How to build a team

Start small, grow organically. You’ll find that it is an easier task organizing a two-person team. Mold a duo and give it time to harden into your foundation before tacking on a 3rd, and so on and so forth.

1st is you. The standard of excellence that defines your team begins with you. First, you must become what you duplicate. Being the person who recruits, write contracts, and give instructions does not make you a 1st. It simply makes you a bureaucrat.

A 1st is someone who dives headfirst into the unknown and isn’t afraid to make mistakes to pave the way for others. You will need to experience a plethora of positive and negative swings to understand what is truly probable in this sliver of an edge we hold. You will need to experience painful back offs and harsh trespasses. These are vital experiences that you need intimate knowledge of to properly prepare your players. You are expected to be an expert in your field. It is a good idea read and have as a reference all the major blackjack books.

On the training side of the operation, you will need to know how to simultaneously deal, count, distract, and test another player. Patience and understanding is key. People learn in difference ways and different paces. Adapt your training to fit your trainee’s needs. Be firm and honest, but not belittling. There are plenty of well-known leadership book recommendations that I won’t bother mentioning. Google is your friend. Though not strictly a leadership book, I heartily recommend Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. A bit of stoicism is needed for a good blackjack manager.

A 1st needs to have charisma and networking skills. They need to like you to want to follow you. Your value as a 1st is your ability to draw in and retain quality players. The Charisma Myth, by Olivia Fox Cabane is an excellent resource if you feel you lack in that department.

Find and develop your 2nd. Your 2nd will naturally take on a leadership role as your team grows. Your 2nd will be able to replace you or run their own team so it’s important to maintain a good relationship with them to avoid a mutiny. Truly, this can happen and you can lose part or all of your team. I cannot stress how important your choice is for your 2nd. It takes a specific type of person to be an ideal 2nd. Someone who can lead but prefers not to. Perhaps a bit more on the introverted side.

Set investor/player/manager profit distribution formulas and a contract that your 2nd is agreeable to. Set a manageable goal and lead a successful mission. Make amendments to your contracts, profit distribution formulas, and general practices as your experience grows. The biggest changes will happen here. You may have to complete multiple missions before it feels right. That’s fine. You’re growing your bankroll, gaining experience, and strengthening your foundation.

Once your duo works like clockwork, begin scouting for your 3rd.

Developing your 3rd.
 It is your 2nd’s duty to train your 3rd and this is where duplication begins. Training another player is the pinnacle of exercises to achieving perfection in your game. Your 2nd will grow as a player, gain experience as a mentor, all while developing another productive member of your team. I should note that it’d be wise of you to show an interest in your 3rd’s progress and personally proctor their final test.

3rd is when the magic happens. It is vital for you and your 2nd to have solidarity before bringing in your 3rd. Settle all disputes to present a united front. For example, an elite team would naturally know all the expanded playing deviations, not just the basic ones. If both you and your 2nd have them memorized perfectly by the time you’re developing your 3rd, your 3rd will naturally conform to this standard.

Are you starting to see how this pattern works? Let’s say you have 3 players, only one of you has all the expanded deviations memorized, and you bring in a 4th. The 4th will likely see the oddball as an overachiever and opt to settle with the median. On the other hand, if all 3 players used expanded deviations when bringing in a 4th; the 4th will see this as the norm. This works for all aspects of the team.

Another example is that you can quite literally trick your players into embracing back offs by setting a reward for most backoffs at the end of a mission. If you and your 2nd build a foundation where backoffs are not avoided, but embraced, your 3rd will follow that lead. One of my players once told me he felt a backoff coming and my co-manager and I laughed. We told him he didn’t have enough backoffs to be able to accurately predict that. He saw our recorded backoff tally with fresh eyes and took it as a challenge to match us.

When you have a solid foundation of 3 and wish to expand aggressively, you can recruit 4 and 5 concurrently. I’m beating a dead horse now. You see how this works.


Running a team is a lot of work. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you can be a passive team manager and let others work for you (i.e., Kevin Spacey from 21). Your players will quickly wonder how you fit into the equation. A proper team leader stays in the front lines and gets their hands dirty. They will frequently take the lead in mission hours.

A player’s current blackjack skill level is not what you should be paying attention to when scouting for new recruits. Your team has the resources to train anyone into a world-class blackjack player. It is more important to see how they fit into your team. You’ll want a balance of extroverts and introverts, and preferably have a range of ethnic backgrounds, gender, and ages. Seek out curious and proactive people. People who own their mistakes and don’t make excuses. There are a lot of subtle psychological tests you can employ to glimpse a person’s character.

When it comes down to specifics, such as profit distribution percentages, policy on frequency of test outs and pass/fail criteria. You are the architect. It is your job to create them and listen to your players’/investors’ feedback.

A new member passing the test out and joining the ranks should be celebrated as a rite of passage. Do something special to commemorate the moment and instill in your players both a sense of achievement and belonging.

This is how to build a team that lasts.