When it comes to the game of blackjack there are some players who stand tall above the rest. A small number of blackjack players would even be considered legendary in their field and have written some of the best blackjack books. These are players that have crushed the casinos around the world for millions of dollars. Counting Edge has prepared a list of the best blackjack players of all time. Give it a look and see if you agree with our selections.
Edward O. Thorp
One cannot make a list of the best blackjack players of all time without including Edward O. Thorp, the father of blackjack card counting. Without Thorp one could argue that card counting would not exist today. Oddly, blackjack wasn’t even Thorp’s primary career. He was a respected mathematician when he came up with his card counting philosophy and published in in the book Beat the Dealer.
Thorp was a recreational blackjack player as early as the 1950s. While playing the game his mathematical instincts told him that there was a way to exploit blackjack for profit. He began to study the game in depth and the rest is history.
Thorp’s book appeared in 1962. Beat the Dealer tackled the problem of blackjack from a mathematical perspective. Thorp has determined that the ratio of high to low cards in the deck had a direct impact on the house edge in blackjack. Players who were able to recognize that ratio when it was in their favor could increase their chances of winning by making bigger bets. Thus, modern card counting was born.
Thorp’s theories were so powerful that casinos were inspired to change the rules of the game. The casinos came to understand that card counting could be a powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled player. Although these rule changes helped to dampen the edge of card counters, it was necessary to keep adapting card counting theory to keep it effective. Thorp played blackjack until the very late years of his life.
In the world of professional blackjack there may be no more colorful figure than Arnold Snyder. He has made quite a living playing blackjack and also by writing numerous books. Blackbelt in Blackjack is one of his most popular. Today, Snyder can still be found grinding it out at the live casinos.
For about 30 years Snyder published his own blackjack journal about the game. He is more than just a player. Arnold Snyder is a scholar. He is always searching for new ways to maintain an edge in blackjack. Snyder was also very involved in the creation of card counting software.
It has always been the philosophy of Arnold Snyder that the successful blackjack player must be a serious student of the game. It is not enough to know basic blackjack strategy or card counting. The player must be willing to learn and evolve throughout their playing career.
Ken Uston came along and literally changed the way blackjack players approached card counting. He opted to approach card counting as a team effort. As such, the famous MIT blackjack team and other teams can thank Uston for their existence. He came up with most of the methods that teams use today.
That is not to say that Uston was not a feared solo blackjack player. He was so successful in Atlantic City that the casinos changed their rules to try and stop him from winning vast sums of money. Uston was ultimately banned from casino play.
Although Uston challenged the ban in the New Jersey courts, it was still very difficult for him to play in the US. The troubled Uston went to Paris where he died at just 52 years of age under mysterious circumstances.
John Ferguson is the author of Professional Blackjack and other books under the pseudonym of Stanford Wong. The first book published by Wong appeared in 1975 while Ferguson was pursuing a degree at Stanford.
Wong is credited with developing many card counting methods and betting systems. He is known for stressing the importance of money management for the professional blackjack player, believing it to be just as important as card counting.
There is even a card counting technique called Wonging that was named after Wong. This technique involves hopping from table to table as the deck gets hot in the player’s favor. Many teams use this method to score large profits. Wong’s own teams have won more than $200,000 in blackjack profits.
Carlson is one of the lesser-known players on this list of best blackjack players. He has been playing blackjack for a living since 1970 after becoming interested in Edward O. Thorp’s Beat the Dealer. The ability for a player to minimize the house edge in blackjack is what attracted the interest of Bryce Carlson.
Like many professional blackjack players Carlson has written his own book called Blackjack for Blood. Carlson has often said that it is his goal to help other players become good at the game of blackjack. He is still an active force in the gaming community in 2019.
It is a sad fact that one of the best blackjack players of all time is a man who was involved in one of the biggest online poker cheating scandals. Russ Hamilton started as a poker player in his native Detroit before moving to Las Vegas in search of greater profits. Once in Vegas Hamilton discovered blackjack and card counting.
Hamilton even mastered the art of winning blackjack tournaments. He was so successful at this that some casinos began to ban professional blackjack players from blackjack tournaments. With his blackjack opportunities growing smaller Hamilton joined the online poker boom as a consultant for the poker site Ultimate Bet.
It wasn’t long before Ultimate Bet was exposed for cheating. Hamilton and others associated with the site had learned to exploit a glitch in the site’s software that would allow them to see the hole cards of other players. The site was eventually closed down and Hamilton was disgraced along with several other poker pros.