Blackjack might not be the most difficult casino game to learn and play for sure. However, history has some great professional blackjack players who mastered the skill of playing blackjack and perfected it to a point of winning huge sums of money. Sounds interesting? Well, here is a list of the top 10 most successful blackjack players and the story behind them.
1. Don Johnson
If you try exploring successful blackjack stories, then Don Johnson is the name that cannot be missed. This professional blackjack player had a legendary hand. But, what he is remembered for is his win of $15 million at 3 Atlantic City casinos over a span of 6 months. In the game, on a $10,000 bet, Johnson received two, which he obviously split, and received a further set of , which he split again. The dealer dealt 3 twice and 2 twice, on each of which, Johnson doubled down. Finally, the dealer showed 2 cards that totaled 15 and drew a 10, enabling Johnson to get on a winning streak.
From the time that the casinos opened in Atlantic City in 1978, this was the first time that the house lost money over a particular month at the game of blackjack. Don Johnson, on the other hand, said in an interview that he never counted cards as card counting could get a player banned from some casinos. He believed that a player with a trained memory and great acuity could keep track of cards been played and in the deck and maximize their chances of beating the casino.
2. James Grosjean
A highly valued blackjack player, James Grosjean is one of the best professionals in the game. He got introduced to blackjack at a very early age, while he was studying at the Chicago University. This professional player has two best-selling publications in his name – Beyond Counting and Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting. In both, Grosjean has provided a mathematical explanation of advantage play in gambling.
As a blackjack pro, he had not only been successful at overcoming the house edge but also known in the gambling circles for his triumph in court over the Imperial Palace and winning jury verdicts against Caesars Palace. He had devised numerous strategies for advantage play, which are considered as stepping stones for thousands of players, to date. Grosjean was the youngest ever player to be featured in the Blackjack Hall of Fame too.
3. Bill Benter
If there is one player with a solid professional blackjack career and an equally philanthropic disposition, then it is definitely Bill Benter. A highly successful player, Benter is a big believer in charity and contributes to noble causes as well as takes part in political campaigns. So, he is also one blackjack player to be featured in the Blackjack Hall of Fame for all the good reasons.
As far as his professional blackjack career goes, it was profitable but short as he was caught counting cards on a regular game at the Maxim one day. Thereafter, his name was blacklisted in almost every casino in Vegas. Soon after, he started horse racing betting and became a massive winner at the Hong Kong Jockey Club thanks to his computerized approach to horse racing betting.
4. MIT Blackjack Team
The MIT Blackjack team and its success at card counting are written in golden words in the history of blackjack. No wonder, this team is among the most successful blackjack players’ group leading to one of the biggest blackjack wins. It is said that the team won more than $500,000 in one night, leaving casinos wondering at their tricky system.
In fact, the MIT blackjack team led by Bill Kaplan was on a winning spree throughout the 80s and 90s. The team comprised mostly MIT graduates and it was hard to extract any information out of them. The MIT blackjack team might not have been too successful today but they will remain popular for their magical wins at blackjack forever.
5. Kerry Packer
Kerry Packer is one of those professional blackjack players who are synonymous with some of the best blackjack plays. Back in 1995, he exhibited extraordinary talent by playing with 8 hands at numerous blackjack tables in the Las Vegas casinos. He took risky steps like placing a $250,000 bet per hand and winning 20 times successively. He was among the bravest gamblers the world ever produced.
In spite of being admirably successful at Blackjack, he could not make a fortune at baccarat. In fact, in baccarat, he lost more than £27.4 million in a course of 10 months. In the Las Vegas Hilton casino, Packer once won $7 million at blackjack and lost $10 million on another night, proving that success and failure go hand in hand in blackjack and life as a whole.
6. Ken Uston
Ken Uston was an incredibly successful professional blackjack player, who was known for his excellent card counting tricks. Uston became acquainted with the card counting system after his chance meeting with AI Francesco at a party. Using his own skills as a mathematical strategist, he emerged to be a notorious card counter. He also authored quite a few books on card counting and the ways of beating the house edge.
Uston made some huge profits but was banned from playing in most casinos after a point in time. Notwithstanding, he devised means and disguised himself to enter casinos. He even challenged the ban and won. This blackjack pro died at the early age of 52.
7. Bryce Carlson
Another highly successful blackjack player, Bryce Carlson started playing the game in the 1970s. He was very good at exchanging tips with other legendary players and gradually became a professional. Carlson had also authored a book named, ‘Blackjack for Blood’. His idea and intention were to help other blackjack players master the game.
Interestingly, he developed the Omega II blackjack machine and later, the Omega II blackjack casino in order to analyze the game so that he could improve his gameplay.
8. Erica Shoenberg
A successful female blackjack player, Erica Shoenberg achieved remarkable success in the game. Although she could not win a major tournament, she participated, on several occasions, in the World Series of Blackjack. Erica was a model turned blackjack player who made most of her money playing this game. She was keen on mastering and perfecting her skills further, which is why; she enrolled at the MIT Blackjack Team.
9. Edward Thorp
Edward Thorp was not only a pro blackjack player but also, the inventor of a card counting blackjack method, in which players could keep track of which cards were being played and which were remaining in the deck. As a professor of Mathematics, he specialized in the field of probability and it lent him the ability to make correct predictions.
Thorp had also published a book named, ‘Beat the Dealer’. The book detailed the techniques of blackjack, which were highly popularized by great players in various casinos across the world.
10. Alice Walker
Alice Walker was the first female to win the World Series of Blackjack in 2007. This professional blackjack player, who made history, started playing the game at the tender age of 3. Walker excelled in both blackjack as well as poker and was very quick at picking up the tricks of both games. She secured her place in the hall of fame of gambling by winning two major tournaments in a row. Alice Walker had a very driven and tactical mind that contributed to her success.
These professional blackjack players who were highly successful in playing the game do set an example for blackjack lovers all over. They are inspirations for pro gamblers trying to get better at blackjack and increase their chances of winning with each hand they play.
This article was published on March 18, 2021, and last updated on October 26, 2022.