The Barona Group of Capitan Grande Band of Mission Indians lost control of their ancestral land the first time in the late 1700s when the Spanish military interrupted thousands of years of peaceful existence in today’s San Diego area. In 1875, the United States government established the Capitan Grande Reservation in the northern regions of San Diego, California. In the 1930s the Mission Indians were displaced yet again when the growing city forcibly purchased the tribal land for a reservoir. The Mission Indians took their money and bought the Barona Ranch where life was hard until the Barona Casino “Big Top” casino opened in 1994.
This is the unlikely location for the Blackjack Hall of Fame, the only such shrine in the gaming industry. In addition to the honorees, the Barona Resort & Casino exhibits the world’s largest collection of antique cheating devices. The inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2002 was determined from a ballot of 21 nominees and voted on by the public and a panel of professional players and experts. Seven charter members were selected and since 2006 one new member per year has joined the elite club.
Blackjack Hall of Famers are comped for life at the Barona Hotel with free rooms, food and drinks with one proviso: they must never sit down at the casino’s blackjack tables. Let’s look at some of the Blackjack Hall of Famers.
Selection of Profiles of Famous Blackjack Hall of Famers
Al Francesco (2002)
Francesco was raised in the Lake Michigan steel town of Gary, Indiana in the middle of the 20th century where he played Greek Rummy well enough to get by without a so-called “real” job. In the 1960s Francesco migrated to California and learned Edward O. Thorp’s Ten Count system for counting cards in blackjack so well that he was regularly bounced from Nevada casinos.
One night Francesco was watching his brother, also a card counter, play at a small stakes table in Lake Tahoe. Whenever his brother would raise his bet from $1 to $5 Francesco would casually bet behind him with a $100 wager, a practice allowed at many blackjack tables. To casino officials the play looked like any tourist hunch at a busy blackjack table. Al Francesco had stumbled onto the concept of making gambling a team sport.
Francesco devised the Big Player team strategy which consisted of a group of card counters playing at many tables across a casino, making innocuous small bets. Whenever a count would turn favorable, stuffed with ten-value cards, the Big Player would be signaled and then sidle over to table to make large backing bets until the deck “cooled” off. Francesco’s teams reportedly won millions of dollars from the casinos before the tactic was outed in the late 1970s.
“The Godfather of Blackjack” continued to play blackjack off and on under a series of aliases but by the time he was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002 Al Francesco was mostly occupied trying to beat the ponies.
Ken Uston (2002)
Kenneth Senzo Usui, the son of an Austrian mother and Japanese businessman, was a New Yorker who pitched the corporate life as a Senior Vice-President at the Pacific Stock Exchange to join Al Francesco’s card counting teams. It was Uston who outed the blackjack team strategy when he co-authored the book Big Player in 1977. Whereas stealth, modesty and anonymity would seem to be the hallmarks of a successful card counter, the flamboyant Uston basked in the limelight instead.
Uston timed his banishment from Nevada casinos perfectly as casino gambling was legalized in Atlantic City in 1978. The Harvard MBA and Phi Beta Kappa key holder assembled his own team and brazenly began playing the New Jersey tables. When Resorts International, the pioneer boardwalk casino, sought to boot him out in 1979 Uston responded by suing the flagship Atlantic City property on the grounds that the casino had no right to bar him because of his skill at the game of blackjack.
It was a persuasive argument and the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed that “Atlantic City casinos did not have the authority to decide whether skilled players could be barred.” But the case had taken over three years to resolve and by that time casinos had begun to introduce multiple decks at the blackjack tables, increase the shuffles and switch dealers frequently. For his part, Uston penned a second book, Million Dollar Blackjack, that laid out all the ways professionals assert an advantage over the house at blackjack tables. After that Huston derived as much pleasure in his disguises to beat casino security than he did beating the dealers.
Uston died of heart failure in Paris, France in 1987 at the young age of 52 and did not live to see his ultimate recognition as a charter member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Had he lived, he might have attended the Blackjack Ball induction ceremonies dressed as part of the catering crew.
