Revealing the Best Blackjack Players in the World

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There are thousands of blackjack players who make a living from the game, but only a select few can be considered the best in the world. In this article, we will explore the achievements and skills of these elite blackjack players.

Key Takeaways:

  • The world’s top blackjack professionals are renowned for their exceptional skills and achievements.
  • Ken Uston, Don Johnson, Michael Shackleford, John Ferguson, and Edward Thorp are among the best blackjack players in history.
  • These players have revolutionized the game with their strategies, card counting techniques, and legal battles.
  • Online blackjack and virtual casinos have paved the way for the future of the game.
  • Enhancing your blackjack skills requires practice, study, and dedication.

Ken Uston – A Blackjack Legend

In the world of professional blackjack players, few names carry as much weight as Ken Uston. Uston was not only a skilled player, but he also revolutionized the game with his pioneering techniques, specifically in the field of card counting.

As a professional blackjack player, Uston belonged to a syndicate known for exploiting ten-rich decks. This group successfully capitalized on the advantage provided by favorable deck compositions, which ultimately led to Uston being banned from casinos around the world. His prowess and ability to consistently beat the house made him a feared opponent.

However, it was Uston’s legal battles that truly cemented his legendary status in the blackjack world. In a landmark case against Resorts International in Atlantic City, Uston fought for the rights of successful blackjack players. His victory forced casinos to rethink their approach to dealing with skilled players, forever changing the landscape of the game.

Uston – Card Counting Pioneer

“Without Ken Uston’s contributions to the game of blackjack, the techniques and strategies employed today by professional players would not be the same. His ability to leverage card counting and his legal battles against casinos have left an indelible mark on the industry.”

Key Achievements Notable Contributions
Part of successful syndicates exploiting ten-rich decks Revolutionized card counting techniques
Banned from playing blackjack at casinos worldwide Legal battles against Resorts International
Forced casinos to rethink their approach to skilled players Changed the landscape of blackjack gameplay

Ken Uston’s impact on the game of blackjack cannot be overstated. His skills, strategies, and legal battles have left an enduring legacy that continues to influence professional blackjack players today.

Don Johnson – The Advantage Player

Don Johnson is widely recognized as one of the best blackjack advantage players in history. With a combination of strategic gameplay and negotiations, Johnson managed to achieve incredible success in the world of blackjack. His unique approach and ability to secure favorable loss rebates set him apart from other players.

Johnson’s advantage playing strategy involved negotiating with Atlantic City casinos for a 20% rebate on losses of $500,000 or more in a single session. This advantageous arrangement provided him with a significant edge over the house, allowing him to mitigate potential losses and maximize his winnings.

In addition to his negotiation skills, Johnson was known for employing various other tactics during gameplay. He would deliberately cause stress to dealers, creating opportunities for payout errors that worked in his favor. This carefully calculated approach, combined with impeccable skill and strategy, propelled Johnson to legendary status in the world of blackjack.

Table: Don Johnson’s Notable Achievements

Tournament/Event Year Prize Money
Atlantic City Blackjack Championship 2011 $5.8 million
Borgata $1 Million Blackjack Tournament 2012 $2.4 million
Tropicana High Stakes Blackjack Tournament 2013 $4 million
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Don Johnson’s remarkable achievements and contributions to the world of blackjack have solidified his status as an iconic figure in the game. His combination of advantageous negotiations, strategic gameplay, and calculated tactics have left an indelible mark on the blackjack community.

Michael Shackleford – The Wizard of Odds

Michael Shackleford, widely known as the Wizard of Odds, is an authority in the realm of blackjack strategy. With his extensive knowledge and expertise, he has become a trusted resource for players seeking to improve their blackjack skills. Shackleford’s contribution to the game extends beyond his renowned website, the Wizard of Odds, where he provides invaluable insights and information on blackjack and other gambling topics.

“The goal of blackjack strategy is not only to minimize losses but also to maximize your chances of winning. By understanding the odds and employing the right strategies, players can significantly improve their outcomes.” – Michael Shackleford

Shackleford’s blackjack basic strategy cards, which can be found in gift shops at casinos worldwide, have empowered countless players with a solid foundation for making informed decisions during gameplay. These cards outline the optimal moves based on the player’s hand and the dealer’s up card, helping players make strategic choices that increase their chances of success.

As the Wizard of Odds, Shackleford emphasizes the importance of understanding the mathematics behind the game. By analyzing the probabilities and expected values, players can gain a deeper comprehension of the game’s dynamics and make more informed decisions. Shackleford’s expertise and dedication to providing accurate and reliable information have solidified his reputation as a trusted authority in the blackjack community.

