Ken Uston became popular as a blackjack player when his team used card counting techniques to beat the Resorts International in Atlantic City. Ken and and team he assembled won $145,000 at the Resorts International. The feat took just 91 ½ days earning them $1584.70 per day.
Uston was introduced to the game of blackjack by Edward Thorp, a mathematics professor, and Lawrence Revere, a casino pit boss and professional blackjack player. Thorp’s book Beat the Dealer is widely considered the original book on card counting. Revere developed the Revere Point count strategy, of which Uston became a master before developing his own card counting systems.
Uston met the professional gambler Al Francesco at the poker tables, despite the fact that Francesco made his fortune at blackjack. Francesco was the man who introduced Uston to the “Big Player” blackjack team strategy.
With this strategy the “Big Player” was called to hot tables by spotters on the team. Once at these hot tables the “Big Player” placed large bids and raked in a lot of money for the team. First used by Francesco, this system kept the card counting team invisible to casino officials. That is, until Uston told his tale.
In 1977, Uston wrote the book The Big Player.” In it he described his exploits as a team member for Francesco. He attributed much of his knowledge to Francesco and the members of his team, but the old team felt slighted. Francesco and his team were banned from the casinos they had been frequenting in Las Vegas.
Uston got a taste of what that was like in 1979. After his big $145,000 win in Atlantic City, The Resorts International banned him. That didn’t stop him though. He continued to play but had to disguise himself to do so.
In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled that it was unlawful for casinos to keep card counters out. Uston was allowed back into the casinos. However, from then on, casinos began to tighten up their regulations regarding blackjack.
Uston went on to write several more books on the subject of playing blackjack. He wrote a book for beginner and intermediate players called One Third of a Shoe. He also wrote Million Dollar Blackjack and Ken Uston on Blackjack.
Uston always thought there was nothing wrong with what he did. As far has he was concerned, counting cards was simply a skill good blackjack players acquired. He compared it to the strategy of a professional chess player, or the skill of a professional baseball player.
Still, new casino regulations drove Uston to play while wearing a disguise. And his genius still continued to elude the casinos.
One of the key tip-offs that flagged a player as a card counter was their betting patterns. But Uston continued to baffle casino authorities by choosing betting patterns that threw officials off the trail. They neither recognized him, nor his betting.
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Uston continued to be considered a nice guy by friends, but made a lot of enemies throughout his life.