So do you find yourself playing mostly poker these days?
Yes, these days I play a lot more poker. It's a lot easier. I don't have to hide who I am. There are actually benefits of being known as a poker player. People give you a lot more respect and you can steal a lot more pots. People are afraid of you and that's usually good in the poker world. In the blackjack world, once a casino is afraid of you, they're going to kick you out. In the poker world, once they are afraid of you, they're going to give you lots of pots.
The part that I really like about the blackjack, that I miss in poker, is when you are playing blackjack, you are winning money from the casinos - a huge corporate entity that has all these resources and they're trying to take money from gamblers who don't know what they're doing. So we're turning the tables on them, it's like a David and Goliath type of battle. It's much more satisfying for me to win a lot of money from a casino than it is to win from other average gamblers.
In 1997, you skipped some of your classes at Harvard to play in the World Series of Poker. During that tournament, you volunteered to record all of your hole cards for an article Tom Sims wrote for Card Player Magazine. Why did you volunteer to do something so unheard of?
That was actually my first year in law school. That was my last week of classes. I wasn't sure how I was going to play. My friend Tom Sims wanted to do this project where he followed someone around and recorded all of their hole cards and all the action. I told him if he couldn't find anyone and I decided to play, that he could watch me. I decided to play because I wasn't sure how many more chances I'd have in the next couple of years because of law school. I ended up skipping two out of the last three days of classes. Unfortunately, I busted out just in time to catch the Red Eye home to catch the last day of class. It would have been worthwhile if I had missed that, I think.
Tom really was a pioneer in the poker reporting world. Not only did he track me that entire main event for almost two full days of play, he also tracked almost every final table I think that year and he did a lot of poker reporting the year before. The thoroughness of his reporting is something they've only recently caught up on with sites like Poker Wire. Of course, now that so many other people are connected to the Internet, it's a much bigger deal now. But what he was doing back in 1996 and 1997 was just phenomenal. And he did it for next to nothing.
You have won over $1,000,000 playing poker tournaments and have made it to the final table at the WSOP multiple times. With so many people entering the tournament every year, what do you think your chances are of winning a WSOP bracelet in the future?
The "$50,000 HORSE" might actually be the event I'm most likely to win. It's not because I'm great or have the biggest edge in that, although I think I have a decent edge because I play a lot of those games but so do a lot of the top pros who are going to be putting up the $50,000, but because it's just going to be a smaller field. I can't imagine in my wildest dreams more than 200 players in that. Most likely, it will be closer to 100. Winning that, maybe I have a one percent chance of winning that. Then there's a bunch of other events, maybe combined I have a ten percent chance of winning an event this World Series.
Do you think poker will continue to grow in popularity or do you think this is its "15 minutes of fame," and the bubble will burst at some point?
I think we're at a transition point where poker is moving from being a fad to being a mainstream sport - whether or not you want to call it a sport, it certainly has a lot of the same aspects. I think it will continue to grow, I think it will solidify. I think the poker that you see on TV is going to start to change because the television viewers are more educated in the rules and the strategy of poker. Within a year or two hopefully, you're not going to have to start every poker broadcast with a list of the hand rankings and how the blinds work. In a baseball game, they assume you know each batter gets three strikes and four balls and you have the four bases and nine innings and all that. You don't have to start a baseball game explaining all that.
I think if you started from scratch and had baseball as a new past time, I don't think baseball would have a chance at this stage at being as popular as poker is. Not as fast as poker has risen. I think a lot of that is because poker really is ingrained in the American psyche. It has frontierism and capitalism where whoever is the brightest and the smartest with a little bit of luck will end up winning.
If you weren't a professional card player, what would you be doing for a living?
I think I could have ended up being an electrical engineer or a computer chip designer. One of my job offers after MIT was in the Bay area, in San Jose actually, where there are a couple of legal card rooms. And I wonder if I would have ended up doing the same thing anyway if I had taken that job instead of the one I took or how different my life would have been. I think I probably still would have learned to play poker and done well at poker, but I probably would have been more of an engineer. I could also imagine being a civil rights attorney possibly litigating free speech cases or other public interest issues.
What do you do with your free time? What hobbies do you have?
I spend like 10 hours a week playing online on Full Tilt Poker and I like to spend time with friends and family. In Vegas, when you are hanging out with these other poker players, you almost can't avoid going out to some of the clubs. I still do a lot of computer programming, mostly poker and gambling related, and also website related. I have a couple of websites I maintain, including my own, AndyBloch.com. And sometimes in my spare time, I'm also a lawyer defending myself, but fortunately, I haven't had to do that in a little while.
I've got one last thing for you here. I'm going to do a word association. I'll just throw out a name and tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
No Limit Hold'em.
The World Series of Poker.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy, July 2006. Beating Blackjack with Andy Bloch is available now on DVD at Expert Insight. To find out more information about Andy Bloch, visit AndyBloch.com.