Betting Not Just on Luck, But on Your Own Ability
By M.C. Edwards

The Midwest is a secret society when  when it comes to gambling. Seventy percent of the gambling population in this country shuttle to casinos from the heartland. And we travel more distance to get there. That kind of ambition delights casino barons in Vegas, Reno, Tahoe and Atlantic City. Because they know that somewhere between the Bible Belt and the Sun Belt is a whole body of hard working citizens just saving up to get away from it all and have some thrills. And while most gamblers will hit he casinos dreaming of a payoff, are we'll travel travel home with a few more thrills and a lot less

But Vas Spanos doesn't advocate dreaming of a payoff when you visit casinos he he wants you to count on it. Spanos is a blackjack master from Greece who has come to Minnesota to revolutionize the game. As a mathematician and teacher, he’s developed accounting system for the game of blackjack that relies on mental acuity and patience – two sobering principals for the fly-by-night player. Because of this new perspective on the game, blackjack is shedding its voodoo mystique to emerge as one of the most popular sports in the country. And Midwestern players who were once prey to casino strategies can now beat

Spanos likens the game of blackjack to chess or tennis, and his prize students are people who enjoy the thrill of betting, not just on luck, but on their own ability.

Spanos has been honing his theories on this mysterious game since his schooldays in Athens. Born in Aeghion, Greece, he was introduced to a version of blackjack by some fellow students and became absorbed with its mathematical variables. “The complexity of the game is what stimulated me,” he recalls. “I used to watch the face cards popping out of the deck, and was a winner most of the time. I couldn’t figure out why.” This fascination with numbers was to lead Spanos to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Minnesota. He contradicts the local image of a math nerd, with his swarthy looks and passionate delivery. “Potential for creating wealth was motivator,” he enthuses. “But how can you explain that other thing – the mastery of factors that result in a successful play based on the perfect shuffle of the deck.”

Spanos lights a fire under his students with his infectious enthusiasm and raucous teaching style. For a man who started his school with a twenty dollar bill, Spanos’ aggressive approach has paid off as well as his carefully thought out theories. After being mugged and robbed of his earnings in Las Vegas, he returned to Minneapolis determined to succeed. His three-month training program is unique in the country. While other schools may tech basic strategies for blackjack, Spanos introduces a rigorous counting system and memorization with a hands-on approach.

The stout Greek stand behind the blackjack table, flicking out cards and shouting rapid-fire commands in his thick accent. “Hit, hit, hit! You must be fast and always thinking. Zero Time!” he bellows at the group of students circled around the table. Many of his students are highly paid professionals unaccustomed to being ordered into action. But Spanos believes in his system, and knows the level of concentration required to win at casinos. “My goal is to associate my name with creating the very best blackjack players in the world,” he explains. Ann is in her forties, a pediatric nurse who saw Spanos’ ad in a local paper, and decided to check it out. “I had been playing blackjack for fun since I was young. I cane to interview Vas to see if he was better then I was,” she recounts. “I had a propensity for the game, but had been to Vegas just a few times. I’m not a card player, on bridge or canasta. I like blackjack because it’s a challenging game, a thinking game, as opposed to mindlessly putting a number on a roulette table while someone spins the wheel.”

Ann and her husband lead busy lives in Minneapolis, but enjoy the times they share together in Las Vegas. They have been winning regularly o their trips there, and Ann ascribes her success to Spanos’ emphasis on discipline. “When I’m playing blackjack, I don’t feel it’s a gamble or risk to sit sown at the table. With the training I’ve gotten, I’m more confident. I finally took a look at the pit bosses for the first time. Now I’m no longer intimidated by anybody.”

Now Ann and her husband make frequent trips to Vegas, augmenting their income with their substantial winnings. “The method isn’t like the ones you read in books. I spent an hour a day studying and memorizing charts, and once you’ve gone through the process, and have seen how it works, you stay with it.” Much of what determines the successful player is in his/her attitude. As Ann observed, “People cone to Vegas expecting to lose. Last time we were there we won two thousand dollars, and we left winning. Vas says if you learn his system, you really can earn a thousand dollars and hour, and it really does happen. But the neophyte is not going to sit down and do that.”

She continues to set goals and objectives with game, and sees blackjack as an avocation for profit, and fun. “The important gain from Vas’ class is my increased confidence in the game. That makes playing so much fun. When I first started I thought, I don’t know if I can buckle down and do this. But Vas is a hard driving teacher, and he makes the game interesting. He makes his students meet the challenge of the game, and it’s for their own good.”

Spanos insists that the question for the good strategy player “is when he of she is going to make their money, not if! This method will never be a threat to casinos. They are greedy, yes, and they don’t want winners. But if they have any smarts they will know that my method is making the game of blackjack both more familiar to players, and more popular. I give people who study with me the opportunity to earn more money in the game. And there are things hidden in the game of blackjack that few of us in the world will understand.”

What Spanos knows could indeed amount to a rite of passage for members of a secret society.