Famous Blackjack Players Part II

James Grosjean

Most Blackjack players know about card counting, but the sequence of cards themselves isn’t the only factor that allows you to beat the house edge. James Grosjean was fascinated by gaming from childhood, learning how to win time and again in the tile-based game Mah Jong by using a humble Sinclair ZX80 computer to analyze the different playing strategies of his friends, and then crafting the optimum strategy for each one.
james-grosjeanBy the time he had reached adulthood, he had developed strong analytical skills that he put to good use count cards in Blackjack. It was while playing cards one day that he noticed a careless dealer briefly revealing her hole card. After careful observation, he noticed that the dealer made this slip on a regular basis. Once again using his computer skills to analyze the possibilities, he worked out what the optimum play would be based on knowing the hole card. Armed with this new information, he went back to the same casino, and supposedly won 95% of his games against that dealer. He then jacked in his potential Wall Street career, and devoted himself to developing his ‘hole carding’ strategy, eventually using it across a string of casinos before putting his knowledge to use writing his successful (but now hard to find) book, ‘Beyond Counting’.
Grosjean has also fought a strong fight for the rights of gamblers, and his lawsuits against Caesar’s Palace and Imperial Palace, and the security consultants Griffin Investigations, resulted in a Nevada court ruling that hole carding was a technique that could be legally used.

Keith Taft

KeithTaft Grosjean may have made good use of early computers, but Keith Taft can rightly qualify as a true pioneer in the field of IT, crafting a Blackjack computer as early as 1970 – half a decade before the first proper home computers arrived on the market. The idea of this early project was to take the writings of Edward O Thorp (author of the hugely influential book  ***), and to turn them into electronic form, creating a machine that could count cards far more successfully than Taft could himself. The computer consisted of several book-sized components fastened to his body, and his toes were used as the controls – one newspaper named him ‘The Fastest Toes in the West’. It initially worked well, before he lost over $6,000 after a poor run of cards.

A more modern and easily portable version was created in the late 70s, and, realising that he was better at the technology than he was at the betting, Taft decided to introduce the device to another blackjack player – Ken Uston. At this time, Uston had only recently broken his partnership with Al Francesco, and was looking to create his own team of card counters. Powered by Taft’s technology, the new team refined their technique and skills. However, an unpromising initial run and a low percentage of the profits caused many of the team-members to become demotivated, and the team broke up soon after. Strangely, it was several of Taft’s children and in-laws who breathed new life into the enterprise, insisting that they could take the places of the original members. Heavily tutored by Uston, the new squad (now including Taft himself) took over $100K in a week.

Taft would come up against the casino authorities on several occasions, and the initial family team broke up after a series of heavy-handed ‘arrests’. Taft didn’t give up, though, and it was only when casinos made electronic devices illegal in the mid-80s that his plans were finally ended. The catalyst for the casino ban was another incident involving Taft and his family – or, specifically, his brother, who was arrested for having a mini video camera stored in his belt buckle. Taft’s attempts, then, may ultimately have fizzled out, but not before he did much to extend the use of technology, and to lay down in hard code and figures the optimum way of card-counting.

Zeljko Ranogajec


Born in Australia to Croatian parents, Ranogajec’s name is now known across the whole world. And yet, those who truly know of him are small in number, while the number who know the secrets of what he does are sparser still. Such has been the secrecy surrounding Ranogajec (he has been dubbed the Loch Ness Monster) that he has become almost a mythical player in the world of big-stakes gambling. Now possibly the largest of the large whales, the foundations of his empire were built upon blackjack. Starting off just a couple of hundred dollars, he used iron nerves and patience, finely-honed card-counting skills, and a willingness to exploit tiny percentage edges, to amass a multi-million fortune in the space of just a few years. First he conquered Australian casinos. Having been banned from almost every major outlet in that continent, he swept across the United States in similar fashion. Acknowledged as one of the greatest and most successful blackjack players of all time, he has been elected to the Blackjack Hall of Fame for his exploits. However, it’s not only blackjack where he has thrived. Indeed, he topped off his gaming winnings with a rumored $7.5 million win on Keno.

