Review of Josh Axelrad’s Blackjack Bio, "Repeat Until Rich"

If you can tip a waiter, you can count cards.

I believe there’s a little bit of gamble in all of us. But for some there’s a ton of gamble, along with a possible addiction. This is the road Josh Axelrad traveled in his memoir, Repeat Until Rich. While the subtitle reads, “A Professional Card Counter’s Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars”, it isn’t so much about wars as it is about small exciting battles.

Josh Axelrad left his nine-to-five job to join a group/team consisting of MIT graduates and gambling veterans. Together they formed a card counting team that would beat casinos out of hundreds of thousands of dollars per session. I’ve seen movies and read books about card counting but this was the first one that details how multiple teams attack several casinos at once.

Axelrad goes into simplistic detail on how card counting works and the different roles each team member plays. Bringing these together you see how the system must work in harmony to be successful. It also shows when one thing is out of order a lot of money can be lost quickly. While card counting isn’t illegal, casinos definitely frown upon it and take great pleasure in “politely” escorting you out. Eventually you can be barred from the casino. This is where the drama and excitement emerges as the teams have to outsmart dealers, pit bosses, and the eye in the sky (security). They develop characters and wear disguises to be able to continue playing in the biggest casinos.

There isn’t much in terms of relationships between the team members and you don’t feel any strong connection with anyone except Axelrad. The teams travel from gambling town to gambling town to run their game plans and you see the toll the road takes on them. From Atlantic City to Las Vegas to the gambling boats on the Mississippi the stress and grind wears on the team and they eventually go their separate ways.

Axelrad returns home to New York after winning over $700,000 in four years and you’d expect this is where the story would flatten out and become one of settling down. It does the opposite as Axelrad becomes addicted to online poker and ends up taking his life down a whole new road. While prosperous new doors had opened for him on his homecoming he slams them all shut to sit home and put his four years of winnings to the test. The excitement of the first half of the book gives way to desperation and depression.

Being an on/off again online poker/blackjack player myself I totally connected with his highs and some of the lows. While it’s considered a cautionary tale it also supplied plenty of excitement and some laughs. If you ever wanted to know how card counting works and actually understand how it’s applied in the casinos I’d suggest reading this book.