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.