Have you ever wondered what it would be like to put your life on hold and spend two months setting foot in every casino in the State of Nevada to play blackjack? Barry Meadow not only did just that, but he brilliantly recounts his story in Blackjack Autumn: A True Tale of Life, Death, and Splitting Tens in Winnemucca. This outstanding read isn't just a window into his adventures, but it's filled with wisdom that beginners and avid blackjack veterans alike will appreciate.
Barry Meadow is neither a stranger to gambling nor is he a stranger to writing. Originally focusing on horse racing, his second book, Professional Harness Betting, was highly revered by the gambling press. Blackjack Autumn is his first book focusing on blackjack, and what a triumph it is.
Barry Meadow fascinates readers through his intrepid journey across the state of Nevada, leaving his fiancée and his son, armed with $8,000 and a Dictaphone, and playing blackjack in every casino in the state. He finds himself in casinos from Las Vegas to Battle Mountain, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people, from cowboys to sultans. He gives a candid and irreverent account of casinos, holding back on absolutely nothing.
If you don't know who the sucker in the game is, it's you.
Meadow begins his tale with the poignant story of a disabled man losing his daughter at the hands of a sadistic paedophile, while glued to a slot machine. Going on to detail how gambling is not just embedded in the fabric of Nevada, but rather it is the very fabric of Nevada. In spite of this bleak beginning, Blackjack Autumn is informative to blackjack aficionados and novices alike. Throughout his book, he gradually explains his counting strategy, which is an excellent primer for anyone interested in the practice.
Likening his blackjack experience to a roller coaster, he highlights differences between counters and other blackjack players remarking, ‘If you don’t know who the sucker in the game is, it’s you’. He gets ejected from various casinos, including one which had him blacklisted from over a decade prior. He wins big on some days and on others sees his balance plummet. But casinos and blackjack are not the only turbulent ride along the way. Being away from his fiancée and son for an extended period, wandering through the Silver State’s cities and ghost towns - which also sets his emotions running high - we see how his repressed thoughts come to mind.
But in blackjack, feelings serve only to distract you. I can’t waste time on them right now.
I’ve got games to play.
Towards the end of the trip, we see him lose his urge to play. Stating that he starts to play like 'a little bunny being chased by a large jackal' due to 'counter’s terror' and tiring of the game, he questions whether he will be squashed, banned, or robbed. Despite becoming disillusioned with his task, Meadow still soldiers on to cover every single casino.
The beauty of Blackjack Autumn is the vivid detail that Meadow uses to recreate his journey. The maps at the beginning of each week of his account give readers some idea of the scale of Meadow’s travels – showing the towns and cities visited, the route taken, distance travelled and the number of casinos visited. His literary devices, especially his generous use of metaphor and simile, and his general tone, allow the reader to truly become one with the author. At the end of each day, he states his wins or losses for the day, as well the total for the trip.
Blackjack Autumn is a sharp and entertaining read. In spite of this, it proves more than mere entertainment – it's also very enlightening. It puts readers in the mind of a professional gambler, where they stand to learn a great deal from his experience and skills. We highly recommend this book – and consider it a must read if you aspire to recreate any of Meadow’s journey.