Blackjack Hall of Fame

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Published: 14/08/2012

In 2002, the Barona Casino in San Diego, California decided to create an official “Blackjack Hall of Fame.” Its mission was to pay tribute to those who had contributed greatly to the game, including the world’s top game strategists, professional players and blackjack writers.

To set the project rolling, professional blackjack players and members of the public at large were canvassed and a shortlist of nominees was created. It contained exactly 21 names, of course. Of those, seven were selected for induction into the Blackjack Hall of Fame (BHOF) at the Blackjack Ball, an exclusive annual event for the world’s top blackjack players, in January 2003.

The “Magnificent Seven” were headed by Dr. Edward O. Thorp, the first mathematician to conduct a thorough analysis of the game and author of the 1962 classic entitled “Beat the Dealer.” He was joined by Stanford University professor John Ferguson, better known as a blackjack theorist and card player under the pseudonym “Stanford Wong.” Also among the group was San Francisco-based Ken Uston, the Harvard MBA cum businessman who led a team of blackjack card counters to millions of dollars of winnings at the casinos of Las Vegas Reno and Atlantic City.

The other four original BHOF inductees were blackjack team innovator Al Francesco, team organizer Tommy Hyland, professional blackjack player Arnold Snyder and, posthumously, math genius Peter Griffin (1937-1998). The benefits of BHOF membership include lifetime complementary rooms, food and beverages at the Barona Hotel, with one condition—members must never play blackjack at the casino’s tables.

Together, the six living members became responsible for selecting new inductees each year. In 2004, they selected blackjack analyst, commentator and comedian Max Rubin and electronics wizard Keith Taft, inventor of high-tech devices winning blackjack games and small enough to evade casino security. In 2005, their choice was IBM computer programmer Julian Braun, who was instrumental in refining the mathematics of blackjack probabilities, and Lawrence Revere, the author of “Playing Blackjack as a Business,” who took card counting to a new level of proficiency.

The class of 2006 had just one inductee—professional hole-carder James Grosjean. He was followed in 2007 by Johnny Chang, the manager of the famed MIT blackjack team. Then, in 2008, the Blackjack Hall of Fame welcomed the so-called “Four Horsemen of the Aberdeen Proving Ground”—a quartet of individuals who had laid the foundation for professional blackjack play in the 1950s.

Foremost among the four was Roger Baldwin, who had inspired Thorp and others by publishing a article called “Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” in a 1956 edition of the Journal of the American Statistical Association. Along with William Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott, he developed the body of mathematical understanding upon which all modern blackjack analysis is based.

Since then, only one inductee has been added to the BHOF each year. In 2009, it was player-journalist Richard Munchkin. In 2010, the nod went to the fastest card counter on Uston’s team, Darryl Purpose. For 2011, the BHOF members chose Australia’s Zeljko Ranogajec, one of the best blackjack players ever. And in 2012, they welcomed card counter Ian Andersen to their ranks—the renowned “Father of Blackjack Camouflage,” whose unassuming nature allowed him to take fortunes from unsuspecting casinos.

Inside the Barona Hotel’s physical Blackjack Hall of Fame are plaques honouring each member, along with photographs and descriptions of their accomplishments or contributions to the game. Accompanying these is a Blackjack Museum, too. It features various cheating devices, dealing mechanism and other items of interest to blackjack enthusiasts.

Published on: 14/08/2012

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