Patrick Caplice isn’t your average Aussie gambler, although he is considered a professional in the field. He spent years playing blackjack as part of one of the most famous blackjack teams in the world, known as the Bank Roll. But you won’t catch him spinning the reels on poker machines.
Caplice is a native of Glenorchy, one of the least fortunate districts in all of Tasmania, located in the capital city of Hobart. Being brought up in such a neighborhood taught him a lot of hard lessons from a very young age. It also led to his friendship with David Walsh, a fellow Tasmanian pro gambler and Glenorchy native.
Walsh – owner of Tasmania’s celebrated Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – and Caplice worked together for years, routing the blackjack tables from Australia, to Africa, to the United States. They are still god friends to this day, and are both avid campaigners against poker machines (in their current form).
How can a professional gambler be so enthralled by one form of wagering, yet so dead-set against another? The answer is simple. One form can be beaten, or at least enjoyed recreationally. The other, according to Patrick Caplice and his crusading cohorts, cannot.
Aussie Pro Gambler Patrick Caplice
Patrick Caplice spent years on the blackjack scene, playing for a highly sophisticated team headed by his friend David Walsh and another prolific Australian pro gambler, Zeljko Ranogajec.
Unlike the front-runners, Walsh and Ranogajec, Patrick’s behind-the-scene endeavors aren’t oft published. However, there’s one story of his phenomenal gambling that not only earned the team a great deal of cash, it changed the contour of Tasmania forever more.
In 1992, David Walsh sent his friend and Bank Roll team member to play blackjack in South Africa. It was a huge success. Caplice ended his time there with a $20k profit in his pocket. However, there was a problem. Walsh apparently hadn’t expected the results to be so lucrative.
Due to African law, Patrick had to call up Walsh and explain that he could not leave the country with so much cash on hand. So, instead, his friend came up with a plan.
He advised Patrick to go to an art studio Walsh had visited on a previous trip to the region. He told Caplice to purchase an antique door he’d been fond of, then return to Tasmania with the door, instead of the money.
Caplice followed David’s directive, and that very antique door ended up being the first of many more antique purchases to come for Walsh. His passion for art collecting grew into an obsession. The door ended up being the catalyst for his founding of MONA; now one of the finest art museums in the world.
Blackjack Good, Pokies Bad
Today, Patrick Caplice spends a good deal of his energy imploring the Tasmanian government to change the laws in relation to poker machines. He is the head of an organization known as Rein In The Pokies. Its soul purpose is to save his hometown of Glenorchy from the addictive nature of these gambling devices in their current form.
Together with Walsh and Charles Livingstone, a professor and gambling research specialist from Monash University, Caplice is lobbying local officials to pass gambling reforms laws. While their blackjack team was to gain a 1% advantage over the tables in their heyday, leading to millions of dollars in winnings each year, they believe poker machines are merely designed to make players lose ‘quickly and efficiently’.
Tasmania requires pokies manufacturers to set their payout ratio to 85% or above (up to 15% loss for players). The games can be played as fast as one spin every 3 seconds. Caplice says this does not meet the legal requirements of Guiding Principle 1, which necessitates they be “fair, and provide and acceptable average return to players”.
The Australian pro gambler’s goal is to achieve gambling reform that would either reduce the 15% loss rate, or remove the addictive elements from poker machines, to minimize harm that afflicts Glenorchy and other Tasmanian communities.