Tommy Hyland (2002)
Blackjack card counting teams received plenty of love in the initial balloting for the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Tommy Hyland went into the Hall on the first ballot behind his long record of managing a successful card counting team. Hyland began playing cards in 1979 with the specific goal of making blackjack his job. He has done so ever since. Hyland employs only the high/low count, which he maintains can be learned with just 20 hours of practice.
Hyland began his career in the nascent gambling days of Atlantic City with a four-man team, playing in the shadow of Ken Uston’s teams. In December of 1979 the New Jersey casinos conducted a two-week experiment inviting known card counters to play and Hyland’s team did quite well. The number of players would grow to as many as 40 over the years. Hyland’s counting team was renowned for its longevity, attributed as much to the manager’s people skills as his gambling guile.
The team gained notoriety in 1994 when the members were arrested in the Casino Windsor in Canada for engaging in ace sequencing, a specialized form of card counting. Once again, in adjudication card counting was seen as the deployment of intelligent strategy and not cheating, another victory for the players. Hyland continued to play blackjack after his Hall of Fame induction – when he was able to tear himself away from the golf course.
Arnold Snyder (2002)
The main reason Tommy Hyland’s card counting team was able to escape prosecution in Canada was thanks to the expert testimony of Arnold Snyder. Snyder had some experience in card counting himself, having teamed up with Al Francesco to start a straight card counting team called CRAPS that did not win much money. But Snyder’s real potency as a witness came as an authority on the game of blackjack.
By the time of his induction into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002 Snyder had been the editor of a quarterly journal by and for professional blackjack players for over twenty years. The Blackjack Forum has since moved online and Snyder still runs herd over the information dispensed to would-be card sharps that is considered the industry standard. One of his favorite pastimes is debunking phony gambling systems.
Snyder grew up in a Catholic family in East Detroit. He once toyed with the idea of entering the seminary until he discovered the counter-culture of the 1960s as a young man. He balanced a wife, two children and a fondness for LSD until he happened upon blackjack. Snyder does not credit acid trips for the mathematical insights he gained into the game but he does not completely dismiss the influence of LSD either.
Snyder published his first book, The Blackjack Formula, in 1980 that gave rise to the importance of deck penetration in card counting, the concept that the percentage of cards already dealt impacts the accuracy of the professional’s count. In more than three decades since, the one-time Catholic altar boy has transformed into the “Bishop of the First Church of Blackjack.” Snyder has continued to write influential books on mathematical analysis and optimal blackjack strategy.
Edward O. Thorp (2002)
No book on blackjack has ever been more influential than Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One, a 1962 instructional manual written by Edward O. Thorp. Thorp came to blackjack immortality not through the smoky game floors of Nevada casinos but via the research labs at the Massachusetts Institute.
The UCLA mathematics Ph.D’s accomplice in writing Beat the Dealer was a room-swallowing IBM-704 digital computer. The result was the first scientific system ever devised for a major casino gambling game. In the parlance of the card parlor, Edward Thorp invented card-counting. Two big-money gamblers staked Thorp to $10,000 in an experiment of his system and he won $11,000 in one weekend at the tables. Beat the Dealer went on to become a major best seller in two editions, a bible to blackjack players everywhere, and the most requested title in the Las Vegas Public Library.
Thorp remained a mathematics professor and went on to apply his research to probability, game theory, backgammon and the stock market. He also developed, along with code-breaking expert Claude Shannon, the first wearable computer to win at roulette. Thorp was not much of gambler himself but his scientific exploits got him barred from Nevada casinos nonetheless. Looking every inch the part of the mild-mannered, bespectacled math professor, Thorp went on the television show To Tell the Truth and stumped panelists Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle to win $500 but Tom Poston and Orson Bean sniffed him out.
Peter Griffin (2002)
Peter Griffin was born in New Jersey into an academic family. His sister was a poet but young Peter found poetry in numbers and probabilities. It was while a mathematics professor at California State University-Sacramento that he began to apply the lessons of the classroom to the action at the blackjack table.
