James Grosjean - Established Author and Gambling Enthusiast
It would be very uncommon to hear James Grosjean's name without some reference being made to blackjack. In addition to mastering the art of card counting himself, he's also a major advocate for card counters whose rights have been violated by the casinos.
James is also an author, known for writing, "Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker." He uses this book to explain the mathematics behind many of the popular casino games, while giving players tips on how to play to the best of their abilities. For more information on the life of James Grosjean and his impact on the world of blackjack, please read through this detailed biography.
James spent his early years growing up in the picturesque borough of Chatham, New Jersey. Rumor has it that his father was an editor for the computer themed magazine named Sync, alongside the legendary Ken Uston. Ken apparently had a great deal of impact on young James' life, inspiring him to not only become a writer but to play blackjack as well.
Like many preteen boys, James loved to play games with his friends; one of his favorite games to play was a tile-based game named Mah Jong. While playing this game, he would use a Sinclair ZX80 computer to analyze the different playing strategies of his friends. He would then apply that information to ensure himself a win, which is why his friends eventually stopped playing against him. He was known for always finding the optimal plays to make, no matter what games he played.
James studied diligently in high school, earning himself a scholarship to Harvard Business School. Although his schoolwork kept him very busy, he would spend the weekends playing blackjack against his friends. Upon his twenty-first birthday, James travelled to Vegas for the first time, eager to play blackjack in a real brick and mortar casino. He learned some basic strategy by reading, "Winning Casino Blackjack for the Non-Counter," by Avery Cardoza on the drive over there.
Although from that point on he played blackjack more often, he didn't tap into his full potential until his mid-twenties. At this point in his life, he was attending the University of Chicago, working his way towards a Master's Degree in Mathematics. One night while he was playing, a careless dealer revealed her hole card to him, making him realize that seeing the dealer's hole card could give him a huge advantage over the house.
James again turned to his computer to determine what the optimal plays would be in correlation to what the hole card of the dealer was. He did a plethora of research on other strategies he could use to get ahead, leading him to discover shuffle tracking and card counting. After many hours of practice, he was able to master these skills and apply them effectively at the casinos.
He didn't want to just learn how to use these skills in the casinos to make money though, as he also wanted to understand the mathematics behind them. He used computers and other devices to produce some of the most accurate equations related to blackjack strategy today.
Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker
James Grosjean published, "Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker," in 2000. Many blackjack players of all skill levels rushed to read this book, as it explains a variety of different methods that can be used to gain an edge over the casinos. Not only does this book explain card counting, the hole card approach, and shuffle tracking entirely, it also shows the mathematical equations to back these methods up.
Gambling enthusiasts from all over the world have used the strategies addressed in his book to make thousands of dollars from the casinos. This is a gambling strategy book that players can use to turn negative expectation games into games where the casino has no edge over the players. Some of the more popular games addressed in this book include Craps, 3-Card Poker, and Let-It-Ride Poker.
This book also contains mini quizzes or tests that get readers to think about what they would do in specific scenarios. It gives advice for players who are interested in working with partners or on teams to gain an advantage over the house. Terminology such as spotter and Big Player are defined in this book to make these concepts a little easier to understand. Some of these techniques may be a little complicated for beginning blackjack players, but this book does have at least something to offer players of all levels.
On top of writing this book, James Grosjean also writes for several different blackjack forums. He has written on a plethora of different topics including Averse Betting, Basic Strategy, Doubling Down, and Las Vegas Coupon Books to name a few of his more popular ones. He's a well-respected author across the gambling community, and there are many people that rea his articles on a weekly basis.
The Casinos' Response to His Card Counting Skills
Once James Grosjean had more experience as a card counter, his eyes were opened to the maltreatment of card counters by the casinos. Some casinos would violate the rights of players, just because they were able to use their skills to win a significant amount of money. On Easter weekend of 2000, James experienced first-hand what the casinos were capable of.
James and his friend, Michael Russo, were playing the tables at Caesar's Palace. They were easily able to use their card counting abilities to win thousands of dollars in just a matter of minutes. Casino personnel had been keeping a close eye on them, suspecting that they were cheating to get ahead. The two men were forcefully escorted away from the blackjack tables, led to a backroom in the casino, and eventually handcuffed to a bench.
