James Grosjean has a lot in common with his fellow Blackjack Hall of Fame members. He’s well educated, extremely adept at math, and has written famous strategy guides that teach card counting and other advantageous gambling techniques. What sets him apart, however, is his unbridled alacrity for sticking it to the house. He’s sued more than one casino for wrongful detainment, emerging victorious each time and earning himself a rightful place in the Blackjack Hall of Fame as the youngest inductee in the organization’s 13-year history.
A Beautiful Mind
James wasn’t the “normal” boy growing up. His intuitive propensity for mathematics was evident early on. Strategizing anything and everything that could be strategized was a hobby for the young man. At the age of 12, he became infatuated with the abilities of a man name Ken Uston (who would go on to become one of the very first inductees to the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002), and that’s when he first learned to play blackjack.
It wasn’t until he came of age that he took full advantage of his natural talents. Grosjean was a graduate student at the University of Chicago at the time, and as you might have guessed, was working towards a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. In his spare time, though, he could generally be found playing blackjack on one of the many Mississippi riverboats in the area.
His professional career as a gambler began to take off immediately. Due to his savant skills with mathematics, Grosjean had no trouble quickly calculating numbers and keeping an accurate count of the cards.
It wasn’t long before something phenomenal occurred. James was playing blackjack one day when the dealer slipped up, giving him a fleeting glimpse of the hole card. From this, he was able to calculate his odds precisely, and he began a new mission to find the exact probabilities relating to the dealer’s hole card.
His research into advantage blackjack lead to immense breakthroughs that were eventually published in his most famous book, Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker, in 2000.
James Grosjean: Beyond Counting
Grosjean’s publication of Beyond Counting gave players a whole new element of blackjack strategy to strive for. Card counting was a focal point, but as James had previously discovered, some dealers aren’t as good at their job as others, and that’s what players needed to look for.
Although his literary skills and educational methods are elevated to a point that the book is considered a difficult read my many, he teaches how to thoroughly exploit inexperienced dealers. If a player can inconspicuously sneak the tiniest peak at the hole card during an erroneous deal, a simple curve of the text could elude to its possibilities.
For example, a curved top to the number could be a 3, 6 or 9. If the player is as adept as James at calculating figures and probabilities, they would be able to increase their advantage to as high as 13.06% against the casino.
He delves further into advantage play by giving readers insight into the psychological side of the game. Much like poker players read tells from one another to gauge their hole cards, Grosjean developed and taught the ability to read dealers.
James’ book became extremely popular among blackjack professionals, but has been out of print for years. Finding a copy is difficult enough, and chances are you’ll shell out a minimum of $1,000 for it if you do… and that’s just for the non-collectible paperback version.
I’ll See You in Court!
We’ve all heard the stories and seen the dramatic reenactments on the big screen, portraying the security of Las Vegas casinos as rough-necks who beat up players who win too much money at the blackjack tables. Some of those stories stemmed from the accounts of James Grosjean, who successfully sued two Las Vegas casinos and the security firm that represented them for wrongful detainment and mistreatment.
The first incident occurred at Caesars Palace on Easter Sunday of 2000. According to his own account, he and a friend, Michael Russo, were playing a juicy table with a relatively new dealer who was carelessly exposing just enough of the hole card to give them a distinct edge over the game. After a few hours, they received a tap on the shoulder from security.
They were accused of cheating, taken into custody by security, led to a backdoor of the casino and handcuffed to a bench. Staff found no incriminating evidence upon searching them, but were adamant that they would be going to jail for cheating. As the clock ticked away, the two decided to tell the casino how they won (assuming mulling over the surveillance footage was getting them nowhere). Seeing a dealer’s hole card is not illegal, after all, but that didn’t help matters either.
After 5 hours of interrogation, both were carted off to the Clark County Detention Center. Mike was released the next day, but James was held for 5 days before his release. Neither were ever officially charged with any crime.
A second incident took place weeks later at Imperial Palace. This time, James said he only walked in and looked over the tables. Before he even sat down to play, he noticed heat from the security so he turned around to leave. He was followed, stopped by security and handcuffed. Grosjean said he was detained in a holding cell in a backroom of the casino, interrogated, threatened and that the guards got physical with him.
In 2005, he filed litigation against Caesars Palace, Imperial Palace and Griffin Investigations, the security company employed by both casinos. The Imperial Palace case went to court first, in which Grosjean was awarded $500,000 in punitive damages. However, the statutory limitations reduced the award to $300,000. By the time actual damages and legal fees were tacked on, Grosjean received $399,999.
He also won the case against Caesars Palace and Griffin Investigations. The jury agreed that Grosjean and Russo were inappropriately detained without sufficient cause. James received $25,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 in actual damages, while Mike was awarded $15,000 in punitive damages, $25,000 in actual damages.
The trial cost Griffin Investigations so much money that the company was forced to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in September of 2005. Legal action is still pending against the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Highlights of a Professional Blackjack Career
Known as the strongest player’s rights advocate in the business, Grosjean was inducted to the Blackjack Hall of Fame just one year later in 2006. He then went on to play in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour as an invitational member among the game’s most renowned competitors.
Grosjean is a staple at the Blackjack Cup, a tournament held at the annual Blackjack Ball, hosted by fellow Hall of Famer Max Rubin. Grosjean is the only player to have won the tournament three times, taking the Cup in 2004, 2007 and 2008.