In 1970, the 33-year old instructor proposed to teach a course on the mathematics of gambling. To do some background research he drove to Nevada and took a beating int he casinos his teacher’s salary could scarcely afford. Griffin quickly realized there was more to be learned at the blackjack tables than he had considered. He began compiling copious notes and statistics on blackjack players and was one of the first to calculate the disadvantage the average player had against the house. He discovered that there were differences in the house edge from casino to casino.
He put all his findings and theories into a book in 1979 called The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21 that is roundly considered a classic among serious blackjack players. He took blackjack scholars inside the numbers, much like Bill James did in baseball. Griffin was never much interested in profiting from his discoveries and remained a professor at Cal State-Sacramento until his death from prostrate cancer in 1998. Griffin and Ken Uston were the only members of the first Blackjack Hall of Fame class to be inducted posthumously.
Stanford Wong (2002)
Perhaps the most famous name in blackjack is as real as Mark Twain or John Wayne or Cary Grant. John Ferguson was fiddling around with ideas for a basic strategy to the game of blackjack by the time he was 14 years old in the 1950s. As an undergraduate at Oregon State University Ferguson discovered Edward O. Thorp’s Beat the Dealer and spent much of the time until his 21st birthday practicing what Thorp preached.
As soon as he was legally permitted to gamble Ferguson made his way to Reno and just about doubled his $300 bankroll playing the $4 blackjack tables. He pursued the normal things after college – a wife, a graduate degree, a stint in the military. By 1970 he was enrolled in a doctorate program at Stanford University in finance. Not only had Ferguson not shaken his blackjack habit but he wrote a book designed to help other cash-strapped students how to count cards. He called it Professional Blackjack.
Worried that the notoriety from the book might cause him trouble playing in casinos under his real name Ferguson adopted a pen name, Stanford Wong. A friend suggested “Stanford” for its academic ring and “Wong” for the southern-born Georgian of Scotch-Irish descent since it carried the “mystique of the Orient.” Blackjack soon consumed Ferguson’s life. He turned in his tweed professor’s jacket and Stanford Wong became a regular at blackjack tables in Asia as well as in Las Vegas.
Wong started his own publishing company, Pi Yee Press, and the monthly newsletter Current Blackjack News became mandatory reading after it first appeared in 1979. He developed the “Blackjack Analyzer,” one of the earliest odds calculators for average blackjack players. The Wong name became even more famous when he began adopting a casino technique where instead of sitting and playing hands he would watch and count cards at a table and not take a seat until the count became favorable. Players started calling this practice “Wonging” and casinos started placing little placards on tables informing players there was “No Mid-Shoe Entry.”
By the time he was elected to the Blackjack Hall of Fame Stanford Wong had also published works on the optimal strategy for dice games, sports betting, video poker and pai gow poker. Stanford Wong, nee John Ferguson, is now one of most ubiquitous names in gambling.
Max Rubin (2004)
There aren’t many sides of the blackjack game that Max Rubin has not worked. Hid dad was a small-time cheater in the early days of Las Vegas who got hired to be an “eye in the sky” by casinos to catch those of his ilk before video cameras came on the scene. When he was 18 years old Rubin hitchhiked from his hometown of Borger in the Texas panhandle to Las Vegas where his divorced dad worked.
In his early days in town Rubin worked for a short while as a “rounder” for professional teams staging fights to cause a distraction. He extricated himself from that life by earning a track scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Rubin didn’t care that much for track practice and even less for school and when he pulled a high number in the draft lottery he no longer needed a deferent from service in Vietnam and dropped out of school to deal blackjack.
It was while dealing twenty-one that Rubin learned about card counting. He began playing with some of the biggest card counting teams in the country at the same time his career in casino management was on the upswing. He eventually became a boss on the graveyard shift at the Mirage where part of his job was to catch card counters. Rubin continued to work both sides of the blackjack table until 1992.
