Blackjack is a game that you play solely against the dealer. The rules of the game are extremely simple – don’t exceed 21. Aces are worth 1 or 11, royal suites are worth 10, and all other cards are worth their face value. Taking this game at face value, if you pardon the pun, you would be fooled into thinking that is it easy to play and simple to master.
Blackjack isn’t a timed game either, so you’ve got plenty of time to decide what your next move will be – just be mindful of the other players who are waiting to take a turn! Live blackjack uses up to eight decks that are shuffled together to deter card counters. You want to approach 21 or get as close as possible without going over.
In most casinos, a dealer will continue to play cards (hit) until they reach 17. If they go over 21, they lose (bust). If your card value exceeds theirs, you win. If it’s the same, you tie. If it’s less than theirs, you lose your bet. Blackjack is very easy to pick up and learn, but it takes a really long time to master. This guide will contain bios of people who have truly mastered the game in every way.
By reading their stories, you might get some insight into how you can better your own game. Who knows – maybe you’ll strike it rich as they did.
Bryce Carlson and the Omega II Blackjack Machine
Bryce Carlson is a longtime veteran of blackjack, having played since the 1970s. He is the author of the best-selling book “Blackjack for Blood”. This is considered a must-read for any player serious about playing blackjack at a professional level. In it, he describes the way he became an expert, mostly by employing card counting and playing with a team of like-minded pros.
Bryce has continued to play throughout the decades, and the introduction of online casinos has given him a new way to master the game. He mentioned in an interview that he always wanted to beat the casinos at their own game, and the rise of computers gave him away to study and learn the game in a way that could not be done before.
With the aid of programmers, he developed the Omega II Blackjack Machine. This program allows him to simulate blackjack in ways you never even imagined, and here he can test out crazy new strategies and tricks that would otherwise be costly to attempt with real money. The success of this program led him to introduce the Omega II Blackjack Casino, which utilizes some of the technology invented from the Blackjack Machine.
If you ask Bryce, he’ll tell you not to give up so easily. He once went on a losing streak that lasted a whopping 47 hours. Not content to let the casinos walk away with his money, he spent the next 141 hours – 5 days and 21 hours – winning it back.
Edward O. Thorp – Beat the Dealer
Edward O. Thorp is an American mathematician who has used his incredible understanding of numbers to make himself very wealthy. In addition to mastering blackjack, he also runs a hedge fund and teaches at a university.
He is best known for inventing his own card counting technique, which involves tracking the cards that have been played to determine what remains. He also published a book titled “Beat the Dealer,” where he describes his techniques in great detail.
He relates his success on Wall Street to his similar success in blackjack; if you follow his advice, you might taste some of your own success as well.
Arnold Snyder – The Blackjack Formula
Arnold Snyder was a man with a simple dream: make a living playing the casinos for all they were worth. He recognized blackjack as being an ideal candidate due to its low house edge and high skill cap. It’s fair to say that with blackjack in his crosshairs, he would go on to accomplish that dream and then some.
Initially training with low-stakes games, he eventually graduated to playing with big-time sums. He paid close attention to how casinos shuffled cards and deduced a strategy that would turn the tables in his favor. He discusses this in his book “The Blackjack Formula”, which is a must-read for any blackjack fan.
Snyder’s story is one that should be an inspiration to us all, if you dream big, work hard, and aren’t afraid to put in the effort, anything in the world of casinos and cards is possible.
Russ Hamilton – Elimination Blackjack
Russ Hamilton originally started out playing poker in local casinos. He eventually switched to blackjack when he decided that there was real money to be made in Las Vegas. He originally played in tournaments with other like-minded players, but he had to stop when they were abolished.
He went back to poker for a time, but the siren’s call of blackjack led him to return to what he did best. He created his own tournament titled Elimination Blackjack, which eventually became Ultimate Blackjack Tour. His expertise in blackjack made him valuable as a consultant in the gaming industry.
He continued to ride high until he was busted for a cheating scandal in one of his tournaments. He lost his standing in the community and ultimately faded into obscurity.
Don Johnson – $100,000 a Hand
Don Johnson’s claim to fame was winning a staggering 15 million bucks from Atlantic City casinos over a six-month period. His most famous win was when he bet $100,000 on a hand of blackjack. He received a pair of eights and decided to split them.
His next two cards were also a pair of eights, and he split them as well. The dealer then drew a pair of threes and a pair of twos, and Johnson split on them all.
Guess what happened next. The dealer drew on 15 – and went bust. Johnson won all eight hands, netting him $800,000. The casinos could not prove he was counting cards, but he did get a lifetime ban from all Caesars casinos. Casinos are a vindictive bunch, it seems.
Ken Uston – Million Dollar Blackjack
Ken Uston did not live a long time – he was only 52 years old when he died in 1987. But in his relatively short life, he managed to make quite a mark in the world of blackjack, publishing books on the subject and enjoying quite a bit of success in the game.
Ken was especially skilled with keeping track of numbers in his head, which is why he was so good at card counting when he began to ply his trade in Las Vegas in the 1970s. Casinos caught on to what he was doing fairly quickly and kicked him out of casinos after he started winning lots of money. Not to be deterred, he would sneak back in with costumes.
