167: Confessions of a Professional Card Counter with Joel Block

The Business of Meetings – Episode 167 – Confessions of a Professional Card Counter with Joel Block

We are delighted to have a rockstar in the speaking industry joining us today!

Joel Block was a professional blackjack player and card counter before embarking on a career in auditing and consulting for VCs, private equities, and real estate. Now, he speaks about what it takes to become an advantaged player.

Joel is a genius when it comes to explaining how the economy works! He joins us to share his unique journey and tell some fascinating stories about things that happened along the way!


Former professional blackjack player and card counter, Joel was a member of one of the most elite teams in the game during the 1980s. Playing solo and with the team, he took money out of casinos before leaving Las Vegas for that giant Casino on Wall Street, where he spent the rest of his career in venture capital and Hedge funds. Joel has been a party to more than a billion dollars in transactions, and what he learned during those years about playing at the top of his game and securing a competitive advantage will fascinate your audience – enabling them to think, see, and act differently so they can know what cards are coming next in business and life.

Kicked out of a casino

Joel was once part of a team playing at a casino, but he got kicked out! He was afraid because he thought he might get his knees broken, but the people who asked him to leave were professional and just escorted him out. He was also worried because his teammates disappeared when he was told to leave. Fortunately, they eventually met up with him at a predetermined meeting spot.

An important business lesson 

Joel admits he brought trouble on himself by being too flamboyant and not following the rules while playing blackjack. He learned an important business lesson from the experience; rules exist for our protection and should be followed. He believes that the blackjack experience guides his approach to business and life because playing at the top of one’s game in anything requires understanding what it means to do so.

Advantage play

Joel explains that the trick when using advantage play is to remain inconspicuous and not draw attention to oneself. However, he let his guard down and became too enthusiastic, which caught the attention of the casino staff.

Using memory tricks for card counting

Joel read a book in high school called The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne, a memory expert. The book helped him do better in school by teaching him tricks to improve his memory. He learned to memorize decks of cards and later attended a blackjack seminar with his dad. He impressed the seminar instructor by counting a deck of cards in 18 seconds and was taken under his wing to become a professional gambler. He joined a team led by Jerry Patterson and became very good at blackjack.

How Joel’s card counting days ended

Joel played poker for a few years and had a great time. He used to go to Las Vegas on weekends during college and got into playing blackjack. He became very good at counting cards, and a mentor taught him more advanced techniques. He was invited to join a team of gamblers led by Jerry Patterson. He eventually realized that he was hanging around people who did not care about his education and were using him to make money. He had a moment of self-awareness and decided to stop playing blackjack. He has not played much since then because he fears that he would get too addicted to it again. He has, however, helped others play by advising them on how to bet and which moves to make.

Working for a big accounting firm

Joel worked at one of the big accounting firms, Price Waterhouse, and had an assignment counting ballots for the Academy Awards. He explains that the secrecy of the process gets maintained by breaking the job into many little parts, with only a few people at the top who put the puzzle together and understand what will happen.

The real estate syndication business

Joel left Price Waterhouse to start his own real estate syndication business and later a venture capital operation and publishing company that was sold to a Fortune 500 company. He retired from his hedge fund and now shares what he learned with other executives because few truly understand the money business.

Teaching leaders how to be advantage players

Money is a complicated business, and even with a background in venture capital and hedge funds, Joel still struggled to explain it to meeting planners and professionals. He hired a consultant who asked him to list 100 extraordinary things he had done in his career. One of the items on the list was his ability to take money out of a casino. The consultant saw that as a unique skill for Joel to use as a metaphor for teaching business principles. Joel now teaches leaders how to be advantage players using blackjack as a metaphor, helping them become more aware and better at predicting outcomes in business.

Asking the right questions

While it is impossible to predict some events, many things can be predicted and prepared for in order to make real money. Asking the right questions, understanding situational awareness, and analyzing industry trends can help companies make informed decisions and place their bets strategically. Joel produces an annual Trend Report to help clients better understand how Wall Street works and how to apply predictive logic to their business decisions.

Strategic retreats 

Joel leads strategic retreats for senior executives and boards of directors, where he asks good questions to help them come up with breakthroughs. He emphasizes the importance of thinking, seeing, and acting differently to gain an advantage in business, and has started an Advantage Player Institute to teach people these techniques. The strategies he teaches are legal and smart but require out-maneuvering competitors aggressively and ambitiously.

What is going on with the economy

The market is in turmoil, and in times like this, cash is king! People with cash have an advantage as they can make the most of opportunities when others struggle. Prices have risen due to supply chain disruptions, but this is not necessarily inflation. The whole economy has reset to a new level, and the Feds are using a tactic that may be ineffective in addressing the current situation. Economists are not scientists, and the economy is a behavioral art form, making it difficult to predict.

Cash is becoming obsolete

Joel is concerned that the United States dollar has lost its value as countries like Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, and China are moving away from using it as their primary currency. He believes the US needs to get ahead in the cryptocurrency markets to stay competitive. He predicts that the US will move toward an electronic system within the next ten years, as cash is becoming obsolete.

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Books mentioned:

The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas


Eric Rozenberg

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