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Poker Stories Podcast With Bob Bright

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 07, 2018

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Born: Long Beach, California
Live Tournament Earnings: $850,000

Bob Bright has two World Series of Poker Circuit titles, and a few WSOP final-table appearances, but he’s best known in the poker world for the time he has spent battling it out at the highest-stakes cash games. Bright, who has been seen on poker shows such as Poker After Dark, is a regular in Ivey’s Room at the Aria, spent years playing in Bobby’s Room at Bellagio, and has even taken part in the nosebleed stakes games abroad in Manila and Macau. But it was at the blackjack tables that Bright first got his start in Las Vegas.

Bright was in his mid-30s, and married with three children when he decided to leave a stable job to play blackjack for a living. The decision paid off, with Bright becoming one of the more successful card counters of that era. After the casinos shut down his action, he dove head first into the stock market. He quickly established himself as one of the nation’s top day traders, and later started Bright Trading, which became one of the largest firms in the country with several hundred traders in more than 50 offices in North America.

Highlights from this interview include being a numbers guy, getting perfect scores in the Army, learning poker on his paper route, betting on the rules, bowling a 300 game, quitting the stable 9-to-5 job to play blackjack for a living, a six-month grind with the red chips, gambling with an edge, the life of a ‘lone wolf’ card counter, crushing Caesars Palace in one weekend for a house, working with Ken Uston, getting ‘back roomed’, jumping head first into the stock market, being called “the nation’s no. 1 day trader”, driving the same car from 2001, being driven from the pits to Bobby’s Room, $4k-$8k cash games, seven-figure buy-ins, 10-minute $5 million swings, trying to keep up with Jean-Robert Bellande, a $3 million bet on the river, getting coolered by Andrew Robl, watching paint, and an AI-themed casino.

The Highlights

On his career as a card counter, and what drew him to blackjack…

“My father was in the merchant marines, and I would see him maybe one month every 12 months. He’d either have a lot of money because he won playing with his shipmates, or he would not have any money. By the time I was 18, I figured out that he was not the best gambler in the world, and if I was going to gamble, I was going to do it right. Because of that, I told myself that I wasn’t going to gamble unless I had an edge… I would fly to Las Vegas every weekend to play blackjack…, and decided that blackjack was a better choice that staying with a large corporate job. My wife is in some ways a bigger risk taker than I am… and she was all for whatever I wanted to do. We moved to Las Vegas in 1974. It was a struggle, I had just $3,000. The tables stakes were a maximum of $500, but I couldn’t afford that. I couldn’t even afford green chips. I was really starting at the bottom. It took six months before I finally broke through to green chips.”

On the glory days of blackjack in Las Vegas…

“You have to remember this is 1974. Most of the pit bosses or floor people, even management, did not understand their own blackjack game. Sometimes they would offer promotions [such as] giving 2:1 on blackjack, rather than 3:2, or what you see on the Strip today, 6:5. It gave us such a tremendous advantage. One casino in town, every Christmas, would run a week-long promotion where they would deal every card of a 52-card deck. Of course, all the card counters in town were there that week. Every year during the El Dorado days, one casino would deal a double deck, thinking it would make up for a single deck, but they put a joker in, which could be used for anything. If you had a face card with it, of course you could use it to make blackjack. If you had a six with it, you’d take a hit, and then change the joker to whatever you wanted. This went on for a number of years until they caught on. They had a $500 limit, and I would sit down for a week every year and bet $500. That was working really well, and I was making money just grinding hour after hour, and finally one of the shift bosses came over. I thought, ‘Uh oh.’ He said, ‘I noticed that whenever the joker comes out, you drop your bet size down to the minimum.’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ thinking he was going to catch on. He said, ‘Well, if we put the joker immediately back in and reshuffle, would you stay with your maximum $500 bet?”

On why he chooses to play poker against some of the best in the world for high stakes…

“What drew me to the [high-stakes poker games] is the fact that the casinos said I wasn’t welcome to play blackjack or other pit games. Casinos had no problem welcoming me in the poker room, because they weren’t putting their money at risk. They were just providing a service. So, I took up cash games. I did it for a few years at the Venetian, and then Bobby’s Room, and for the last few years, I’ve been playing here in the Ivey Room. I’m not the best of our group of players, but I can afford to lose a little here and there, and it’s something to do. I wasn’t drawn to playing with the best. It is a challenge, but I wanted to play [these games] because you know what time the game is going to run, and there’s a seat for you at this time, and you can just show up and play. Some of the smaller games, you go in, get on a list, and might have to wait a couple hours. It wasn’t the big players I wanted to play with, I just didn’t want to wait around, and I ended up in the bigger games.”

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Scott Seiver, Freddy Deeb, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.