James and Michael were interrogated for over 5 hours. Although the casino had no clear evidence to prove that they were actually doing anything illegal, they still decided to imprison them. James and Michael were escorted to the Clark County Detention Center; Michael was placed in a holding cell for only one day, while James was held for five days. This was a frustrating experience for the both of them, and eventually they would seek their revenge.
Just a few weeks later, a similar incident took place at Imperial Palace casino. Before James even sat down at one of their blackjack tables, he noticed a security guard eyeing him down. He was going to run out of there to avoid confrontation, but his attorney had previously advised him to never run away from a situation, especially if he hadn't done anything illegal. James slowly walked towards the exit instead, making his way to the parking lot.
In a matter of seconds, he heard a higher authority radio the security guard, "Detain him," the voice said. Before James had time to react, a large man about 6 feet tall physically assaulted him. He aggressively twisted James' arms behind his back, then forcefully pushed him into the concrete wall. Pushing his face against the wall, he put James into handcuffs. "You have no right to detain me; I wasn't even playing," James screamed out in pain, but the security guard completely ignored him.
James was then escorted back into a secret room of the casino, where the guards took every last possession he had out of his pockets. They held him for several hours, while their boss was apparently looking over their records to see if he was actually the man they were looking for. Supposedly, he wasn't the person they thought he was, so he was released from their backroom a few minutes before midnight.
Taking the Casinos to Court
"Mike and I once asked Richard Wright, a criminal defense attorney, whether we could sue for the Caesars incident. Mike and I like to mimic his cynical, almost-mocking reply, which was, "Who ya gonna sue?" In the months that followed, only one answer emerged—everyone." Michael and James were both interested in suing Caesar's Palace, and they sought out many different lawyers for advice before deciding to do so.
In 2005, James finally felt like he had enough evidence to take the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Caesar's Palace, and Imperial Palace to court. He also was placing charges against Griffin Investigations, as they were the security company hired by both casinos.
When it came to the case against Caesar's Palace, everything got a little messy. The casino tried to defend their case by using the techniques discussed in James' book, "Beyond Counting," against him. The casino tried to claim that viewing a dealer's hole card and shuffle tracking are forms of cheating in their eyes. Despite their defense, the court ruled that James and Mike were both unjustifiably detained. Both James and his friend received $25,000 for actual damages; James received an additional $10,000 for punitive damages, while Mike received an additional $15,000.
Soon after, James found himself at court against the Imperial Casino, where the jury again ruled in his favor. It took them less than two hours to come to a decision. Part of this may be a result of the surveillance footage his lawyer was able to find, as it revealed the brutality of the events that occurred outside of the casino.
When asked by the judge if he felt like he had the right to be nervous while he was being detained, James answered, "Everything I see, the tape, the documents — yeah, he wasn't there to help me out or be nice. I was the guy they were interested in, he did handcuff me, even though I didn't do anything, they did search me, they did go through my ID. They did all the things that I feared they might do."
Another reason for the court's decision may be a direct result of the fact that James hadn't even sat down at the blackjack table before these events occurred. James was awarded $399,000 in total for both actual and punitive charges, in addition to being reimbursed for legal costs and other fees associated with taking them to court.
How did the result of these court cases leave a lasting impact on the world of blackjack? Well, Griffin Investigations had to pay a good portion of these fees, as they were responsible for the illegal procedures that took place. Griffin Investigations actually had to file for bankruptcy when all was said and done. This left a lot of card counters very happy, as this company had been working against them since its creation in 1967.
James Grosjean was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2006, thanks to his contributions to the game. Only select people are awarded with this honor, making it something to certainly be proud of. The most exciting part of this privilege is the fact that James Grosjean was the youngest person to be added to the Blackjack Hall of Fame at the time.
Each year James attends the highly anticipated Blackjack Ball that's hosted by a close friend of his: Max Rubin. All attendants to this ball compete to win what was formally called the Blackjack Cup. This is a two part competition that with the first part being a 21 question trivia quiz.
The people with the four highest scores move onto the skills part of the competition where they are tested on a variety of skills including card memorization, reading the shoes, and card counting. Since Grosjean won this competition in 2004, 2007, and 2008, he's no longer permitted to compete. However, they did rename the award to Grosjean Cup, in his honor.
James was also asked to compete in CBS's Ultimate Blackjack Tour. Even though he didn't make it very far into the competition, he was still able to enjoy playing at the most prestigious blackjack tournament of the year. He still enjoys playing blackjack in Vegas today, but will often wear disguises to avoid being attacked by security again.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: July 2016
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