Interview with Michael Bluejay from VegasClick
1. VegasClick.com seems to be a complete guide to Las Vegas with plenty of quality gambling articles. What was the idea and motivation in creating this website?
Oh wow, this is not gonna be the answer you’re expecting. Before my first trip to Vegas I read a stack of books about Vegas and gambling. When I learned about comps I was excited about getting some, so I thought I’d make a site about Vegas and print up business cards listing me as the editor, then casually pass them out to various pit bosses and business owners I met, and I’d get all kinds of free stuff. Well, the opportunity to pass out the cards didn’t present itself very much, and when it did nobody was eager to give me anything, so that didn’t pan out, but my website unexpectedly got popular and that’s made me a fortune, so I guess I won in the end, just not the way I expected to. Really, my original goal was just to get some free meals and maybe a free room. I didn’t get that, but I got something way better. Go figure.
2. People in the gambling community probably associate you with VegasClick but might not know about your other non gambling websites. Are your viewers on the other sites surprised that you have a gambling site and a professional gambling background?
I don’t know if the readers of my other sites are even aware that I do the Vegas site. I don’t make it a secret or anything, I list all the sites I do on my home page, but I think most people don’t do a lot of clicking around.
3. How did you started in professional gambling?
I read a stack of books before my first Vegas trip and of course one of the topics I came across was card counting. I was intrigued, because who doesn’t want to beat the house? So I studied up, and here’s something I’ve never said before (because nobody’s asked): I actually learned how to count cards before I ever played my first hand of blackjack in a casino. I was counting from the very first hand. I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s ever done that, but that’s got to be exceptionally rare.
4. How did your friends and family react to your career choice as a gambler?
Well, first let me clarify: I didn’t do it for years. I just did it for a couple of months. I’d intended to do it for the longer term, but when I first started I was on a losing streak, and seriously undercapitalized, so I promised myself that if I recovered hit my win goal I’d quit until I had the proper bankroll to do it more safely. I did, then I quit. Once I built my savings and I played again it was for higher stakes and I made way, way more money than the first time, but I considered that recreational and not pro because I already had a job and because I wasn’t gambling even half-time.
See, the thing that most people don’t realize about card counting is that, just like everything else, it takes money to make money. To make $20/hr. safely you need to have at least $20,000 to back you up, otherwise you could lose everything due to bad luck before you’ve played long enough to ensure your win. So, if you $20/hr. seems like a lot of money to you, you’re not the kind of person who has $20k sitting in the bank. Conversely, if you’re the kind of person with $20k sitting in the bank, then you’ve already got a better gig than sitting in smoky casinos for $20/hr.
Anyway, to answer your question, I think my parents were impressed, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember clearly. Most friends certainly were. But I remember a former tenant of mine who was incredulous when I told him I was counting cards. “Bluejay! You can’t do that!” I replied, “Uh, I’m already doing it." I should have asked him what his specific objection was, I’m still not sure.
5. Were your websites a means of advancing beyond professional gambling?
As I said, I did pro card counting for only a couple of months. Once I quit that I started designing websites for others. At the same time I kept adding content to my various sites, just as a hobby, without it occurring to me that I might be able to make money from them. Well, Google Adsense came out right about the time my sites exploded in popularity, so it was a good combination, and it let me monetize my sites. As the ad revenue from my own sites increased, I stopped doing sites for other people and just focused on my own stuff, which of course is more fun.
It’s funny, with most of my sites, I didn’t create them to make money, I created them simply to share information. The Wizard did the same. Then we found out that our sites could actually be monetized so we wound up getting big windfalls. It’s interesting to me because I see lots of wannabe webmasters chasing the money, and I think they mostly make less money. In any business, if you focus on the customer (in our case, the reader) then the money will come. I went to a single affiliate conference in my life, over a decade ago. Everyone there was just fixated on making money, nobody talked about creating anything of value for their readers. Ironically most of them made less money than me. So I never went to another conference. I don’t rub elbows with other gambling webmasters, except the Wizard, and Bryan from Casinomeister. They do fantastic stuff. Others do, also, but they’re the ones I know.
6. For online gambling, it seems the rest of the world has more or less regulated and legalized online gambling but in North America especially the United States, there only seems to be a few states that have created their own licensing body. Why do you think things are taking so long
First, it’s because despite the supposed separation of church and state, religion influences public policy here. Right-wing opposition to gambling means it’s hard to get traction for it. Second, there are so many other more pressing concerns that Congress needs to work on, that gambling is a lower priority. It’ll happen someday, though.
7. For those that are looking to travel to Las Vegas to gamble, what are your 3 most important tips or pages you would share for advise?
My Top Ten tips are on the front page. Here are three of them:
- 1. Visit mid-week if you can. Hotel rates are often a third to a fourth what they are on the weekend. Plus, the lines for everything are shorter mid-week.
- 2. Sign up for a free Player’s Card at every casino you visit, whether you gamble there or not. Once you’re on their mailing list you’ll get offers for deeply-discounted or even free rooms and other goodies. I just got an offer in the mail for three nights at the Wynn, one of the nicest and priciest hotels on the Strip. I barely played there, ten years ago.
- 3. Don’t play slots. They suck your money away hand over fist. Play blackjack, craps, or video poker.
8. What other projects are you working on or is this top secret information you'll share in the future?
Well, I’d love to just overhaul the content on my sites because much of it is dated, but finding the time is hard. I feel I’m letting my readers down right now. But if I ever get caught up on that, I have an idea for a website that will revolutionize giving to charity. I’ve already got the domain name, DonateBetter.org. Stay tuned!