In 1994 Max Rubin published Comp City, a book that was an eye-opener to the blackjack community. Rubin’s argument was a simple one – blackjack players did not have to learn complicated card counting schemes or wear disguises or align with big card counting teams to make a profit at blackjack. By simply adhering to basic strategy and accepting the small house edge the average player could still come out ahead by taking advantage of the casino’s comping system that doled out free hotel rooms, free food, free drinks, free transportation and so on. Rubin took blackjack players on a trip through the casino’s side of the game and peeked into the ways casinos rate players and how the comp system really works.
With connections on both sides of the game when televised card playing hit big in the early 2000s Max Rubin was enlisted to provide color commentary for The World Series of Blackjack and the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. The blackjack bon vivant also hosts a yearly get-together of to players for an evening of fun and games known as the Blackjack Ball. The crowning event is the Blackjack Cup with the winner claiming the title of “World’s Greatest Blackjack Player.”
Keith Taft (2004)
With the introduction of the Apple Watch the world is, for Apple’s sake anyway, abuzz about wearable technology. The concept of computer-as-accessory has its roots in the gambling world a half-century before. There was the wearable computer that Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon developed in 1961 to beat roulette and the first blackjack computer invented by Keith Taft in 1972. The fact that Taft’s machine weighed 15 pounds and had to be strapped to his stomach and controlled with hidden switches under his clothes is irrelevant – it was still wearable technology.
Like so many others Taft came to blackjack from the academic world; he was a teacher of physics and music. A religious man, Taft had no gambling background to speak of when he went on a family vacation to Reno in 1969. While staying in the Harrah’s Casino Taft was given a token to gamble with. He turned his single bet into three consecutive winning hands at the blackjack table to take home $3.50. That little success sent Taft on a journey to beat the game that had just been so good to him.
He studied strategy and Edward O. Thorp’s method for card counting but Taft was having trouble putting it all together. So he decided to invent a machine that would do it for him. Taft called his creation “George.” The first blackjack computer was a smash hit the first time out. The next time out George gave back all the winnings and Taft abandoned his project.
An article Taft had written on the power of computers to bring down blackjack dealers caught the attention of Ken Uston who encouraged the tinkerer in his pursuits. Soon Taft was back in the workshop building “David.” The twist with the new machine is that it communicated not with the player at the table but the Big Player on the blackjack card counting team. Uston and Taft self-reported an 80% success rate with David. Taft and his sons went on to invent a string of devises, including camera belts that peeked at the hole cards of careless dealers, before strategy-aiding devices became strictly forbidden in casinos. Good luck with your new Apple Watch in Las Vegas.
Julian Braun (2005)
The induction of Julian Braun into the Blackjack Hall of Fame marked a departure from the previous inductees. Braun had no great love for the game and played only occasionally but many blackjack insiders rank his contributions to the knowledge of the game at the very top of Hall of Fame honorees.
Braun was captivated by Edward O. Thorp’s Beat the Dealer just like its 700,000 other purchasers. But Braun, an IBM programmer, was mostly interested in Thorp’s computer program that was used to create such revolutionary theories given the primitive state of mainframe computers in the early 1960s. He contacted Thorp who generously sent along his computer punch cards.
Braun polished the programs to make the card counting strategy simpler and more precise. He was able to demonstrate with perfect clarity that the removal of low cards from a deck works to the advantage of the player and the burning of tens and aces favors the dealer. Braun’s improvements were included in Thorp’s second edition of Beat the Dealer that was released in 1966. Braun’s own classic work was How to Play Winning Blackjack, written in 1980. The book would never win plaudits as a page-turner but the mathematics backing up the logic of key blackjack strategy is unassailable.
As for his own foray into the game Braun liked to relate the story of the time he spent four weeks in Reno, mostly at the Nevada Club playing two to ten dollar tables. After about a week he walked in and was greeted by the pit boss who politely asked him not to return. Braun shrugged, walked away and never really considered playing blackjack for money again.
