Josh Axelrad is a self-confessed gambling addict and card counter who recently launched a memoir called “Repeat Until Rich: A professional Card Counter’s Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars.” This book is about his life as a professional card counter and blackjack player in a gambling team called Mossad despite the fact that he holds a degree from Columbia in philosophy.
In Mr. Axelrad’s card counting system cards were assigned a value of -1, 0, or +1, and the person assigned the task of the counter kept a running tally of every hand, waiting for a time when the deck was stacked in his favour. Mossad was modelled on the legendary MIT Blackjack Team of the late 1970’s. Mossad would invade casinos with squads of players who had carefully defined and rehearsed roles. “Spotters” would sit at a blackjack table and keep track of cards until the odds tilted in favour of the bettor, “Controllers” would have mastered the odds and strategy and the “BP’s” (big players) would move in and start placing bets.
Axelrad estimates that during his hustling career that spanned over five years, he won $700,000 for his team. After this he lost all his money playing online poker to which he became hopelessly addicted until he gave up and tried and struggled to write a book. The book is now complete and is a dark but funny and, at times, brutally honest account of card counting which, according to Axelrad, is much less difficult than one would think and a lot less glamorous.
He also talks of how his friends entrusted him with huge amounts of money despite knowing that he was a self-confessed gambling addict: “They know my entire story, and they understand how it’s possible for the same person to be in a degenerate, addicted pathology, and also be entrusted with their money.”
Axelrad does not believe that card counting is illegal and believes that to a certain extent casinos encourage card counting in an underhanded way because it means bettors flock to the blackjack tables to try and beat the system. What casinos do not like is the card counters who are good enough to win. When these players have been identified they are mostly evicted and never allowed back to the casinos because pit bosses keep files and photographs of these players in the states where it is legal to do so.
As a result of this, counters often resort to ruses, disguises and misdirection. Axelrad used to pretend that he was drunk or high or wear wigs- he once got away with drooling and acting like a crazy man for five day card counting stint. He once had notes to the value of $20,000 stashed in a belt around his waist belonging to friends who’d staked him to play cards with. He says that these bizarre behaviours distracted the pot bosses from card counting.