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Learning How to Play Cards in Las Vegas and in Chicago

Learning How to Play Cards in Las Vegas and in Chicago

My name is Michael Ford. I’m a retired actuary with a love for card games. Some of my first memories involved playing cards with my family. My father was a business executive who instilled in his four children a love of hard work, competitiveness, and pragmatism. We made our home was in Houston and life was large in those days. The Fords come from a long line of boisterous Irish, and here we were living in Texas, of all places. As my older brother says, I’m not an Irish-American; I’m an Irish-Texan.

As you might have guessed, the Ford family knew how to enjoy its leisure time. We enjoyed water sports in the summer and ski trips in the winter. For the three Ford boys, there was baseball and football. Sis had her softball, but she was every bit as tough as we were. My three siblings and I were taught to give our best in everything we did, whether it was school, sports, or cards. That ethic carried over into our professional lives, where we were all high achievers. The Fords are a family of Type A personalities.

Learning How to Play Cards

Our card sessions were legendary. Sitting around the kitchen table playing 5-card stud, we trash-talked one another mercilessly. Nothing was better than making a sibling go on tilt. My dad loved numbers crunching and he never gave an inch in our poker sessions, even if we were playing for nickels and dimes. For us kids, poker was a proving ground. Whether it was genetics or upbringing, I learned to calculate the odds of any move I made at the poker table. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was a tight/aggressive player.

Those skills served me well in college, when my buddies would gather every Wednesday night at 9pm for poker sessions. I gained a fierce reputation in the dorm my freshman year, my math skills tempered only by the liquor we included in the competition. In my four years at Boston University, I made a lot of money off my frat brothers. When I started playing at a local card room, I was a winning player against the assorted strangers there.

Best Betting Systems

By that time, I’d started to gamble on things other than cards. While still in Boston, I’d visit Suffolk Downs and bet the horses. I developed a system for picking thoroughbreds that’s way too complicated to discuss here, but I might post one day. I also bet on sports, especially NCAA football and basketball. With sports betting, I never developed a winning system. As the old saying goes, I learned not to bet on anything with two legs.

For a time after I entered my professional career, I stopped gambling. I was busy establishing myself. My time was filled working long hours and taking trips to the area bars with co-workers. In my five years spent in New York City and Baltimore, I hardly played a hand of poker.

Poker Night in Chicago

When I moved to Chicago, things were different. One of my supervisors had a poker night (Thursday). I was asked to join in the fun, and I leaped at the chance. I was playing amidst a group of actuaries, accountants, and finance executives. Here, I found the kind competition I loved as a child. Soon enough, I was reading every book I could to master poker–all for the sake of beating the sweat out of my co-workers in our “friendly” card sessions.

Trips to Las Vegas

I had more money by this time, so I would take a couple of trips a year to Las Vegas. When I went to Sin City, I started learning the casino table games like blackjack, baccarat, and craps. We’d played blackjack sometimes in my childhood, but it was not the main attraction. In Las Vegas, I discovered the full range of gaming excitement.

Curiosity and novelty got the better of me, so I tried every game in the casino. Every game is not created equally. I learned that roulette played at face value has little strategy, while I learned quickly enough to avoid the slot machines. Over the next 15 years or so, I would sample most of the Las Vegas Strip casinos, along with half of the off-the-strip casinos downtown.

Back in Chicago, I was building a life. There, I met Lisa, who became my wife (and still is). Lisa is quite and cultured, but she has the smarts and energy to keep up with the likes of the Fords. Lisa brought calm and focus to my life. We dated for four years, then decided to get married and raise a family. She tamed me, while I made her life a little more interesting. Along the way, I taught her to love blackjack.

Mastering Blackjack

Blackjack became my game of choice. It’s almost inevitable that an actuary is going to be drawn to twenty-one, when you start to get inside the numbers. Actuaries calculate risk. We’re about risk management, so it’s natural someone like me would play the game with the best odds in the casino. I learned basic strategy for five or ten different variants, then began to read about card counting. Before I was finished, I studied all the shortcuts and systems, of course: progressive betting, shuffle tracking, so on and so forth.

Though I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to blackjack strategy, I developed strong opinions on all the topics relating to blackjack. I did the same for the other games you’ll play in a casino: baccarat, craps, slots, and video poker. Over the course of my life, I’ve tried them all–and discarded a few. Maybe it’s because of my childhood, but it’s the card games which hold my imagination. After thousands of hours in casinos, after all the many trips to gaming destinations across America and around the world, I always come back to playing cards.

Casino Card Game Reviews

That’s what Casino Card Game Reviews is about: to pass on my accumulated knowledge of card games. Now that I’m retired to the quiet life, I play less in the big casinos. Often these days, I play cards online. For a while, online blackjack stumped me, because random number generators make counting cards obsolete. Then they developed live blackjack on the Internet via streaming. It’s the best thing invented since apple pie.

On this website, I intend on writing about the best card games in the casino. When I say “best card games”, I mean those with the best odds. I want my readers to leave this site knowing the best way to approach the games with the lowest house edges. I’ll provide strategies, tips, opinions, and recommendations. Gambling is a contact sport, so you need the skills to play optimally. Sometimes, I’ll give reviews and recommendations on land-based and online casinos. If I come across an exotic and exciting new variation of a game, I’ll discuss that. I might even give reviews of hotels. Let’s see where this goes.

About Michael Ford

Though my kids might not agree, those who knew me decades ago will be relieved to know I’ve mellowed out a lot over the years. These days, I live quietly in the Dallas metropolitan area with Lisa, my lovely wife of many years. She tends her flower gardens and drags me to the opera, while I play cards (mostly) at the Winstar or the Choctaw Casino. I still visit Las Vegas once a year and, yes, I’ve seen more than one Cirque du Soleil show. A man has to make sacrifices for his hobbies.

I try to stay in shape. I attend a gym regularly and spend a lot of time in the swimming pool and the sauna. Lisa and I cycle to stay in shape, though that’s becoming less frequent as we get older. I enjoy reading spy novels and historical fiction, along with books on real life military history. Biographies are a favorite of mine, so long as the person was a high achiever. All these years, I don’t like to hear (or read) someone complain. That’s the great thing about cards. It’s a challenge, but if you’re smart, you’ll do well. To be smart at cards, you have to learn the basic strategies. Just like in sports, fundamentals are everything. Keep reading CasinoCardGameReviews and you’ll do alright.