Tommy Hyland

(b. 1956; New Jersey)
Tommy Hyland is a successful advantage player and is considered to be the most successful blackjack team leader of all time due to the longevity of his blackjack team and the millions in profits they have made in the course of the teams existence. His team has used card counting, shuffle tracking, ace sequencing and computers to beat casinos world-wide.

Hyland Tries his Hand at Blackjack

While in college, Hyland and his room mate – who was at the time far more interested in blackjack than Hyland was – read Lawrence Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as a Business and set about learning basic strategy by playing blackjack together. Hyland’s room mate was frequently the loser in all other gambling games they played, but when they went to Atlantic City together in 1978 Hyland was shocked at his room mate’s win rate. He then decided to become more serious about blackjack.

Hyland’s First Team

One of Hyland’s main problems was the lack of resources on how to count cards. He knew the theory, but not how to apply it in a casino. A card counter Hyland had met in Atlantic City then introduced him to Stanford Wong‘s Professional Blackjack. After learning how to count cards and reading Ken Uston‘s Million Dollar Blackjack, Hyland became interested in forming a team. Together with a golfing friend and two other Atlantic City card counters Hyland formed a small team which played successfully in 1979. The other team members then went abroad to try their luck at the Asian blackjack tables, and Hyland turned to his golf friends for his next project.

Hyland Becomes a Team Leader

Hyland then became the recruiter, trainer, and administrator for what would turn out to be the longest running team in the history of blackjack. He would recruit people from his golf club who seemed interested and honest, teach them how basic strategy worked and how to count cards, and put them on the team when they got good enough. This team played successfully, though Hyland also reveals many of the problems they encountered in an interview with Richard Munchkin for Blackjack Forum, such as harassment from casinos, becoming a target for libel, and being ripped off by Rats Cohen (a fate shared by Keith Taft).

The Trouble with Success

Due to his success, Hyland has also faced a lot of harassment from casinos. Some of the more extreme incidents include Hyland’s arrest for wearing a device in a casino in the Bahamas. The police then also arrested his wife and held her hostage to intimidate him and force him into pleading guilty to a fraud charge (since wearing devices was not illegal in the Bahamas at the time they had to fabricate a charge for him to plead guilty to). On St Kitts, in the Caribbean, Hyland was threatened at gunpoint by a casino owner who demanded his money back. Hyland initially refused, but when the casino owner subsequently suggested they “go for a walk” and led him outside at night at gunpoint Hyland realized that the man was serious about killing him and relented. Canadian casinos also attempted to ban Hyland from entering Canada on the grounds of his Bahamian trial, and his team was arrested for ace sequencing in the Canadian Casino Windsor. Casinos tried to influence the prosecution, but due to expert testimony, especially that of blackjack pro Arnold Snyder, the court decided that Hyland’s team was not cheating and could not be prosecuted merely for using intelligent strategy.

In 2003 Tommy Hyland was elected one of the original inductees of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.