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Ken Uston: The Ultimate Blackjack Player

One of the most colorful characters in the world of blackjack was undoubtedly Ken Uston, who has also been given the title as “The Master of Blackjack.” Uston is responsible for bringing the game to the attention of the general public through battles he fought to get professional gamblers recognized by US casinos.  The was born in Maine in 1935 and from the beginning, it was clear that he had a brilliant mind. By the time he was 16, he was attending Yale and, with his 169 IQ, received an MBA from Harvard.  Uston’s genius in mathematics eventually led him to a career on the Pacific Stock Exchange where he became senior vice president.

But Uston was itching to do more with his mathematical skills and he eventually met up with Al Francesco who taught him all he needed to know about card counting and professional gambling.  Uston eventually quit his job and decided to make a career more to Atlantic City after casinos were legalized in the 1970s. The casinos soon picked up on Uston’s card counting skills and barred him from playing there, but instead of giving up and trying his luck in another city, Uston decided that professional gamblers should not be discriminated against because they had better skills than the average recreational gambler, and therefore took the case to court. Incredibly, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with Uston’s arguments and, until today, Atlantic City casinos are not allowed to bar gambling pros. Unfortunately, however, due to the law, casinos have found other ways to maintain a house advantage over players, such as introducing extra decks.

After winning his lawsuit and bringing blackjack to the fore of mainstream attention, Ken Uston decided that it was time to try his hand at writing a book about blackjack. His 1977 bestseller, The Player, revealed many secrets of team players, including his old pal Francesco. He was seen by many professionals as a snitch for letting the public in on their tricks of the trade and it took a long time for his colleagues to let him back into the fold.

Throughout his 20 year blackjack career, Uston continued to challenge some of the best casinos in a number of states and became a famous name in gambling circles. He died in 1987 from a heart attack.

Posted in Atlantic City, Casino, Gambling.

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