The game of blackjack dates back to the early-1700s and like most casino games, it originated in France, although the game we know and love today was founded in the USA. The game has plenty of history and variations, and thanks to the rise of online casinos has regained much of its popularity. Over the years, the game has been shaped by mathematicians, players, authors and analysts. These people have all been honoured in the Blackjack Hall of Fame, which is housed at the Barona Casino in San Diego. The first inductees were honoured in 2002 and since then, 17 members or groups of members have joined them. Here we will run through who the first seven members were, and why they are in the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Al Francesco was the founder of blackjack team play, which has been successfully employed by many blackjack players, namely the famous MIT blackjack team. Francesco learned to card count, but quickly realised that casinos cottoned on to individuals too quickly and so, decided to assemble teams of players to beat the banker. His teams consisted of seven players: six ‘props’, who would locate the tables with a high count and one ‘big player’ who would fool the casino, by posing as a tourist or first-time gambler.
A mathematician, author and blackjack expert, who wrote A Theory of Blackjack, which was considered revolutionary in regards to the mathematics behind the famous game. Although his book was published in 1979, Peter Griffin took an interest in blackjack from 1970, when he studied the game through researching and testing theories and probabilities.
A professional gambler and author, Arnold Snyder is known for his record as a blackjack player, as well as his innovations in professional techniques. He authored Blackbelt in Blackjack, a book in three parts that aimed to turn beginners into professionals. Since 1981, Snyder is the editor of Blackjack Forum, a quarterly journal for gambling professionals, and he’s also known as an advocate for the rights of professional players.
Edward O Thorp
Often referred to as the godfather of card counting, Edward Thorp wrote the now iconic Beat the Dealer in 1962, considered the first published book on card counting. With a background in mathematics and specifically, probability, Thorp was responsible for introducing card counting to the masses. In fact, it was after his ground-breaking discovery that the MIT blackjack team applied his principles to their game.
Although Francesco founded team play, Uston is accredited with popularising it and in the 1970s, he became notorious for perfecting team card counting techniques. He revealed the identities of Francisco’s team in his first book The Big Player and was also banned from numerous casinos, despite often donning disguises and fancy dress. Uston also wrote Million Dollar Blackjack, which mentions professional gamblers’ techniques for gaining an advantage at blackjack.
John Ferguson (also known by his pseudonym, Stanford Wong) is an author best known for his book Professional Blackjack. He is also famous for ‘wonging’, an advantage technique he made popular in the 1980s, which involved watching gameplay without betting money, until the count becomes advantageous and then stepping in and out of the game when it’s in the player’s favour.
A well-known card counter, Hyland is the manager of the longest-running blackjack team in history. He started his own playing career in 1979, having been influenced by Lawrence Revere’s Playing Blackjack as a Business. His first blackjack team consisted of himself and one other player, before two more men were added to the team, which in turn grew to 15 and then as many as 40. Hyland has also advocated the rights of blackjack players and card counters.
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