Having conquered much of the casino world, Ranogajec has since used his significant fortune to crack horse racing. Few details are available on his betting there, but it seems that he uses powerful computers to create huge amounts of data on each race, employing select teams to trawl through the data looking for badly priced horses. He particularly specializes in markets stuffed with ‘mug punter money’ (cash from casual horse players and members of the public), where poor value odds are often at their most frequent – and the juicy prices easiest to place big money on without sending the odds plummeting. Handsome rebates given to him by betting companies – who benefit by getting a nice portion of the huge funds his firm drops onto the markets – are an extra incentive. Whichever game he’s played in, Ranogajec seems to have been wildly successful, and is a convincing rebuttal of the claim that the house always wins.

The Art of Picking the Right Blackjack Bonus

We’re all told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Well, in the world of Blackjack, there is. Or at least, the lure of it. Many casino sites run promotions designed to get punters signed up and playing their games. Delicious carrots are often dangled in front of users (both new and old). But are these pure gold, or rotten to the core. Let’s have a look at the options.

Welcome Bonuses

Most ‘welcome’ bonuses work in a similar way. You deposit a certain amount of money, and the casino ‘rewards’ you by giving you a bonus equal to a certain percentage of your original deposit. A 100% bonus, for example, would mean that a £100 deposit resulted in an actual playing balance of £200. There is a catch, though..

You’ll generally be expected to stake a certain amount of money before you can withdraw that bonus. For instance, you might be asked to ‘rollover’ 25x your deposit and bonus. In the case of that £100 deposit with its 100% bonus, you’d be expected to play through 25 times £200, or £5,000. If you had anything left in your account by the time you had placed £5,000-worth of bets, you’d be able to withdraw it. However, the casinos know that’s unlikely to be the case.

The point is that, in Blackjack, the casino has a built-in edge (assuming you’re not employing a strategy like card counting). It’s a very small edge in this particular game – 0.5% or less with proper strategy – but it does exist. Over a few hands, the house advantage is unlikely to make much difference. But if you’re working through £5,000 of bets, for instance, placing one pound chips every time, that amounts to 5,000 bets in total. Stretched over a long sequence like that, the casino’s slight edge means your money will gradually trickle away. If you drop to smaller stakes, you’re effectively extending the number of bets you participate in, which renders the casino’s advantage over you even more unbeatable. The edge in Blackjack is very small, but it’s still present, so, unlike sports betting, it’s hard to turn blackjack bonuses into genuine cash.


However, we shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand. You’re still getting ‘free’ money, so if you want to have a night at the cards, it’s generally better to have the bonuses than not. With Blackjack’s low edge, you’ve got more of a chance of success in this game than in almost any other.  You can also try out strategies knowing that you’ve got, perhaps, double the chips. They’re unlikely to be a path to riches, then, but there’s little advantage to turning them down. Do note, though, that Blackjack’s low house edge makes it a less appetising option for casinos. Many offers either exclude Blackjack altogether, or insist that money can only make up 5% of the total towards any rollover requirements – effectively making it unplayable. So pick carefully if you’re looking for hot Blackjack action.

Look for a low rollover where possible. The more hands you have to play, the more decisive the house edge will be on your play, so go low where possible. Betfair Casino lets you get a lower multiplier when you deposit larger sums. If you deposit between £35 and £499, for instance, you have to play through the bonus and deposit 25 times. If you deposit as much as £1,000, though, the rollover multiplier drops to 15x. Admittedly, the lower amount does come with a larger bonus (of up to 200%) attached. But with that high 25x rollover multiplier, we can see why Betfair are keen to seem generous. Some sites may also offer a ‘sticky’ bonus. In this scheme, you won’t ever be able to withdraw the bonus, although you would be able to withdraw winnings on it. Accordingly, rollovers can be lower.

