Professional Blackjack Players
The Blackjack Hall of Fame
Click here to read more about the Blackjack Hall of Fame and to find a year by year overview of the Hall of Fame members. The Hall of Fame was founded in 2002 with 7 original members, but every year one or more new inductees are selected at the annual Blackjack Ball. Read all about the inductees here.
Mike Aponte, also known as MIT Mike, was one of the MIT Blackjack Team’s most successful big players back in the days of Strategic Investments and subsequently on a hand-picked team of MIT blackjack players. Within years of first being recruited as a big player in 1992 he came to top casino blacklists, and it became impossible for him to count cards in casinos as a profession. Despite this, Aponte is still as involved in blackjack as ever, albeit through different channels. Read more about Mike Aponte here.
Julian Braun was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2005. He was neither a professional gambler nor a ranconteur, yet he was a pivotal figure in the development of many blackjack systems. He did programming work for Ed Thorp, Lawrence Revere, and co-created systems with Lance Humble. His calculations dominated the world of advantage play for almost a decade. Read more about Julian Braun here.
John Chang, aka Johnny C, rose to prominence in the world of blackjack as team leader for the MIT blackjack team. Since then he has formed and led his own blackjack teams with success as well, throwing out strategies such as shuffle tracking and ace sequencing that had been used by the Strategic Investments MIT team and bringing it all back down to counting. Read more about John Chang here.
The first documented and celebrated professional Twenty-One player. That’s right, the first famous Blackjack pro was a woman. This tiny but tough-as-nails Frenchwoman roamed the American Old West making her living playing Blackjack. The nickname is misleading, because despite sporting a fuzzy moustache she was considered in her younger years to be a great beauty. Read more about Eleanor Dumont here.
In 1953, quite some time before Edward Thorp entered the scene, four men in the U.S. Army stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, USA, set out to invent basic strategy for blackjack using nothing more than a set of 1950’s desk calculators and their own mathematical skills. When Thorp later used their research to devise a strategy to beat the dealer and ran their numbers through MIT computers he found that they were stunningly accurate. Read more about the Four Horsemen here.
Al Francesco is one of the most respected blackjack players of all times. He is one of the original seven inductees of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and is also known as the Godfather of Blackjack. He is the inventor of the Big Player team play approach and won millions in casinos undetected with this technique. Read more about Al Francesco here.
Peter Griffin was the maths genius who realized that the potential of any blackjack system, regardless of its complexity, could be broken down into two parameters, betting correlation (BC) and playing efficiency (PE). This allowed him to analyze systems without needing to run time-consuming computer simulations. Griffin also wrote The Theory of Blackjack, which has been dubbed the blackjack author’s guide to blackjack. Read more about Peter Griffin here.
James Grosjean is a blackjack pro as well as having researched the numbers behind many other casino games for his Beyond Counting, first published in 2000. In 2005 Grosjean won a lawsuit together with Michael Russo against the Griffin Agency, which resulted in the agency’s bankruptcy. He has also won considerable amounts in damages from lawsuits against casinos. Read more about James Grosjean here.
Tommy Hyland is considered to be the most successful blackjack team leader of all time due to the longevity of his blackjack team and the millions in profits they have made in the course of the teams existence. His team has used card counting, shuffle tracking, ace sequencing and computers to beat casinos world-wide. Read more about Tommy Hyland here.
Jess Marcum was a pre-Thorp Blackjack Professional who figured out how to beat the game long before Thorp hit the scene. He worked as a mathematician for the global policy think tank the Rand Corporation, but switched to becoming a full-time blackjack player after he saw the game being played in Vegas and devised an accurate basic strategy and card counting strategy using nothing but pencil and paper. Read more about Jess Marcum here.
The MIT Blackjack Team has known various incarnations from 1979 onward. This team took the casinos for millions by counting cards and employing team strategies to delegate complex tasks, make optimal use of individual talents, and disguise betting patterns. They became famous due to their enormous successes. The Strategic Investments incarnation of the team was popularized in, for instance, Bringing Down the House and 21. Read more about the MIT Blackjack Team.
