John Ferguson (or Stanford Wong, as the gambling community has come to know him), is one of the most famous professional blackjack players and strategy authors of our time. He’s authored over a dozen texts on gambling strategy, pioneered the analytical blackjack software industry, and runs a monthly online newsletter to this day. His myriad accomplishments in the gambling world earned him an induction to the Blackjack Hall of fame in its debut year, 2002.
From Tic-Tac-Toe Expert to Blackjack Master
John Ferguson was born in Georgia in 1943 into a somewhat nomadic family. After moving from one place to the next on several occasion, he ended up in Beaverton, Oregon, where he grew up catering to a love for solving puzzles.
Jig-saws, tavern puzzles, Rubik’s cube; the game did not matter. If there was an advantage or algorithm to be utilized in solving it, John was fascinated. One of his earliest achievements was figuring out the proper strategy for winning at Tic-Tac-Toe, regardless of player position.
Gambling was far from his mind at that time. After graduating high school, John attended Oregon State University where he worked diligently to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and a Master’s in Business Administration. Afterwards, he took on a role as a Professor of Mathematics at OSU for two years, but soon became bored with it, choosing to enter the military instead. That lasted two more years, including one year in Vietnam.
Upon returning to the States, John decided to go back to school. He attended Stanford University as a graduate student where he eventually received his PhD in Finance. Along the way, he was also teaching finance courses at the university. It was during this time that his interest in blackjack was first piqued.
Having a natural talent for discovering strategic advantages, John was able to earn a great deal of money playing blackjack, which made up the majority of his income. He studied Edward Thorp’s strategy guide, Beat the Dealer; the first book to teach the fundamentals of card counting.
Ferguson had become so infatuated with blackjack at that point that he once more became bored with his teaching job—so bored, in fact, that he agreed to a salary of just $1 throughout his final term to avoid attending faculty meetings.
Applying what he’d learned from thorp, along with his own advanced techniques, he began working on a book of his own.
Stanford Wong, the Author
Before publishing his famous manuscript, Professional Blackjack, John Ferguson considered the ramifications it could have on his experience at casinos. As such, he decided to author the book under a pseudonym. He first considered the pen name “Nevada Smith”, but he wasn’t the first to think of it. So instead, on the advice of a friend in the PhD program, he came up with the name “Stanford Wong”; ‘Stanford’ for its superior collegiate reference to his alma mater, and ‘Wong’ because it carried the “mystique of the Orient”.
Professional Blackjack hit book shelves in 1975. Not only is it still in print, Wong’s first book is considered a best seller among blackjack strategy guides to this day.
In 1979, Stanford accomplished another editorial genius when he started up a monthly newsletter called Current Blackjack News. It wasn’t long before his regular publications became just as popular among the professional blackjack community as fellow future Blackjack Hall of Famer Arnold Snyder’s Blackjack Forum.
As of 2007, Wong continues to publish his monthly publication online via BJ21.com.
Gambling Guides by Stanford Wong
Wong has authored and co-authored more than a dozen gambling strategies over the years.
– Professional Blackjack (1975)
– Vegas Downtown Blackjack (1976)
– Winning Without Counting (1978)
– Blackjack in Asia (1979)
– Tournament Blackjack (1987)
– Tournament Craps (1987)
– Professional Video Poker (1988)
– Optimal Strategy for Pai Gow Poker (1990)
– Basic Blackjack (1992)
– Betting Cheap Claimers (1992)
– Casino Tournament Strategy (1992)
– Blackjack Secrets (1993)
– Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like a Pro (1996; 4E 2005)
– Sharp Sports Betting (2001)
– Wong on Dice (2005)
Wong’s success as a novelist and journalist led him to establish his own publishing company, Pi Yee Press, which now handles all of Wong’s publications as well as the publications of other gambling related materials by authors like Bryce Carlson, Bob Nersesian and King Yao.
Stanford’s Mysterious Blackjack Tournament Team
In December 1985, Stanford quietly formed a team of skilled players to compete in blackjack, craps, keno and handicapping tournaments. The team consisted of 6 players – 5 men (including himself) and 1 woman. Having already found ultimate success at the blackjack tables, Wong was acquiesce to funding the initial bankroll out of his own pocket.
Compared to typical blackjack teams that spend hours upon hours, day after day, week after week grinding the felt, his tournament team was a phenomenal success. By applying their skills to tournaments only, they were able to bankroll hundreds of thousands of dollars with minimal time and effort involved.
According to Arnold Snyder, who detailed the team’s accomplishments in the March 1987 edition of Blackjack Forum, “the six members of this team had taken no less than eight major tournament prizes,” raking in well over $200,000 along the way. Snyder described Wong’s tournament team as “one of the most successful legal team gambling ventures in history.”
Stanford Wong, the Computer Geek
Like most men of superior intelligence, Stanford was a mastermind when it came to computer technology. He developed the very first blackjack evaluation software, Blackjack Analyzer. Originally intended for personal use, the program was so successful that he eventually released the Windows-based software onto the market.
Blackjack Analyzer allows its users to hand-pick all of the specific rules of a game and sets forth a basic strategy according to those rules. The user can then practice their strategy by playing the game. Instead of giving direct assistance in incorporating proper strategy, the user is able to toggle on/off an alert system that identifies when the player is deviating from appropriate decisions.
Wong later devised a new program, Blackjack Count Analyzer, which offers the same performance as its predecessor, but with the added benefit of counting cards.