Lawrence Revere (2005)
Lawrence Revere was born Griffith K. Owens but after he left the University of Nebraska in 1943 to head west and begin a career as a professional gambler he would be known to answer to Leonard Parsons, Spec Parsons and Paul Mann as well. Growing up on the streets of Iowa in the Great Depression Revere peddled papers for two cents apiece and dealt blackjack in the back of a barbershop.
Upon landing in Las Vegas, Revere was hired as a dealer and eventually worked his way up to pit boss and even owned a casino for a spell. At the same time Revere enjoyed playing cards and became a master of disguises since he wanted to keep his day job. When he first read Thorp’s Beat the Dealer he bought the theory but considered the strategy too complicated. Revere worked with fellow 2005-inductee Julian Braun to develop plays that would not be intimidating for the the average player. That collaboration resulted in Playing Blackjack as a Business in 1969.
Revere’s book was the first on card counting strategy written by a professional player. It was fast and breezy and a good read. He also featured dozens of strategy charts, many of which remain benchmarks today. The Revere strategies were the result of 9,000,000,000 computer hands dealt by Braun. The Revere Point Count was considered a milestone in the development of blackjack and so simple to use it sent thousands of overconfident practitioners into the waiting arms of greedy casinos.
Playing Blackjack as a Business sold in bookstores and airport racks for $9.95 but serious players could pony up $200 for Revere’s Advanced Point Count. Many did and it became one of the sharpest tools in the professional toolbox. Revere died in 1977 from the ravages of liver and lung cancer, an acknowledged “Master of Blackjack.”
James Grosjean (2006)
Except for a downturn in the stock market James Grosjean might have wound up using his applied mathematics degree from Harvard University in the quantitative-analyst department at Goldman Sachs. Instead, he is the youngest member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Grosjean is without parallel at calculating numbers and strategizing around a blackjack table. He honed his craft aboard Midwest riverboat casinos while in graduate school at the University of Chicago but found his niche when he happened to catch the glimpse of a dealer hole card during a careless deal. Grosjean became intrigued with the possibilities of what is known as “hole carding.” He came to create a strategy that took into account the obtaining of incomplete information, for instance if the curve of a number spotted might be a two or an eight or a six. Grosjean’s system of scouting sloppy dealers in a casino would be the envy of any NFL college scouting department.
In 2000 Grosjean wrote a book called Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker. It can be tough slogging to read but Grosjean details how casinos are vulnerable, even in games that are usually considered sucker plays for tourists only. In blackjack he expounds on the prevalence of hole carding opportunities and the ways to use shuffle tracking. Grosjean’s books on advanced card counting strategy sell for hundreds of dollars, if they can be found at all.
Grosjean is a hero not only among his disciples but with his contemporaries as well. After an ugly incident in Las Vegas where he was illegally detained by Caesar’s Palace Security and later physically assaulted by security guards at the Imperial Palace, Grojean filed suit against the casinos and Griffin Investigations, a Las Vegas security firm that aggressively pursues card counters and casino cheaters. Grosjean argued that he was not engaging in advantage gambling and in 2005 a jury agreed, awarding him $399,000 from Imperial Palace, an undisclosed settlement with Caesars and punitive damages that forced Griffin to declare bankruptcy.
John Chang (2007)
The most famous of the card counting teams got started in the late 1970s when students from Boston-area colleges would pile into cars and drive down to Atlantic City. Their early efforts were haphazard and riddled with counting errors. After a chance meeting in a Cambridge Chinese restaurant Harvard MBA graduate Bill Kaplan, who had experience with Las Vegas card counting teams, agreed to observe and train the aspiring blackjack sharps. Kaplan simplified the counting systems and agreed to stake the team by running it as a business.
In 1980 John Chang saw a flyer on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus giving students the chance to earn $300 over spring break. It turned out to be a recruiting poster for what would come to be known as the MIT Blackjack Team. Chang signed on and eventually rose to the position of manager, picking up a degree in electrical engineering in 1985. The team would remain active in some form or another until nearly the end of the century. At times the MIT team included as many as 80 players with groups operating in half a dozen states.
