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The Story of Don Johnson

Everyone dreams of going to the casino and hitting it big, walking in with a fistful of chips and walking out a millionaire. While a lot of people might dream about it, Don Johnson lived!

Even before he first stepped into a casino, Don Johnson had a history in gambling. His background was in horse racing, first as a jockey and later by founding and managing Heritage Development, a company that used computer-assisted wagering programs to calculate the outcomes of horse racing. Trying to work out how to quantify the odds of a horse winning a race was probably a lot harder than counting cards so Johnson had plenty of practice working with big numbers. So, with this experience under his belt and enough money to get him started, he decided to try his luck at the casinos. But he had more than just a head for numbers and knew more than just how to play Blackjack. He knew how to play the casinos.

After the financial crash of 2008, money was suddenly very scarce and casinos were struggling now everyone had to tighten their belts. With that in mind, a lot of casinos starting offering High Roller’s discounts- which meant that if you had a discount of 10% and then lost $100,000, you only had to pay up $90,000, saving you a pretty decent chunk of change. Johnson had developed (or maybe even cultivated) a reputation as a player who was a high roller but not exceptionally skilled. Which is the perfect kind of player for a struggling casino, even if they comped him a room for $10,000, he’d likely lose $50,000 in the casino even if they gave him a set of conditions. Of course, Johnson wasn’t just a simple high roller and, worse still for the casino, he knew exactly what conditions to set.

The arrangement consisted of a 20% discount after his losses hit $500,000 and a few changes to the rules that shaved away some of the house advantage, things like the right to split and double down on up to four hands and the dealer having to stand on a soft 17. While the house edge is normally quite small, after these changes it was absolutely miniscule. While this would have helped an average player, for someone like Johnson who was incredibly good at the mental gymnastics high level Blackjack demanded, this was almost handing him the win on a silver platter. By careful play and proper deployment, Johnson wound up winning huge amounts of money at all the casinos that accepted his terms.

In total, he won about $6 Million from the Tropicana, $5 Million from the Borgata and $4 Million at Caeser’s. His winning streak was so crazy that on one occasion he won $800,000 on a single hand where he kept doubling down, safe in the knowledge the conditions he had afforded him a safety net. Unsurprisingly, Don Johnson isn’t particularly welcome in any of these casinos any more. Though two of them still let him play, he’s not allowed to use his modified ‘rules’ any more.


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