Blackjack has produced many legendary professional gamblers. From Ken Uston to Jeff Ma (MIT Blackjack Team), a number of blackjack players have won serious profits through the game.
However, few of these advantage gamblers have lasted as long as Tommy Hyland. In fact, Hyland presides over what is currently known as the longest-running blackjack team in history.
Who is Hyland and what are his secrets? You can find out below by reading more on this legendary gambler, how he got started, and what keeps him going.
Who Is Tommy Hyland?
Tommy Hyland has been interested in games of chance since childhood. Once he became of age, he started visiting Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos.
He didn’t initially set out to become an advantage player. However, Hyland later took up this pursuit in the late 1970s and hasn’t looked back since.
He started an advantage gambling team around the same time. He’s somehow managed to keep his unit going for over four decades.
Hyland is widely regarded as one of the first—if not first—players to use ace sequencing to beat blackjack. Ace sequencing involves tracking aces throughout play and predicting when they come out of the shoe.
His longtime success and contributions to the game earned him a spot in the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2003.
What Inspired Hyland to Begin Counting Cards?
Again, Hyland didn’t initially set out to be a professional gambler. He played real money blackjack for fun and learned strategy along the way.
In 1979, though, he changed his focus after reading Lawrence Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as a Business. Afterward, Hyland recruited a blackjack team with four members.
Each player put $4,000 towards funding the team’s bankroll ($16k total). They also chose Atlantic City as the initial stomping grounds for their efforts.
It lowers the house edge by 0.63% when compared to no surrender option. Early surrender has an even bigger effect on the house advantage than the number of decks (+0.59% when going for 8 decks to 1 deck).
Team Hyland used its blackjack knowledge combined with the friendliest rules at the time to become a fast success. They quickly booked a $50,000 profit after just weeks of playing in Atlantic City.
How Has Hyland Lasted So Long As an Advantage Gambler?
Most blackjack teams have trouble sticking together for a month—let alone 40+ years. They quickly run into a number of unforeseen problems before having a real chance to bond.
First off, advantage teams need a large enough bankroll to survive variance. They should start with at least $20,000, although Team Hyland began with slightly less than this.
Second, teams need a completely skilled unit. Most groups usually have 1-2 members who aren’t quite on par with the others.
Finally, they need to play a consistent schedule as agreed upon by all members. Given that most beginning blackjack teams have fulltime jobs, they often dissolve due to an inability to regularly play together.
Problems can spring up when teams do become successful. Even the best teams can fall apart when members argue over a cut of the action.
Tommy Hyland and his squad have somehow overcome the typical problems that have dissolved other teams. His success isn’t just the result of tracking aces or card counting.
Hyland also has a unique ability to rally his team to the cause. Everybody trusts one another and continues working towards the same goal of beating casinos.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Team Hyland hasn’t dealt with its share of struggles too. His original group became disillusioned when Atlantic City instated worse rules to combat card counters.
They travelled to Asian gambling destinations in hopes of finding softer games. Hyland could’ve easily given up at this point.
Instead, he formed a new team with some friends that he played golf with. Hyland has continued the tradition of replacing old members with new to constantly keep the team going.
Additionally, he’s also mastered other forms of advantage play beyond just card counting, such as ace sequencing and shuffle tracking. These techniques give him a leg up on the average pro player, who only relies on card counting.
The latter usually makes it easier for casinos to spot advantage gamblers. A pit boss often looks for players who raise bets later in the shoe as they gain more deck penetration.
Shuffle tracking and ace sequencing, meanwhile, create more difficulties in catching professionals. They allow gamblers to find favorable situations at any point in a shoe—not just towards the end.
Legal Troubles for Team Tommy Hyland in Windsor
Tommy Hyland and his team became notorious for a 1994 incident involving Casino Windsor (Windsor, Canada). The casino caught three members of the team counting and wanted to prosecute them.
They found that two of the female “spotters” were using pop-off bead bracelets to keep track of aces. They’d pop off a bead for each ace that came out of the deck.
Casino Windsor attempted to say that this method amounted to using an illegal cheating device. Gamblers aren’t supposed to use devices that manipulates the game flow to win.
However, the casino was unable to prove that the beaded bracelets were truly a cheating device. Famed player Arnold Snyder also provided testimony that using ace sequencing and bracelets does not constitute cheating.
The judge ruled in Team Hyland’s favor. They got to keep over $100,000 in winnings and avoid any kind of legal repercussions after the ruling.
Has Any Other Team Lasted As Long As Hyland’s Team?
Certain blackjack squads have rivaled the longevity of Team Hyland. The latter, however, is typically known as the longest-running blackjack team in history.
Most advantage gamblers don’t even last for five years before flaming out—let alone run a team that long. Hyland has managed to both play professional blackjack and keep his team going for the same amount of time.
Of course, members come and go much like with rock ’n’ roll bands. But Hyland always finds replacements for those who leave.
His greatest challenge was perhaps replacing everybody else after the initial Atlantic City run in the late 1970s and early 80s. He recruited and trained his golfing buddies to do the job.
No evidence exists that any other team has enjoyed quite the same longevity as Hyland’s unit. The MIT Blackjack Team had a lengthy stint that lasted from the late 1970s into the early 2000s. But they eventually called it quits when casinos identified almost every member.
Snyder has also put together some good teams. However, no sources mention him as currently running the longest-lasting blackjack squad.
Can You Emulate Tommy Hyland’s Longevity as a Blackjack Player?
Tommy Hyland began playing blackjack at a time when advantage play methods were still being mastered. He’s one of the pioneers of such techniques as shuffle tracking and ace sequencing.
Today’s gambling world still offers plenty of potential profits. However, the winnings were better when Hyland’s team was terrorizing casinos.
For starters, ace sequencing and shuffle tracking were quite revolutionary when Hyland began using them. Casinos had little recourse for catching such players.
Of course, pit bosses still have trouble spotting those who use these advanced methods today. But they’ve become better at it.
Therefore, you’re unlikely to find as much success if you became an advantage player today and tried lasting 40+ years.
Another problem is the sheer act of keeping such a team together. Again, many blackjack teams don’t even make it months before drifting apart.
Through a combination of trust and highly skilled play, Hyland has kept his team running for over four decades. He’s a total anomaly in the modern gambling world.
You can still have plenty of success if you develop your skills and find good teammates. But you’re unlikely to last anywhere near as long as Team Hyland.
Tommy Hyland is one of the most-experienced advantage gamblers in the casino world today. His skills have enabled him to make a living through gambling since the late seventies.
But as good as Hyland is at blackjack, he’s even more adept at team management. The legend has avoided all the pitfalls that sideline other blackjack teams to keep his unit going for more than 40 years.
Will Team Hyland be able to make it another decade or two? I imagine that Hyland and his team will eventually retire at some point before this. But whenever he does quit, Hyland will remain a gambling legend for all time.