No Deposit Bonuses

These are often very similar to Welcome Bonuses. The big difference is that you don’t have to deposit any money with the site. Accordingly, the wagering requirements tend to be rather steep. Winner.com, for example, lets you play with $30 without making a single deposit. You do, though, have to rollover this bonus 40x, making $1200, before you can make any withdrawals. As with many firms, it’ll take you longer still to pay off this rollover while playing Blackjack. You may also be given the chance to make as much money as possible in a small period of time (30 minutes, for example). Many of the best no deposit schemes don’t hang around for long, so it’s a good idea to check on the web, or to join a service like the free No Deposit Bonus Newsletter (http://www.nodepositbonus.cc/newsletter).

Loyalty Schemes

Rather than a big one-off welcome bonus, you might want to look for sites that allow you to amass loyalty points that can then be converted into real cash. The more you play, and the larger the sums, the more points you’ll earn. 32red.com lets you exchange every 1000 points for 10 free casino chips, for example, although you may have to play through this bonus if you’re not a member of their invitation-only Club Rouge. Intercasino.com’s Loyalty Points system lets you earn money for every 100 points gained. Admittedly, Blackjack doesn’t pay well on this site (just as it doesn’t on Maxcasino.com’s ‘Complimentary Points’ scheme), but you’re still getting a chance to make some free money at no risk. You may also get additional monthly bonuses through their My Bonus 4 Life scheme, provided you’re an active player.

Alternative Payments

Occasionally, sites let you make money just from using a different payment option. Winner.com, for example, will pay you an extra 15% on your deposit when you use certain e-Wallet accounts, like Skrill/Moneybookers. You do have to satisfy a 12x rollover to receive this money, though, and most varieties of Blackjack contribute no more than 20% towards paying that off.

Bonus or Booby Prize

It’s best not to take many of these bonuses too seriously. They’re generally a way of adding a few more chips to your account that you may or may not see again. Certainly, as a means of making an easy few hundred, they’re unlikely to come good, although Blackjack’s low edge and rollover requirements of 15x or lower would give you a fighting chance. Essentially, you’re being given free money, and services like the Loyalty Schemes are particularly good at putting a few extra chips into your pocket while not distracting you from your main pastime of playing Blackjack. As such, you should keep an eye open for such deals. Do be careful to read the small print though.


Famous Blackjack Players You Should Know About (Part -1)

Blackjack is one of the most common and popular casino games. Some of us enjoy a game of blackjack every now and then for a bit of fun however over the past few years certain individuals took it to the next level, studied the game and made a lot of money from it. We have combined a list of the most well known blackjack players who have devoted a big part of their life to this game and have become millionaires.

Edward O. Thorp

Edward Thorp is and American mathematician that was born in 1932. Hes is  most well known in the blackjack world for writing the book “ beat the dealer”. Beat the dealer focused on beating the casino’s house advantage by using the card counting strategy.

Edward O. Thorp

When Edward Thorp was testing the theory of card counting, casinos at that time didn’t even realise it was possible but they were all proven wrong. Thorp put his theory to practice with his partner Claude Elwood Shannon and started making a lot of money by visiting different casinos in Las Vegas. Beat the dealer is the first book ever written about card counting and many professional players still refer to it today as the best book for beginners.



Ken Uston

Ken Uston was born 1935 and he’s on the most famous blackjack players that is most well know for commercializing “team play” in blackjack. Ken always thought of himself as a very good business man and not a professional gambler.  He had a lot of success in the stock market industry before he quit his job and devoted his life to playing blackjack.

Ken Uston

It all happened when Ken Uston met a man named Al Francesco, a professional blackjack player. They became very good friends and soon Ken joined him and learned how to play the game with team play. They had a team of several people playing at blackjack tables and counting cards, once the odds were in their favour they would “signal” an other player to join the game and drop a lot of money. This system worked really well for them as casinos at that time were not clued up on card counting methods. After years of using this method and making a lot of money casinos finally caught up with all the card counting methods and banned Uston from certain casinos. This didn’t stop him as he hired a make up artist and used several different disguises in order to continue playing his favourite game. Apart form his career as a professional blackjack player Ken Uston also wrote several best selling books including “The Big Player” and “Million Dollar Blackjack.

