The name James Grosjean might not be that familiar to amateur gamblers, but in professional ranks he is very well known.
Grosjean has a background in all-round advantage play, but through his writing he has also shined light onto many of the secret strategies that the very best gamblers in the world use.
Grosjean was born in New Jersey and from an early age was fascinated with games of chance. Early on it was Mahjong that got him interested, not only in games themselves but also in the maths behind them.
Grosjean’s father was involved with computers when they weren’t as accessible as they are today. This led Grosjean into using a computer to calculate the optimal strategies for Mahjong.
Sure enough he quickly beat all of his friends and soon no one would play against him. As he grew older, his attention quickly turned to blackjack. His father used to work with legendary Blackjack player Ken Uston and he had a big impact on a young Grosjean.
Given his mathematical prowess, Grosjean went on to receive a scholarship to Harvard. However, while studying his interest in blackjack continued to grow and he started regularly travelling to Las Vegas to play.
At this stage he was still using basic blackjack strategies. One night, however, a careless dealer revealed her hole card to him while he was playing. That gave Grosjean an idea.
Knowing what hole card the dealer had made a huge impact on the odds of the hand. The edge was now significantly in favour of the player.
From here Grosjean went on to seek out edges in all sorts of casino games. He looked for them in games that are traditionally avoided by advantage gamblers such as roulette.
In 2000, Grosjean went on to publish a book titled “Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker”.
The book outlines a range of different casino games and legal ways in which a player can gain an edge or, at the very least, break even.
Some of the strategies the book touches on include:
One of the biggest edges an advantage player looks for is sloppy dealers. These are dealers who let the player inadvertently see the hole card. Grosjean ran extensive analysis on what to do when you uncover different hole cards.
For a deck of cards to be shuffled to a point that they are truly random takes 30 shuffles. As a result, a player can track clumps of cards throughout the shuffle and therefore gain an edge.
In the Easter of 2000, Grosjean and his friend Michael Russo were gambling at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Before long the pair were approached by security guards. They were forcefully removed from the tables and taken to a back room.
They were accused of cheating and detained for more than five hours. From there the pair were sent to the Clark County Detention Center and James was held for five days, with little evidence. Only a few months later, a similar incident occurred at Imperial Palace.
After gathering evidence over a number of years, Grosjean and Russo first sued the casinos. During the case the casinos pointed out the techniques used in Grosjean’s book as evidence that they had been cheating.
However, the bigger case was against the famous security firm Griffin Investigations. Griffin maintained a database of advantage players and known cheaters from across the world. They worked directly for the casinos and were the ones that had identified Grosjean and Russo.
Given the nature of the incident, Griffin were found to be directly responsible. In the second incident Grosjean hadn’t even sat down at a table before being detained. Grosjean and Russo were awarded $400,000, and Griffin Investigations were forced to file for bankruptcy.
In 2006, Grosjean was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Not only was he a top player, but he opened people’s eyes to new and interesting ways to gain an edge over casinos.