Fed up with being banned for using his brain, he sued three casinos that banned him. A judge sided with him, ruling that card counting was not cheating. His book, titled “Million Dollar Blackjack”, contains all of his strategies and tricks that helped him keep track of so many cards while playing. He acknowledges the influence that Al Francesco had on his own success.
Stanford Wong – Blackjack Analyzer
You can probably tell that this name was a pseudonym. It was the alias used by John Ferguson, and it references his time as a student at Stanford. He got his start playing blackjack back in the 1970s when he was still studying as a grad student and quickly realized that he could earn way more money in blackjack.
He invented the term Wonging, which involves going to different tables while playing. In 1985, he achieved his greatest success when he and five other people on a team managed to win over 200 grand from eight different tournaments.
Tommy Hyland – Early Surrender
Tommy Hyland owes his career to the people who came before him. Lawrence Revere, who you’ll see is quite influential in the blackjack world, inspired Tommy to start playing in 1979. He realized that card counting was the way to go if you wanted to make it big, so he focused his efforts on mastering that particular skill. He started out by betting small sums, eventually winning several thousand dollars a hand.
He did this by taking advantage of a tactic known as early surrender, which favors the player. He formed a team with a handful of other players and eventually turned a $16,000 fund into 50 grand. Realizing that he was missing out on the real money, he ditched his crew and left for Las Vegas, where he began to play for real money. He personally trained his own crew on how to count cards, and within a few years, he earned millions from the casinos.
He became so notorious that he was banned from entering casinos due to his reputation as a card counter. Tommy, like many players on this list, still plays blackjack to this day, along with encouraging new players to master card counting just as he has.
Don Schlesinger – Blackjack Attack
Don Schlesinger, like many famous card players, is a mathematician who took a chance to apply his skills toward blackjack. Since 1975, Don has honed his craft at Las Vegas casinos and added his own tricks to the mix.
He first started out by learning the tips and tricks developed by Lawrence Revere (who we cover shortly) and refining them over time.
His book, titled Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros’ Way, contains all of the strategies and tactics he used to beat the casinos and walk away rich. Don didn’t initially set out to be a professional; this happened organically as his interest in blackjack grew from his success in playing.
His B.S in mathematics proved to be very useful in giving his techniques a scientific grounding.
Lawrence Revere – Blackjack Strategy Charts
Lawrence Revere is exactly the kind of person you would expect to get good at blackjack. As a former casino worker, he understands how the game works from both sides of the table. You may notice that many casino workers come back to haunt casinos after they no longer work for the house. This isn’t a coincidence either. Lawrence Revere is actually a pseudonym; he was born Griffith Owens and has also used other pen names in the past.
He began playing at the age of 13 and has honed his skill ever since. Keeping his identity a secret has been key to his success, as not only did it allow him to play underage, something we certainly wouldn’t advise, it made it extremely difficult for casinos to ban him. Unsurprisingly, he majored in mathematics at the University of Nebraska to further his understanding of the game.
He helped develop several blackjack card counting systems, as well as one of the first blackjack strategy charts. He was considered one of the first true blackjack professionals, and he continued to dominate the game’s scene until his untimely death from cancer in 1977.
James Grosjean – Beyond Counting
When the discussion regarding who the best blackjack player in the world crops up, James Grosjean is a name that you will hear mentioned quite often. The famous author of Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker, a book that blew the game of blackjack wide open, Grosjean is someone not be messed with when sat the blackjack tables.
While his book made him a well-known name, it arguably allowed people to gloss over his glittering history when playing the game. He first got a taste for blackjack as a college student, when he was studying at the University of Chicago. Given that he was an engineering student, his natural flair for the game saw him batter casinos from coast to coast. Not going down without a fight, the casinos he got the best of (along with famous “casino cheat hunters” Griffin Investigations) took him to court.
Sadly for the casinos, the court believed that Grosjean was not cheating when at the tables, so they were hit hard with a major financial loss. The lesson here is that if you are going to accuse someone of cheating at blackjack you best have the evidence to back it up. Grosjean would make an impressive living as a top blackjack player, winning multiple blackjack ball titles.
He is also the young person ever inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Given the huge amount of success he has achieved, you won’t be surprised to hear that he has been banned from most of the world’s leading casinos. That being said, Grosjean admits that he still plays when he can, and with his impressive book repertoire, he is still rolling in the cash courtesy of the game of blackjack.
Be Like These Blackjack Pros!
As these players have proved, it is possible to come out ahead when betting against the casinos. But it rarely happens by accident; most players learn the games they play inside and out to make it happen. If you take the time to listen to what they have to say, you’ll find that they seldom rely on blind luck to carry them through to the end. Skill, persistence, practice, and hard work is what makes it work. And the best part is, these sources are available to everybody. Their names are widely known in the community, and any serious blackjack player can tell you who they are. If you want a starting point on who to look up to, consult the Blackjack Hall of Fame; these players are the best of the best and have proven it time and time again.