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JULY 2022

Famous Blackjack Players - Learn from the Pros!

Some of the most notable blackjack players who have impacted the gaming industry


Notable Blackjack Players Who Have Influenced the Gaming Industry

Some of the most notable blackjack players who have impacted the gaming industry

Written by: Astrid Eriksson | The review was last updated: 11 Feb 2022

As a professional blackjack player, I respect the legendary blackjack players. They have had an inspiring and powerful effect on players worldwide. I want to honour them on BETO.com so that I can put my feelings into words and finally express my gratitude for everything they have done.

This article will include those legends that deserve to be in the blackjack hall of fame. They have introduced the strategies and techniques that we use today. Not only did they win vast sums of money, but they also inspired new players to take blackjack more seriously.

From multi-millionaires like Don Johnson to innovative minds like Lawrence Revere, this article will cover the greats and share their contributions. Honestly, several legendary players aren’t mentioned here. The reason is that I want to cover blackjack experts that have influenced me the most in this BETO’s blackjack article.

The blackjack legends mentioned here are not only the most impressive, but the blackjack experts in the BETO’s office hold them in high regard.

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Lawrence Revere: The Blackjack Shark

Lawrence Revere one of the old school blackjack sharks the casinos feared

Lawrence Revere one of the old school blackjack sharks the casinos feared

Lawrence Revere was a brilliant blackjack strategist best known for his book Playing Blackjack as Business. He had a degree in mathematics that came in handy while developing his strategies that players still follow. One of the most significant achievements of Revere is that his strategies have changed how players play blackjack forever.

Revere Point Count is his most popular strategy, and it is considered a benchmark strategy. The most significant advantage of the Revere Point Count strategy is that it is relatively easy to use, so more people are attracted to it.

Mr Revere was undoubtedly an innovative and lively person. He was a casino pit boss, so he knew about the inner workings of a casino. You can say that Revere was a student of the game of blackjack, and he used his work experience and his mathematics degree to develop advanced and straightforward strategies.

It is said that Revere used to advise both the dealers and the players, which is certainly unusual. Lawrence Revere was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2005, and there is no doubt that he deserved it.

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Blackjack Game Theory Experts

Blackjack experts have changed everything through their theory development, books on strategy, and legendary winnings that promoted the game. Because of them, we can choose from several strategies and gain an edge over the casino. So let us look at some of the prominent experts and their contributions.

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The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen

Four Horseman of Aberdeen is the name given to U.S. Army engineers who developed the optimal playing strategy based on the player’s and the dealer’s cards. Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott are fantastic contributors. Their findings were also presented in the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

In the 1950s, this was an exceptional achievement because they didn’t have any modern technology like computers to assist them. All they had was desk calculators. Finally, their book Playing to Win was published in 1957, and it proved to be one of the most impactful books on blackjack.

Even though their strategy was essential, it sparked the interest of others in blackjack strategy and led to several developments in the field. You could say that they developed the base over which the colossal building of blackjack strategy was built. They were inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame thanks to their contributions in 2008.

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Blackjack Player James Grosjean Against the Casinos

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James Grosjean was great at finding the optimal strategy in whatever game he played in his childhood. He used to play Mah Jong and beat his friends so much that they stopped playing against him.

Years later, James used to play blackjack with his friends on weekends. He was finally able to develop an idea when a dealer revealed her hole card to him. James used his computer to determine the optimal strategy based on the hole card.

James published his magnum opus Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker in 2000. It is a detailed book that contains various strategies and explains the maths behind them.

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Grosjean and the Blackjack Computer

Grosjean worked with Keith Taft on a blackjack computer that gave them an edge in a casino situation where computer play was legal. Keith Taft, a Blackjack Hall of Fame member like James, praised James and said his brilliant programming.

James had some legal battles with casinos because they detained him unfairly. Caesars Palace and Imperial Casino detained him, and he took them to court and won. You can estimate how good James was because the casinos were suspicious of cheating.

Griffin Investigations suffered the most because of James’s lawsuits because they were responsible for the criminal proceedings. Paying the fees destroyed their finances, and they had to file for bankruptcy.

Finally, James got the recognition he deserved as he was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2006.

