John Ferguson was born in 1943 and grew up with an affinity for puzzles and mathematics. As a child, Ferguson would spend hours trying to figure out the solutions to very complex problems. This knowledge served him well in adulthood. Adopting the pseudonym of Stanford Wong, John Ferguson became one of the foremost authorities on the game of blackjack.
At the tender age of 12, Ferguson began to unlock the secrets of blackjack through meticulous study. “I used an office calculator to work out the expectations for the player,” Ferguson says. He spent many hours analyzing the mathematical probabilities that relate to blackjack. The goal was to perfect his analysis and publish it, but before Ferguson could complete his work Edward O. Thorp published his own findings in the legendary book Beat The Dealer.
Ferguson was convinced that Thorp had developed a method of beating blackjack and was determined to prove the validity of Thorp’s methods, but he would have to wait until he turned 21 in order to test these things at the blackjack tables in Las Vegas. He did exactly that and even improved upon Thorp’s system. 13 years after the publication of Edward O. Thorp’s book, Ferguson published his own book titled Professional Blackjack in 1975 under the name of Stanford Wong. The book is still in print today and the principles taught by Wong work as well as they did when the book was new.
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Publishing the book under a pseudonym was a necessity for Ferguson. He did not want to compromise his career as a teacher of finance courses at San Francisco State University. Ferguson began playing blackjack seriously during his tenure there. At one point he even accepted a salary of $1 for his final term in exchange for not being required to attend faculty meetings during this time. Playing Blackjack was in Ferguson’s blood and he was determined to make a career of it.
The name Stanford Wong was chosen for two reasons. The first name is the name of Ferguson’s alma mater. The last name was meant to signify the wisdom of the orient, and Asians were considered to be specialists in the mathematics of card games. Ferguson originally wanted to use the name “Nevada Smith,” but it was already taken.
Stanford Wong quickly became a legend among those who wanted to learn more about card counting and beating the game of blackjack. Wong’s writings were so popular that his name became identified with various aspects of card counting. “Wonging” or to “Wong” means to observe a game of blackjack until the game becomes favorable and then enter the game when the deck is at a positive count. This advantage technique is still used by many card counters to this day.
Ferguson believes that blackjack is a game which constantly evolves. For this reason, he says, new books and systems continue to be required. As Wong, Ferguson has continued to publish writings on blackjack and expanding his understanding of the game. Ferguson eventually created his own publishing company called Pi Yee Press.
Ferguson/Wong says that his primary interest with Pi Yee Press is to publish the works of others in the field of card counting. He believes that these new authors bring a fresh perspective to the mechanics and techniques of card counting. While still heavily involved in the blackjack arena, Ferguson has leant his Wong persona to other forms of gambling by writing books on sports betting, craps, and horseracing. These books display the same knowledge and expertise that Ferguson has demonstrated in blackjack.
Among blackjack authors and experts, Stanford Wong is at the top of the heap. His excellence in writing and developing effective card counting methods landed Wong in the Blackjack Hall of Fame. In addition to his many published works, Wong has also served as a consultant for many other card counting experts including Don Schlesinger and Ian Andersen.
In 1997, Wong created a website entitled Stanford Wong’s BJ21. The website was designed to provide information on many of Wong’s theories and make card counting accessible to all blackjack players regardless of their skill level. It was designed to also include a member area where users could compete for various prizes and also interact directly with Stanford Wong. He has also created websites for sports betting, one of his long time interests.
One of Stanford Wong’s most recent projects is an examination of the game of craps in which Wong asserts that controlled dice-throwing can give the craps player a significant edge. Wong’s theories in this area have been regarded with skepticism by some and open hostility by others. To date, Wong’s theories on the game of craps have not been accepted as readily as his theories on blackjack.
John Ferguson, aka Stanford Wong, lives in LaJolla with his wife. They have two grown children. We’d venture a guess that both of them are pretty good at solving puzzles. You can visit his site here: http://www.bj21.com