Here’s how you know you’re truly down in the economic dumps: you start talking to your friends about the lucrative career you could, nay, will have as a professional gambler. “It’s all just numbers!” you scream into the winds of skepticism as you click click click away at a gambling web site in some language (maybe Dutch?) that’s taking up the browser window you’re supposed to be using to look for jobs.
Your friends will scoff, pick up their suitcases and head back to the office. Not Josh Axelrad. He will encourage you, and tell you that the game of blackjack is beatable using simple arithmetic. And he’ll tell you all this for free next week.
Axelrad (real name, we think) will share his card-counting skills as part of the the Open City Dialogue series at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg on Monday. Axelrad is a Columbia grad, a contributor to American Public Media”s Marketplace radio show (under a pseudonym) and a former professional card counter who claims he has been kicked out of many Vegas casinos for raking in $700,000 in blackjack winnings.
What’s card counting, you ask? Simply: mentally keeping track of the cards that have been dealt so you know which cards are left.
It’s not technically illegal as long as you’re only using your brain to keep track of cards, but casinos have been known to give the boot to someone they suspect has been counting cards (which they can do, being private property and all).
He also has a book coming out in March: Repeat Until Rich: A Professional Card Counter’s Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars. According to its Amazon description, the book breaks down the simplicities of winning and says you don’t need to be an MIT-level geekambler to do it. Wait, isn’t card counting illegal? Axelrad says no, and that casinos want you to do it, and he’s rad, so why would he lie? But he’ll also probe the issue of whether you should do it. We think we know which way he’s leaning. Atlantic City, watch out.
It’s a free lesson, so what do you have to lose? Just don’t double down on a 10 when he’s got an ace showing. He’s hoping you’d do that!
Open City Dialogue is a bi-monthly lecture series taking place on alternating Mondays at 7:30 p.m. in the back room of Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St.). It involves short 35-40 minute lectures with the common thread of people’s obsessions.