Tommy Hyland’s entire existence appears to revolve around various forms of wagering, but he is best known for his blackjack abilities. In addition to being an exceptional blackjack player who had mastered the art of card counting, he was also a well-respected manager of not one, but two high-performance blackjack teams.
Although his teams have earned millions of dollars over the years, Tommy values his enjoyment of the game more than any quantity of money he could earn.
Tommy stated, in an interview with RWM’s Gambling Wizards, that there are numerous advantages to being on a blackjack team: “Yeah, there are numerous advantages to playing on a team. There is companionship. You have someone with whom to travel. Each person teaches the other something new. You spread knowledge. Having a team seems to facilitate the generation of innovative ideas.
Early Introductions to Gambling
In the 1950s, Tommy was born in New Jersey, where he spent the majority of his childhood. When Tommy was younger, his father occasionally gambled, going to the racetrack or billiard halls once or twice a month. Before Tommy began wagering seriously, he and his companions would play a game in which they would hurl pennies at a masonry wall and determine which penny landed closest to the wall.
Whoever’s coin landed closest to the wall was awarded both cents. This classic game is commonly known as “pinching pennies,” and it could be considered a very moderate form of wagering. Eventually, they began using larger coinage, including nickels, dimes, and quarters. He then began placing wagers with his peers on how he would perform in a game of basketball or a round of golf.
As soon as he entered high school, he ceased placing wagers and instead concentrated on accumulating them. He would create reproductions of standard parlay cards, distribute them to students at school, and observe the weekly influx of cash. Some weeks he earned less than thirty dollars, while other weeks he earned fifty dollars or more. Considering his age and the time period, this was a substantial sum of money.
Once, Tommy decided to create his own spreadsheets so that his classmates could wager on high school athletics. His calculations were so off that he lost over $400 in a single night, and he was forced to sell his pool table to cover the expenses.
Tommy never again attempted to be the bookkeeper, as it was evident he was intended to be the player.
He devoted his final two years of high school to golf and earned a substantial scholarship to Wittenberg University in Ohio. Technically, his major was political science, but he spent many hours per day playing golf and evaded coursework. On the weekends, Tommy spent a great deal of time playing poker in various friends’ dormitories.
Tommy relished reading for leisure, and ultimately came upon a pair volumes about blackjack, as anything regarding wagering always intrigued him. Lawrence Revere’s Playing Blackjack as a Business was one of these titles.
Tommy and his housemate practiced the various strategies described in the book in their dorm room until they were confident enough to use them in an actual casino. During the 1978 Christmas holiday, Tommy and his companion traveled nearly every day from Tommy’s home to Atlantic City in order to participate in a true brick-and-mortar casino for the first time.
At that time, Resorts International was the only active casino.