Who is the most successful card counter ever?
In the world of casino gambling, many blackjack professionals have attained ‘legendary’ status by employing so-called advantage gambling techniques – the best known of which is card counting – to reverse the house edge and make vast amounts of money. Perhaps the most famous, or infamous, of them all was the late Ken Uston, who was instrumental in the development of ‘big player’ card counting teams in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere in the Sixties and Seventies.
Born Kenneth Senzo Usui, in 1935, Uston was a gifted child, who excelled in many fields, including mathematics. Educated at Yale and Harvard, he was introduced to blackjack techniques by the book, ‘Beat The Dealer’, written by Edward Thorp and later mastered card counting under the auspices of blackjack professional, Al Francesco.
Francesco started a card counting team in the early Seventies and Uston was quickly promoted to ‘big player’ status, making him responsible for placing large bets, typically between $100 and $1,000 a hand. Uston reputed made over $60,000 a day for the team and during his career, as a whole, single-handedly won untold millions of dollars. In the late Seventies, after the so-called ‘Tuesday Night Massacre’, when Atlantic City casino operators banded together to outlaw card counting, Uston filed, and won, a law suit, securing a landmark ruling that card counting was skilful play, rather than cheating, and therefore entirely legal.