Did you know that every year the best blackjack players in the world gather together in secret to gamble on the game they love, discuss new strategies and card counting methods, and tell stories from their legendary careers? It may sound like something out of a movie, but this gathering actually happens. Hosted by Max Rubin, the Blackjack Ball has been going strong since 1997, but if you ever want to attend this illustrious event you’ll have to become one of blackjack’s elite players.
The Origin of the Blackjack Ball
In 1997, legendary blackjack player and noted gambling authority Max Rubin started hosting a private gathering for the inner circle of blackjack players. Rubin has stated that he simply wanted an event that would allow solo players and players from various card counting teams to hang out. In the earliest days, many of these players had never met one another even though they had heard of each other’s exploits at the blackjack tables.
The event grew quickly. In less than ten years the Blackjack Ball was too big to be held in Max Rubin’s home any longer. The gathering is by invitation only and is currently held at a secret location that only seats a little over 100 guests. As you can imagine, the desire to get on the list for an invitation is high. Many great blackjack players must wait for years to be invited.
In the world of blackjack, Max Rubin is a legend. Not only has he conquered the blackjack tables and made huge profits playing the game, he has also crossed over to the Dark Side and actually consulted with the casinos on how to run their blackjack games. Rubin currently consults with Barona Casino in San Diego, but some might claim that he is actually a double agent in disguise. The Barona has introduced many favorable blackjack rules for the player and also constructed a wall that features members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Why is the Blackjack Ball a Secret?
Even though the Blackjack Ball is known to exist, the reason for the secrecy surrounding it and the guest list is a practical one: many of the attendees do not wish their identities to be revealed to the general public because they are still actively involved in card counting.
There is still a great stigma attached to gambling. Many people still regard gamblers as sketchy types that live in an underground world where all kinds of nefarious things take place. The reality is somewhat different. Many of the best blackjack players in the world today have successful careers in other fields. If their passion for card counting and blackjack became known, it might affect their career.
Another reason is that being branded as a card counter by the casinos is still a very real hazard to the professional player. Many of the best card counters even use a pen name to write their books on blackjack so that they will not be discovered. A famous story of a card counter that did not do this is the one involving Ken Uston. Uston terrorized the casinos for years with his card counting strategies, but publishing them in a book under his own name led to Uston being banned in many casinos. His career as a card counter was all but destroyed. A few years later, Uston died under mysterious circumstances.
There are advantages to for a card counter to keep their identity a secret, yet these elite players are just like everyone else: they crave social interaction and fellowship with their peers. The Blackjack Ball gives them a way to socialize without risking discovery.
Peeking Inside the Blackjack Ball
It is rare to get an actual glimpse inside the Blackjack Ball because there are no photos allowed for obvious reasons. Yet, sometimes word gets out of what takes place at the gathering.
In 2014, twelve of the thirteen living members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame were present at the event. Perhaps chief among these was Dr. Edward O. Thorp, the author of perhaps the most famous and influential blackjack book of all time, Beat the Dealer. Seeing Dr. Thorp was a highlight for all and many of the attendees considered it a privilege to meet the man who originally defined the mathematics behind successful blackjack.
2014 was also the year of a famed meeting between two of the world’s most powerful professional blackjack players. Zeljko Ranogajec and James Grosjean are names you may not know, but these men might be the best to ever play the game of blackjack. Strangely, they had not met before the 2014 Blackjack Ball. Max Rubin stated that when they met most of the attendees watched to observe their interaction. Within just a few minutes, the two titans were chatting like old friends.
Every year the Blackjack Ball hosts a tournament that award the Grosjean Cup, in honor of James Grosjean. This competition is a matter of pride and every attendee of the ball wants to win. Can you imagine a blackjack tournament that features a Hall of Fame player in every seat? But, wait. The Grosjean Cup is not your ordinary blackjack tournament by a longshot.
Players must endure a series of blackjack tests before a champion is crowned. The first of these is a skills and knowledge quiz in which players must prove their understanding of the game. Next, a card counting test puts the counters’ talents to a rigorous test. There are then challenges that involve memorizing the exact order of a deck of cards, organizing a partial deck into a favorable result, reading the precise number of cards left in a shoe, precision card cutting, and, lastly, another more intense card counting test. It is a grueling contest that rewards excellence and truly identifies the best of the best.
Of course, there is betting—big betting. Teams are formed and money is awarded to the teams with the best results. Any one team might include an assortment of the famous members of the MIT team immortalized in the movie 21, Hall of Fame members, and card counting legends.
How to Get Invited to the Blackjack Ball
To be honest, the chances of being invited to the Blackjack Ball are slim. There is such a long waiting list that many deserving players will never be able to attend. If you want to have a shot, however, perfecting your card counting skills is the best place to start.
Counting Edge gives you many resources that can make you a world-class player. Many of our readers write in to tell us how well our strategies are working for them. If you apply discipline to learning your skills and practice, who knows? You might eventually make that prized guest list for the Blackjack Ball. If you do, don’t forget about us!
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