Stanford Wong

Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong

(1943, born John Ferguson, San Francisco State University, Stanford University)

Stanford Wong developed an interest in blackjack at the age of 12. He began to try to calculate the game’s expectations with an office calculator. Later he read up about and mastered card counting, though he was only able to start playing in casinos at the age of 21, while studying for his undergraduate degree at Stanford University. In 1975 he published his most famous book, Professional Blackjack under the name Stanford Wong. He originally intended to call himself Nevada Smith, but that name was already taken. A friend then suggested he name himself after his alma mater using Wong as a surname to capitalize on the craze for the mysterious Orient that was going strong in the US at the time.


Wong began playing blackjack professionally in 1976, while teaching a finance course at San Francisco State University and working on his PhD at Stanford. Since he was still teaching at the college he needed to attend staff meetings, so to free up more time to pursue his blackjack career he agreed to receive a salary of only $1 on the condition he could skip the meetings. From then on Stanford Wong steadily gained renown, and certain blackjack terms were named after him. If you’ve ever seen a blackjack table with a “No Mid-Shoe Entry” sign, that’s because of “wonging”. To “wong” is an advantage technique Wong popularized, which involves observing card play without wagering, only stepping in when the count is in the player’s favour and stepping out when it is not. This method of advantage play had not yet occurred to casinos, and in so doing you didn’t need a team of spotters to gain the same advantage.

Pi Yee Press

Wong has written over a dozen books about blackjack and other gambling games such as craps and pai gow poker. He no longer actively plays blackjack, stating that now he has mastered the challenge and no longer needs the money he lacks the hunger to win that formerly drove him to haunt the casinos at four in the morning when younger. He owns his own publishing company, Pi Yee Press, which is based in Las Vegas. Since 2007, the blackjack newsletter Wong started in 1979 is published via his website, mainly providing readers with information on the rules and conditions of blackjack in the US.

Stanford Wong is one of the original seven Blackjack Hall of Fame inductees of 2003.