Meet the King of Blackjack Card Counters, Tommy Hyland

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Back in the days of the one deck and two deck shoes, card counting made winning at blackjack darned near a guarantee for card counters. We have all heard of the MIT Blackjack Team of college kids that crushed brick-and-mortar casinos around the world in the 1980's using card counting techniques. And there are literally millions of blackjack players around the world who improved their game after reading "Beat the Dealer", the 1962 card counting book that explained the process in a way that the average Joe could understand. Dr. Edward O. Thorp was the author of that timeless gambling guide, and he is considered the father of card counting.

But you probably have not heard of the man considered the King of blackjack card counters, Thomas "Tommy" Hyland. Hyland is a well known 21 card counter, and since 1979, he has also managed the longest running successful blackjack team in history. In a widely publicized interview in 2002, Hyland revealed that he started playing black jack in 1979, shortly after reading Lawrence Revere's book "Playing Blackjack as a Business". He did just that, and his new business included four players who each brought $4,000 to the team's bankroll. The team first hit Atlantic City casinos, which offered an Early Surrender rule that gave knowledgeable players, specifically card counters, a huge edge right off the bat. In months that original $16,000 had grown to more than $50,000.

After game changes were made to protect the casinos in Atlantic City, the team began to play in Asia, but Hyland stayed in Atlantic City and began to recruit his old golf buddies to form a second blackjack card counting team. Computer play, shuffle tracking and ace sequencing were ground-breaking card counting techniques back then, and these all created a massive advantage for Hyland's players.

After a 1994 arrest where the Hyland blackjack team was accused of cheating, the judge in that case ruled that the ace sequencing tactics were simply intelligent strategy, and not cheating. This was a huge win for blackjack card counters everywhere, and the team is still going strong in the 21st century. In a rare move, Tommy Hyland was elected by a group of professional gamblers as one of initial seven inductees into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

Blackjack card counting teams come and go, but pretty much anyone interviewed about Hyland said that the unprecedented three decades of success his team has enjoyed is because he not only has an unprecedented knowledge of gambling, but he also is great at instilling team dynamics and trust in his players. He stated that he and his original blackjack team began making money pretty much right away.

At 23 years old and with somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in his pocket, the King of blackjack card counting admits he thought he was "the richest guy in the world." That is when he got smart and staked other players after teaching them his techniques, giving them a percentage of any money they won. He claimed that the advantage to a team is that it helps smooth out fluctuations, and he will have as many as 30 to 40 people playing for him at any one time.

He did point out that Las Vegas and Atlantic City games are "not as attractive" as they used to be, so his team is spread across the United States at brick-and-mortar casinos which offer blackjack gambling. After becoming known, Tommy Hyland has resorted to disguises in some situations so that he could play, including addressing as Santa Claus in Las Vegas once while he enjoyed a big winning session. Although he admits that his team is not infallible and that they do lose from time to time, the King of blackjack card counting admits to being very successful overall.

And the good news? He says that the best advice he can give the average player is that "learning to keep track of the cards only takes 15 to 20 hours." He recommends taking out a deck of cards, flipping them and practicing basic card counting, keeping a running count. In his opinion this gives anyone a slight edge over the house, and coming from the King of blackjack card counting, that is advice which is well heeded.

While card counting may or may not be for you, you can check out our section on blackjack strategy to learn some easy playing techniques that can dramatically improve your results. You may also be interested in the top USA online blackjack sites that provide safe and trusted options to US players.