The Blackjack Hall of Fame recognizes the best blackjack players in the world. But not every member has a long history of profitable blackjack play. Some members have played other important roles in blackjack.
In this post, I cover the Blackjack Hall of Fame and all of the members. I also include some additional information about the most famous members. If you’re a blackjack player, you need to know what some of these players have accomplished.
You can learn a lot from some of these Blackjack Hall of Fame members.
Blackjack Hall of Fame Members
You can find the Blackjack Hall of Fame in the Barona Casino in San Diego, California.
21 blackjack experts and authors gathered to start the Blackjack Hall of Fame. They came up with seven members for the first class. You can learn more about the first Hall of Fame class below, as well as many other members, inducted later.
The Blackjack Hall of Fame and the Blackjack Ball, hosted by Max Rubin, are forever linked. Hall of Fame members were nominated and selected at the Blackjack Ball in the early years of the Hall. Now, members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame nominate new members, and voting is conducted at the Blackjack Ball by attendees.
Many blackjack advantage players credit Al Francesco, part of the original Blackjack Hall of Fame induction class of 2002, with creating the first blackjack teams. I don’t know if Francesco actually created the first teams, but he was the first to widely use teams successfully.
Blackjack team play makes it harder for casinos to determine whether players are counting cards. When done well, blackjack teams can operate for a long time without detection.
Francesco also made the big player advantage play method common and taught team members how to communicate without the casino knowing.
Peter Griffin, most known for his book The Theory of Blackjack, also joined the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002. Sadly, Griffin passed away in 1998 so he wasn’t alive to celebrate his induction.
Griffin used his mathematical background as the basis of his book. And he used his skills as a blackjack player and card counter. The subtitle of his book is The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21. The book was originally released in 1979, but it’s still available today.
One of the most famous blackjack players in history, Arnold Snyder was another member of the first Hall of Fame class in 2002. Snyder authored what I consider the best blackjack book of all time, titled Blackbelt in Blackjack.
Every blackjack player needs to own a copy of Blackbelt in Blackjack. It’s the first blackjack book I recommend, and if you read and master everything in the book, you’re a better blackjack player than most people in the world.
Snyder also wrote other blackjack books and ran the Blackjack Forum digest or magazine for many years.
If you have anyone to thank for card counting, Edward Thorp is the man. His book, Beat the Dealer, A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty One, was the first book to show you can beat blackjack.
Thorp taught mathematics and was probably the first person to use computer programs for blackjack. I haven’t checked recently, but the last time I checked Thorp was still conquering the world using math. But instead of working on blackjack equations, he’s running a hedge fund.
The fifth member of the 2002 Blackjack Hall of Fame class was Ken Uston. And if you count cards, you probably know who Uston was.
Uston authored books about blackjack advantage play, team play, and techniques advantage players use. But, he’s most well known for filing and winning a lawsuit in New Jersey.
The lawsuit was Uston vs Resorts International Hotel. Here are the basics of the suit. Casinos in New Jersey, all located in Atlantic City at the time, couldn’t ban blackjack players for counting cards.
While every card counter should thank Uston for his case, sadly he passed away in 1987. I’ve read his blackjack books and recommend them if you’re serious about card counting and advantage play.
Stanford Wong wrote the book Professional Blackjack, which is how many blackjack players first learn about him. But have you ever heard the term Wonging?
Wonging, also called back counting, works extremely well when counting cards. Here’s how it works:
You watch a blackjack game, counting cards, and when the count turns favorable, you join the game. After the shoe, you leave the table. By back counting or Wonging, you always play with the count in your favor.
If you haven’t guessed, Stanford Wong introduced back counting.
Wong’s real name is supposedly John Ferguson. But when it comes to advantage blackjack players, can you ever be sure they use their real name?
I’ve mentioned blackjack team play a couple of times, and when it comes to blackjack teams, Tommy Hyland rules. Short for Thomas, Tommy Hyland has the longest running blackjack team, or teams, in the world.
Hyland was one of the gamblers covered in the book Gambling Wizards, written by Richard Munchkin. Munchkin also resides in the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Along with Stanford Wong, Hyland rounded out the 2002 class for the Blackjack Hall of Fame. And if no new members were ever added, the Hall of Fame would be worthy. But over the years, many other worthy players have been inducted. Keep reading for information about other prominent Blackjack Hall of Fame members.
James Grosjean has at least two claims to fame. First, he wrote two of the best books on advantage play. The titles are:
- Beyond Counting, Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker
- Exhibit CAA, Beyond Counting
His other claim to fame was suing Griffin Investigations and Caesars Palace for wrongful detention and defamation. Grosjean won the suit, and one of his lawyers, Bob Nersesian, was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2014.
Grosjean joined the Hall in 2006.
If you’ve seen the movie 21 about the MIT blackjack team, you might know a little bit about John Chang. Chang managed one of the MIT blackjack teams for 20 plus years, accounting for millions in profit.
While the movie 21 takes a lot of liberties with the facts, it’s entertaining and gives you an idea of what Chang did. Running a blackjack team can be challenging and the casinos always brought the heat looking for players to ban.
Inducted to the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2007, Chang is the most well known former MIT blackjack team member.
I included Richard Munchkin on this list so I could write a few words about his book. Inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2009, Munchkin authored a book titled Gambling Wizards, Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers.
It’s one of my favorite books. And I don’t mean it’s one of my favorite gambling books. It’s one of my favorite overall books, and I read a lot of different types of books.
If you like gambling and want an entertaining read, I highly recommend Gambling Wizards.
Don Schlesinger, inducted to the Hall in 2015, might be best known for his book Blackjack Attack, Playing the Pro’s Way. The book came out in 1997 and has been updated and expanded a couple of times since then.
Inside the card counting community, Schlesinger is known as the developer of the illustrious 18. The illustrious 8 are the 8 most important changes card counters need to make based on the true count. If you learn the illustrious 18, you don’t have to worry about the other changes. The rest of the changes account for only a small part of your edge, so unless you’re a perfectionist, you don’t need them.
Don Johnson the blackjack player has the misfortune of having the same name as a movie and television star. But the 2017 Hall of Fame inductee made his own name in the blackjack world when he ravaged the casinos in Atlantic City for somewhere around $15,000,000 in 2008.
Johnson convinced the casinos to agree to a specific set of rules for high limit blackjack including loss rebates. The high loss rebate agreement allowed Johnson to recoup some of his big losses, and keep all of his big wins.
Other Members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame
While the Blackjack Hall of Fame members listed above might have the most name recognition, they aren’t the only members. Here’s a list of other members of the blackjack hall of fame.
- Max Rubin
- Keith Taft
- Julian Braun
- Lawrence Revere
- Roger Baldwin
- Wilbert Cantey
- Herbert Maisel
- James McDermott
- Darryl Purpose
- Zeljko Ranogajec
- Ian Andersen
- Robert Nersesian
- Bill Benter
- Wally Simmons
- Anthony Curtis
- Rob Reitzen
Most members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame made money counting cards. And one thing card counters don’t like is anyone knowing who they are. This is especially true when it comes to casinos.
So, is it good or bad to belong to the Blackjack Hall of Fame? Of course, it’s a great honor. But it also puts a target for the casinos to shoot at on your back.
Here’s to all of the blackjack pioneers in the Hall of Fame who paved the way for future blackjack players.