Celebrities of the professional Blackjack world range from computer and mathematical geniuses to maniacally daring individuals who are willing to take any kind of bet, including bizarre ones. Some of the best known individuals are members of the “Blackjack Hall of Fame” while others make headlines and spend a great deal of time fighting for the rights of players everywhere.
Many of the Blackjack world’s most famous members like to share their information through books and web sites, and none is more well-known than Ken Smith. With two comprehensive web sites dedicated to the skills of both casino and tournament play; he is one of the most recognized authorities on the Internet.
Steve Forte is another professional Blackjack player who has shared his knowledge of the game in order to help others “beat the house”. Unfortunately, his popular book “Read the Dealer” was also read by the casinos themselves, who promptly changed some policies and procedures to outwit those who had read the fascinating book.
While Forte relied on observation in order to “read” a dealer, Edward Thorp developed and published a comprehensive guide called “Beat the Dealer”. He is perhaps one of the most famous members of the Hall of Fame, and one of the most well-known players. He tested his own theories and put them into print without any clearance from the scientific, mathematic or academic communities, and sold in the hundreds of thousands.
Others who have built on Thorp’s theories include Stanford Wong, who created the popular strategy called “wonging” where a player counts cards from a distance and then enters into a game when the deck is most advantageous.
Ken Uston took this a bit farther by being one of the most well-known developers of team Blackjack play, and who became so notorious he had to wear elaborate disguises in order to join in a game at most casinos throughout the world.
Team Blackjack was probably taken the farthest possible by J.P. Massar and Bill Kaplan, both MIT graduates who developed successful teams of Blackjack players, eventually designing their efforts around a standard business model and taking in millions over the course of several decades and different teams.
While some Blackjack celebrities created strong strategies others used equipment and theories, for example Peter Griffin who authored “The Theory of Blackjack” and continued to teach professional courses throughout his life, and Keith Taft who perfected early portable computers that worked as card counting machines.
Finally, there are celebrities in the world of Blackjack who earn their status by skill and by knowing how and when to grab the spotlight. Jimmy Pine is a tournament player who is famous for his “pay the little man” slogan whenever a player beats the casino. Sam Vaughn spent many years travelling back and forth between Arizona and Nevada in order to develop his skills, eventually winning a million dollar jackpot, and Joe Pane is another player who began playing after an injury and has since become one of the most “winning” tournament players around.
Others like Brian Zembic are simply “colorful” characters. Zembic is more notorious for his acceptance of an outrageous wager to have breast implant surgery than for his Blackjack skills, and Barry Meadow has such a unique and flamboyant past that his life story is just as fascinating as his gambling ability.
Finally, there are two very well known members of the Blackjack community that have both the skills and a little something extra - Max Rubin is a champion player and consultant who also knows how to really “play” the casinos, getting remarkable “comps” and teaching others how to do so as well. James Grosjean is another highly skilled professional who has made a career from playing Blackjack while also fighting against the casinos and agencies that infringe on the rights of skilled players.