Arnold Snyder has made a living off the profession of blackjack for his entire adult life, not just playing the game, but authoring strategy guides, debunking derisory theories and running a world famous quarterly blackjack journal for over three decades. He’s also credited with near-single-handedly protecting the rights of professional blackjack players. His persistent efforts earned him a rightful place in the Blackjack Hall of Fame in its debut year, 2002.
Catholic Priest or Pro Gambler?
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Arnold Snyder faced a profound fork in the road at a relatively young age. He was raised in a devout Catholic family and was toying with the idea of entering the seminary to pursue an honorable life in the priesthood. The proverbial fork appeared when, as a young man, Arnold encountered the wide world of 1960’s counter-culture, teeming with narcotic influence.
Developing a fondness for LSD, Snyder chose the alternative path. He got married, had two children, and continued to enjoy his hallucinogenic state for a number of years before discovering the game of blackjack, and an acute dexterity for counting cards.
On a side note, Snyder does not credit acid trips for the mathematical insights he gained into the game, but he does not completely dismiss the influence of LSD either.
A Blackjack Legend in the Making
Arnold soon began traversing the casinos on a regular basis. On one particular jaunt through Atlantic City, he happened across a man named Tommy Hyland. Little did either of them know, they would both end up as inaugural inductees to the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and Snyder had a lot to do with that.
Upon observing Hyland at the blackjack tables, Snyder immediately recognized that he and his friend were attempting to count cards. Arnold would end up giving Tommy some key advice that assisted Hyland in developing his skills, and thus the longest-running and most successful blackjack team the world has ever known.
For a brief period of time, Snyder joined forces with Al Francesco, another future Blackjack Hall of Famer, to assemble their own blackjack team known as CRAPS, but finding little success in the way of profits, it didn’t last very long.
In fact, it wasn’t so much Snyder’s adept abilities on the felt that earned him a place in the esteemed Hall of Fame, but rather his authoritative contributions to the profession, from a journalistic and legal standpoint.
Blackjack Books by Arnold Snyder
Arnold Snyder revolution the blackjack profession with the publication of his first book, The Blackjack Formula (1980), which delved much further into the task of counting cards than any book before it. Most importantly, Snyder explained the theory of deck penetration and the relevance of table conditions to a player’s win ratio. As the title indicates, his tome detailed a simple formula for determining win rate based on table conditions.
The next year, Snyder’s second book, Blackjack for Profit (1981) hit the shelves, in which he expanded on his card counting theories and gameplay strategies. He followed that up with Blackbelt in Blackjack: Playing 21 as a Martial Art (1983), calling it the “blackjack bible” of his novelistic collection.
In 1987, Snyder released a 5-part series of 64-page blackjack guides that analyze the profitability of counting cards when various numbers of decks are in play:
Beat the 1-Deck Game (1987)
Beat the 2-Deck Game (1987)
Beat the 4-Deck Game (1987)
Beat the 6-Deck Game (1987)
Beat the 8-Deck Game (1987)
He would go on to publish 5 more blackjack books over the years, including The Over/Under Report (1989), Blackjack Wisdom (1997 – a compilation of Snyder’s favorite self-authored articles), The Blackjack Shuffle Tracker’s Cookbook (2003), The Big Book of Blackjack (2006), and How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms (2006), as well as a few guides to playing tournament poker and beating Sudoku.
Another book, Radical Blackjack, was set for publication in 2011, but never made it to the shelves. Snyder decided to retract that particular novel as it detailed various lesser-known techniques that many of today’s top blackjack professionals are still using to beat the house. He said he would rather not publish material that would detract from the integrity of his fellow players.
The Blackjack Forum
Of all materials authored by Arnold Snyder, the most famous is not a book at all, but a regularly updated trade journal known as Blackjack Forum. He first started the quarterly publication in 1981, featuring articles about the profession of gambling, blackjack strategies, specific game approaches and special events. As editor of Blackjack Forum, Snyder has conducted interviews with famous blackjack pros, and fellow Hall of Famers, including Johnny Chang, his old teammate Al Francesco, Tommy Hyland, Darryl Purpose and Keith Taft, among others.
The journal is still in publication today, but as modern times progressed, it’s moved out of print and onto the world wide web at BlackjackForumOnline.com.
Snyder’s Role in Preserving the Rights of Blackjack Pros
While Snyder’s mathematical capabilities are renowned, and his authoring techniques praised by the masses, the most important role he’s played—the one that guaranteed him one of 7 spots in the maiden nominations for the Blackjack Hall of Fame—was his pivotal participation in a 1994 criminal case.
Tommy Hyland’s infamous blackjack team had been arrested and charged with cheating at the Windsor Casino in Ontario, Canada. Supposedly, a number of Las Vegas casinos prodded the Windsor into taking stiff legal action in hopes of card counting being officially declared an illegal activity.
Arnold Snyder stepped up to the plate and provided key testimony for the defense, describing to the court exactly what is involved in card counting and, particularly, ace sequencing—the activity for which Hyland’s team had been accused of cheating at the casino.
For days, the judge sat patiently listening to a barrage of testimony from both sides of the fence, but ultimately decided in the favor of professional blackjack players. In the official ruling, the judge cited numerous quotes provided by Snyder to support the decision, concluding that professional blackjack players are not cheating, but rather employing a superior level of intelligence and memorization skills to increase their odds of winning when compared to the average player.