Table: Blackjack Strategy

Player’s Hand Dealer’s Up Card Optimal Move
Hard 8 or less Any Hit
Hard 9 2-6 Double Down
Hard 9 7-8 Hit
Hard 9 9-Ace Stand
Hard 10 2-9 Double Down
Hard 10 10-Ace Hit
Hard 11 2-Ace Double Down
Soft 13-15 2-6 Double Down
Soft 13-15 7-Ace Hit
Soft 16-18 2-6 Double Down
Soft 16-18 7-Ace Hit
Pair of Aces Any Split
Pair of 8s Any Split
Pair of 10s Any Stand

Shackleford’s dedication to helping players navigate the complexities of blackjack strategy has made him an invaluable figure in the gambling community. By following his advice and utilizing his recommended strategies, players can greatly enhance their chances of success at the blackjack table.

John Ferguson – The Stanford Wong Advantage

In the world of professional blackjack, John Ferguson, also known as Stanford Wong, has left an indelible mark on the game. Through his observation-based playing style, called “wonging,” Ferguson has become a legendary figure in the blackjack community. He developed strategies and techniques that have influenced countless players and changed the way blackjack is played.

“The reason I’m called Stanford Wong is because I attended Stanford University and Wong is my Chinese surname. I chose that pseudonym because I didn’t want my professional life colliding with my academic life,” Ferguson once said.

Wonging involves observing a blackjack table without actively participating in the game. The idea is to wait for favorable conditions, such as a deck with a high proportion of tens and aces, and then jump into the game to take advantage of the increased chances of winning. This technique allows players to minimize losses and maximize profits by selectively betting when the odds are in their favor.

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In addition to his wonging strategy, Ferguson invented the Wong Teaser, a popular football betting option that offers improved odds for the bettor. He also authored several influential gambling books, including “Professional Blackjack” and “Tournament Blackjack,” which provide valuable insights into blackjack strategy and tournament play.

Stanford Wong’s contributions to the world of blackjack have had a lasting impact on the game. His innovative playing style, strategic insights, and literary works continue to inspire and educate players around the globe.

MIT Blackjack Team – The Legendary Group

The MIT Blackjack Team is renowned in the world of gambling as one of the most legendary groups to have ever played the game. Led by Bill Kaplan, J.P. Massar, and John Chang, this group of math specialists revolutionized the art of card counting in blackjack and amassed substantial winnings in the process.

The team’s unique approach involved using advanced card counting techniques that took advantage of the statistical probabilities in the game. By assigning values to each card and keeping track of the cards that had been played, they were able to gain an edge over the casino and increase their chances of winning.

The MIT Blackjack Team’s story has been depicted in popular movies like “21” and “The Last Casino,” which have captivated audiences with their portrayal of the team’s extraordinary successes and intense experiences. These films shed light on the team’s meticulous planning, high-stakes games, and the challenges they faced in their pursuit of victory.

Table: MIT Blackjack Team Members

Name Role Notable Achievements
Bill Kaplan Leader and Strategist Successfully managed the team and expanded operations
J.P. Massar Co-founder Instrumental in recruiting team members and organizing operations
John Chang Senior Member Played a vital role in training new team members and coordinating operations
Mike Aponte Big Player Notable for his skillful card counting techniques and large bets
Jeff Ma Spokesperson Known for his media presence and the book “Bringing Down the House”

The MIT Blackjack Team’s legacy continues to inspire aspiring blackjack players and demonstrate the potential for success through skillful card counting and teamwork. Their story serves as a reminder of the power of strategy and discipline in the game of blackjack.

Edward Thorp – The Father of Card Counting

Edward Thorp is widely regarded as the founding father of card counting in blackjack. His groundbreaking book, “Beat the Dealer,” published in 1962, revolutionized the game by mathematically proving that the house edge could be overcome through strategic card counting techniques.

Thorp’s research and analysis of the game’s statistics opened the door to a new era of blackjack play, where players could have an edge over the casino. By keeping track of the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck, players could make informed decisions to increase their chances of winning.

Thorp’s book not only provided a wealth of information on card counting but also offered valuable insights into basic strategy and optimal blackjack play. It became a must-read for aspiring blackjack players and remains a classic in the field.

Thorp’s contributions to the game of blackjack continue to impact players and casinos to this day. His research laid the foundation for modern blackjack strategy, shaping the way the game is played and understood. His work inspired countless players to study the game, develop their own card counting techniques, and strive for success at the tables.

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Edward Thorp’s legacy as the father of card counting in blackjack will forever be remembered as a pivotal moment in the game’s history, setting the stage for the legends and innovative strategies that followed.

