Born and raised in New Jersey, Thomas ‘Tommy’ Hyland was studying political science at Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio when he discovered that he and his roomate shared an interest in gambling. Inspired by ‘Playing Blackjack as a Business’, by Lawrence Revere, the pair practised card counting and, during the Christmas break in 1978, repeatedly made the hundred-mile round trip from Hyland’s home to Atlantic City.
Drawing further inspiration from ‘Professional Blackjack’, written by Stanford Wong, and ‘Million Dollar Blackjack’, written by Ken Uston, Hyland and his roommate teamed up with two other card counters, with each player contributing $4,000 to the overall bankroll. Hyland started playing blackjack full-time in 1979 and so began what would become the longest-running blackjack team in history, often consisting of thirty or forty members at a time and winning millions of dollars at casinos worldwide.
Hyland and his team enjoyed plenty of success, not least through the use of toe-operated blackjack computers, concealed in the players’ boots. Such devices were outlawed in Nevada in 1985 but, notwithstanding falling foul of the authorities, on more than one occasion, the operation continued to prosper in casinos in Atlantic City, the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean. When the Blackjack Hall of Fame was established at the Barona Casino near San Diego, California, in 2002, Hyland was named as an inaugural inductee alongside other luminaries of the game, including Stanford Wong and Ken Uston.
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Born in Toronto, Canada, to Romanian emigree parents, in 1974, Daniel Negreanu had the distinction of winning the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) event he ever entered. Indeed, victory in the $2,000 Hold’em Pot Limit event in Las Vegas in 1998, at the age of 23, made him, at the time, the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet. His nickname ‘Kid Poker’ naturally followed although, nearly twenty years later, his allegedly ‘fraudulent’ moniker was the subject of a civil suit filed by Las Vega attorney Michael Levine in 2017.
In 2007, Negreanu became a member of Team PokerStars and continued to be sponsored by PokerStars, the largest real money online poker site in the world, until what was described as ab ‘amicable split’ in 2019. Renowned for plain speaking, Negreanu attracted criticism from some quarters for his attitude, and that espoused by PokerStars, towards certain aspects of poker, during the latter years of his sponsorship. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most, if not the most, popular poker player in the world.
All told, Negreanu has won six WSOP bracelets and six World Poker Tour (WPT) titles, making him one of the most successful players in the history of poker. According to the Hendon Mob Poker Database, he has massed just over $42 million in live earnings, placing him third in the all-time money list. Negreanu enjoyed his biggest payday ever when collecting $8.29 for winning the WSOP $1,000,000 No Limit Hold’em – The Big One for One Drop event in Las Vegas in 2014; that same year he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.