ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – George Pappadopoulos makes a lot of money. He won't say just how much he rakes in, but he's anything but mum about how he does it — blackjack.
Pappadopoulos has been playing the card game for nearly 30 years, and he says he's tried all the tricks.
"I learned how to count cards. I read all the experts," said Pappadopoulos, who has written two books that detail his strategy, Blackjack's Hidden Secrets: Win Without Counting and Blackjacks' Hidden Secrets II.
But to win at blackjack, where players have to accumulate cards worth more than the dealer, but less than 21, Pappadopoulos stresses five rules: bankroll, basic strategy, money management, table trends and discipline.
"You have to have a win goal and a loss limit," he said. "Your win goal should be 50 percent of your bankroll, and your bankroll should be forty times the amount of the table's minimum bet. So at a $5 table, your bankroll should be $200, and your win goal should be $100. Once you win, you color in your chips and you're done."
The slim books are written in the author's easy conversational style. In fact, Pappadopoulos makes everything sound easy, from winning at blackjack to publishing and distributing his own books — he personally called over 200 Borders stores to pitch his first book.
"We put it up on the Internet and nothing happened. So I started making calls and got in Borders," Pappadopoulos said over a roast beef sandwich — no bread — at Resorts International Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Pappadopoulos also recommends an unorthodox betting scheme to help manage your money, or "action," as they say at the blackjack table.
"My betting system is two-one-two-three-four-five," he said. If the minimum bet is $5, you should first bet 10, the next five, the next 10, then 15, 20 and so on. If you lose a hand, you start from the beginning.
And according to the experts, Pappadopoulos knows what he's talking about — at least most of the time.
"We agree with George on a lot of his points," said Kevin Brown, director of Table Games at Resorts. Brown confirmed that customers who gamble with a limited bankroll usually do have a more enjoyable experience.
But win or lose, gambling isn't for everyone. And many groups stress that gambling causes serious health and social detriment in thousands of Americans each year.
Sandi Brustuen of the Minnesota-based Vanguard Compulsive Gambling Treatment Center said gambling becomes a problem when people lose control of themselves and can't stop.
"It's not about the money, it's about the action," said Brustuen. "Even when they've won, compulsive gamblers continue to gamble until all the money is gone."
It's not unusual for compulsive gamblers to run upwards of $100,000 in debt, according to Brustuen.
Treatment for gambling problems range from psychological counseling to financial consultation with patients and their families. "A lot of family members were lied to and betrayed, and many are scared because they may not have a house to live in."
Gambling can ruin a family as those who are addicted to it often lose money they don't have.
"And where does that money come from? It comes from selling a home or a business," Brustuen said.
Pappadopoulos doesn't apologize for his lifestyle, but admits it's not for everybody.
"Look, it takes discipline to do this," said the former Marine and restaurateur. "It's a business, like the stock market. But it's better than the stock market. There, you're giving your money to people and it's out of your control. They're building $94 million homes with your money.
"In blackjack, every investment decision — and that's what you are, an investor — is yours. Hit, stand, double down or split. Those are your decisions."