The Most Important and Notable Blackjack Players

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Notable Blackjack Players

Blackjack has been around long enough to have collected its fair share of celebrities. There are many ways to become well known in the Blackjack community. Sometimes it’s being a big winner, being an authority on a particular style of play, being an interesting “character”, or even being an advocate for player’s rights can bring a person celebrity status. If you have an interest in Blackjack you will surely enjoy this overview of many of the men that have made the game of Blackjack interesting over the years. Check out to compare the best online casinos if you decide to try your luck at a blackjack table online.

The Big Winner

Over a 5 month span from late 2010 through early 2011 Don Johnson won a reported $15 million from three casinos. Johnson’s winnings from betting up to $100,000 on single hands of Blackjack were from the Atlantic City casinos, Tropicana, Borgata and Caesar’s. Johnson claims to have won the money playing fairly but admits to taking advantage of certain favorable conditions.

The Pioneers

A group of Army buddies stationed at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground made a huge contribution to the game of Blackjack back in the 1950’s. James McDermott, Roger Baldwin, Herbert Maisel and Wilbert Cantey developed a basic strategy for playing the game that proved to be the basis for players and writers to later develop more advanced strategies for beating the house. Their strategy gave players the best option to play in every possible situation.

Edward Thorp is a math genius born in the 1930’s. He is a PhD holder, a MIT professor and one of the first people to use a computer to win at Blackjack. Thorp used FORTRAN, one of the earliest programming languages to code mathematical probabilities. To prove his theories he took to the casinos to count cards. After finding success with his strategies he authored the ground-breaking book Beat the Dealer.

The Researcher

Sometimes influencers aren’t even known as being prolific players. Take Peter Griffin, he authored The Theory of Blackjack which is considered one of the classics while rarely playing the game himself. Griffin focused on researching strategies and advantages to write his book on theory while focusing on card counting to complete his popular guide The Complete Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21.

The Writer

Stanford Wong is known as one of the most prolific writers on the subject of Blackjack. He has penned over a dozen books on Blackjack and other gambling topics he focuses mainly on card counting methods but is most famous for “wonging”. This refers to staying out of the game until the count turns in the players favor then joining the game to take advantage of it. Many people don’t know that Wong is really gambler John Ferguson; Wong is only a pen name.

The Legal Eagle

Some guys just want things to be fair. That was the case with author and Blackjack player James Grosjean. Grosjean won several victories over the years that have made him a bit of a celebrity in the gambling world. He won a judgment against the Imperial Palace casino for illegally detaining him. And he claimed victories against casino Caesars Palace and a company they employed to collect information on winning gamblers. Surely these wins made him an unpopular fellow in the casinos as did his popular book, Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker.

The Team Players

A pioneer in team play, Ken Uston is well known in the industry as a big winner who was banned from casinos for card counting in the late 1970’s. He subsequently won a lawsuit against the Atlantic City casinos that banned him. He went on to achieve notoriety in another field, arcade games, with his bestselling book Mastering Pac Man.

Best known for his leadership of the longest running Blackjack team in the history of the game, Tommy Hyland is a player that has been around since the 70’s. His team utilized techniques like ace sequencing and shuffle tracking to claim big wins against the casinos. They claimed an even larger win when the Casino Windsor took them to court for cheating and the judge determined they had simply been strategic which is not illegal.

One of the best known teams in the history of Blackjack is the MIT Team, which consisted of past and present students of not only MIT but other illustrious institutions such as Harvard. The team garnered wins through counting and other strategic advantages for a run that lasted over 20 years. Their escapades were later made into a major motion picture, 21, that starred Kevin Spacey.

The Counter

A former pit boss turned card counting Blackjack strategist Lawrence Revere created the Revere Point Count method that is still revered today as the method by which all others are measured. His strategies were created through his knowledge of the industry, including his ability to avoid detection by the casinos and were brought to the public through his groundbreaking book Playing Blackjack as a Business.

The Personalities

Modern Blackjack players are more interested in televised appearances that their predecessors. “Hollywood” Dave Stann worked as an actor before appearing on many popular televised gambling shows such as Celebrity Blackjack, the World Series of Blackjack and the Ultimate blackjack Tour. His is known as “The Undisputed Bad Boy of Blackjack” and is best known for his raucous and flamboyant personality.

Speaking of flamboyance perhaps the most unique character in the long and storied history of Blackjack is a man named Brian Zembic. Zembic is known in the industry as a high-stakes Blackjack player, Backgammon enthusiast and magician who was notorious for doing anything to win a bet. In the late 90’s he took on a bet that cemented his name in the history of gambling when a friend bet him $100,000 to get breast implants and keep them for a year. Going beyond what many would say is sane Zembic, also known as Wiz, has kept the implants for over 17 years, and kept winning. His friend gives him $10,000 for every subsequent year the implants remain intact.