At just 16 years old, Anthony Curtis knew Las Vegas was his kind of town. A self-professed “game player” since birth, he was enamored of the idea of making money by using his head to beat the house. The only holdback was his age. The day he turned 21, he decided there would be no more college. Two months later, he began making frequent trips from Southern California to Las Vegas, where he quickly became one of the world’s best blackjack players. Eventually he became too good even for the casinos, and he was banned from playing. He focused instead on becoming the ultimate Las Vegas advisor. The monthly newsletter bearing that name compiles the city’s best deals. His website, lasvegasadvisor.com, has become one of the go-to sites for tourists and locals alike, and his Huntington Press has published more 70 titles, from books about gambling to politics. It adds up to Curtis being one of the most sought-after authorities on all things Vegas, and he happily distributes tips on ways to get an edge over casinos.
If you could go back to playing blackjack, would you?
No, blackjack professionally is a really tedious endeavor. It’s a long road and it’s hard. There are a lot of people trying to stop you. There are a lot of people who look at you in the casinos as a cheater even though you’re not cheating. It’s a tough way to go. You’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned to do it and there’s a ceiling. You can only win so much before you’re found out. There’s no ceiling on publishing, so, no, I wouldn’t trade back.
Do you like the chase of gambling or the gratification more?
Gratification—I like to win. I love the result when you’re right and you get paid. I like when it’s done and you cash.
How do you get your gambling fix these days?
“Gambling fix” isn’t really the right way to put it because I don’t really care about gambling. Gambling to me isn’t something I do specifically for entertainment. I gamble for profit, so if I’m not allowed to gamble I’ll publish books about gambling.
What is your advice for the novice gambler?
A beginning gambler should do a little bit of studying. People want to just go and rely on luck. Luck doesn’t exist. You’re only going to have an array of outcomes and people ascribe luck to them, but in the end, if you don’t study you are going to lose at this game. Either do some studying or absolutely treat it like entertainment.
Will Las Vegas ever be viewed as a great city?
No, Vegas will never be one of those kinds of metropolises. It will always be viewed as a redheaded stepchild of a great city. No matter what they do, it will always be viewed as a gimmick because it is. It will never quite get to that arena, but it will continue to grow in measures and it will get closer and closer.
What is the best deal in Las Vegas?
In the Las Vegas Advisor we always do a Top 10, and for the past maybe 14 months, No. 1 in the Top 10 has been low room rates. It’s just unbelievable. You can stay somewhere just off the Strip for less than you would spend in a Super 8 in Temecula, Calif.—it’s just absolutely crazy. Beyond that, I would go to the $6.95 steak dinner at Ellis Island.
So the deal has returned to Las Vegas.
It’s all about what Vegas used to be in terms of loss leaders, especially in room prices. Vegas tried to get away from that. Vegas was always a mousetrap, and the cheese was the affordability and the great prices. They went too far and it left the city vulnerable to this downturn that we’ve seen right now, so they’re doing what’s natural and what’s worked in the past—bringing people in with a bargain. Vegas is right back to being one of the best deals. I love it.