James published another book by Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting, which could be worth its weight in gold. However, James only made it available to his friends or people he trusted.

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Tommy Hyland and the Blackjack Team

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Tommy Hyland was inspired by Lawrence Revere’s book Playing Blackjack as Business and began his career in 1979. Tommy quickly recruited some friends and started playing some great blackjack. The surprising thing about Tommy’s team is that his team is one of the longest-running blackjack teams ever.

His team utilized computer play, shuffle tracking, and ace sequencing techniques. The exciting part is that they won the case after being arrested for ace sequencing at Casino Windsor.

The casino tried its best to get them convicted for cheating. However, the judge ruled that the team wasn’t cheating but using an intelligent strategy. This made a significant impact and boosted the morale of several blackjack players.

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MIT Blackjack Team

The MIT Blackjack Team was a talented group of students and ex-students from MIT, Harvard University, and other exceptional colleges. They used card counting and other strategies to gain an advantage and score huge wins from several casinos.

We don’t want to bore you with the history lesson because the MIT Blackjack Team has a long and elaborate history. The team was led by Bill Kaplan, J.P. Massar, and John Chang. Their team grew to nearly 80 players in the early 90s. They even inspired a book Bringing Down the House, and the film, 21, released in 2008.

Their success as casino players and card counters is unquestionable. We are glad that they didn’t just make a movie inspired by the MIT Blackjack Team, but the prominent members of the team also showed up in the movie. Note that the movie takes a lot of artistic liberty and doesn’t show what happened precisely.

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Blackjack Grandmaster Ken Uston

In 1977, Ken did the unimaginable by co-authoring a book with Roger Rapoport titled The Big Player: How a Team of Blackjack Players Made a Million Dollars. Ken’s book exposed the secrets of the legendary Al Francesco’s team, which Ken was also a part of for years.

Al Francesco wasn’t happy about Ken’s book, and the relationship between Ken and Al Francesco went downhill. Still, the book was a success, and Ken was asked to appear on Good Morning America to talk about his book. Ken was a gifted writer who continued to write several books on blackjack like Million Dollar Blackjack and One-Third of a Shoe.

While writing his books, Ken formed a team and won millions from the casinos. Ken’s team was arguably better than Al’s old team because they used electronic devices to gain an advantage. Eventually, Ken was barred from several casinos. He took Resorts International to court for barring him and won easily because his team was only using card counting.

You could say that Ken was too good, and the casinos had to throw him out to stop him from constantly winning. He continues to be one of the most celebrated blackjack players of all time.

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Don Johnson: The Blackjack Highroller

Don Johnson is one of the biggest winners in the history of blackjack, winning $6 million in Tropicana casino, $5 million in Borgata, and $4 million in Caesars. Johnson could win so much because he bet $100,000 on each hand. In short, he was playing high-stakes blackjack and constantly winning against the casinos.

Johnson had made the casinos agree to some special rules like the dealer being forced to stand on soft 17 and a 20% rebate for significant losses. These rules helped him win more, but he would have still won a lot without them because he is an outstanding blackjack player.

The surprising part is that the casinos agreed to bend the rules for Johnson. Maybe, they had no idea what he was capable of. They might have thought that he was just lucky, and they were waiting for his luck to run out. It didn’t happen, and Johnson just kept winning.

He had free bets for spotting the mistakes of the dealers and carried a bunch of people to help him and distract the dealers. In total, Johnson earned a profit of $15 million.

Johnson wasn’t even a blackjack enthusiast at first because he wanted to be a jockey and later worked in the racetracks. However, we are glad that he discovered blackjack and crafted the perfect strategy to beat the casinos.

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The Father of Card Counting: Edward O. Thorp

Edward O. Thorp: The Father of Card Counting

Edward O. Thorp: The Father of Card Counting

Edward Oakley Thorp is regarded as the Father of Card Counting. Even though he wasn’t the first to develop a card counting system, his 10 Count System popularized card counting by reaching a broad audience. He presented his system in his book Beat the Dealer, published in 1962.

The 10 Count System changed the world of blackjack. Thorp’s book sold more than 700,000 copies, but his method wasn’t adequate for multiple decks. Thorp later developed another system in collaboration with Julian Braun in 1966. This system was known as the Hi-Lo Count, considered the best counting system a beginner can learn.