Keith Taft – The Computerized Advantage

Keith Taft, a renowned engineer and blackjack player, revolutionized the game by creating innovative computerized devices to assist with card counting. His groundbreaking inventions, such as the portable computer named “George,” provided players with a significant advantage at the blackjack tables.

Taft’s gadgets utilized advanced algorithms and mathematical calculations to accurately track the count and determine optimal betting strategies. These devices were discreetly concealed within everyday objects, such as belts or shoes, allowing players to discreetly gather crucial information while playing.

“Taft’s computerized card counting devices were a game-changer in the world of blackjack. They provided players with an unprecedented edge and demonstrated how technology could be harnessed to gain an advantage in a casino environment.”

Keith Taft’s ingenious inventions had a profound impact on the blackjack community and led to changes in casino regulations and laws regarding the use of electronic devices. Although his devices are no longer in use today due to advancements in casino surveillance technology, Taft’s legacy as a pioneer of computerized card counting remains.

Invention Description
“George” Computer A portable computer disguised as a belt or shoe, capable of performing complex card counting calculations.
Blackjack Beater A device that could analyze the dealer’s upcard and utilize a strategy matrix to calculate the optimal play.
Shoe Computer A computerized device installed within a shoe, capable of accurately tracking the count and advising the player on optimal betting strategies.

Keith Taft’s innovative approach to blackjack gameplay paved the way for future advancements in technology-assisted advantage play. His contributions continue to inspire blackjack enthusiasts to push the boundaries in their pursuit of the perfect game.

Tommy Hyland – The Team Manager

Tommy Hyland is a prominent figure in the world of blackjack, known for managing the longest-running blackjack team in history. With over four decades of experience, Hyland has left a lasting impact on the game through his strategic approach and expertise in card counting.

As the manager of his blackjack team, Hyland and his skilled team members utilized card counting techniques to gain an advantage over the casinos. They employed various strategies, including the controversial practice of ace-sequencing, which involves tracking the placement of aces in the deck. This method caused a stir in the blackjack community and even led to legal issues. Despite the challenges, Hyland’s team persevered and achieved significant success through their disciplined and calculated gameplay.

Hyland’s managerial skills were instrumental in sustaining the team’s longevity. He was responsible for recruiting and training team members, managing bankrolls, and coordinating operations. His expertise in card counting and deep understanding of blackjack strategy ensured that his team remained competitive and profitable over the years.

The Success of Hyland’s Team

Hyland’s team’s success can be attributed to their exceptional teamwork and meticulous approach to the game. By utilizing card counting and employing advanced strategies, they were able to tilt the odds in their favor. Their ability to work together seamlessly allowed them to execute complex moves and capitalize on favorable situations.

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The team’s achievements serve as a testament to the power of disciplined teamwork and intelligent gameplay in the world of blackjack. While their techniques may have sparked controversy, there’s no denying the influence and impact that Hyland and his team have had on the game.

Year Tournament Placement
1980 World Series of Blackjack 1st Place
1994 Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament 2nd Place
2002 World Series of Blackjack 3rd Place
2006 Blackjack Ball Tournament 1st Place

Hyland’s team’s notable tournament wins have solidified their place in blackjack history. Their strategic prowess and dedication to the game have earned them multiple top placements in prestigious blackjack tournaments.

It is clear that Tommy Hyland’s contributions to the world of blackjack extend beyond his role as a team manager. Through his leadership, strategic thinking, and commitment to excellence, Hyland has left an indelible mark on the game, inspiring future players and teams to strive for success.

The Influence of Blackjack Legends

We cannot underestimate the profound impact that blackjack legends have had on the game. These extraordinary individuals have not only demonstrated exceptional skills and strategies but have also made significant contributions that have shaped the development and trajectory of the game we know today.

Their influence can be seen in the strategies and techniques employed by both professional players and casual enthusiasts. The blackjack legends have inspired countless players to hone their skills, experiment with new approaches, and push the boundaries of what is possible in blackjack.

From the pioneering card counting methods of Ken Uston to the negotiation prowess of Don Johnson, these blackjack legends have left an indelible mark on the game. Their skills and successes have prompted casinos to adapt their rules and regulations, creating new challenges for players seeking an edge.

As blackjack enthusiasts, we owe a debt of gratitude to these extraordinary individuals. Their contributions have forever changed the landscape of blackjack strategies, ensuring that the game remains fascinating, dynamic, and deeply engaging for generations to come.

blackjack legends

Tips for Becoming a Successful Blackjack Player

To become a successful blackjack player, it’s important to develop a solid understanding of the game and implement effective strategies. Here are some tips to help you on your journey to becoming a skilled player:

Hone Your Skills with Practice

Practice is key to improving your blackjack skills. Take advantage of free online blackjack games to familiarize yourself with the rules and practice different strategies. This will help you develop your decision-making abilities and gain confidence in your gameplay.

