country with a load of cash in your pocket and you're going to be a target for the crims?

Overall, for me Play Blackjack like the Pros is lacking as a detailed "how-to-do-it" instructional read - sure, it covers a lot of ground, and doesn't miss out anything critical, but I can't help thinking it's been written more as an end-of-career exercise to rake in a few bob than as a comprehensive reference text to rival those established titles considered to be mandatory reading on the subject. With twenty years plus of war-stories from the felt to recount, I think he would have been better off writing an entertaining autobiography, with more stories similar to his recollection of his visit to the Dominican Republic, where his self-preservation radar indicated it was in his best interests to pack up and check out of his hotel pronto. But that's just me. As I've said in other reviews, just because this book didn't light my particular fire don't let that put you off obtaining a copy and judging for yourself.

Having spent some time researching on the web, all I could trace about Kevin Blackwood, since he published his last book in 2006, are references to some interviews he's taken part in and his own web site, where the short bio states he now lives in Oregon. I couldn't find anything relating to what he does now to make a crust. Perhaps his gambling days left him well provided for?

Keving Blackwood's web site can be found at

July 2015