Ken Uston – The Story of a Blackjack Genius

Ken Uston grew up in New York City and a highly intelligent individual graduating from both Yale and Harvard Universities. While working at the Pacific Stock Exchange, Uston began to read a book that would eventually shape his life.

That book was Beat the Dealer, a book about how players could count cards to give themselves an advantage when playing blackjack at casinos.

Uston became what is genuinely regarded by many as a genius card-counter. After initially starting out as part of poker player turned card-counter Al Francesco’s team, Uston’s talents soon saw him take the lead role.

He would regularly use his card-counting skills either individually or as part of a team, to win money from casinos across the United States, moving from one state to the other as various jurisdictions around the US banned him from their gaming halls due to his inordinate success rate.

At this point Uston was regularly betting as much as $12,000 on a single hand when the count was in his favour, and he was now blacklisted in Las Vegas and then in the newly formed Atlantic City.

However, Uston fought back and filed a lawsuit claiming that casinos should not unfairly ban what he termed ‘skilled players’. Uston won, which is why to this day card counting remains legal, though actively discouraged in US casinos.

Uston’s skill level was so high that once the ruling had been passed that he could play, casinos across the US took further steps to cut his advantage by introducing more packs of cards to the shoe, increasing the frequency of shuffles and similar to negate his advantage.

No player in the history of blackjack has shaped the future of a game moreso than Ken Uston. His genius for being able to count cards and make the right bets at the right time is the reason we play blackjack as we do today.

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