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The Blackjack Hall of Fame

Honoring the Greatest Blackjack Players and Thinkers

The Blackjack Hall of Fame is an institution dedicated to honoring those individuals who have contributed the most to the advancement of the game of blackjack. The Hall of Fame comprises an eclectic mix of players, thinkers, and writers, each of whom has made an indelible impression on the blackjack game.

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Some Hall-of-Famers, like mathematics professor Edward O. Thorp and computer scientist Julian Braun, are known for their contributions to our understanding of the theoretical aspects of blackjack odds, blackjack strategy, and blackjack card-counting. Others, like Al Francesco and Tommy Hyland, are known for their exploits and achievements at the real-world casino black jack tables. Max Rubin achieved fame as a writer and personality who helped bring blackjack into the consciousness of the wide general public. As a group, the members cover the entire gamut of blackjack experience and expertise.

The Founding of the Blackjack Hall of Fame

The idea of the Blackjack Hall of Fame originated in 2002, when a group of top professional gamblers nominated 21 (of course!) candidates for consideration. Primary voting for the Hall was by the professional players, with additional input from the public via the internet.

Final voting was held in January 2003 at the Blackjack Ball, an exclusive annual event for the top blackjack players in the world. By the end of the night, seven of the twenty-one candidates had been elected. The seven original members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame were:

Edward O. Thorp
Edward O. Thorp, a professor of mathematics, is considered the father of black jack card counting. His bookBeat the Dealer, published in 1962, revolutionized the world of blackjack. Professor Thorp demonstrated that, by carefully keeping track of the cards that had already been dealt, a player could then determine the probabilities pertaining to the cards remaining in the deck. By adjusting his wagers accordingly, the player could beat the dealer and come out ahead. Read more about Edward O. Thorp.

Al Francesco
Professor Thorp's blackjack card-counting techniques were brilliant in theory but faced an obstacle in application: blackjack casinos barred card counters from their premises. Al Francesco devised the concept of blackjack team play to overcome this obstacle. A blackjack team, comprising several counters and one Big Player, could play like card counters and win like card counters, without appearing to casino security to be card counters. Read more about Al Francesco.

Ken Uston
Ken Uston started as a member of Al Francesco's blackjack team and went on to form his own blackjack teams. In addition to being a master of card counting and team play, Uston also became a master of disguise in order to evade casinos' banning orders. He wrote several books on blackjack strategy, and won an important legal victory when he persuaded the New Jersey Supreme Court that the Atlantic City casinos should not be permitted to ban card counters. Read more about Ken Uston.

Stanford Wong
Edward Thorp had based his calculations for Beat the Dealer on the assumption that the blackjack game was being played with one deck of cards. In 1975, after the casinos had started using four decks, Stanford Wong filled the gap by writing Professional Blackjack, in which he detailed a method and strategy for beating the 4-deck game. Professional Blackjack also described a table-hopping style of play that became known as "wonging." Wong also wrote several other blackjack books, published a blackjack newsletter, and devised a blackjack analysis software program. Read more about Stanford Wong.

Peter Griffin
Peter Griffin, a math professor at California State University, continued and perfected Edward Thorp's work in blackjack theory. In 1979, he wrote The Theory of Blackjack in which he presented the most accurate and complete blackjack basic strategy for any set of rules and any number of decks. The Theory of Blackjack also explained the mathematics behind the blackjack basic strategy and the various card-counting techniques, and provided a statistical methodology by which the efficacy of different blackjack card-counting systems could be compared. Read more about Peter Griffin.

Tommy Hyland
Since 1979, Tommy Hyland has been the manager of the longest-running and most successful team in the history of blackjack team play. With Hyland as the recruiter, trainer, administrator, and manager, and using techniques that include card counting, computer play, big-player format, and key-carding, the team has won millions of dollars in blackjack casinos around the world. Read more about Tommy Hyland.

Arnold Snyder
While Arnold Snyder is an accomplished blackjack player in his own right, his primary contribution has been as a blackjack writer. He is the author of The Blackjack Formula (1980), Blackbelt in Blackjack (1983; 2nd ed. 1998), The Blackjack Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook (2003), and The Big Book of Blackjack (2006). Snyder is also the editor and publisher of Blackjack Forum, a quarterly trade journal that is now published online. Read more about Arnold Snyder.

Continuing Growth of the Blackjack Hall of Fame

New members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame are selected annually at the Blackjack Ball. Two new members were elected in 2004, and two more in 2005. After that, a new rule limited the growth of the Hall to one new member each year. The new members of the Hall of Fame are:

Keith Taft (2004)
Keith Taft was an electronics wizard who invented all sorts of high-tech blackjack gizmos that were powerful enough to win blackjack games, yet small enough to evade casino security. Taft invented a blackjack computer named George, which started out as a 15-pound baby that had to be strapped to the player's body, and eventually trimmed down so it could fit into the player's shoes and be manipulated by his toes.Taft also invented a miniature camera that fit into a player's belt buckle and took snapshots of the dealer's hole card. Read more about Keith Taft.