It would not be a stretch to say that Thorp laid the foundation of card counting, and the casinos had to change the rules to counter Thorp’s method.

Las Vegas tried to introduce new rules, but players refused to play if the rules were changed. So the casinos started using multiple decks in some games, and the players slowly adopted this change. Now we can’t imagine a blackjack dealer game with a single deck.

In short, Thorp will always be a part of blackjack history for his brilliant works and being the Father of Counting Cards.

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Writer of Professional Blackjack: Stanford Wong

Stanford Wong is the author name of John Ferguson, who is best known for his book Professional Blackjack games published in 1975. Professional Blackjack is one of the most famous books on blackjack, even though it caters to experienced players. The exciting fact is that this book is still regarded as a great book and the sales are decent.

Blackjack provided relief and joy to John when he had a tough time. John wasn’t only a great blackjack player, but he was also a great game analyst. Interestingly, John read Thorp’s book, Beat the Dealer, and used his 10 Count System to win more often. As you can see, the books of great players help nurture other great players and then their books do the same.

One technique that John mentioned in his book was called “wonging.” This technique involves observing the game and jumping in at the right time to improve one’s chances of winning. Unfortunately, casinos countered this technique by stopping the entry of players into the game after a certain point.

Wong continued to release books on blackjack like Blackjack in Asia, Tournament Blackjack, Winning Without Counting, basic blackjack, and Blackjack Secrets. Wong is one of the most prolific writers on blackjack, who wrote books on blackjack for decades.

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Learn From the Best Blackjack Players and Become a pro Yourself!

We would be lost without the contribution of legendary blackjack players like Edward O. Thorp, Lawrence Revere, James Grosjean, and Ken Uston. Some have contributed to the theory, while others have won big and inspired the next generation of blackjack players.

The players enjoy several advanced strategies and techniques right now, all thanks to the earlier blackjack players who did the hard work for us.

Many legends like John May, Bill Zender, and Arnold Synder aren’t featured here. Since this was a personal article, we could only include those blackjack players that mean a lot to us. However, we respect all blackjack legends who have made it easier to win more often.

The struggle between the casinos and the blackjack players continues, but great players always seem to have the upper hand. They say that knowledge is power, and we recommend learning from these great players if you want to beat the casino and win big.

All readers of BETO can enjoy free articles from our experts who have spent decades studying casino games and learning from the best players. Our experts also enjoy playing in casinos worldwide, so you should read our articles and fast track your progress.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Blackjack Players

In this section, we will look at some frequently asked questions about famous blackjack players and playing blackjack in general.

Who are the greatest blackjack players of all time?

Some of the greatest blackjack players are James Grosjean, Don Johnson, Ken Uston, Edward O. Thorp, Tommy Hyland, and Lawrence Revere.

What are the best card counting systems developed by blackjack players?

Some of the best card counting systems are Hi-Lo, the Ace Five Count, The Red Seven Count, and Knock Out.

Which blackjack players have won the most money?

The biggest win in blackjack history was scored by Kerry Packer, who won $40 million in one night. Don Johnson won $15 million in a few months by playing in major casinos in Atlantic City. Ken Uston won $4.5 million over several years, and it is undoubtedly one of the biggest early wins in blackjack.

Which blackjack player is known as the Father of Card Counting?

Edward O. Thorp is the father of card counting because his 10 Count System brought card counting to the forefront.

What are the best books on blackjack written by famous blackjack players?

The best books depend on your preference, but some of the best books on blackjack are Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorp, Blackjack Bluebook 2 by Fred Renzey, Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston, and Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong.

Which blackjack player ran the longest-running blackjack team in history?

Tommy Hyland ran his team for decades, and it is the longest-running blackjack team of all time. This was all made possible because of Hyland’s leadership qualities and ability to quickly find replacements for players that left.

Which blackjack team has inspired the movie 21 starring Kevin Spacey?

The MIT Blackjack Team led by Bill Kaplan, J.P. Massar, and John Chang inspired the movie 21. Bill Mezrich wrote a book on the MIT Blackjack Team called Bringing Down the House, and it served as inspiration for the film 21.