What Ever Happened To Tommy Hyland?

Card-counting hero and blackjack legend Tommy Hyland earned a place in the Blackjack Hall of Fame back in 2002 – but where is he over two decades on?

Tommy Hyland
Image credit: Blackjack Hall of Fame

Early Life and Introduction to Gambling

Born in New Jersey in the 1950s, Thomas Hyland’s introduction to gambling came from his father, who occasionally gambled at the local racetrack or pool hall.

In his teens, Hyland began collecting bets from his fellow high school students. He would produce photocopies of standard parlay cards and hand them out to his classmates. He even started creating his own spreadsheets, allowing other students to place wagers on high school sports.

All this saw Hyland draw in profits of $30 to $50 a week, which was a considerable amount of money at the time.

Once of age, Hyland began visiting Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos and was irreversibly sucked into the casino buzz. He figured that by developing unique strategies, he could count card decks perfectly before deftly rounding them off the blackjack table.

Even so, Hyland never set out to pursue a career in casino gambling. In fact, he had very little success in his first few visits to casinos. However, this only encouraged Hyland to continue practicing his card counting techniques. Life as a professional blackjack player crept up on him, and since the late ‘70s, he hasn’t looked back.

The Hyland Blackjack Team

In the ’80s, he further fueled his passion for blackjack, having read Lawrence Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as a Business. Piquing the interest of like-minded gamblers, Hyland recruited a 4-member blackjack team to whom he taught his genius tricks of the trade.

One of which was his roommate. The pair of them would regularly sit together at $5 blackjack tables, one of them counting the low cards and the other counting the high cards. By whispering their findings to each other, the pair could make more educated bets. They raked in over $4,000 each!

Finding trustworthy team players can be very difficult, and it’s an even further stretch to recruit team members with equal blackjack knowledge and talent.

But as is typical with Tommy Hyland – he knew how to spot specialties. When he was first faced with filling table seats after a few original team members dropped out in the early ‘80s, talent-spotting Tommy signed up a few golfing buddies. He then made a routine of replacement to ensure the team never ceased.

Mind you, things didn’t always go to plan for the team, since their techniques seemed too good to be true to jealous competitors. In 1994, three of the group were arrested in Ontario for suspected shady gaming. Thankfully, the judge recognized that Hyland’s gaming strategies were all above board. There was no evidence of any cheating – the group was genuinely genius.

Tommy Hyland’s ‘Secret’ Strategies

Hyland is renowned for being the original player to use ace sequencing to beat blackjack. This blackjack strategy involves tracking aces throughout a game before predicting when they will reappear from the shoe. Pretty clever, huh?

As Hyland started playing blackjack at a time when advanced play methods were still under construction, he was at an advantage. Hyland is sure to go down in history as one of the pioneers of shuffle tracking and ace sequencing techniques.

Targeting Atlantic City casinos, Hyland’s 4-man band began offering “early surrenders”. This means players surrender a hand before the croupier checks for an organic blackjack.

This technique lowers the house edge by a small margin (when compared to a no surrender option). Early surrenders have an even more profound effect on the house advantage than the number of card decks.

With their blackjack tips and tricks close to their chests, Team Hyland used their expertise and a healthy mix of the era’s friendly rules to succeed rapidly. Within weeks, they’d made a $50,000 profit in Atlantic City.

To this day, pit bosses are hard-pushed to spot professional gamblers who utilize such advanced strategies. But they’ve had the time to fine-tune their spotting skills – unlike the casinos tormented by Hyland’s team antics back in the day.

Hyland’s Mark on History

To this day, there is no inkling to suggest that any other blackjack team has stood the test of time as Tommy Hyland’s did. With successes from the 70s into the early noughties, Hyland’s crew eventually had to hang up their blackjack hats when casinos recognized each team member.

Usually, Hyland’s team would wait months before returning to a casino they’d already played in, in an attempt to avoid getting barred. They’d even go in subtle disguises. Some team members would shave their hair, dye it or grow it out, while others would grow or shave their beards.

One December, Hyland hilariously went dressed up as Santa Clause. So much for being inconspicuous. So, the game was up – for now.

As good as Hyland is a blackjack player, he’s just as good a manager. The mogul regrouped his clan and kept them playing for more than 40 years. Though he quit managing some time ago, Hyland can still be found trying his trusty hand out at a few tables in Atlantic City.

Tommy Hyland Today

That said, don’t be fooled into thinking Hyland only retired – he’s reaped the benefits of his card game fame with a few short trips down other showbiz avenues.

In 2002, Hyland became one of the inaugural members to be indicted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Arnold Snyder, Edward O. Thorp, Ken Uston, Peter Griffin, and Stanford Wong.

The Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Barona Casino
Image credit: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Alongside this esteemed honor, Hyland’s seen his fair share of success on the big and small screens.

Starring in the Hot Shoe as himself in 2004, Hyland agreed to a documentary movie about card counting for the casino game, 21. The director himself invested $5,000 of the movie’s budget to learn the counting methods and put them to the test on screen.

A year later, Hyland featured in an episode of Breaking Vegas – a TV series about people who have attempted to make fortunes by playing games against the house.

Not quite finished with the excitement of “lights, camera, and action”, Hyland then enjoyed a role in Inside the Edge: A Professional Blackjack Adventure. The docufilm gives you a sneak peek into the world of professional blackjack players as they take on casinos for millions of dollars.

These days, his long-supporting wife gets to see a lot more of her husband, since he and his team aren’t causing such a show on the casino floor. His net worth is still reported to be over $1 million.