Blackjack has been an incredibly popular card game over the decades, and with good reason. It is potentially the only casino game where the player has more of an edge than the house, if you know how to play it.
Learning the correct blackjack strategies, which are complicated but mathematically sound, can easily lead you to a victory over the dealer. And, as we explain in the Casinos.co comprehensive blackjack guide, the aim of blackjack is not to get 21 – but to beat the dealer.
There have been players who have been better at this than most others. Usually some type of mathematical geniuses, they are the guys who made a fortune just playing blackjack. Sounds like the dream right? That's because it is.
Down below we're covering the top 5 most notorious blackjack players of all time. These guys put the cool in school and the money in blackjack.
1. Edward Thorp
Considered the ‘godfather of card counting‘, Edward Thorp was the first person to both write a book and also put his theory into practice. Thorp's book, Beat the Dealer, mathematically proved that you can systematically and consistently beat the dealer at blackjack. In order to make sure his strategies were fool-proof, he utilized them himself when playing at casinos. Given that his strategies were created using computer programs (Thorp was also the first to do this), they worked like a charm.
Thorp put together an elite team of mathematicians from MIT and, under his guidance, they proceeded to win a lot of money. See the movie 21, and you'll know what we're talking about.
2. Ken Uston
While Thorp was one of the pioneers of putting together genius teams to win blackjack, Ken Uston made it a thing. During the 1970s, he put together a number of counting teams and as a result popularized the concept for ages to come.
He won millions from these teams, but he is also known for winning a very important lawsuit against Atlantic City casinos. A few casinos had banned him and his teams, and he argued that they had no right to do so as they were just using their skills to optimize odds – not ‘cheating' per se. The court ruled in Uston's favor, and to this day it is not considered illegal to count cards in Atlantic City.
3. Tommy Hyland
Tommy Hyland was never a lone wolf. He made a career out of playing in teams across a wide range of casinos. His card counters have been together since 1979 and consist of around 15 players (round about).
Legend has it that, initially, Hyland was part of a four-member team who each put $4,000 into the pot. Within a couple of months, their collective balance went up to around $50,000 or $60,000. Now that's what you call a profitable turnover. But nobody really knows how much money the team has made since then. We're guessing millions.
4. Don Johnson
Johnson is more of a recent story. When Atlantic City casinos were going through a rough patch during the recession. Allegedly, they invited well-known pro blackjack players Don Johnson to their VIP blackjack tables. He arranged a 20% cash-back deal to his massive advantage, which any blackjack player is almost unheard of. So whenever Johnson lost $500,000 – he'd get a cool $100,000 of that back.
Johnson ended up winning $15 million from three different casinos in just the span of five months. What's even more impressive is that Johnson supposedly doesn't count cards – he has more tricks up his sleeve than that.
5. Stanford Wong
In 1963, Stanford Wong (real name John Ferguson) read Thorp's Beat the Dealer book and low and behold, got inspired to start playing blackjack. At just 21, he headed to Reno and tried his hand at professional blackjack. The venture proved fruitful, and he continued playing from there on out. He even developed his own technique called ‘wonging' – super risky, but can really reel in the big bucks.
Eventually, Wong followed in the footsteps of godfather Thorp, and started writing his own books. He's even the owner of publishing company Pi Yee Press.
You don't need to play at a land casino!
The blessing of the contemporary world can be summed up in two words: the internet.
Thanks to online casinos, you don't need to go to Atlantic City, or Reno, or Las Vegas to win some cash playing blackjack. All you need is WiFi and an account with a reputable online casino. You can check out the best casinos with the best live casinos around.
For that, you can check out our live casino guide. When you play online, you can play from the comfort of your home – but still win big. Remember to read up on those important blackjack strategies, or perhaps order yourself a few blackjack books to get started.
Who knows? You could be the first blackjack player to become notorious online!