In their two decades of operations the MIT Blackjack Team was estimated to take millions of dollars of from casinos. The operation was featured in magazine articles, books and movies. In the most famous of the films, 21 that was released in 2008, a composite character of Kaplan and Chang was portrayed by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey. The movie banked more than $150 million at the box office.
Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel, James McDermott (2008) – Back in the 1950s like many United States Army servicemen Roger Baldwin passed the idle hours in the barracks playing cards. Unlike most servicemen Baldwin possessed a Masters degree in mathematics from Columbia University. As the endless hands of blackjack were played out and the cards scooped back into the bottom of the deck Baldwin began thinking about the mathematics behind the outwardly simple game. He started jotting down formulas by hand and then got permission from the Army to use one of the primitive desk calculators on the base at Aberdeen Proving Ground north of Baltimore in Maryland.
As Baldwin’s mathematical explorations progressed he recruited like-minded numbers men in his quest to find the best way to play twenty-one. Wilbert Cantey, James McDermott and Herbert Maisel joined Baldwin in spending nights and weekends pounding number pads on desk calculators. After thousands of hours the quartet published an article in the obscure Journal of the American Statistical Association called “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” in 1956. The following year the mathematicians published a small, plastic comb-bound book they titled, Playing Blackjack to Win.
The book issued by Cardoza Publishing created few ripples in the gambling world at large. But experienced players recognized Playing Blackjack to Win as the first published mathematics-based basic strategy analysis for blackjack. Also back in Chapter 10, “Using the Exposed Cards to Improve Your Chances,” Baldwin, Cantey, McDermott and Maisel laid out the rudiments of the first card counting strategy. In blackjack circles the mathematicians became known as the “Four Horsemen of Aberdeen.”
The mathematicians in the 1950s were using only pencils and adding machines. Since then high-speed computers have been programmed to play billions of blackjack hands and the original basic blackjack strategy has been tweaked in only the most superficial of circumstances. Essentially the Army men of the 1950s identified the basic blackjack strategy known to players today.
Richard Munchkin (2009)
In 1955 Ray Kroc opened his first McDonalds restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, the same year Richard Munchkin was born in the same town. The future Kroc envisioned for his hamburger stand certainly worked out and so did Munchkin’s plan of financing a Hollywood career with gambling winnings.
Munchkin started early – he was playing chess and gin rummy at the age of three and playing cards for money by the time he was twelve. Backgammon and poker winnings got him through college with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts. The game plan was to move to Las Vegas and take his profits to Los Angeles and start making movies. Munchkin got a job dealing blackjack and studied card counting while distributing cards. It took him ten years but in 1987 he indeed landed in Hollywood where he produced and directed a score of low-budget action adventure movies for the next dozen years.
The 21st century saw Munchkin back at the tables and in 2002 he produced one of the most popular blackjack books of all time – Gambling Wizards, Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers. Munchkin also competed in professional events, wrote extensively on blackjack and he currently hosts a weekly radio show in Las Vegas on, yes, gambling.
Darryl Purpose (2010)
Show business ties played a role in the 2010 selection for the Blackjack Hall of Fame as well. As a youngster Darryl Purpose showed an affinity for cards and numbers so when he was 16 years old his mother put a copy of Thorp’s Beat the Dealer in his Christmas stocking. Purpose was appreciative but he had set his sights on being a classical guitarist. He enrolled in music school after high school but injured both his left and right hands in separate accidents. Purpose left college and headed to Las Vegas with $50 in his shoe.
He worked odd jobs and invested his paychecks at the blackjack tables. Purpose tried out for Ken Uston’s high-flying blackjack team and counted down a deck in eight seconds with perfect accuracy. He was the fastest recruit on the team – you can’t count a deck much faster. Purpose starred for the Uston team and several others that competed around the world. He was said once to win $150,000 at one sitting, considered the biggest haul ever at a blackjack table at the time.
