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Repeat Until Rich: A Professional Card Counter's Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars Hardcover – March 18, 2010

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Axelrad was a Columbia graduate with a boring Wall Street job until he met a guy who knew a guy and became a professional card counter, playing blackjack in casinos across the country as part of a well-oiled team made up of counters, spotters, “gorillas” (players who don’t count cards), and BPs (players who also count). No math whiz, Axelrad took awhile to learn how to keep the running count in his head, but he got there eventually and, with his elevation to BP, became one of the team’s stars. His account of winning more than $700,000 for the team in about four years is fascinating, both for the insider details (especially the back and forth between counters and the casinos, who do their best to ban pros from the tables) and for the repartee between teammates (imagine a real-life Elmore Leonard caper novel). The tale turns more serious, however, when the blackjack run ends following 9/11 (too hard to carry large amounts of cash on planes), and Axelrad turns to online poker and becomes dangerously addicted. A fine portrait of the highs and lows of the gambling life. --Bill Ott

About the Author

Josh Axelrad played blackjack professionally for five years and poker unprofessionally for one. A graduate of Columbia College, he languished briefly in investment banking before he turned to cards. His personal win as a card counter, at $700,000, has left him eighty-sixed from the finest casinos in Vegas and around the United States. His subsequent losses at poker (exceeding $50,000) have cost him credit privileges at the Internet’s most reputable poker rooms. A commentator on the casino industry for National Public Radio’s Marketplace program, Axelrad also performs at Stories at the Moth in New York and has been featured on the award-winning Moth Podcast.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202476
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Josh Axelrad is a former professional blackjack player whose writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nervous Breakdown and elsewhere.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Andy W. on March 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have known the author, Josh Axelrad, for years. We have played blackjack together many, many times--dozens for sure, and possibly hundreds of hours. In fact I took a very young Josh on his first real casino sessions in which we did lose a bunch of money. (These sessions were so short, and so insignificant that Josh did not write about them in the book, although he did write about the early trip with that other team. The sessions I am referring to were part of that trip.) That's not to say, of course that we were not playing with an edge. Any professional gambler understands that in the short-term you lose almost as often as you win. It's the long-term that we're concerned with, and I can assure anyone reading this review that Josh's team and Josh himself most certainly were big winners overall.

I read an early draft of this book, and am still awaiting the arrival of the published version. Unlike some of the other recent books written about well-known teams, this book does not bend or exaggerate the truth. There isn't a need to, as what really happened is interesting and exciting enough. I had a hard time putting down the draft, and I lived much of what Josh writes about. In addition to being a truthful and accurate portrayal of life inside a professional blackjack team, the book is also extremely well-written. I consider Josh a friend, but had no idea he could write so well. I can say without reservation that you will enjoy this book. I can also say that I expect this will be the first of many books that Josh Axelrad writes. It's that good.

Well-done, Josh!
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Rob Pen on March 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a quick read...engaging, humorous at times and suspenseful. The events within his journey were shocking at times. A real behind the scenes perspective of the inner circle of card counters. I never realized that card counting was actually legal. And, how these teams actually went about mobilizing against the "system" was not only methodical, but became an art.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Steven D. Germain on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Repeat Until Rich is a chronicle of professional black jack card counting but it is also (and importantly) much more than that. It is also a story of redemption, a coming of age story and a story of Recovery and the things about one's self that we have to admit in order to live up to (in the case of author, Josh Axelrad) one's prodigious talents. To realize that the unconscious exercise of talent can be a type of seduction and escape.

Axelrad could have been writing about himself when he writes of his youthful impressions of his step-Uncle, Eric, "He claims to have spent ten years, until he was thirty, utterly adrift, selling jewelry at fairs as a wandering hippie, but then he went to law school. He told the story in a way that made law school sound as if it took him four weeks. Then suddenly he was rich...He went from hippie to kazilionaire. He made it seem effortless, random." But as young Axelrad wonders, ..."there must have been more to him than that."

Like his Uncle Eric, Axelrad self presents in a way that can leave you scratching your head at his life of card counting but in this very moving memoir courageously shows us that there is much more to him than that.

This is the story of a young man who became a very good writer, and in the process, (you can imagine him cringing at the sound of this), grew up.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By L. Elliot on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The tales of blackjack derring-do suggested by the book's cover are certainly here, and they are fun to read, but there is so much more besides--the subtitle is misleading, or at least incomplete. Axelrad is an intelligent, thoughtful, and morally engaged narrator who contemplates his own role in "the blackjack wars" as the story unfolds, conveying his behavior and motivations in a hard, honest light. His prose is particularly attuned to the absurdities and ironies of his profession, salted with humor that is by turns gleeful and grim. The narrator's unexpected descent into gambling addiction widens the emotional scope of the book and deepens the already complex picture that Axelrad presents. At base, Repeat Until Rich is a compelling and moving story about someone who zealously leaps onto an unbeaten path, thrilled at how well it seems to suit him, but then can't find his way back to the main road, and stumbles badly. There is an authentic, writerly voice here that puts Axelrad's book in the company of memoirs like the Barthelmes' Double Down, as much literary nonfiction as "gambling book." Don't be fooled by the cover--Repeat Until Rich is a truly serious and worthwhile book.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jane Austen on March 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Memoirist Josh Axelrad is ostensibly writing about gambling, but he's really telling a coming-of-age story. The blackjack material is fascinating, of course -- Axelrad and his card-counting team members travel the country, escaping "heat" (from casinos who are onto their tricks), and trying not to get caught with large amounts of cash. But it's the insights into life as a young man in post-9/11 America that truly resonate, long after one puts the book down.

Axelrad's touch is light and deft, and tone is bitingly funny. He's harder on no one than himself. The result is a compulsively readable memoir of an angry boy who, ultimately, faces down his demons and becomes a man.
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