For more than 25 years, Tommy Hyland has been operating the longest-lasting and most successful blackjack team in the history of the game. Using big player techniques, concealed computers (when they were legal), and one of the most successful "ace location" teams ever, Tommy and his teammates routinely take millions of dollars out of casinos each year.
Growing up in New Jersey, Tommy got his first taste of gambling when he was about ten years old. Besides the odd sports bet, he and his friends would toss nickels, dimes, and quarters against a brick wall. The kid with the coin closest to the wall would take home all the money.
As he grew older and entered high school, Tommy Hyland was very active in sports, playing basketball, golf, and baseball. He would often bet on himself to make free throws, hit homeruns, or whatever else he could think of.
By the time he attended college in Wittenburg, Ohio, to study political science, Tommy was frequently playing cards and getting more and more interested in all aspects of gambling. One day at a local bookstore, he decided to pick up a copy of Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as a Business. He and his roommate started practicing, and they were soon making the 50 mile drive down to Atlantic City in 1978.
Tommy's roommate had generally been a heavy loser when it came to gambling, but he won several thousand dollars by applying what he had read in Revere's book. This quickly made Tommy realize that there might be something to card-counting, so he started practicing more and reading up on the subject.
He eventually learned about Stanford Wong's book and started getting helpful advice from other counters who they would run into in the casinos. Soon after, he read Ken Uston's book, Million Dollar Blackjack, which talked about the team approach to playing the game. Tommy and his friend joined forces with a few other counters, pooling their money and starting their first loose-knit team in October of 1979.
It was a huge success, and the team took the casinos for thousands. Tommy wanted to go to Vegas and try his luck there, but the other members of the team had read Stanford Wong's Blackjack in Asia and wanted to travel to Asia.
Needing a new team, Tommy began teaching card-counting techniques to his friends from the golf course. By the end of 1980, Tommy had his own team of around twenty players. And he's been going strong ever since.
A Legendary Enmity - Tommy Hyland versus the Casinos
Not that there haven't been setbacks. He's been barred, back-roomed, hand-cuffed, arrested, kidnapped, and even threatened with murder at gun-point by a casino owner.
And even though Tommy has had his name and photo published in the notorious Griffin books more times than any other player in history, he continues to play and win wherever legal blackjack games are offered. He has also fought for players' rights by battling the casinos in the courts and even hiring a lobbyist to represent their cause.
The casinos hate Tommy, and it's just possible that the feeling is mutual.
In a 2001 interview with Richard Munchkin, Tommy said: "If someone told me I could make $10 million a year working for a casino, I wouldn't even consider it. It wouldn't take me five minutes to turn it down... I don't like casinos. I don't like how they ruin people's lives. I don't think the employment they provide is a worthwhile thing for those people. They're taking people that could be contributing to society and making them do a job that has no redeeming social value."
Despite his reputation with the casinos, Tommy is regarded as polite, soft-spoken, and a true gentleman among his fellow gamblers. In fact, Tommy (and his accomplishments) are so highly regarded by the gambling community that he was inducted as an inaugural member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2003.
Appropriately, he took his place alongside men like Stanford Wong, Ken Uston, and Lawrence Revere, all of whom played some small part in steering young Tommy Hyland towards a career in blackjack.
More Blackjack Players: Stanford Wong - Hollywood Dave Stann - Sam Vaughn - Edward Thorp - Cathy Hulbert - Michael Konik - Keith Taft - Anthony Curtis - Peter Griffin - Ken Uston - Richard Munchkin - Ken Einiger - Tommy Hyland - Al Francesco - Eleanore Dumont - Ken Smith - Lawrence Revere - Steve Forte - Barry Meadow - Brian Zembic - Big Chuck Gorson - Erica Schoenberg - James Grosjean - Max Rubin - Henry Tamburin - Russ Hamilton - Jimmy Pine - Joanna Wlodawer - Joe Pane - Kevin Blackwood - Blackjack Hall of Fame - MIT Blackjack Team