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
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
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.
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