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Ken Uston: The Big Player

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Born in 1935, Ken Uston was a student at Yale University by the time he was 16 years old. After graduating, he went on to receive his MBA from Harvard University and established a successful management career. On weekends, however, he dabbled in blackjack, taking to heart the lessons of Edward O. Thorp's classic book, “Beat the Dealer”. In the course of playing cards, Uston met Al Francesco (an eventual fellow Blackjack Hall of Famer), and the two formed a close friendship. Francesco shared his extensive knowledge of blackjack with his new friend, and Uston never looked back, leaving the world of business to embrace the life of a professional card player. Al Francesco was one of the creators of big-player blackjack play, where card-counting team members would play at various tables in a casino and would call in the “big player” if the count showed particular potential.

Ken Uston

In 1977 Ken Uston co-wrote the seminal blackjack book, “The Big Player,” with Roger Rapoport. In it, he explained the basics of team play, thus revealing the secrets of his fellow card counters. The effect of Uston’s book was a double-edged sword: The book opened the casino owners’ eyes to the card-counting teams, but, on the other hand, new teams used the book as a Bible and the art of card counting was further established. In 1979, Uston was barred from playing blackjack in Atlantic City casinos; however, he sued the casinos and won. It no longer was legal to ban card counters, but, as a result, Atlantic City casinos starting finding ways to make life harder for the card counters including using multiple decks.

Uston went on to write a number of popular books on blackjack and later became an expert on home video games. But blackjack was his calling card and his claim to fame; it was also the source of the millions of dollars that he would win over the course of his lifetime. That lifetime was, unfortunately, a relatively short one: Ken Uston died at the age of 52 in 1987. After his death, Uston was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame and his name will live on forever.




Further Reading:

Ken Uston's Blackjack World - The Official Ken Uston Web Site
WikiPedia - Ken Uston



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