Berland was born and raised in Gardena, California. He moved to Las Vegas with his family in 1968 and attended UNLV. He left college after two years to become a full time professional poker player. He also worked as a poker dealer during his early years as a poker player to supplement his income and help build his bankroll.
Berland finished runner-up to Doyle Brunson in the 1977 World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 no limitTexas hold'em main event, but did not cash because the tournament had a winner-take-all format until 1978. In 1978, Berland won the $500 Seven Card Stud and the $1,000 Seven Card Razz events. His total winnings for these were more than $36,000. He also finished third in the 1986 main event. His total live tournament winnings exceeded $300,000. Berland's 11 cashes at the World Series of Poker totalled $220,390.