If you’ve heard of or read about Richard Munchkin, it’ll probably be in his capacity of astute blackjack interviewer or skilled tournament player, but this blackjack pro has also enjoyed a career as a Hollywood film director, writer and producer, and is best known in those circles for his kung fu movies. Richard Munchkin has interviewed many of the most famous people in the world of blackjack. After authoring Gambling Wizards he is now working on a similar book focused solely on blackjack wizards. Read more about Richard Munchkin here.
Today Darryl Purpose is a songwriter, musician and performer, but back in the 80s he was the fastest card counter in Atlantic City and Vegas, able to count down a deck flawlessly in under ten seconds. A successful blackjack player on his own accord, Purpose also played on various blackjack teams, including some of Ken Uston’s. He has played and won in casinos world-wide, at one point even bursting into a Yakuza meeting to demand the payout he was owed. Read more about Darryl Purpose here.
Zeljko Ranogajec is also known as “the world’s biggest punter” for his massive annual betting turnover (estimated to be around 1 billion dollars), and as the “Loch Ness Monster” for his infrequent but eventful casino appearances. The Billion Dollar Man of betting started his lucrative career in gambling as a blackjack advantage player. He became known as a highly talented and innovative player, but soon enough he was banned from almost every Australian and US casino. Read more about Zeljko Ranogajec.
Lawrence Revere began his career as a professional gambler in 1943. He worked in almost every area of the business, having been a dealer, pit boss, troubleshooter, owner, and professional player. Revere is best know for developing a system to calculate the true count that revolutionized card counting, seeing the potential of a suggestion nobody had seriously tackled until then. Read more about Lawrence Revere here.
Max Rubin is the author of Comp City: A Guide to Free Gambling Vacations which is a very accessible guide to exploiting weaknesses in casino comp systems. He is also the inventor of the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and the host of the top-secret, by-invitation-only annual Blackjack Ball, where the best blackjack players on the scene compete for the title of world’s best blackjack player. Read more about Max Rubin here.
Don Schlesinger’s experience in the field of blackjack spans over three decades. As a blackjack mathematician, researcher, teacher and pro player, he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the field and has been nominated for Blackjack Hall of Fame membership multiple times for his contributions to advantage play. He is the author of Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros’ Way. Read more about Don Schlesinger here.
Arnold Snyder has been a professional blackjack player for over 30 years, but he is best known for his publications in the field of blackjack. He is the editor of and frequent contributor to Blackjack Forum and had authored many books on blackjack history and advantage play, including The Blackjack Formula and The Big Book of Blackjack. Read more about Arnold Snyder here.
The electronics expert Keith Taft was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2004, not for his achievements as a blackjack player, but for creating and using his ingenious inventions to effectively beat the casinos. He created numerous devices which helped him and other advantage players gain an edge over casinos, such as the portable card counting devices George and David, the shuffle tracking device Thor, and the Telly Belly. Read more about Keith Taft here.
Edward Oakley Thorp is famous for his groundbreaking research on blackjack odds and bets, and on devising card counting systems that make it possible for players to gain an advantage over the house. He is the first person to have proven that it is possible in blackjack to beat the dealer by counting cards, and his book Beat the Dealer was study material to the MIT Team. Read more about Edward Thorp.
Ken Uston was the Vice President of the Pacific Stock Exchange and President and CEO of Pacific Clearing Corporation before he met Al Francesco and became intrigued by blackjack team strategy and card counting. He was soon cast in the part of a Big Player, rising to fame as a flamboyant professional player and team organizer in the 70s and 80s. He wrote a number of books on blackjack, computers, and video games. He also took casinos that banned him to court. Read more about Ken Uston.
Born in 1943 as John Ferguson, Stanford Wong gained renown as a professional blackjack player in the mid-70s. He has written over a dozen books on various gambling games including blackjack, the most famous of which is his 1975 Professional Blackjack. The technique “wonging” is one of the blackjack terms named for him. Read more about Stanford Wong.