Stanford Wong

Stanford Wong also known as John Ferguson was born 1943 and he is a famous blackjack player as well as a well know author. Wong enjoyed playing games from an early age and one of his hobbies was looking into blackjack probabilities and creating strategies for better odds. As many other blackjack professionals wong read Thorp’s book and began counting cards.After studying Thorps theories Wong came up with his own unique card counting strategies that were very complicated but precise. The most well know strategy is called “Wong Halves”.Stanford Wong

Wong soon realised that his hobby was making him more money than his full time job as a teacher which resulted in him quitting his job and pursuing a career in professional blackjack. He became a very successful player and his also a member of the blackjack hall of fame. Apart from his gambling career he also went on to write several best selling books including “ Professional Blackjack” which is one the most popular blackjack books ever written.


Keep an eye out for part 2 as we will be looking into the lives of more famous blackjack players and celebrities

The most popular variations of Blackjack

Blackjack is one the most popular games played at casinos and also at home were its also known as 21. As most other games when playing blackjack especially at online casinos you will notice some game variations that might apply in some casinos but not all. Generally speaking if you follow the basic strategy and rules which we have explained in our “blackjack strategy” section here you could join and play at any casinos, however there are some rules you need to look out for that could help you improve your chances of winning. For that reason we have decided to do a post on the rule variations of blackjack you might come across when playing online or at brick & mortar casinos.

Classic rules

This is the classic version of blackjack were each player is given 2 cards and is playing against the dealer. The main objective is to get as close as possible to 21 by adding the value of each card, if you get 21 you win however if the sum of the values of your cards is more than 21 then you lose.

The basic rules are explained in more detail in our “how to play” section on our homepage.

American blackjack

With this blackjack variation the rules are bit more flexible than the European version however many players prefer the European game. The dealer is handed one card facing up and one card facing down compared to the European version were the dealer only has one card facing up. Also players are given the option to use the “surrender” rule anytime throught the game. Players are also allowed to double down on any hand and are not restricted to double down only for specific cards like the European version(9, 10 &11).

European Blackjack

European blackjack in one of the most popular versions that’s slightly different due to the following reasons. The game is always played with two decks of cards and the dealer must “hit” if the value of his cards equals to 16 or less. With this variation you can “split” however you can only do it once.  You can also double down only when you have 9, 10 or 11. The dealer is dealt only one card facing up and the surrender rule is not allowed in this version.

Single Hand Versus Multi Hand Blackjack

Single hand is played with one deck of cards and only one hand is played each time. If you are starting out in blackjack we recommend you play single hand as it’s easier than the multi hand version.

The Multi hand version of blackjack is aimed to more advanced players that are comfortable  and experienced at playing the classic version of blackjack. The main difference with this variation is that you are mutlitasking  and playing five hands at the same time, you are given 10 cards in total.  By playing this game you have more chances of winning money unless the dealer has a blackjack which will result in you losing everything. The game is confusing enough as it is and therefore in order to make it less confusing certain rules are applied that don’t apply to single hand blackjack. You can’t re-split at any time, you cant double up aftre splitting or double up when you have 9-10-11, you cant surrender and as for the dealer, he needs to stand on a soft 17. If you are a begginer you could give this a shot however we suggest you play a demo version of the game instead of depositing money as it’s quite a confusing game that requires experience and a lot of concentration.

Blackjack Switch

This is quite an interesting variation of blackjack that’s been popular recently.

When playing blackjack switch you are dealt two hands instead of one or five for the multihand version and you are allowed to switch cards from one hand to another which results in a very low house edge. Specifically players are allowed to swap the second card in order to get a better result. One of the main differences is that if a dealers hand is equal to 22 then this counts as a pushed hand and therefore you don’t win or lose unless you have a blackjack which means you win that hand. It’s dealt face up and its usually played with 6 or 8 decks of cards.