Master Basic Strategy

Learning and applying basic blackjack strategy is crucial for success. Familiarize yourself with the optimal plays for different situations, such as when to hit, stand, double down, or split. Basic strategy charts can be a valuable resource to guide your decisions and maximize your chances of winning.

Manage Your Bankroll Effectively

One of the most important aspects of successful blackjack play is managing your bankroll. Set a budget for your gambling sessions and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses and bet within your means. By effectively managing your bankroll, you’ll be able to sustain longer playing sessions and minimize the risk of financial losses.

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Stay Focused and Avoid Common Mistakes

During gameplay, it’s essential to stay focused and avoid common mistakes that can negatively impact your performance. Don’t let emotions or distractions affect your decision-making. Avoid taking unnecessary risks or deviating from basic strategy based on hunches or superstitions. Consistency and discipline are key to long-term success at the blackjack table.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful blackjack player. Remember to practice, master basic strategy, manage your bankroll effectively, and stay focused during gameplay. With dedication and the right approach, you can enhance your skills and increase your chances of winning at the blackjack table.

The Thrill of Blackjack Gameplay

Blackjack gameplay offers a thrilling and immersive experience for players. The simplicity of the game, combined with the potential for strategic decision-making, contributes to its popularity in casinos worldwide. The excitement of trying to beat the dealer and achieve a winning hand is what keeps players coming back for more.

When you sit at a blackjack table, you feel the energy in the air as the cards are dealt. The anticipation builds with each card drawn, and the possibility of hitting that perfect hand becomes palpable. The strategic element of the game adds another layer of excitement, as players carefully calculate their next moves in hopes of outsmarting the dealer.

Whether you’re a seasoned player or a beginner, blackjack offers an adrenaline rush like no other casino game. The fast-paced nature of the gameplay keeps you engaged and on the edge of your seat. Each round presents a new opportunity for victory or defeat, creating a sense of exhilaration that is hard to replicate in any other casino game.

So, next time you step into a casino or log onto an online gambling platform, give blackjack a try. Experience the thrill for yourself and see why it has become one of the most popular casino games of all time.

The Excitement of Blackjack

“The simplicity and strategic nature of blackjack make it a thrilling game to play. The anticipation of each card drawn and the chance to outsmart the dealer create a unique excitement that keeps players coming back for more.” – Blackjack Enthusiast

Online Blackjack – The Future of the Game

As technology continues to advance, the future of blackjack lies in the realm of online gaming. Virtual casinos and live casino gaming platforms have revolutionized the way players experience the game, offering convenience, accessibility, and an authentic casino atmosphere from the comfort of home. The growing popularity of online blackjack signifies its potential to become the go-to option for players around the world.

Virtual casinos provide a wide range of blackjack variations, ensuring that players can find their preferred version of the game. Whether it’s classic blackjack, European blackjack, or progressive blackjack, the options are vast. These online platforms also offer customizable settings, allowing players to adjust table limits, game speed, and even interact with live dealers in real-time.

Live casino gaming takes online blackjack to the next level by providing an immersive experience that closely resembles playing in a physical casino. Through high-definition video streaming, players can join live blackjack tables hosted by professional dealers. They can interact with the dealer and other players, adding a social element to the game.

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Advantages of Online Blackjack Disadvantages of Online Blackjack
  • Convenience and accessibility
  • Wide range of blackjack variations
  • Customizable settings
  • Real-time interaction with live dealers
  • Lack of physical casino atmosphere
  • Potential for technical issues
  • Reliance on internet connection

“Online blackjack provides a seamless gaming experience, allowing players to enjoy the game at their own convenience. The availability of different variations and the ability to interact with live dealers creates an engaging atmosphere that captures the essence of playing in a physical casino.”

– Blackjack Expert

Enhance Your Blackjack Skills

To become a skilled blackjack player, it is crucial to invest time and effort into enhancing your skills. By practicing regularly, studying strategic decision-making, and staying committed to your improvement, you can elevate your gameplay to new heights. Here are some valuable tips and techniques to help you enhance your blackjack skills and increase your chances of success at the table.

1. Practice Makes Perfect

Consistent practice is imperative for improving your blackjack skills. Take advantage of free online blackjack games to hone your strategy and decision-making abilities. By playing regularly, you can familiarize yourself with different scenarios and develop instincts that will guide you towards making the best choices in real-money games.

