The Game Killer
Using his custom-made computer programs, James Grosjean goes way beyond card counting in beating casino games generally considered impenetrable
From the Print Edition:
Fred Thompson, March/April 2009
(continued from page 2)
But Grosjean would have it no other way. When I ask him to compare himself to the typical card counter, he sharply replies, "There are some people who think that the average card counter is the equivalent of a chimpanzee and I am a fully evolved human. But that's not quite accurate. In reality, card counters are more like salamanders just crawling onto land—even though they think they're swinging through the trees."
Despite the crowing, he may have a point about his superiority. John Chang, the former MIT blackjack team leader, on whom the Kevin Spacey character in 21 was partly based, marvels over Grosjean's abilities. Chang characterizes Grosjean as the best at analyzing and targeting games. "He's always running numbers and scouting," says Chang, acknowledging that Grosjean can pull off mental gymnastics on the fly, in a busy casino, at a level that no one else can touch. Sounding amused, Chang remembers the time that his card-counting wife, Laurie, assisted Grosjean with one of his plays. "James paid Laurie for the work and he said, 'Hopefully this will support your gambling habit for a while.' James was referring to card counting."
The Changs took it in good humor. Others don't, and Grosjean doesn't seem bothered. You almost get the feeling that he's too busy to care, too single-minded in his pursuits to slow down and let anything get in the way. After telling me his goal—to have a single-session $100,000 score for each individual advantage-playing procedure he knows—Grosjean reveals a downside to his moneymaking mania. He remembers spending one Christmas alone, exploiting games at a particularly divey downtown Vegas casino, and he is practically bragging when he tells me, "The number of dumpy casinos I've been to in the United States is scary."
Then Grosjean turns it down a notch and explains, "You don't know whether or not a game is good until you get out there and play it. You find really good games in unexpected places. If somebody called me right now and told me about a game, I'd pack my bags, head to the airport and fly to some hick town." He smiles tightly and adds, "For the right games, I go to places where cell phones don't work."
Comments 1 comment(s)
David Subpeo — March 2, 2013 10:23pm ET
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