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.