Pontoon is a british version of blackjack, the main objective is the same as the players hand needs to be 21 in order to win or as close as possible to 21 and not over. The main difference when playing pontoon is the number of cards you have, obviosuly if you exceed 21 then you get burned however if the value of your cards is 21 then you win and this is called a pontoon instead of a blackjack. The number of cards in  a single hand overides the overall card value. A hand of 5 cards that equals 21 of less will beat a blackjack, A hand of 3-4 cards that’s is equal to 21 will also beat a blackjack. So in other words the more cards you have the better as long as you don’t exceed 21.  Also another imprortant difference is that a player has the option of buying a card to increase the stake if the value of the cards is less than 21.



Blackjack Cheating Methods – What To Look Out For

In most of the casino games you will always find people that will try and cheat the system in order to make money. So in order to improve your blackjack skills you need to be aware of certain methods that other players might use against you or the dealer. It’s always good to acquire knowledge in these areas and this is why we decided to do a post on this, by all means this is not a guide that will teach how to cheat, it’s a post covering some common methods used to cheat the system, the players and the dealer.

When playing blackjack there’s a difference between using methods to cheat and using a strategy that could potentially help you win more money. Landbased casinos have used several ways throughout the history to monitor games and players in order to spot cheaters, and we have seen loads of cases in the past of players that became famous for cheating the system and either walking away with a lot of cash or getting caught in the act. Nowadays with all the latest technologies used it’s very difficult for someone to cheat but it’s still good to know about some common methods used to cheat the system.

One the most common terms you will hear when playing blackjack in “card counting”. Card counting and basic strategy are not cheating. Card counting is basically a way of memorizing and calculating the proportions of high and low cards during a blackjack game in order to determine whether the next card is likely to give you an advantage. Although this strategy is quite popular, not many players are capable of card counting as it’s very difficult to master this technique. It’s legal because card counters don’t rely on any external factors that will aid them to win, they just rely on their intelligence, efficiency, knowledge of the game and experience.

So there’s a fine line between what’s considered cheating and what’s not especially when it comes to card counting. As it was mentioned above as long as you rely on your own intelligence and don’t use any external factors to help you with your game then technically that’s not considered cheating. If you use and electronic device or marked cards etc which are clashed as devices that will help you cheat then that is cheating. Also the problem is that every casino is different so in some cases if the casino somehow discover that you are card counting (even if its not illegal) they could ban you from the casino for life however they cannot arrest you as technically you haven’t stolen anything or cheated so you are not braking the law.

Here are some other common ways of cheating when playing Blackjack


This is a very common form of cheating that has been used throughout the history of blackjack. Spooking is basically the process of spying on the dealer to find out the value of his cards and informing another member of the game. This usually happens with organized teams of individuals that play at different tables, one the team members is placed behind the dealer in order to view the value of the cards and then uses a “signal” to inform another player about the dealers hand.
The “signals” could be different to each team, as in there’s not a standard set of signals used to chat the dealer as it would be easily traceable. Usually the signals are determined before the game by the individuals that intend to cheat.

Card Marking

This is another common form of cheating during a blackjack game. Card marking is the process of marking the cards in order to spot them during the game and take appropriate action. There are several ways of card marking such as making tiny bumps, bends and scratches on the surface of the cards, using special ink that can be visible if wearing glasses and juice marks. All of these techniques and any other method used to mark cards is illegal.

Blackjack Cheating methods at Online Casinos

There are several methods and techniques used to cheat when playing at online casinos, these methods are not only used by players but by some rogue casinos as well. So before you sign up it’s always best to read reviews about the casino you join, make sure you do that before you deposit money. Sites like gpwa.org provide helpful information about online casinos and also list all the rogue ones that you need to avoid. The use of random number generated games is not advised as every program is different and you don’t have any evidence that the hand you will get is actually random. With RNG games blackjack bots have been used for a while now in order to reduce the house edge of the casino. Blackjack bots essentially work the same way as a really good an experienced blackjack player’s brain would. They record the input and calculate your next move. Overall it’s always best to stay clear of any cheating method, focus on building your skills and experience by playing demo versions of the games before you actually deposit money and don’t use any of the methods described above as they could result in you getting banned from casinos possibly arrested. We also recommend that you avoid RNG games, choose to play at casinos that offer live dealer blackjack games.