Repeat Until Rich – Josh Axelrad
In the literary world of books ‘based on real events’ we’re accustomed to being fed scenarios which have some grounding in reality but which are so sexed up and adapted for the page that we lose the essence of the story and the ‘real’ is blurred with the ‘not-so-real’. In Josh Axelrad’s memoir, however, we’re fed only the pure, unsullied truth of one man’s success at the Blackjack table and the road which led him to tell his story in a tell-all book.
Axelrad was a philosophy graduate working a job he didn’t like, much like a vast majority of New Yorkers, until he joined a Blackjack Card Counting group which he calls Mossad in the book. He soon mastered the art of card counting, which legally allows the player to predict when they’re most likely to get a win and bet accordingly. Axelrad became a dab-hand at going unnoticed as a card counter, either by blending in with the crowd and changing tables as often as possible, or by getting himself noticed for other reasons so that his card counting would go unseen. He’s been known to pretend to be a lunatic, an unemployed good-for-nothing, and use wigs, coloured contact lenses and fake IDs.
As part of Mossad he would fly to Vegas with bundles of money from people who trusted his ability to bring back a cosy return on their investment, and he did indeed deliver as expected, and came back with the bundles of cash multiplied substantially. He tells all of this to the reader in as honest a way as you could possibly imagine, tirelessly self-deprecating, admitting to changing names and clothes sizes of some people, but never changing the action. His style is flowery and self-indulgent, but in the same way that he doesn’t scrimp on the poetry, he’s also generous with the facts and the dirty details of how he became lonely and isolated, and dangerously addicted to gambling, eventually becoming penniless and empty.
Repeat Until Rich could serve as a cautionary tale for any budding card counter. Yes, the young, talented graduate from Columbia University became a professional blackjack player and made megabucks, but he lost himself in the process and realised that whilst you win in the long term in blackjack, if you’re good at card counting, you lose out if you let yourself get carried away with it. He paints a vivid picture of living and working in casinos, but he doesn’t discourage anyone from trying it out, he just tells his own story in the best way he can in a sort of cathartic autobiography.
This book is worth reading for so many reasons, both for literary lessons and life lessons, especially if you have an interest in card counting and the game of blackjack. For Josh Axelrad, he will carry on repeating until he gets rich again, but given his ability to write engaging books, he could have just a bright future as a writer as he’s already had as a gambler.