2. Study and Analyze Strategies

Delve into blackjack strategy books and online resources to gain a deeper understanding of the game. Learn about basic strategy and how to apply it in various situations. Analyze different approaches and tactics employed by successful players, such as card counting methods or betting systems, and consider incorporating them into your own gameplay. Remember, knowledge is power.

3. Optimize Your Decision-Making

Strategic decision-making is a key element of successful blackjack play. Train yourself to think critically and evaluate the odds in each hand. Understand when to hit, stand, double down, or split, based on the dealer’s upcard and your own hand. The ability to make informed and strategic decisions will give you an edge over less experienced players.

enhance blackjack skills

By following these practices and committing to constant improvement, you can enhance your blackjack skills and make significant progress in becoming a more successful player. Remember to stay disciplined, manage your bankroll effectively, and always strive for continuous learning and growth.


In conclusion, becoming a great blackjack player requires a combination of skills, strategies, and dedication. By understanding the rules of the game and learning basic strategy, you lay the foundation for success. Practice consistently and utilize online resources to enhance your understanding and decision-making in the game.

Managing your bankroll effectively is crucial in maximizing your learning experience and long-term success as a blackjack player. Avoid common mistakes, stay focused during gameplay, and be aware of the various blackjack variations. Knowing when to quit is essential in preserving your winnings and maintaining a healthy approach to the game.

By following these secrets to success, you can elevate your blackjack skills and increase your chances of becoming a great blackjack player. Remember, it takes time and effort to master the game, but with persistence and the right mindset, you can achieve your goals and enjoy the thrill of blackjack gameplay to the fullest.


Who are some of the best blackjack players in the world?

Some of the best blackjack players in the world include Ken Uston, Don Johnson, Michael Shackleford, John Ferguson, the MIT Blackjack Team, Edward Thorp, Keith Taft, and Tommy Hyland.

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What is card counting?

Card counting is a technique used by blackjack players to keep track of the relative proportions of high and low-value cards remaining in the deck. It helps players determine when the deck is favorable for them and adjust their bets accordingly.

How did Don Johnson negotiate loss rebates with Atlantic City casinos?

Don Johnson negotiated loss rebates with Atlantic City casinos, allowing him to receive a 20% rebate on losses of $500,000 or more in a session. This unique arrangement gave him a significant advantage.

What is the Wizard of Odds website?

The Wizard of Odds website is a valuable resource created by Michael Shackleford, also known as the Wizard of Odds. It provides information on various gambling topics, including blackjack strategy.

What is wonging?

Wonging, named after John Ferguson (Stanford Wong), is a blackjack playstyle where a player observes a blackjack table without placing any bets until the count becomes favorable. They then jump in and place large bets to take advantage of the favorable odds.

Who were the members of the MIT Blackjack Team?

The MIT Blackjack Team was led by Bill Kaplan, J.P. Massar, and John Chang. It consisted of math specialists who used advanced card counting techniques to gain an edge in blackjack.

How did Edward Thorp revolutionize the game of blackjack?

Edward Thorp’s book, “Beat the Dealer,” mathematically proved that the house advantage could be overcome through card counting techniques. His research laid the foundation for modern blackjack strategy.

What were Keith Taft’s contributions to blackjack?

Keith Taft was an engineer and blackjack player who created computerized devices, such as the portable computer named “George,” to assist with card counting. His inventions led to changes in casino regulations regarding the use of electronic devices.

What is Tommy Hyland known for?

Tommy Hyland is known for managing the longest-running blackjack team in history. His team used card counting techniques to win significant amounts of money and employed strategies such as ace-sequencing.

What impact have these blackjack legends had on the game?

These blackjack legends have had a significant impact on the game. Their skills, strategies, and legal battles have influenced how casinos deal with successful players and shaped modern blackjack strategies.

What tips can help me become a successful blackjack player?

To become a successful blackjack player, it is important to understand the rules of the game, learn and apply basic strategy, manage your bankroll effectively, avoid common mistakes, stay focused, and know when to quit.

Why is blackjack gameplay thrilling?

Blackjack gameplay offers a thrilling experience due to the simplicity of the game, potential for strategic decision-making, and the excitement of trying to beat the dealer and achieve a winning hand.

What is the future of blackjack?

Online blackjack has become increasingly popular, offering players the opportunity to enjoy the game from the comfort of their homes. Virtual casinos and live casino gaming platforms provide an authentic blackjack experience, making online blackjack the future of the game.

How can I enhance my blackjack skills?

To enhance your blackjack skills, practice, study, and dedication are essential. Utilize online resources, such as blackjack strategy charts and training programs, take advantage of free blackjack games, and manage your bankroll effectively.

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