Famous Card Counters: Professional Blackjack Card Counters

Many Casino goers across the globe venture to brick and mortar establishments with the mindset to have some fun and the possibility of earning some winnings. However, 90% of attendees end up going home with small winnings, or in many cases suffer significant losses. This is of course due to the design of the casino games, and how they are geared to extract the most amount of money from the player. Every game from poker to slot machines are designed so that the house holds a strong chance of winning.
A person surrounded by mathematical formulae.
Published on: 23 March 2020

The Mavericks Trying to Beat the System

Throughout the world of gambling there are a few mavericks who persevere with intelligent strategy, luck or cheating – to try and beat the casino at their own game. As blackjack is the most popular card game in the world, it is the biggest target for exploiters and card counters. Due to its difficulty, it’s rare to see big winnings being made. There are many so-called strategies and guides to help people understand the game of Blackjack and some do become genuinely great players. However, some have a desire to win so great that they’ll employ tactics that will ban them from every casino on the planet and potentially lead to legal consequences. You can learn about card counting here. There are some legendary stories from the people who have undertaken this strategy and won. Here are the 5 most famous card counters of all time.

Ben Affleck

A name that no one would expect to see on this list. Yes, Ben Affleck the millionaire Hollywood actor most famous for his roles in recent times as Batman in Batman vs Superman (2016) and his classic appearance in Good Will Hunting (1997). 

All this aside Ben Affleck has been banned from multiple casinos within Las Vegas due to suspected foul play. In 2014 Affleck was prohibited from playing at the hard rock hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He would later admit that he had been learning multiple strategies and techniques to increase his chances of winning while playing blackjack. He was never charged for any of these incidents as card counting is technically not illegal in the state of Nevada however these revelations did leave somewhat of a dent in his public image.

Dominic LoRiggio

Dominic LoRiggio received many colorful nicknames throughout his career including ’The dominator’ and ‘The man with the golden arm’ due to his technique of dice throwing built on talent and luck, he utilized this primarily while playing craps. Craps revolve around dice rolling and comes down to luck primarily. This means that is very difficult to develop a technique to cheat your way to greater winnings. 

He would go onto developing a way to manipulate the spin of the dice to increase the odds of him winning. This method involved him throwing the dice up making sure they stayed together in the air with a gentle landing enabling Dominic to win many more rounds of craps. He was eventually banned from a couple of casinos in Las Vegas and still maintains a reputation as being on the best craps players in Vegas.

Ida Summers

The oldest contender on our list. Ida Summers caused quite a stir in and around the casino scene back in the 60s and 70s when Vegas was all neon lights and Cadillac’s. She was also a Blackjack player and to be a woman prominent in the gambling scene was very rare for the 1960s. She was known by many as the ‘Vegas Vixen’ and become a very successful casino con artist. 

Summers would use a technique called “hand mucking” while playing Blackjack. She would remove cards from play and hide them in her sleeve and when she needed them, she would discreetly bring them back into play. She would divert the dealer’s attention by striking up flirtatious conversations with them so they would pay attention to her words rather than her actions. She would eventually move onto switching out decks for ‘coolers’ which were prearranged decks so she would always have the advantage over the dealer. She would manage to con her way to thousands of dollars across multiple years of cheating and has gone down in history as one of the best card counters in America.

Thomas Hyland

Before he began playing Backgammon and Poker with his friends while in college, Tommy Hyland had never had any previous interest in card games or casino gambling. However, he would go onto become one of the most professional card counters the world had ever seen. He would achieve this by assembling a crack team of like-minded individuals who would all play on the same table and by deploying techniques such as ‘Sequencing’ and ‘Shuffle tracking’ the team would manage to count cards perfectly allowing them to win many more hands against the dealer. 

However, things didn’t always go well for Hyland and his team as 3 of them were arrested in Ontario in 1994. Although all of them would eventually be pardoned thanks to an excellent testimony from Arnold Snyder, he was also the man mentoring Hyland and passed on all his knowledge which allowed them to execute their scheme together. In an interview, he stated that across many years almost 200 people came and went through his team making it one of the longest standing card counting team in history.

MIT Blackjack Team

One of the most unusual entries when it comes to the most famous card counters, however their story is one of the most iconic across the whole gambling scene. The team was managed by Harvard MBA graduate Bill Kaplan, the crew would be a mixture of past and present students from MIT. 

MIT’s prime would come in 1992. They were taking thousands from casinos every single day. After news of their success spread through the university, their popularity was unmatched. This success leads to a large $1 million investment being made to start a company. Strategic Investments would train students to card count and gamble and then send them to unsuspecting casinos, taking a cut of all their earnings. MIT earned its spot as one of the most iconic card counting teams in history.

Honourable Mentions

It would be impossible to fit all the greats onto one list so here are another three-card counters who just missed out:

  • Ken Uston – A very talented card counter. He came to fame in the 1970s and was believed to have won many thousands while playing Blackjack. He was the one who first thought of using teams as a card counting strategy. He ended up being banned by a few establishments and would sue Atlantic City in 1979 as they had accused him of foul play. However, he overcame them and won, putting it down to ‘pure skill’.
  • Al Francesco – An innovator in the card counting community. In the 1960s he developed many strategies which famous card counters still use to this day. These included: ‘Ten Count’, ‘Big Player Concept’ and ‘The Drop’. He released a book in 1977 called ‘The Big Drop’ which exposed every single method he and his teammates had been using.
  • Peter Griffin – Not the family guy one, Griffin was big in the 70s. He conducted a lot of research and made positive changes to certain card counting strategies. He was the first to determine that the average blackjack player has a disadvantage of 2% compared to the house.

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