Since 1979, Tommy Hyland's blackjack team has consistently won
millions of dollars a year from the casinos. Based on consistency,
longevity, and profitability, Hyland is widely considered the most
successful blackjack team manager in the history of the game.
Getting Started in Blackjack
Tommy Hyland was born
in 1956 and grew up in New Jersey, about 50 miles from Atlantic
City. He started gambling at about the age of ten, tossing coins
against a wall; closest to the wall would win the other kid's coin.
In high school, he played basketball, golf, and baseball, and got
involved in sports betting. He went to college in Wittenberg, Ohio,
where, he admits, he was an indifferent student who spent most of
his time playing golf and poker and shooting pool.
In 1978, while still in college, Hyland and his roommate read
Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as a Business. They
studied the book and practiced. The roommate, who was actually more
interested in blackjack than was Hyland, won a few thousand dollars
in Atlantic City. His roommate's success inspired Hyland to read and
practice blackjack more seriously, and by spring of 1979 he was
ready to play professionally.
The Hyland Blackjack Team
Hyland also read Ken
Uston's books about team play in
blackjack. Hyland's first team was a two-man team with his
golfing friend Leo. Tommy started with $1,000 and within six months
he had quadrupled his money. Tommy and Leo then joined forces with a
couple of card counters named Doug and Dave whom they had met in
Atlantic City. By the end of 1979, the four-man team had turned a
bank of $16,000 into more than $100,000.
After Doug and Dave left, Hyland taught some of his other friends to
play blackjack and put together a team of 10-15 players. Hyland has
been running a blackjack team ever since. Individual members of the
team have come and gone, but the Hyland team has remained a
constant, with Tommy Hyland as the recruiter, trainer,
administrator, and manager. The size of the team has fluctuated from
10 to as many as 40 members. It has successfully used card-counting
techniques, the big player format, and computer play. Hyland is
regarded as a master at key-carding. (Key-carding, also known as
ace-locating, involves determining where in the deck the aces are
likely to be located, based on close observation of the shuffling,
playing, and discarding of the cards. As employed by the Hyland
team, key-carding was executed by a three-person team, composed of
two key-girls sitting on either side of a big player.) Over the
course of a more-than-25-year career, the Hyland team has won
millions of dollars every year from casinos throughout the United
States and abroad.
Battles with the Casinos
Hyland's success has also led to his fair
share of troubles. One time, at a casino in the Bahamas, he was
caught using a concealed computer. Even though the use of a
computer in blackjack play was perfectly legal at that time, he
was arrested and charged with a crime. After two days in jail,
he was given a choice: plead guilty, pay a fine of almost
$100,000, and go home; or plead not guilty and wait in jail for
six months until his trial date. Understandable, he pleaded
guilty and paid the fine, notwithstanding that he did not
consider himself guilty of any illegal or unethical conduct.
On another occasion, a casino owner, after learning that Hyland was
a card counter, actually forced him at gunpoint to return the money
he had won at blackjack.
In 1994, three members of the Hyland team who had been key-carding
in a Canadian casino were arrested for cheating. The prosecutor,
apparently under pressure from casino owners, contended that
blackjack team play, in
and of itself, is a form of cheating. After extensive expert
testimony from both sides on blackjack card counting, key-carding,
and team-play strategies, the judge ruled that the defendants were
not cheating but were "highly trained professionals using highly
Hyland was outraged at the treatment of card counters by the
casinos. He has taken legal actions against them in the courts and
petitioned the state legislatures for laws protecting professional
gamblers. In Hyland's view, once a casino opens its doors and offers
a game to the public, it should be open to all, the skilled as well
as the unskilled, on an equitable basis.