Max Rubin (2004)
Max Rubin, "The Undisputed Overweight Comp Champion of the World," is a serious blackjack analyst on the inside and a hilarious blackjack comedian on the outside. As a television blackjack commentator, writer of magazine articles, and host of the annual Blackjack Ball, Rubin had done much to bring blackjack to the attention of the public. In his book Comp City, Rubin teaches even low-rollers how they can get lots of free stuff from the casinos. Read more about Max Rubin.

Julian Braun (2005)
Julian Braun was a computer programmer at IBM. By running literally billions of blackjack simulations on the computers, Braun was able to refine the mathematics of blackjack probabilities. He collaborated on the second edition of Edward Thorp's Beat the Dealer, on Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as a Business, and on Lance Humble and Carl Cooper's The World's Greatest Blackjack Book. In 1980, he published his own book, called How to Play Winning Blackjack, which included color-coded blackjack basic strategy charts. Read more about Julian Braun.

Lawrence Revere (2005)
Lawrence Revere experienced the world of blackjack from every conceivable angle: pit boss, dealer, casino owner, troubleshooter, professional blackjack player, author, and blackjack teacher. His book Playing Blackjack as a Business (1969) includes several new blackjack card-counting strategies, devised by Revere with the assistance of Julian Braun, that were both simpler and more accurate than the earlier strategies of Edward Thorp. Read more about Lawrence Revere.

James Grosjean (2006)
James Grosjean is a rare triple threat. As a blackjack player, he won the 2007 Blackjack Cup and the title of "World's Best Blackjack Player." As a blackjack author, he wrote Beyond Counting (2000), which explored all aspects of advantage play including the mathematical and the psychological. As a blackjack litigant, he won significant legal victories against casinos and the Griffin detective agency that helped protect blackjack players from defamation and harassment. Read more about James Grosjean.

Johnny Chang (2007)
Johnny Chang, manager of the famous MIT Blackjack Team of the 1990s, was elected to the Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Blackjack Ball in January 2007. Read more about Johnny Chang.

The Four Horsemen (2008)
Notwithstanding the rule limiting election to one new member a year, Roger Baldwin, William Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott — the Four Horsemen of the Aberdeen Proving Ground — were elected to the Hall of Fame as a group in 2008. Way back in 1956, the Four Horsemen published the first serious mathematical study of blackjack strategy. All modern blackjack analysis is based on the seminal work of the Four Horsemen. Read more about the Four Horsemen.

Richard Munchkin (2009)
Richard Munchkin, an accomplished blackjack player in his own right, has made a career of interviewing the top wizards of blackjack. His published interviews have brought the lives and accomplishments of the top blackjack players into public consciousness. Read more about Richard Munchkin.

Darryl Purpose (2010)
Darryl Purpose, as a member of the Ken Uston team and other teams, was known as the fastest blackjack card counter and one of the best blackjack players in the world. Then he walked away from it all to pursue a successful career as a peace activist and folk singer. Read more about Darryl Purpose.

Zeljko Ranogajec (2011)
Zeljko Ranogajec of Australia was one of the best blackjack players ever, and then he left the blackjack tables for the racetrack and made an even bigger name for himself as the biggest punter ever in the world. Read more about Zeljko Ranogajec.

Ian Andersen (2012)
Ian Andersen is the father of blackjack camouflage — the art of the skilled blackjack professional who blends into his surroundings and appears to be nothing more than a lucky amateur who will be welcomed by the land-based casino bosses to come back to win and win some more. Read more about Ian Andersen.

Bob Nersesian (2014)
Bob Nersesian is a Las Vegas lawyer known as counsel for the players. He protects the rights of blackjack players, makes the casinos pay dearly when they abuse players’ rights, has forced the casinos to treat their patrons more respectfully, and has written the definitive legal guide for blackjack gamblers. Read more about Bob Nersesian.

Don Schlesinger (2015)
Don Schlesinger is a great blackjack teacher and researcher. His research into advanced concepts like SCORE and the Illustrious 18, and the invaluable advice for players in his book Blackjack Attack, have done much to advance both the theory and the practice of blackjack strategy. Read more about Don Schlesinger.

The Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Barona Casino

The actual physical Blackjack Hall of Fame is located in the Barona Casino in southern California. In the Hall there is a plaque in honor of each member, complete with a photograph of the member and a text explaining his accomplishments and his contributions to the game of blackjack.

There is also a blackjack museum, complete with cheating devices, marked cards, computer shoes, and other interesting exhibits. So if you're ever in southern California, take a little side trip to the Blackjack Hall of Fame and Museum at the Barona Casino. You'll be inspired and enlightened as you stand in the presence of these blackjack luminaries.

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