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Brian "Leftnut" Soper is an avid student of video poker, who hadn’t played a game of blackjack in years. Then he saw a banner ad in BJI for one of the UBT charter sponsors,, and decided to give Elimination Blackjack a try (for free). Two weeks later, he won a freeroll tournament on and a seat in the UBT Finals that was filmed for airing on national TV, where millions will be watching him play. What follows is his amazing and true story.


November 4th, 2006 was a day that changed my life, although I didn’t know it at the time. Thanks to a link discovered in the BJI newsletter in late October, I went to the site I had never played in a blackjack tournament, but after visiting the site, it looked like it was going to be fun, so I decided to give it a try.

Playing on the site was totally free, and this new elimination blackjack game looked more cerebral & intriguing than poker, so I figured, why not? (How’s this for more bravery - I hadn’t even played blackjack in a brick and mortar casino in a long time). But then unbelievably, just two weeks later on Nov. 4, I sat in front of my computer shocked as I read this on my screen:

"Congratulations, LeftNut! You won the Tournament in L.A.!"

That’s’ right, I had won a seat at the TV Final Table for an upcoming UBT tournament, with airfare, hotel, and limo all paid – and it didn’t cost me a dime to play on!

I spent the next two months working my tail off learning all I could about Elimination Blackjack. This was going to be the first time I played in a live blackjack tournament (more bravery). Sometimes opportunity knocks, but this time it had simply kicked the door wide open and I figured I’d better smarten up in a hurry. I spent more than 40-plus hours per week browsing through archived tournament articles in BJI and visiting Online Forums, reading everything I could find on tournament strategy. I posed plenty of questions to more experienced tournament players, who were always kind enough to help. A friend loaned me a box of good poker chips, and I spent hours getting used to accurately counting – and remembering - large stacks of chips, so I would be prepared to accurately estimate my opponents bankroll in the tournament. I found a chart of basic strategy online for an 8-deck shoe, LS, H17, DAS game and carried it in my wallet, testing myself until I had the playing strategy down cold. I also purchased Ken Einiger’s tournament book, Play To Win, and read that sucker over and over until I nearly had the whole book memorized. Then the phone calls and emails started pouring in from the staff at UBT, checking travel arrangements, asking questions to prepare me for interviews, and a myriad of other details. Finally, the time had come for me to pack my bags, say my prayers, and fly to Los Angeles to play in my first blackjack tournament against seasoned pros that will be seen by millions of TV viewers.

The tournament was going to be played and taped on Sunday, January 14. A limo picked me and a friend up at the hotel, and we were at the studio by 10:30 am. Since neither of us had ever been to a Hollywood TV set before, we did some wandering around checking out the soundstage until we were ushered into the Green Room, a badly mislabeled room because there wasn’t anything green in it at all. It seemed that each tournament contestant was assigned a "tail" – someone on the production staff who would follow us everywhere, and report our location over their headsets. It was almost like the FBI following us!

We were allowed to have family/friends in the Green Room. However, the room was rather small, so if someone brought more than one other person with them, it became quite crowded. Six contestants were present; the one missing was none other than the infamous "Hollywood" Dave Stann, who finally made his entrance just before Russ Hamilton came in to meet and greet us, and also review the official tournament rules. Then a UBT staffer pulled out seven ordinary playing cards and placed them face down on a table so that we could draw for seat positions. Ladies first, and Linda got the precious seat #7 (the best seat possible). When my turn came around, I managed to draw the 6th playing position (which is the second-best position). Thank goodness for that.

(Editors note: The six contestants that Brian faced were Hollywood Dave, Erlinda S., John S., Michael T., Ahmet A., and Suhale M.).

To tell you the truth...

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