Inducted in 2002
A Yale University and Harvard MBA graduate, Ken Uston is known as the flagrant personality of Blackjack for his wide range of controversies and contributions. For most he is known for his books, ‘Million Dollar Blackjack‘ and ‘The Big Player’. This was a result of his association with Al Francesco, who recognized Ken’s skill counting cards and made him a member of his team utilizing Al’s concept of the Big player (BP).
This idea had a team of players at various tables in the casino counting cards and when a count became extremely positive team members would flag down the designated Big Player of BP who would make a significant bet. At the time this bypassed the casinos security and was highly successful. After the book was published Al Francesco’s team was barred from playing in Las Vegas and a long standing feud began.
When Atlantic City became a gambling mecca in 1978, Ken moved to New Jersey where he was quickly banned from the casinos for card counting. Just as fast he counter sued the casinos stating that skilled players could not legally be banned. In 1982 the New Jersey Supreme court ruled in his favor and card counting, at least is still permissible. However in direct response casinos have added decks and moved up shuffle points to reduce the advantage for skilled players like Ken.
To get past security at casinos where he was banned Ken Uston is equally famous for his incredible range of disguises both physical as well as with cards.
In the early 1980’s when computer games came out he became fixated with Pong, Space Invaders and PacMan due to their obvious patterns. Highly creative in his attempts to ‘crack’ these games he authored a new book on the subject and became the inspiration for computerized Blackjack games created for the Apple II series, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64 and IBM PC.
Ken Uston died in 1987 at the age of 52 in Paris, France.