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Wilbert Cantey

Inducted in 2008

Wilbert Cantey

One of the “Four Horsemen of Aberdeen”, Cantey is credited with creating the first accurate blackjack strategy while serving in the US Army in the mid 1950s.

Cantey started life wanting to be a priest, but was encouraged to leave seminary because of his pool hustling and card playing habits. He went on to persue a career in mathematics, but soon after school he ended up in the Army.

There, he met Roger Baldwin, and worked with him and a few other Army buddies to create the first true blackjack strategy.

The book finally published by the Horsemen was called ‘Playing Blackjack to Win: A New Strategy for the Game of 21’. It was written based on calculations made by hand and with simple calculators. Some of the strategy it contained was later corrected by blackjack champs with access to modern computers, but it is still considered to be the foundation of basic blackjack strategy.

These four mathematical geniuses worked in their spare time using pens, paper, and simple calculators to come up with the first mathematically-sound blackjack advice ever produced.

The Four Horsemen’s strategy, contained the first legitimate card-counting system, and though they didn’t realize it at the time, this was the original blackjack strategy that gave a player an advantage over the house, playing a flat bet.

Although the Four Horsemen were never widely known by the public, blackjack aficionados and professional players have always revered the four mathematicians as legends.

The four mathematicians provided Thorp with all of their data in 1958, which ultimately led to the publication of Thorp’s Beat the Dealer in 1962.

Here are some quotes about the Four Horsemen from the members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame:

James Grosjean
“I must have heard a thousand different players tell someone at a blackjack table ‘The book says this’ or “The book says that.’ These guys are the book.”

Johnny Chang
“When I first read the 1957 article they wrote that appeared in the Journal of the American Statistical Association with an accurate basic strategy, I couldn’t fathom how they had accomplished this using desk calculators. It just seemed impossible.”

Al Francesco
“Without these guys, none of us would even be here.”