Ian Andersen - Mysterious Blackjack Author
Who is Ian Andersen? That's a great question! We get a little insight into who he is on the pages of his two books: Turning the Tables on Las Vegas and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. Up until the publication of his first book, no one had ever heard of him before. This is probably because he goes out of his way to hide his true identity. With that being said, we can almost guarantee that Ian Andersen isn't his real name.
So how does someone so discreet make their way into the Blackjack Hall of Fame? How do people look past his secrecy and credit him with being one of the most profitable professional blackjack players of his time. To learn more about Ian Andersen and his lasting impact on the world of blackjack, please feel free to read through his biography.
Speculation: Who is Ian Andersen?
Since very little is known about Ian Andersen and his past, there are many theories floating around as to who people think he is. There's a very talented and very famous musician from Scotland named Ian Andersen, and it's hard for people to believe that's just a coincidence. They speculate that the man behind the pseudo name either has a great appreciation for music or that he's originally from Scotland. The advanced vocabulary he uses in his books and the way in which he writes leave readers to believe that he's a very well educated person. Some even suspect that he has multiple Doctorate's degrees.
The above ideas can only be considered assumptions, as this man is so good about hiding his identity that no one knows who he is for sure. All we really know is that he used to count cards for a living, but he was winning so often that he was eventually barred from almost all of the casinos in Las Vegas. After getting barred, he had to re-create himself so that he could continue to play, hence the pen name: Ian Andersen.
Turning the Tables on Las Vegas
In 1976, a book called, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas, was officially published. Not many copies of this book were sold right away, as no one had heard of this author before. Those who did read it were quick to recommend it to their friends though, as it contained a new perspective on card counting that would help average card counters improve their skills drastically.
This book doesn't focus on the mathematical side of card counting, but instead concentrates on the emotional side of blackjack. It explains the importance of having a good rapport with the dealers, and appearing as if you are just an average player. This book emphasizes the significance of acting the part, as blending in is an essential component of card counting.
Since the creation of this book, card counters have started to focus more of their attention to fitting in at the casinos, and are essentially less likely to be barred. Although not all of the camouflage tips addressed in this book are still applicable in the casinos today, this book can be credited with containing useful information that was way ahead of its time.
Burning the Tables in Las Vegas
It was over twenty years before anyone heard from Ian Andersen again. He finally published his second book, Burning the Tables in Las Vegas: Keys to Success in Blackjack and in Life, in 1999. Ian revealed that his love of blackjack and his first exposure to advantage play can be traced back to when he first read Edward Thorp's 1962 version of Beat the Dealer.
He was inspired by other famous players including Peter Griffin and Lawrence Revere, as they showed him that it's possible to make a substantial amount of money through card counting. Stanford Wong is one of the few blackjack players that Ian Andersen really confides in, and he actually wrote the forward for this book.
In the introduction, Ian discloses a little information about himself by explaining that he has spent the past couple decades playing high stakes blackjack in Las Vegas. He even went into specifics, telling us that he plays an average of 500 hours of blackjack per year which accumulates to approximately 50,000 hands. He hinted that he has used advantage play on games other than blackjack, further showing his dedication to improving his gambling skills.
Ian did an excellent job of explaining the various parts of advantage play covering game selection, disguises, casino comps, and controlling ones emotions. Ian's book not only contains a lot of valuable information, but it's filled with thought-provoking stories that allow readers to experience blackjack in a new and interesting light. Readers get some insight into Ian's past by reading about the many experiences he has had.
One of the stories Ian includes in this book shows how calm and collected he is in difficult situations at the casinos. He goes into detail about a time when a dealer had dealt herself a 10, even though the game had already gone bust. Ian wanted to have her start the next hand off with that same 10 to make things fair, but the pit boss intervened, explaining that the card needed to be burned.
Although on the inside he felt like he had been cheated, he didn't make a big deal out of the situation. Instead, he thanked both the dealer and the pit boss for their patience and said that he understands that everyone makes mistakes. Ian could have made a scene and drawn negative attention to himself, but the fact that he didn't allows him to continue taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the casinos without getting caught. This is just one of the hundreds of short stories that readers have to look forward to when reading his book.
Hot Shoe Interview
In 2005, a documentary named "Hot Shoe," was released to reveal how much card counting has improved over the years. Although this documentary was working on a tight budget, they managed to interview a plethora of well-known blackjack players including Tommy Hyland, Stanford Wong, Peter Griffin, and shockingly Ian Andersen. Although Ian's face isn't revealed in the film, we do get to hear him express his opinions on card counting. This is the closest we have ever been to meeting the man behind Ian Andersen.
In this interview, Ian talks about his first book, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas, and the importance of adapting the behaviors of a high roller. "The best blackjack players that I know marry two skills together; one is they have the fundamental technical skills of card counting. The second is they have the artistry, the artistry to be able to incorporate that particular tactic into an overall persona." He goes on to explain how good actors often make good card counters. He believes that knowing how to act the part is more important than knowing the mathematics behind it.
Blackjack Hall of Fame
To show their appreciation for the books Ian Andersen has written and to show their respect for the many years he has dedicated to helping card counters know how to behave in the casinos, the members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame nominated Ian to be the newest inductee in 2011. Although he lost to Zeljko Ranogajec, the following year he was nominated again and this time he won.
As suspected, Ian chose not to attend the award ceremony, as he wanted to avoid getting his picture taken or being recognized by the other professional players. He also chooses to decline his invitation to Max Rubin's Blackjack Ball each year for the same reasons. Maybe someday we will find out who the man behind the name is, but for now we will just respect Ian Andersen for all he's done and hope he continues to make a difference.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: June 2016
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