In 1986 Purpose re-connected with his guitar and took part in the Great Peace March that saw musicians walking across the country from Los Angeles to New York. He did a similar march in Russia the following year. From that point Purpose mixed blackjack and music until 1996 when he became a full-time singer-songwriter praised for his narrative song constructions. Much of his songwriting draws on his experiences as a blackjack player. Purpose’s discography now includes six full-length original folk albums.
Zeljko Ranogajec (2011)
The first international player in the Blackjack Hall of Fame hails from the island of Tasmania in Australia, the son of Croatian immigrants. Zeljko Ranogajec was a law student when he started playing blackjack at the Wrest Point Casino in Hobart where he found a mate, his future wife, and a calling, card counting. He was eventually unwelcome at Wrest Point and soon most Australia casinos as well. He came to the United States and quickly wore out his welcome at American tables.
Ranogajec was soon graduating from card counting to other forms of advantage gambling. By many accounts he is the world’s biggest gambler with annual bets in excess of $1 billion. A lover of horse racing, Ranogajec is said to personally account for five percent of the entire Australian racing pool turnover. His action alone accounts for up to a third of some total play in some Aussie casinos. Much of this is speculation since Ranogajec gives no interviews and values his privacy so closely that the billionaire is often referred to as the Loch Ness Monster for the rarity of his public appearances.
Ian Andersen (2012)
The 2012 honoree for inclusion in the Blackjack Hall of fame is as close to a ghost as you are likely to find in any hall of fame. The first anyone in the blackjack world heard of Ian Andersen it was in 1976 with the appearance of the book, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas. The tome took the lessons of the card counters and went past techniques and strategies; Andersen’s book was about comportment in the casino. Specifically, how not to get kicked out of a casino when you are taking the house money.
Andersen talked about how to dress and sit and handle the chip stacks in ways that did not yell, “Card Counter!” He addressed the psychological and sociological aspects of playing professional-style blackjack. He included chapters on nutrition and meditation and physical preparedness to keep an agile mind while gambling. Turning the Tables on Las Vegas was the first practical guide to blackjack camouflage – the art of playing like a professional and appearing as an amateur to the casino officials.
After the splash of Turning the Tables on Las Vegas, nothing was heard from Andersen for more then twenty years until a sequel, Burning the Tables in Las Vegas, was published in 1999. The two volumes have been touted as two of the most important books ever written on blackjack. But nothing is really known of the author – Ian Andersen is a pen name. He is thought to have been an executive in a major corporation with several doctorate degrees and a deft touch at stock picking who lives overseas. Of course, he did not materialize at any ceremonies surrounding his Hall of Fame induction; maybe he has stopped by Barona Ranch since to look at his plaque.
Bob Nersesian (2013)
Beat the Players: Casinos, Cops and the Game Inside the Game is a manifesto for all blackjack players on their legal rights when playing in casinos. Bob Nersesian is the lawyer the top blackjack players call when they run into difficulties in Las Vegas casinos. He wrote the book on what advantage players should do if they find themselves mistreated in a casino.
Danger lurks not just with casinos, that are private businesses, but with agents of the Nevada Gaming Control Board who often seem to be doing the bidding of the casinos rather than acting as public servants. It was Nersesian who was lead counsel in Blackjack Hall of Famer James Grosjean’s suit against the Imperial Palace Casino for false imprisonment. Thanks to the counter-attacks by Nersesian in response to attacks on advantage players their treatment has improved through the years.
Don Schlesinger (2014)
Don Schlesinger is the hobbyist Hall of Famer. New York born, bred and educated, Schlesinger began his working life teaching French and mathematics in the Big Apple public school system. In the 1980s he shifted gears and went to work with a Wall Street investment bank until his retirement.
Schlesinger played his first games of blackjack in 1975 and the mathematics of the game caught his fancy. He studied the influential works of blackjack theory and collaborated with many of the great thinkers of the game. With the advent of the Internet he became a great dispenser of advice through forums. In 2005 Schlesinger put all his learning of the game into Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros’ Way that sums up all that has gone before him with an expert eye.