Josh Axelrad’s ‘Repeat Until Rich’ is a Spirited Journey into Casino Life

Are you ready for suspense and adventure as one man’s journey plunges us into casino life? Josh Axelrad is already out of his element on page one and continues slightly off-balance throughout the whole of his memoir. He runs from the cops, hides in the bushes, disguises himself with wigs and sunglasses, straps wads of money to his body, and narrowly avoids going to jail. All apparently necessary— but he hasn’t done anything illegal. At least not yet…

Repeat Until RichRepeat Until Rich Josh Alexrad is the highly entertaining and yet unbelievable story of ex-Wall Street exec Josh Axelrad’s four short years as a professional blackjack card counter. Enticed into the noisy, fluorescent world of America’s casinos, Axelrad surfed through his apprenticeship, experienced successes and failures, winning and losing and learning all the rules of an intriguing alternate universe— all while juggling a “normal” life of bills and love affairs that ate at the edges of his new reality.

It’s a great ride and Axelrad is a fine, intelligent storyteller. It’s hard not to like the guy. Even when you’re inwardly screaming “Nooooo!”, you’re rooting for him and his brilliant and irresponsible band of hooligans as they confound dealers, infuriate casino management, hide in the toilets, and escape in separate cars.   

For readers who know little or nothing about gambling, Repeat Until Rich is a spirited education. For one thing, card counting is not illegal, nor is it as complicated as legend has it. One need only have patience and passion and a good memory. A firm grip on simple arithmetic helps. Whatever you didn’t thoroughly understand while reading the book is carefully (and humorously) explained at the end in a section called “How to Count Cards If You Must.”

Axelrad is not encouraging anyone to gamble, count cards or play poker. He’s done both, and in the introduction of his book, admits he’s currently broke. He says he is “…just your standard Semitic American living on the precipice in Brooklyn… drinking bourbon and watching the sky fall, and trying take care of my plants.”  

I, for one, hope that changes with the publication of this book. As with The Wolf of Wall Street, perhaps there’ll be a fabulous movie. The difference here would be that Axelrad, unlike Belfort, is a thoroughly likeable, self-effacing, and honest character who only harms himself and takes no one down with him.

He ends with a bit of advice. “… consider craps or roulette instead of counting cards,” he advises. “Counters get barred [from casinos]. They get barred and then return and get re-barred. Repeat until rich. Best of luck.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Axelrad is from Seattle and his novel was first recognized by the New York Times Online and was placed alongside writers Jennifer Egan and David Shields as a Best Book of 2010 by The Nervous Breakdown. He played blackjack professionally for five years and poker unprofessionally for one. He gained $700,000 as a card counter and was left eight-sixes from some of the finest casinos.

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Sherri Daley
Sherri Daley has been writing freelance for national and regional publications for many years, including MORE magazine, Car and Driver, and the New York Times. She is the author of a book about commodities traders and a ghostwriter for business motivational texts. As a freelancer, she has established herself as someone who will write about anything – from cancer treatments to the lives of Broadway stagehands to that new car smell, blueberry jam, and Joshua Bell’s violin. Her curiosity drives her to read about anything, too, and she’s eager to share what she likes with others. She says life’s too short to read a bad book. When she’s not reading, she’s tending her gardens in Connecticut where she lives with her cat and a cage of zebra finches, although she’d rather be living in Iceland.